Best Ever Destinations: The Best-Kept New Normal Travel Guide To Likupang

Best Ever Destinations: The Best-Kept New Normal Travel Guide To Likupang

Dubbed as Sulawesi’s best kept secret, be one of the first explorers of Likupang in the new normal era

Indonesia has so many destinations filed under tropical paradise and here’s another one to add to your list: Likupang. With charming pristine beaches and exotic underwater views, this coastal town has been a seasoned diver’s best kept secret. Located an hour’s drive away from North Sulawesi’s capital of Manado, Likupang the anti-mainstream Best Ever Destination for sunshine enthusiasts.

With Indonesia’s tourism attractions slowly reopening with strict health and safety protocols, 

This is your sign to begin your escapade to Likupang’s colorful coral reefs, lush mangroves, and breathtaking savannas.

Being home to green turtles, maleo birds and Celebes crested macaque, these are some of the wonderful wildlife that you might be able to spot during your adventure. Unsure of where to begin? Here’s a 1-day itinerary that will inspire you to book your tickets to Likupang right away.

Morning

Explore this: Get your dose of vitamin sea at Bangka Island

  • Travel time from Pantai Surabaya: 30 minutes by boat

The perfect souvenir idea: postcard views of the idyllic Bangka Island. Photo by Qwita Loupatty 

Bangka Island is a beach island sanctuary, personified. With turquoise waters and kaleidoscopic underwater views, it’s the place to go for a well-earned R&R. The island is located in northeast Likupang and the heart of the coral triangle and widely known as a slice of heaven in the diving community.

Be it a dive or a snorkel, you can spot majestic sea creatures like dugongs, frog fish, pygmy seahorses and white and black tip reef sharks. Once you’re done exploring the underwater sceneries, feel the warm, white sands beneath your feet and stroll around the beach or explore the waters yourself with a kayak for a good exercise. 

Gush about the stunning underwater seascapes of Bangka Island when you get home, we won’t judge. Photo by Qwita Loupatty 

If you’re already placing Bangka Island at the top of your Likupang to-go list, the best way to reach the island is to head straight to the resorts. If you’re looking for one that doesn’t break your wallet, try Nomad Divers and Blue Bay Divers. Go for Murex Dive Resort and Coral Eye if you want a more luxurious experience that can cater your every need. 

Your holidays will be at ease with temperature checks before you cross to the island. Photo by Jan E Papilaya 

Just because you’re packing for an island getaway, doesn’t mean you can compromise on health and safety protocols. Social distancing is certainly practised in a secluded island, but when you get on your boat to Pulau Bangka, your temperature will be checked and ample hand washing stations can be found at the port. Masks are required to be worn during the ride, and as well as anywhere you go around the island.

Eat this: Nasi Kuning Cakalang at Coral Eye Resort

  • Travel time from Pantai Surabaya: 30 minutes by boat

Traditional and biodegradable, the reliable banana leaf wrap keeps the fragrance of Nasi Kuning Cakalang all in. Photo by Jan E Papilaya 

You know you’re in for something special when nasi kuning is served. This characteristically yellow rice is served with a generous portion of skipjack cakalang tuna floss, spicy sambal and boiled egg, snugged and wrapped in banana leaf. A perfect breakfast companion for after or before your morning dip.

This quick breakfast also comes with tropical fruits and slices of warm toast on the side and it’s part of the package if you’re traveling to Bangka Island with Coral Eye Resort. Come for the dive, stay for the tranquility as the diving resort offers other facilities for a full rejuvenation escape. Health protocols are also practiced here and you would need to book ahead before you explore the island with them. 

Afternoon

Do this: Refresh between mangroves at Bahoi Eco Village

  • Travel time from Pantai Surabaya: 40 minutes by car

Hitch a boat ride with the locals through the meandering waterways of Sonsilo Mangrove. Photo by Jan E Papilaya 

Home to the Sangihe tribe in Sulawesi, Bahoi Eco Village is a seaside ecotourism village located within the stretches of a 40 hectare mangrove forest. Spend your afternoon here to learn a thing or two about their culture, snorkel in the emerald waters, or cool yourself off by strolling the walkway bridge among the mangrove trees. Get lost in its charm and you might just find your way to Tanung Kamal Watuline, a hidden gem perfect for some quiet time. 

The mangroves play a vital role in the livelihoods of the people of Bahoi and the surrounding ecosystem as it is a nursery for many fish and crustaceans, making it a top fishing spot for locals. As mangroves are also natural tsunami defence systems, this area has also been designated as a marine protected area by the local government. 

Watch the time go by as you slowly explore the carbon guardians of Sonsilo Mangroves. Photo by Jan E Papilaya 

Currently, Bahoi Eco Village is undergoing a serious overhaul to protect the area further. However if you’re still in need of a sanctuary in the thick of the mangrove trees, Sonsilo Mangrove Village is only a five-minute drive away. Slow living is the essence here so pick up a new hobby of fishing with the villagers on their boats or follow the rainbow of their colorful walkway bridge.

Whether it’s Bahoi Eco Village or Sonsilo Mangrove Village, masks are required to be worn at all times for health and safety purposes. A handwashing station will welcome you at Bahoi Eco Village but be sure to take your hand sanitizers with you to keep your hands clean throughout your visit at both villages. 

Eat this: Pisang Goroho at Pantai Surabaya

  • Travel time from Bahoi Eco Village: 30 minutes by car

Snack on these crispy, freshly fried Pisang Goroho by the beach. Photo by Jan E Papilaya

Do as the locals do and snack on this grub favorite, Pisang Goroho. The french fry-looking banana fritter can only be found in Northern Sulawesi as this type of banana is endemic to the region. While pisang goreng is typically sweet, Pisang Goroho leans more towards the savory side, especially with their sambal roa dip.

Find these at the humble warung in Pantai Surabaya, which is the usual hub for island hopping trips. Extend your beach time here if you like and rent a float to chill in the waters. Sabua shacks are also available for rental if you want to keep dry. Remember to keep yourself safe by washing your hands and wearing your masks at all times.

Evening

Enjoy this: Feel the golden hour warmth of Pulisan Hill

  • Travel time from Bahoi Eco Village: 1 hour by car

Feel the breeze and watch the grass dance in the winds of Pulisan Hill. Photo by Jan E Papilaya 

With so many stunning vistas to take in for the day, sit down and relax while enjoying your last view for the day at Pulisan Hill. Arrive an hour before the sun sets to catch the warm rays of the golden hour as you watch the waves of Pulisan Beach crashing below. 

The green rolling hills of Pulisan stretches to as far as the eye can see, making this dreamy lookout point highly sought after for picnics or even pre-wedding shoots. Come when the weather is perfect because rainy days would make the 10-minute climb up the hill slippery, and remember to wear comfortable shoes. Stay as long as you like but it’s best to avoid weekend crowds for better social distancing practice.

Pulisan, a spot of bliss for nature lovers with lush greens and gorgeous waters. Photo by Jan E Papilaya

It’s hard not to fall in love with Pulisan Hill’s allure, especially after you find the steps to go down to the scenic Pulisan Beach. Be it from the top or from the shore, watching the sunset from Pulisan is an unforgettable way to close your day. We understand if it gets hard to leave and if you want to spend a little more time here, there’s a quaint homestay in the area so you can wake up to a dream in the morning. 

Having your masks on throughout your visit at Pulisan keeps you and everyone safe. Photo by Jan E Papilaya

As all public spaces in Indonesia require you to wear a mask,  Pulisan Hill is not exempt from this so remember to carry extra ones in your bag. Keep your hands clean by bringing your own hand sanitizers but if you see a handwashing station, you know it’s never a bad idea to wash your hands. 

Eat this: Tuna Bakar at Dabu Dabu Lemong

  • Travel time from Pulisan Hill: 2 hours by car

Don’t skip on freshly grilled skipjack tuna after your day of fun around Likupang in Dabu Dabu Lemong, Manado. Photo by Jan E Papilaya

After catching the sunset, it’s time to chomp down the best catch of the day: Tuna Bakar. The freshly grilled skipjack tuna is a must-eat in North Sulawesi, as its waters is home to the largest tuna catch in the world. Doused with a salt and lemon marinade, this grilled tuna dish may be simple but its meaty, smoky flavors is what makes it an unforgettable meal.

If you’re not planning to stay the night in Likupang, make your way to Manado’s Dabu Dabu Lemong to get a taste of tuna bakar, the restaurant’s pride and glory. Many come for the mouthwatering seafood options, but even more stay for the sambal dabu-dabu relish, dubbed as the best in town. Health and safety protocols are tightly implemented here and all restaurant staff are vaccinated. 

Health & safety protocols to note

Throughout Indonesia, health and safety protocols are strictly enforced. Temperature checks upon entry is the norm across all establishments, including tourist destinations. Don’t forget to bring your vaccine certificates with you or have it ready from the PeduliLindungi app. Masks in public spaces are required all over the country, so double up and always bring extras in your bag.

While some destinations still allow cash, major establishments prefer cashless and card payments so have your e-wallets topped up before you start your itinerary. However, hand washing stations are required to be installed at every establishment, making it easy for you to keep clean after every cash transaction.

As of current, only international travelers on business visas are allowed to enter Indonesia through six international hubs, including Sam Ratulangi Airport in Manado. However, domestic travel is open for vaccinated tourists across the archipelago, with a requirement of vaccine certificates and a negative antigen test result for travels by land, water, or air.

Kickstart your trip to wonderful Indonesia right now

This guide is produced in association with Indonesia Travel. 

  • All photography by Jan E Papilaya 
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