Pulau Weh: tropical island off the radar

Sumatra is one of those places that isn’t on the tourist radar just yet. There are travelers of course, but not that much at all. Whether you visit the jungle, the volcanos, or the paradise islands, chances are you won’t encounter many others. When you really wanna go off the radar, than plan a visit to Pulau Weh. A tropical island on the most Western tip of Indonesia. Most of its visitors are either Malaysian or locals from the mainland coming over for the weekends or holidays.

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This is what paradise must look like

From the moment we enter the ferry from Banda Aceh to the island we are a sight. Giggling girls, curious kids, sneaky mothers taking pictures of us (the selfie-trick, seriously?), and the ones who do speak English asking us a ton of questions. It’s a strange happening I have to say. However, quite funny as well because if you think of it we do exactly the same visiting their country.

boat banda aceh pulau weh sumatra

Why Pulau Weh?

But alright, more about Pulau Weh. Because why should you go all the way up north? Well, because you’ll find paradise. The beaches are white, the ocean is the brightest blue, the hills are lush, the palmtrees are there in abundance and the coconuts are ready. As long as you’re not here on holidays or weekends, it’s most likely you got it all to yourself. I gotta warn you, from here on you’ll get some serious palmtree spam.

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Iboih beach
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The views you’ll find when cruising around the island

Treetop huts with killer views

We checked ourselves into Treetop Guesthouse in Iboih which were literally houses on poles overlooking nothing more but the Indian ocean. Accommodation is simple, but sufficient, with a big balcony with stunning views and from time to time some random curious visitors (frogs, bugs, birds). Just down the stairs of our little treetop house, we had the most incredible snorkeling area with loads of fish all to ourselves. A morning swim for two please to wake up?

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Our snorkeling back yard
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The only downside of this island is the amounts of plastic you see laying around…
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The bay of Iboih

Find your inner diver

The island is well known for its underwater world. Of course you can spend your days snorkeling, but Pulau Weh is a diving mecca. With about a 100 different exciting dive sites for all different levels you can find whale sharks, manta rays, a zillion colorful fish and plenty of coral. Due to the fact that the island isn’t like Koh Tao, the place is not overcrowded at all and neither is the ocean. If you’re looking for a diving company check out Lumba Lumba dive school in Gapang. They’re PADI certified and really have all the patience in the world to let you enjoy the underwater world.

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Diving in Gapang with Lumba Lumba

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Relax at Bixio Cafe

How tempting it may sound to just stay and discover the underwater world of Pulau Weh, the upper water world got something good going on as well. Just rent a scooter and cruise around. You’ll find waterfalls, incredible view points, little towns and remote beaches.

scooter pulau weh view sumatra

One of those beaches is Long beach where you’ll find the lovely Bixio Cafe. With tunes of The XX and Jamiroquai, hammocks in the trees on the beach, and only three bungalows this is your perfect paradise getaway. Pop by for some Italian comfort food or settle down and get used to island life. Grab a book, crash in one of the hammocks, snorkel a bit and let the day pass by while you become as lazy as a sloth. Globalization is a thing, and Bixio proves just that. Who would’ve thought to find the most delicious Italian food on this tiny island just off the coast of Sumatra? Pastas, gnocchi and tiramisu are on the menu, and they rock it. Quite a welcome change after loads of nasi goreng.

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Pretty desolated beaches
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Bruschettas! Gnocchi! Tiramisu! Pasta! This place is heaven.
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One of the colorful houses at Bixio. Literally three steps from the beach

Paradise with a cause

If you are looking for bit more luxury than just little huts on the beach I can recommend you Casa Nemo. This resort has beautiful bungalows each with those true paradise vistas. With delicious food (try out their pizzas), a relaxing spa and a nearly private beach, this really is the place to unwind. There’s a thing to Casa Nemo that makes this place even more special. The owners started a project to create a safe haven for single moms and other people for which local life can be difficult. Casa Nemo is for them a place where they can truly be themselves, take of their hijab and talk about their life.

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Beach views at Casa Nemo

One of a kind island life

Pulau Weh is a unique island. Its tropical beaches, the little rural towns, the lush green rolling hills and the amazing underwater world. If you are up for a bit of an adventure and beaches all to yourself, then check this beautiful island out! You are in for a one of a kind experience.


Ps. Keep in mind that Pulau Weh is part of the Banda district and therefore falls under Sharia law. Although they are milder towards tourists, alcohol is very hard to get and swimming in bathing suits on some beaches prohibited. For women it’s handy to bring a scarf along if you’re visiting public places, so you always got something to cover up a bit.

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Our bedroom view at Treetop Guesthouse

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Gapang Beach

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long beach pulau weh sumatra paradise

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bungalow casa nemo pulau weh sumatra
Casa Nemo

gapang beach local ocean view pulau weh sumatra

Photos by: M. Barends & J. Roeland ©

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