Magical sunsets, turquoise waters, colorful coral reefs, rich marine life and the friendliest Indonesian people are found in Karimunjawa. This archipielago located in central Java is slowly developing some international tourism and becoming one of the must go places for backpackers when visiting Indonesia. The island´s crowd are mostly local tourists, as well as laid back travelers with a couple of spare days to waste getting to the not so accessible island.
How to get there
There is a “secret” flight departing every Wednesday from Karimunjawa to Surabaya and back. It can accommodate up to 9 passengers and the only way to purchase the tickets is in person at Karimunjawa airport. The flight ticket is literally a hand-written paper.
The most common way to get to Karimunjawa is by boat from Jepara. There is speed boat 4 days a week and a slow ferry 3 times a week departing from Jepara to Karimunjawa and back. When I went there the island has connections every day apart from Tuesdays and Fridays, but the schedule changes every month. The best way to find out the schedule is asking the locals at your chosen accommodation.
How to reach Jepara: there are daily tourist vans from Semarang (about 4 hours) and from Yogyakarta (night bus – 6-7 hours). Both cities are easily reachable by plane from Bali, Jakarta, etc..
Tip: Jepara is not a tourist destination and wouldn´t recommend staying overnight there. Ensure you get to the pier on time to hop on the slow ferry (7am) or the fast boat (9am).
Where to stay
For middle range budgets I would recommend Ayu Hotel at email@example.com or whatsapp +6281327490558. They were very helpful organizing my friend´s trip. A cheaper option is Samsara rooms, a super chilled place with great atmosphere and super friendly staff. You can contact them in +622973191431, they have 4 private rooms (12€ including breakfast) and a 4-bed basic dorm (5€ per bed including breakfast).
What to do
Rent a motorbike and get lost discovering the island, full of endless palm tree fields and hidden beaches. Beware the beaches of the east part of the island are usually quite dirty and full of garbage that the tide brings. A crowded but clean beach is sunset beach, where you can have a bite to eat or buy drink at the food stands.
Exploring the islets around Karimunjawa is a must. Snorkling or diving day trips can be easily booked at the guest houses or the diving centre. I did two snorkeling trips with Samsara for about 10-12€ including lunch and good quality snorkeling gear. My favorite island was Cemara Kecil. They recently opened a budget resort in this small islet called Menjangan Resort, where you can stay in a bungalow for 25€ a night.
A cheaper option for an enjoyable snorkeling day is exploring the corals around the left side of the pier. The sunset from the pier is also a must.
Where to eat
The night market located at the football field is a must. Its open every night from 6pm until about 10pm. Choose fish or seafood at the stalls of the fishermen´s wives, who will cook it and serve at your table. Other stalls sell popular Indonesian dishes like nasi goreng, mie goreng, gado gado, fried tempeh, fried banana, pancakes and fruit juices. Everything is extremely cheap and safe to eat.