In the middle of the Lesser Sunda Islands, in the Flores Sea, lies the island of Sumbawa. It’s a magical island, beautiful, traditional, and one of Indonesia’s best preserved. And the warm, turquoise waters surrounding it are a relaxing 90 F.
Surfers and divers have been coming here since the 1960s; it’s a mecca for both sports. They stay for months, returning lean, tan, and relaxed. When their friends back home ask where they’ve been, they often lie and say Bali…
But this island’s days as a secret paradise are coming to an end. Recently-signed maritime protection treaties and plans for a festival to celebrate all things Sumbawan will soon put it on tourist radars. But you can still get here before it goes mainstream.
Sumbawa’s north and central coasts are where the diving, snorkeling, and swimming take place. The south and southwest of the island are where the surfers head.
The north coast also has the capital, Sumbawa Besar, with its airport. But don’t linger in the capital, because the action is elsewhere…
The south and southwest have the big surf, and the tiny towns of Maluk, Luniuk, and Sekongkang cater to the surfers, who arrive by the VW Beetle-load. This part of the island isn’t easy to reach, as the roads are unsealed. But the pickup trucks, which act as buses, and the four-wheel-drives, which attack the roads in low gear, will get you there.
Eastern Sumbawa is pristine, and the hikes in and around the area are simply stunning. Bima City—the island’s largest city, with a population of 142,000—is here. The Bima, as the locals call themselves, can trace their ancestry back to the 11th century.
There are two ways you can get to Sumbawa, Indonesia. Boats from Lombok Island are still a popular way in, landing at Poto Tano. It takes around an hour. You can also fly to the capital, Sumbawa Besar, as well as to Bima on the island’s east coast. Flight time from Bali is just under an hour.