A tropical island paradise and a melting pot of cultures, Bintan Island offers visitors so much more to do than just sit on the beach.
Less than two hours from both Singapore and Jakarta, Bintan Island is a convenient getaway from frantic city life. The gorgeous destination is home to lavish, avant-garde attractions, beautiful nature and fascinating local culture. From hiking adventures to generous feasts, discover the top 10 things to do on Bintan Island, Indonesia.
This village is home to the Orang Laut (Sea Gypsies), some of Bintan’s earliest settlers. These fishermen were once nomadic folk before settling down on the shores of Panglong, building wooden seaside houses and making a living out of casting nets from their traditional boats. Travellers can see the island’s past in the beauty of Panglong’s old buildings, such as the iconic ‘brick igloos’ that the locals once used to make charcoal.
At a jaw-dropping 60 hectares in width, this translucent lagoon can easily feel like a crystal-clear, impossibly clean and quiet sea. Crystal Lagoon at Treasure Bay is Southeast Asia’s first artificial saltwater lagoon – and it’s an impressive one, too. Hover around on a unicorn float for hours, lounge on the powder-white sand or sign up for one of their water sports activities. Jetovator, a jetpack-like mechanism that can send you flying above the water, is popular among daredevils.
Known as the ‘thousand face’ temple, Vihara Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva is a peculiar, picture-perfect and culturally rich attraction. This majestic Buddhist site of worship has some 500 life-size Lohan statues in its backyard, all lined up with different faces and expressions. The temple gate and shrines are so grand and authentic it feels like a piece of China on a tropical island.
Being home to several fishing communities, Bintan is never short of delicious, fresh seafood. Kelong Seafood Restaurant serves some of the island’s best grilled fish, enjoyed with a gorgeous backdrop of the sunset from the idyllic Lagoi Bay. After dinnertime, the island’s youthful energy is carried into the night by hip bars dotting the beach. Lagoi Bay has some excellent waterfront bars such as The Terrace Sports Bar and Calypso Floating Bar.
Senggarang is a charming fishing hamlet and home to Bintan’s Chinese population. This village stands like a humble version of Venice, with canals separating wooden houses that float above the water. As the first Chinese settlement on the island, Senggarang houses several temples and shrines, easily recognisable for their festive and vivid colours – in contrast with simple, earthy houses in the neighbourhood. Don’t forget to try the local special shark fillet (shua he pia) or shrimp porridge (he moi).
Trikora Beach is the original tourist hub of Bintan Island. This string of four beaches is still dotted with laid-back, traditional bungalows and restaurants, which are the opposite of the lavish and avant-garde Lagoi. Travellers can do a lot of things at this beach: swim, snorkel and chill at a seaside cabana while sampling traditional snacks.
Embrace a more active side to island life with the many outdoor activities offered on Bintan Island. Activities like paintball and air rifle shooting are available in resorts like Nirwana Gardens and Bintan Lagoon Resort. Travellers can also go off the beaten track via ATV or head to one of the island’s many golf clubs like Ria Bintan.
Tanjung Pinang is the capital city of Riau Islands. The city is an old town with colonial and traditional neighbourhoods to explore. This is where tourists can splurge for local-made crafts and authentic traditional dishes like the famed seasnail gonggong. Penyengat Island is only a 15-minute boat ride from Tanjung Pinang’s port, housing 18th-century forts, a mosque, a palace and other historical landmarks.
Further inland, Bintan Island is covered in tropical jungle, with hiking tracks leading up to the glorious Mount Bintan. Intrepid travellers will be rewarded with sweeping views of the island’s diverse landscape featuring jungles, rivers, villages and beaches. Along the way, make time to spot Bintan’s beautiful tropical birds, wild orchids and waterfalls.
Bintan offers a lot, but for a long time, the backbone of the island’s tourism has been its resorts. It has many Singapore-owned resorts that live up to the standards of the most lavish of jet-setters, although there are endless options for any taste or budget. Some resorts, like the Nirwana Gardens and Club Med Bintan, have expansive properties with on-site activities, such as beachside trapeze and water sports. When you simply want to relax, there is always the option of lounging poolside or indulging in a spa treatment.