The south-east Asian country of Indonesia, boasting more than 17,000 islands – the most famous of which is Bali – offers a lifetime and more of interesting destinations to explore. Whether you want to introduce kids to the colossal temples of Java or head straight for a little R&R on the tranquil islands of Bali and Lombok, you’ll find friendly people, beautiful landscapes and a whole range of accommodation catering specifically for family holidays.
Things to do with kids in Indonesia
Make a beeline for Bali – a great introduction for families making their first trip to Indonesia. Base yourself in one of the child-friendly beach resorts in the south of the island – avoid the crowds, nightlife and pollution of Kuta beach in favour of Nusa Dua, home to many of the island’s 4- and 5-star hotels and with shallow waters and plenty of activities for kids, including snorkelling, jet-skiing, sailing and glass-bottom boat-tours.
Jimberan Bay is another good option for families and a great place to watch Bali’s famous sunsets. Fewer crowds and shallow waves mean good conditions for swimming, sailing and windsurfing. Sanur on the east side of the island offers plenty of shopping and the chance to make friends with the large numbers of locals who come to swim on Sundays.
Bali’s southern beach resorts afford easy access to the many attractions in the south of the island. Bali Bird Park in Gianyar showcases 1,000 birds from 250 species. Kids love the walk-through aviaries, free-flight bird show and chance to get hands-on with parrots and cockatoos in Guyu guyu corner. For more animal fun, regular shuttle buses operate from Nusa Dua and Sanur to both the Bali Zoo Park and Bali Safari and Marine Park. At the first, kids enjoy buying fruit to feed the animals including wallabies, deer, gibbons, orangutans and camels, while the second boasts a waterpark and rides, as well as the chance to see roaming Sumatran tigers and elephants. For more water-based fun, head to Water Bom Park, close to Kuta beach – the kiddy park is perfect for little ones, while older kids love splashing down the eight-storey slide at 70km/h.
Away from the beaches, Ubud in central Bali, home to Bali’s most accomplished painters, dancers, musicians and weavers and a number of good museums and art galleries, is another good base for family holidays. Banyan tree cycling tours are an interesting way to explore the Ubud area and include several trips designed with kids in mind.
Other activities close to Ubud include the Monkey Forest Sanctuary, where you can walk through a forest of boisterous long-tailed macaques (best avoided with very small children) and the interesting Elephant Cave in a steep valley just outside town. Also make sure to take in a traditional Balinese dance performance or shadow puppet play.
Venture to the remote island of Lombok 35km east of Bali to see the Sendang Gila waterfall in the Mount Rinjani National Park and stop at a Sasak village to sample the local culture and watch traditional Lombok weaving. Base yourself at Kuta Lombok, a quiet fishing town with white-sand beaches on the south coast, making sure to visit the fisherman’s market on Kuta beach and to indulge older kids (and adults!) in Lombok’s famous surf culture.
Explore the island of Java, the heart of Indonesia, but avoid the bustle and heavy traffic of capital city Jakarta – base yourself instead in child-friendly Yogyarkarta, Java’s most popular tourist destination. It offers easy access to some of Indonesia’s most interesting cultural sites: don’t miss the colossal Buddhist temple at Borobudur, or nearby Prambanan, a beautiful Hindu temple complex where, at night, you can watch a wonderful Javanese dance performance of the Indian love story of Rama and Shinta. Once you’ve seen the sights, let the little ones run off some steam with go-karting and mini-golf at the Kids Fun Park in nearby Jalan Wonosari.
Wander off the beaten track – outside Java, Bali and Lombok, Indonesia has lots to offer the very adventurous family.
In the larger cities of Indonesia and in resorts, international cuisine, including fast-food staples that keep little ones happy on family holidays, is readily available.
However, do sample Indonesian specialities such as chicken satay, nasi goreng (fried rice often accompanied by chicken, egg or prawns) and gado-gado (vegetable salad with peanut sauce). Balinese specialties include bebek betutu (duck stuffed with spices, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a pit of embers) and sate lilit (spiced mince pressed onto lemongrass skewers).
When to go to Indonesia
Straddling the equator, Indonesia has a tropical climate year-round, with temperatures averaging a family-friendly 28°C. The wet season (Oct–Apr; the low season) brings hot, humid weather and heavy monsoon rains. May–Sept the weather is more pleasant, with only occasional showers.
The December school holidays are the most popular time of year to take family holidays in Bali and Indonesia as a whole, with a second surge of visitors in June/July.
Indonesia is prone to volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and extreme weather conditions, as well as being classed as at high risk of terrorist attacks, so do check the latest Foreign & Commonwealth Office (fco.gov.uk) advice.
Bicycles in Jakarta
Expect to pay £500+ for return flights to Jakarta and to Denpasar in Bali. Accommodation costs vary widely.
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Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Ubud
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