This post was last updated on June 27th, 2020 at 02:31 pm
The Indonesian island of Sulawesi is an amazing island for nature lovers. Nature here has a lot of variety with mountains, volcanoes, and rainforests. Sulawesi is also a paradise on earth for divers and snorkelers. The island is surrounded by large coral reefs and plenty of tropical fish.
Although many travelers skip the island of Sulawesi, there is plenty to do on this beautiful island. On this page, we’ll take you to the best places in Sulawesi.
Akisoto’s Experience in Sulawesi
If you like Bali or Lombok, just wait until you’ve been to Sulawesi. The moment we left Makassar, we entered a beautiful world. On the way, we saw tropical beaches, inland mountains, an impressive underwater world, beautiful bays and impenetrable mountains and jungles with wild animals.
Because the island is fairly separated from the rest of the country, different cultures have managed to develop here.
You are not only confronted with a beautiful nature. We also found the culture quite impressive here.
The locals in Tana Toraja, with their elaborate burial ceremonies sacrificing buffalo; the Minahasans in the far north, who make spicy dishes from everything they can get their hands on (such as braised forest rat) and the Bugis, who mainly live along the coastal areas of Sulawesi.
12 Best Things to Do in Sulawesi
Sulawesi is a major attraction in Indonesia. There is a lot to see on this island. The impressive culture, the mountains in the interior region, and the tropical beaches on the coast. You can easily travel around Sulawesi for a month without even a single day of boredom.
Our list of the best things to do in Sulawesi below is just a small selection of everything you can see and do here.
1. Diving in Bunaken Park
Sulawesi is a paradise for anyone who loves to dive and snorkel, which is exactly how you can best describe Bunaken Park.
It is part of the 75,266 hectares Bunaken Manado Tua Marine National Park and it consists of 96% water!
The other 4% are the six islands that lie in this park. These are surrounded by coral reefs and are among the most beautiful in Indonesia.
You can read more about this park on the Bunaken National Park page.
2. Daydream on the Beaches of the Togian Islands in Sulawesi
The Togian Islands is an island group in the Tomini Bay in the center of Sulawesi.
You will find beautiful white beaches, palm trees with colored hammocks, delicious fresh fish, impressive forests, clear blue water, and beautiful coral here.
The islands are not large and on most islands, there are only a handful of hostels where you can stay the night. It is still wonderfully quiet.
Bolilanga Island & Kadidiri Island
We have to talk about Bolilanga Island. Truly one of the most beautiful places on earth.
During our trip to Indonesia in 2016, we passed this impressive paradise. If you are talking about the most beautiful beaches in Indonesia, this place should definitely be included on the list.
Nearby there’s Kadidiri Island, just as beautiful a gem as Bolilanga Island. It isn’t very big so it’s easy to explore.
The great thing is that here too few tourists come because the journey there is quite tough.
You can read more about how to reach the islands on our Togian islands page.
3. Visit Rammang Rammang on Sulawesi
Rammang Rammang is a village in the middle of the Maros Pangkep Karst. This village is one of the most magical places to visit. The environment, the village, and the people leave an indelible impression.
The region is not very well known to tourists, so you hardly encounter them. In addition, the Maros Pangkep Karst is the second-largest karst in the world and a protected area of UNESCO. It is a bit like Ninh Binh in Vietnam.
You can take boat trips along the rivers and lakes that wind through the rocks. It is one of the most beautiful places to see in the south of Sulawesi. If you like taking photos, this picturesque area is perfect for you.
How to Get There
The beauty of Rammang Rammang is that it is only a 2-hour drive from the capital Makassar. You can get there quite easily.
You can get there by public transport, but it is often easier to book a tour or driver in Makassar.
To enjoy Rammang Rammang village and the surrounding area, take a boat from Rammang Rammang pier (Dermaga 1). The boat to the lake takes 30 minutes and costs 200,000 IDR (around US$13.50).
4. Spotting Tarsiers in Lore Lindu Park
Lore Lindu National Park is located in the center of Sulawesi. You can take beautiful walks in this national park. The park is especially known for the great diversity of butterflies and tarsiers. A tarsier is similar to a lemur or a monkey.
The tarsiers are only found on certain Indonesian islands. It is the smallest primate in the world, so you will have to look closely to spot one.
The easiest way to get there is to travel to Palu and rent a car and driver from there.
5. Relax at Pantai Bira Beach
At Sulawesi, most travelers think of the bizarre burial rituals and special houses of Tanah Toraja. Yet Sulawesi has much more to offer.
Think of a dazzlingly beautiful interior. But also some of the most beautiful islands in Indonesia.
The beaches here are much quieter than, for example, Bali or Lombok. It is difficult to choose one beach because there are countless unspoiled beaches scattered along the coast.
Tanjung Bira, also known as Pantai Bira, is a sleepy coastal town with more goats than humans. It is known for its laid-back atmosphere and the impressive white sandy beaches. It is especially popular with backpackers.
You can dive and snorkel here and walk to small lakes in the area. A nice sight here is the Pua Janggo, a viewpoint. From Pua Janggo you have a really gorgeous view of the surrounding area.
6. Visit Wakatobi Marine Park
Wakatobi Marine Park and the Tukangbesi Islands are located in the southeast of Sulawesi and consist of a group of tropical islands.
The park is difficult to reach and that is exactly what makes it such a special destination.
You can fly there from Bali. If you come here, whether it’s for diving or relaxing, you are probably one of few tourists there.
7. Diving Lesson on the Tukangbesi Islands
If you want to dive you have to visit the Tukangbesi Islands. They are among the best places in the world for diving.
Most islands belong to the Wakatobi Marine National Park. Unfortunately, the coral has been damaged by illegal fishing, but that doesn’t spoil the fun of many divers.
It is located on the southeastern coast of Sulawesi, making the islands difficult to reach. However, it is well worth the trip as they offer beautiful clear water, secluded tropical beaches, and impressive landscapes.
Matahora Airport is located in Wakatobi. There are daily flights from Makassar to Matahora Airport.
8. Visit One of the Most Beautiful Parks in the Country; Tangkoko-Batuangas
The Tangkoko Nature Reserve is considered one of the most beautiful natural parks in the country. This 8,800-hectare national park is surrounded by a black beach, while the park itself is a jungle paradise.
The park is home to many wild animals such as black macaques, tarsiers, and rare hornbills. The park is located in the northernmost tip of Sulawesi and is not easily accessible.
The chance that you will meet other travelers here is minimal. There is nothing here at all. Also, there’s no ATM so bring enough cash with you.
How to Get There
The nearest towns are Manado and Bitung. The easiest is to rent a private car. From Manado, it costs about 100,000 IDR (around US$6.70) p.p.
From Bitung 25,000 IDR (around US$1.70). You can also use public transport, but this is really a big undertaking and very time-consuming.
TIP – Entrance fee to the park is 100,000 IDR p.p. A half-day guide is 200,000 IDR p.p.
9. Explore the Capital; Makassar
Makassar is the capital of Sulawesi and a must-visit. It is a very old port city with many remains from the Dutch colonial period.
The historic Fort Rotterdam is located in the city. This Fort was built by the Dutch to defend the city against enemies.
Many Chinese immigrants live in this city, which is why there are several large Chinese temples and other buildings in the city.
Makassar is a big city with a lot of traffic, shiny shopping centers, and a large harbor, but you can immediately taste the unique atmosphere of Sulawesi. Makassar is located on the coast and at night you will find food stalls along the waterfront where you can eat nasi goreng with a view of the sunset.
TIP – Flights to and from Makassar are not that expensive. If you book well in advance, you can get a return ticket Bali-Makassar for around US$35 per person.
10. Visit the Cultural Center of Sulawesi; Tana Toraja
Tana Toraja is one of the best known and most beautiful regions in Indonesia. It is located on Sulawesi Island. The highlands of Tana Toraja are surrounded by impressive valleys and green rice fields.
But Tana Toraja is best known for the impressive culture that still stands here.
Tana Toraja is a region you will not soon forget. The houses here have a special roof resembling a large canoe.
This, together with the towering green rice terraces and the impressive ceremonies (somewhat different than in Bali), leave a deep impression on many travelers.
And all of this is located in an environment surrounded by forest-covered hills.
If you want to attend an impressive ceremony you have to be in Sulawesi. In Tana Toraja, the Torahs have a special way to honor the deceased.
Animals are sacrificed in the middle of the street. An impressive event, but perhaps not suitable for children!
TIP – More information about this place can be read on our Tana Toraja page.
11. Explore the Highlands Around Tomohon
Tomohon is a small town in the north of Sulawesi. Because it is at a high altitude, it is a lot cooler than in the rest of the island. This makes it a popular destination. Tomohon is surrounded by active volcanoes.
You can take beautiful walks in the region and visit beautiful, undiscovered places. The larger city of Manado is close by.
Tomohon is a place to discover the rural highlands of Sulawesi. You can visit the local market and traditional villages here.
For nature lovers and hikers, there is the Mount Mahawu volcano for trekking and beautiful views.
The largest city in the area is Manado. From here you can take taxis to Tomohon.
12. Explore Poso Lake and More at Tentena
Tentena is a city in the middle of Sulawesi. It is the place to discover Poso Lake but there is much more to do here. With its cool climate, beautiful lakeside beaches, markets, and green hills, it is an interesting place to explore.
It’s fun to rent a scooter and explore the region. Renting a scooter will cost you around IDR 75,000 to IDR 90,000 per person per day.
There is plenty to do here. You can take a boat trip on the lake, which is one of the largest lakes in Indonesia. You can also visit the Werasalopa waterfalls in the area.
In addition, you will find beautiful rice terraces and old villages in the area. Be sure to visit the Bada Valley too!
How to Get There
Tentena is about a 10-hour drive north of the city of Rantepao. Buses run to Rentenep from Rantepao. You can also drive straight to Poso Lake.
It takes about 8 hours from Pulau. The prices are best inquired locally, as they often change.
TIP – Further to the east of Sulawesi you’ll find the Moluccas. This is one of Indonesia’s tourist-free paradises.
Sulawesi Food and Drinks
In Menado you can choose from Javanese, Sumatran, Chinese and Western cuisine. Typical are the Minahasa restaurants. The specialty of the city is the bubur manado, a vegetable soup with rice, corn, cassava, pumpkin, and water spinach.
In Rantepao, most restaurants, eateries, and street food stalls offer Toraja dishes. The local specialty is pa’piong, a mix of pork or chicken meat and leafy vegetables. However, the preparation of this dish takes several hours, so it is best to order it several hours in advance.
In Makassar, seafood and Chinese restaurants are well represented in the city. Of course, it is also possible to enjoy Indonesian or Western cuisine. There are also a number of well-known fast-food chains in the city. The local specialty of Makassar is the coto makassar, a very hot, highly spiced soup made from the intestines of a buffalo.
Sulawesi island is one of the top 5 coffee-producing countries in the world. But coffee is not native to Indonesia with its multiple islands, and the history of the plant’s arrival on the islands within the Malaysian archipelago is often unclear. Sulawesi coffee beans (also called “Toraja”) are one of the gems of the Pacific coffee-growing world. Wildly grown, difficult to find, and extremely flavorful.
Finding a good cup of Sulawesi coffee is the perfect challenge for any coffee lover looking for an adventure. In our Sulawesi Coffee article, we show you exactly why this coffee is so special.
Nature on Sulawesi
Nowhere in Sulawesi are you more than 100 kilometers from the sea, while the interior is almost completely covered with mountains and the island is isolated from the outside world.
There are also “only” 15 million people living on Sulawesi, making it very quiet. The south is the most inhabited. You will also find the capital Makassar there.
TIP – Make sure you bring enough cash. They don’t have ATMs everywhere in Sulawesi and the island is quite big.
From the south, most people flock to the mountains of Tanah Toraja, whose beautiful landscapes, special architecture, and lively festivals are the main tourist attractions.
When you’ve seen enough mountains, head out to the tropical beaches in the Togian Islands or the fantastic dive sites at Bunaken.
Diving and Snorkeling
The coral reefs around the coast and islands of Sulawesi are among the most beautiful in the world. When you go diving or snorkeling here you are guaranteed to see tropical fish, coral reefs and other aquatic creatures.
Highly recommended for the avid divers among us is a visit to Bunaken. This small island is located off the northern coast of Sulawesi.
Other places to dive include the Tukangbesi Islands, Pantai Bira, and Wakatobi National Park. Many travelers only visit Sulawesi for diving, and anywhere on the island you can rent gear or take courses.
TIP – You can dive well on the Togian Islands at the Island Retreat and you can also sleep peacefully here.
How to Get to Sulawesi
Sulawesi is one of the larger islands of the country and it is fairly easy to get there if you plan well. There are two ways to get to the island; by plane or by boat. The aircraft is often the fastest and easiest option.
Getting There by Plane
There are a number of airports on Sulawesi, two of which are international. Makassar in the south and Manado in the north have international airports.
This city has four international flights with AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur. Domestic flights connect the city with Denpasar, Surabaya, Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Bandung, Medan, Manado, Ambon, Jayapura, and more.
Flights can be booked with Garuda Indonesia, Merpati Airlines, Lion Air, and Celebes Air, among others.
Manado has three international flights with AirAsia, connecting Manado with Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Domestic flights connect Manado with Makassar, Denpasar, Surabaya and Sorong.
TIP – A domestic flight from Denpasar to Makassar costs only US$35 in the high season with Skyscanner.
Getting There by Boat
The boat is used less often because it takes longer and the boats do not sail regularly. Pelni is the largest company that sails through Indonesia and to Sulawesi.
More information about departure times can be found here.
Best Time to Visit Sulawesi
When it comes to temperature, you can travel to Sulawesi all year round. It is an average of 30°C (86°F) 12 months a year. However, Sulawesi also has a high and low season, or rather a rainy and dry season.
The best months to travel to Sulawesi are from June to October.
For example, the months of December, March, April, and May are very wet. The months of June to October, are most suitable. The temperature is pleasant, and there is little rain.
Sulawesi has 2 types of climates, namely the tropical rainforest climate and maritime climate. The average climate of Sulawesi, the monthly temperature, or when most rain or snow falls can be found in the table below. This way you are well prepared for your next trip or holiday. This average monthly climate data is based on data from the past 30 years
Sulawesi Weather by Month