This post was last updated on June 1st, 2020 at 08:20 pm
The much less visited island of Sumbawa is located between Lombok and Flores. It is definitely not a small island, Sumbawa is about half the size of Belgium. Still, it only has about 1 million inhabitants. This is mainly due to the landscape, which consists of huge mountains and impressive volcanoes. Cultural highlights are not or hardly present on the island, but there is plenty to see for nature lovers. In addition, Sumbawa is one of the best surf spots in Indonesia.
Our Experience on Sumbawa Island
In 2010 we visited Sumbawa for the first time to conquer the best waves in the world. Our 5 weeks on this magical island was our first introduction to Asia. A year later we went on a six-month trip through Asia.
Sumbawa has fueled our passion for travel. We still remember when we got there. No idea what awaited us, we ended up in a kind of paradise full of volcanoes, terraced rice fields, dry plains, and sheltered bays with pristine beaches.
Sumbawa is the place to be for those who want to surf in Indonesia
The island is internationally known for the great surf spots here. The island is considered one of the best places in the world for surfing. Lakey Peak in the southeast has become Sumbawa’s best spot and a year-round surf magnet, but this island has so much more to offer than just good waves.
Not a Surfer?
If you are not a surf fanatic you can, for example, travel inland, explore the deserted beaches, visit local villages or hike in the mountains. This is, if you ask us, one of the three most beautiful islands in Indonesia. Do you want to know more about this beautiful island? Keep reading this page!
Surfing in Sumbawa
Forget about Bali, if you want to surf you have to come here. This island is the surfer’s paradise in Indonesia. Everyone from beginners to the real pros come here to conquer the waves. It is one of the best surf locations in the entire world.
The 6 Best Surf Spots in Sumbawa
Lakey Peak is, without a doubt, the best place for surfing. All kinds of surfers from all over the world come here, from beginners to professionals. Lakey Peak is located at Hu’u where it is bustling with surfers and tourists all year round.
Although the west of Sumbawa also has surf spots, most surfers travel straight to Hu’u. There are, of course, even more places which we describe below.
1. Lakey Peak
Lakey Peak a.k.a. “The Machine” is a challenging surf spot with left-handers (waves where the surfer has to turn to the left to get on the wave). The waves are between 2 and 4 meters high, but can also easily be larger. You can surf all tides here. The afternoon is optimal.
The reef is soft, but has a few sharp edges. You can just walk into the water and paddle towards the waves. Boots are needed here.
Our Tip – We stayed at the Aman Gati Hotel Lakey. From this hotel you can walk straight onto the beach to surf.
2. Lakey Pike
Lakey Pike lies to the left of Lakey Peak and is a popular wave, also among bodyboarders. This spot is for the slightly more advanced surfers.
Cobblestones has super great left and right-handers. This is an easier spot to surf than the spots mentioned above. Cobblestones is the furthest surf spot from Hu’u, but definitely worth it.
Nungas is not for beginners. Nungas has big left-handers and is about a 5-minute walk from Lakey Peak. The advantage of this spot is that waves come through for a long time and break late. Nungas is a spicy surf spot with strong currents, so pay close attention.
Periscopes has right-handers and is a 15-minute walk from Lakey Peak. You should only surf here at mid to high tide. The waves are slightly smaller than at Lakey Peak. Boots are also highly recommended here.
Nangadoro can be reached by scooter. It is a little less known surf spot, but it’s great because it is quieter here. Another place is Machi Point because of the beautiful landscape. Waves generally break quite late.
Best Time to Surf
There are big waves all year round, but the surf season runs from May through August. The wind picks up from September to October, which makes Sumbawa also a suitable place for kitesurfers.
Surfers also won’t be disappointed in the morning and afternoon. There are still waves from November to April, but less than in peak season.
Our Tip – You can also go on a surfing camp in Sumbawa to learn how to surf. If you can surf here you can surf anywhere in the world. A 7-day camp costs about US$1,000 p.p. Check out Nomad Surfers for more info.
Renting a Surfboard and a Scooter
Public transport on Sumbawa is not good. At least not when we were there. The easiest way to drive around is to rent a scooter or hop on the back of a local with a scooter.
Renting a scooter will cost between 50,000 and 80,000 IDR (~ US$3.40 to US$5.45) per day. You can rent scooters at your accommodation.
You can often rent a surfboard at your accommodation because all accommodations in this region are aimed at surfing. Renting a board costs about 50,000 IDR (~ US$3.40) per day.
Our Tip – Check out Joey Barrel’s Board Shop to rent a board (and other gear).
9 Fun Things to Do on Sumbawa (Besides Surfing)
This island is often skipped by the international travel world. That does mean that you end up in a completely different world. It is much less developed, usually very dry, much poorer, but much more authentic than the more famous islands in Indonesia.
In recent years, more and more travelers have flocked to this pristine paradise. And not just for surfing.
1. Climb Gunung Tambora Volcano
In 1815, the Gunung Tambora volcano erupted with a force comparable to a number of hydrogen bombs. This eruption was so great that 1816 went into the books as “the year without summer.”
The eruption had major consequences for the global climate. The Gunung Tambora is located on the northern peninsula of Sumbawa.
When you are at the top (only for experienced climbers) you have a spectacular view of a gigantic crater on a clear day. The climb starts at Calabai, a small town on the coast. Again, this climb is not for beginners. It is really a tough trip.
Our Tip – You can book a 2-day hike (2D/1N) for 3,000,000 IDR (~ US$204) p.p. The more people in the group the cheaper it gets. Check Visit Tamboa for more info.
2. Go to Pulau Moyo
Pulau Moyo is a large island to the north of Sumbawa. Two-thirds of this island is a protected nature reserve where wild animals live. It is best known for the thousands of deer that cross from here to the mainland every year to mate.
Pulau Moyo is also known for its crystal clear water and the most beautiful coral reefs in Indonesia. It is ideal for snorkelers and divers, with a white sandy beach opposite the island in Tanjung Manis.
In the capital, Sumbawa Besar, you can arrange organized tours to Moyo.
Our Tip – Pulau Moyo can be reached by speedboat from Ai Bari. A speedboat costs 3,700,000 IDR (30 minutes). A slow boat costs between 800,000 and 1,500,000 IDR and takes 2 hours. You can also join a fishing boat, this is a bit more fun and cheaper; around 70,000 IDR.
3. Go to Bima
Bima is a city in the east of Sumbawa. Here the traditional pencak silat martial arts are held. This happens around the Sultans Palace. Bima is the main town in this region and a great base for visiting several traditional villages in the hills east of Bima.
Women still wear traditional clothes here. The Donggo people adhere to traditional animistic religion.
A little further east, you’ll find the beaches and islands around Sape, the town where the boat leaves for Flores. The more adventurous travelers (or those with enough time) can take a series of day trips from Bima, to the north of Sumbawa in particular.
4. Explore Poto Tano; the Gateway to Sumbawa
Poto Tano is one of the major tourist spots in Sumbawa. And that is still not really touristy. It is also the gateway to Sumbawa because here you can take the ferry to Lombok (or vice versa).
Although it is a port city, Poto Tano is one of the nicest port cities in Indonesia.
The town is surrounded by green hills and beautiful clear water. In between the beautiful sandy beaches, you will also find rainforests and on a clear day, you can even see Gunung Rinjani on Lombok.
Our Tip – Ferries between Poto Tano and Lombok (Labuan) operate 24 hours a day. The trip takes 1.5 hours and costs 12,800 IDR (~ US$0.87) p.p. A day trip to Lombok – or day trip to Sumbawa if you are in Lombok – is a great way to spend the day.
5. Discover Beautiful Rice Fields
We all know the rice fields of Bali, those of Sapa, and even those in Banaue are known. Disadvantage; lots of tourists. The rice fields in Sumbawa remain a big secret and here too, you hardly see other tourists.
We drove through the rice fields with a scooter and were presented with one impressive landscape after another. Including beautiful rice fields.
Rent a Scooter
The best thing to do is to rent a scooter and cruise the landscape. Whether you come across rice fields or not doesn’t matter that much, because the landscape is always beautiful here. The most beautiful rice fields can be found in the north around the city of Bima.
Renting a scooter costs about 50,000 to 70,000 IDR (~ US$3.40 to US$4.80) per day.
6. Discover the Many Waterfalls
Sumbawa is dotted with impressive waterfalls. One even more beautiful than the other. The two best-known waterfalls are the Jereweh Waterfall and the Mata Jitu Waterfall.
This waterfall is sometimes referred to as the Ai Koa waterfall or Janup waterfall. The water comes down in a staircase formation. The Jereweh waterfall is located outside the town of Taliwang, which is the capital of West Sumbawa.
It is a must-visit if you are in the area.
Mata Jitu Waterfall
On Moyo Island lies the Mata Jitu waterfall that you will hear before you see it. To get here you have to walk through the forest. The waterfall is divided into four parts and there are seven pools where you can swim. Very nice after a walk through the forest on a hot day.
7. Book a Trip to Kanawa Island
Kanawa Island is a small island in the west of Sumbawa. It has a stunningly beautiful landscape with wide white sandy beaches and grass landscapes.
It is a bit like the islands you see on the boat trip from Lombok to Flores. Kanawa Island is uninhabited, it doesn’t even have electricity.
The island is perfect for snorkelers with crystal clear water and many types of sea creatures, such as starfish, seahorses, crabs, and various species. If you want to snorkel here, it is advisable to bring your own snorkel set, as they do not rent it out on Kanawa Island.
Our Tip – There is no accommodation here, but if you want to sleep here you can pitch your own tent.
8. Visit Gili Paserang
Everyone knows the Gili islands near Bali, but Sumbawa also has a real Gili island. This island is called Gili Paserang and you will find it just off the coast at Poto Tano. It is one of the most loved places in Sumbawa.
For both locals and tourists. It is often one of the first things travelers visit.
As soon as you arrive here by boat you will see the white sandy beaches of this mini island. You can also camp on the island as long as you bring your own camping equipment.
Like many parts of Sumbawa, this is all about snorkeling. The island is surrounded by crystal clear water and colorful coral.
Our Tip – When you camp here you sleep under a stunning starry sky.
9. Go Hiking in the Interior Region
Sumbawa is known for its large, green mountains all over the island. The interior is very impressive. There are beautiful cliffs and rock formations, where you can walk a lot.
The best thing about hiking in Sumbawa is that you hardly meet anyone, except for a lost local. This really gives you a sense of freedom.
The 5 Most Beautiful Beaches
In our opinion, the highlight of Sumbawa is the wide range of beautiful beaches. The lack of tourism can also be seen on the beaches, so you occasionally walk around alone on very beautiful beaches. Below we describe the most beautiful beaches on Sumbawa island.
1. Sili and Maci Beach
These are known surf beaches. Both these beaches can be reached from Sumbawa Besar. It is about a 6 hours’ drive because the beaches are in the vicinity of Bima (1 hour by scooter).
These two beaches are also internationally known because international surf competitions are held regularly.
2. Ai Manis Beach
The beach is located on Moyo island. The beach consists of white sand and an underwater landscape with colorful coral reefs and tropical fish. It is a small atmospheric beach with a tropical forest around the corner. Ai Manis ideal for camping, snorkeling and so on.
You can also experience beautiful sunsets here.
3. Tropica Beach
Tropica Beach meets all the requirements of a tropical beach. This beach is located near the village of Sekongkang Bawah in the west of Sumbawa. The beach is unique. On the edge, the waves are fun to surf, but you can also just swim there.
The waves are big in the middle, so many foreign tourists come here to surf.
Our Tip – The best time to visit Tropica Beach is just before sunset. The sky here turns completely orange! Super beautiful.
4. Benete Beach
This beach is located in the west of the island. This part of Sumbawa is known for its beautiful beaches and the many beautiful things you will find underwater. One of the best places to taste fresh fish dishes is on the beach of Benete.
It is not the most beautiful beach, but a nice one.
5. Maluk Beach
This beach has good waves, so many tourists only come here to surf. On the beach, you will find more foreign tourists than locals.
To enjoy the beauty of Maluk Beach and to spot the many surfers, you can go to the village of Maluk. The waves have an average height of 2 meters, so you should know what you are going to do when you enter the water.
Our Route Through Sumbawa
We’ve been to Sumbawa twice. The first time we just came here to surf. That adventure was one of the reasons to start our website. The second time on Sumbawa we came from Flores, to travel back to Lombok via Sumbawa.
If you want to travel across this island, keep in mind that it is a gigantic island. Bus travel is a serious business here because you just sit on the bus for 16 hours to get from A to B.
The first time we only went to Lakey Peak to surf there. The second time we traveled by bus from east to west. Below we roughly describe our route through Sumbawa.
Labuan Bajo to Bima
We first traveled from Labuan Bajo (Flores) to Sape on the east coast. From Sape we went by bus to Bima, the capital of the island. You really have to ask around in Sape where and when buses go, because there is 0 information.
Bima to Lakey Peak
We thought: “When we get there, we can still surf a bit”. We, therefore, decided to travel to Lakey Peak. We did not do this by bus, but with a rental car with a driver.
It is only a 3-hour drive, but it took us 3 days because we visited several sights along the way.
Our Tip – You can arrange a car with driver at the Bima bus station. Expect great chaos and a lot of pushy people.
Lakey Peak to Pernang
From Lakey Peak, we went to Pernang. Again with our own driver. This is at least 10 hours away, so we decided to do it in 3 days. That is a lot more relaxed and you can also see much more along the way.
From Pernang we took the ferry to Lombok.
Best Time to Visit Sumbawa
It is useful to know the best time to visit Sumbawa when you’re planning your trip. On Sumbawa, you can take beautiful walks inland and explore deserted stretches of beach and it’s a shame if it’s raining all day.
The best time to visit the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia is from May to October, in which you have a warm temperature and barely to little rainfall. The highest average temperature on Sumbawa is 31°C (87.8°F) in October and the lowest is 27°C (80.6°F) in June. The weather and climate of Sumbawa is suitable for a sun vacation.
Sumbawa has 2 types of climates, namely the monsoon climate and tropical savanna climate. The average climate of Sumbawa, the monthly temperature, or when most rain falls can be found in the table below.
Best Time to Surf in Sumbawa
If you come to Sumbawa to surf it is best to visit the island between June and August. In these months you have the best chance to experience great waves.
How to Get to Sumbawa
The easiest way to get here is by boat. Most travelers come from Lombok, or from Flores if you travel the other way around.
By Boat From Lombok
From Lombok, the boat leaves from Labuhan towards Poto Tano. The boat takes about 2 hours and the ticket costs 19,000 IDR (~ US$1.30) per person. If you come with a scooter you pay 55,000 IDR (~ US$3.75), a car costs 466,000 IDR (~ US$31.80).
By Boat From Flores
The boat departs from Labuan Bajo in Flores. It sails to the city of Sape on Sulawesi. The boat only sails twice a day and it costs 60,000 IDR (~ US$4.10). However, this boat is not known for its great safety, so check it in advance.
Sumbawa also has an airport in Poto Tano. Flights are quite cheap. For example, you can fly from Bali to Sumbawa (one way) for about US$40. If you are not on Lombok it is best to fly to Sumbawa. This is often faster and cheaper than the boat.