Indonesia’s the world’s largest island country and one of Asia’s most densely populated.
Only Brazil is more bio-diverse and nowhere else on earth has such a huge variety of endemic wildlife, apart from Australia. Vast stretches of the country are wild, remote and inaccessible completely contrasting with teeming, hectic Jakarta and tourist hotspots like Kuta.
Choose the right area and there are few places more welcoming, enchanting and thrilling for kids or better at creating unforgettable family holiday memories.
The Indonesian archipelago contains over 13,000 islands including Java, Sumatra and Bali.
Sunny year round
Weather’s hot and high chance of sun in December and January (regardless of rainy season). Dry, hot and sunny from June to October.
The archipelago lies along the equator with average temperatures of 30˚C year round and a rainy season between November and March.
Indonesia’s waters contain over 3500 different marine species, over twice as many as the Great Barrier Reef.
The country has eight UNESCO World Heritage sites including the cultural landscape of Bali Province, Komodo National Park and the rainforest of Sumatra.
TripAdvisor voted Waterbom in Bali, Asia’s #1 Best Waterpark 2016 and #2 World Best.
Famous beaches like Bali’s Padang Padang and Kuta Stretch form part of Indonesia’s 55,000km coastline – the longest in the world.
Where to go and stay in Indonesia
Bali’s enchanting and Indonesia’s most popular holiday island, particularly on the sunny and beachy south coast. This is where you’ll find infamous Kuta, the city that’s become a rite of passage for young Australians and has the bars, clubs and tacky tourist traps to prove it. Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid staying in Kuta itself and still take advantage of the city’s waterparks, big stretches of sand, great restaurants and lively entertainment district.
Jimbaran Bay is about 40 minutes south of Kuta city centre and by far the best area for family resort hotels. Several of Bali’s most famous beaches are also in this area including Padang Padang and Balangan and it’s close to Uluwatu Temple and the legendary monkey forest.
Kuta’s great for days out at Waterbom Park, surfing lessons on enormous Kuta Beach, Turtle Bay, Kuta Square Market, Discovery and Lippo shopping malls and Tuban Circus Waterpark.
For pretty courtyard cafés, cool beach bars and interesting shops, Seminyak to the west of Kuta is a great afternoon out with teenagers.
Break with the first instinct to stay by the beach in Bali and think about Ubud. The cultural heart of Bali dates back to the 8th century and it’s wildly beautiful, exotic and fascinating. Kids love Ubud for the birds and animals, green river valley and lush forest landscape, outdoor activities, traditional theatre and performance, colourful festivals and warm, friendly people.
Just over an hour’s drive from Kuta’s west coast beaches and the lovely, calm north east coast resorts at Kubu.
Ubud’s a perfect location for Bratan Lake, Bali’s ethereal caldera. It’s also ideal for the historic rice terraces at Tegalalang and Jatiluwih.
Good for eco-hotels, traditional guesthouses, family resorts and spa hotels.
Historic sites in and around Ubud include: Puri Saren Agung royal palace, Goa Gajah and Tirta Empul, Bali’s most sacred temple
Ubud’s also home to the Monkey Forest and where to see the spectacular White Herons of Petulu.
Visitors can try ridge walking, canyoning, white water rafting, mountain biking and forest cycling round Ubud and it’s also a centre for art workshops, cookery lessons, language and traditional culture classes.
Anyone entering a Hindu temple must cover their legs completely. Most major sites include a sarong and sash in the ticket price. But buying your own at a local market’s a plan if you’re exploring outside the main tourist areas.
Most UK visitors fly into Jakarta in the far west of Java. The Indonesian capital is one of the world’s busiest cities and, appalling or spectacular, depending on how much you like relentless, seething crowds, glittering modern architecture, humid smog and non-stop noise.
Staying in Jakarta for a day or two with older kids or teenagers can be exciting but it’s not the city to find traditional Indonesian culture or a great deal of the country’s famous charm.
For all of that, and beautiful South Java Sea beaches, travel to Yogyakarta in central Java.
One of the few Indonesian cities with an historic centre, Yogyakarta’s also close to 8th century Borobudur: the world’s largest Buddhist temple, a UNESCO World Heritage monument and the country’s most visited site.
Yogyakarta’s one of Indonesia’s oldest cities and an amazing experience with older kids because it’s small, easy to get around and awash with ancient monuments, museums, galleries, traditional heritage and culture.
You’ll find a wide range of four and five star hotels in the centre if you want to stay in the city itself.
Many families opt for coastal resorts round the beaches at Kukup, Ngobaran, Depok, Tinang and Indrayanti, just over an hour’s drive south of the city.
Don’t miss: Kraton Yogyakarta (the sultan’s palace), Kota Gede district, the ancient Candi (temples) including Borobudur, Candi Kalasan and Candi Plaosan.
Visit: Pasar Beringharj market, Kisik River Camp for canoeing and rafting, Museum Sonobudoyo for Javanese shadow puppet and gamelan performance.
Take a tour round the historic heart of Yogyakarta in a Becak cart – younger children love it.
There’s a shuttle service year round from Jakarta to Yogyakarta and flights take about 40 minutes.
Lombok’s to the east of Bali, about the same size, and where to head for a barefoot, beachy and almost untouched Indonesian island holiday.
Breathtakingly lovely Lombok’s trimmed with white sand beaches and the interior’s a dramatic mix of mighty volcanos, lush forests, rice terraces, tobacco plantations and tiny, traditional villages.
Good choice of places to stay for families from Airbnb properties to eco-hotels, beach resorts, charming guesthouses and heritage villa rentals.
Mataram City is the island capital but most visitors choose to stay near Senggigi Beach, Mangsit and Setangi Beach, about 40 minutes outside the city.
Don’t miss: Gili Island cruise for turtle watching, Ampenan market, surfing at Hallo Lombok, guided forest treks, roadside corn on the cob sellers, scenic road trips north of Senggigi.
Lombok is 30 minutes flight from Bali and a regular shuttle service operates all year round.
What to do and see with kids in Indonesia
Waterbom Park, Kuta, Bali Voted Asia’s Best Waterpark and World #2 in 2016, Waterbom’s a full day and a must-do with kids in Bali.
Sacred Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali Just outside Ubud, the Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal is home to 700 monkeys and set in 12.5ha of lush forest containing 186 different tree species.
Bali Bird Park, Batubulan This beautifully kept and well managed bird park is one of Bali’s top attractions. It has over 1000 birds from 250 species, features walk-in aviaries and has an excellent conservation and education centre for kids.
Bamboo Forest Cycling, Ubud, Bali A guided tour of the Bamboo Forest, rice fields, local villages, craft workshops and Ubud’s magical river valley landscape.
Ayung River Rafting, Ubud, Bali A wild water adventure along the River Ayung is great fun for families and a wonderful way to see Ubud from another perspective.
Negiri Propinsi Museum, Denpasar The capital of Bali’s a fairly uninspiring city, but worth a visit for the Negiri Propinsi Museum. It’s large and takes a bit of working out but there are several excellent guided tours. Don’t miss the traditional masks and costumes and the fighting cricket cages.
Bali Safari & Marine Park, Gianyar See several hundred animals from over 60 species in this conservation conscious safari park. Tours are on shuttle buses and there’s a pick up and drop off service from a number of Kuta and Ubud resorts.
Gunung Rinjani National Park, Lombok A three day trek to the top of Mount Rinjani (Indonesia’s second highest volcano) might be out of the question for most visitors, but this spectacular national park has shorter, less strenuous walks and trails too. Taking a guided tour of the park is the best and safest way to explore.
Kraton Yogyakarta A guided tour of the ancient royal palace in Yogyakarta is a fascinating mix of history, myth, legend and cheerful gossip interspersed with a huge collection of art and antiquities.
Circus Waterpark, Kuta, Bali Much smaller scale than Waterbom but a good fun, inexpensive alternative for a few hours cooling off with younger kids.
Educational value for kids
Visit Sukawati Art Market in the south of Bali. This is where all the island’s craftworkers display and sell their wares and kids can try polite haggling (much to the delight of the stallholders).
Take a guided tour of Borobudur Temple at sunrise, it’s awe-inspiring and not to be missed if you’re in central Java.
Learn how to cook traditional Indonesian dishes at one of the cooking schools in Ubud.
Trek the Campuhan Ridge Walk in Ubud, it’s well marked and one of the best ways to see the stunning countryside.
See a performance of Tek Tok dancing at the Bali Cultural Centre in Ubud or catch a traditional production at Kuta Theatre.
Kuta Beach has some of the best surfing schools in Bali and most have morning lessons for kids.
Cruise to car-free Gili Meno island from Lombok and visit the turtle sanctuary.
Getting about with kids in Indonesia
Driving in Bali is one of the best ways to explore the island and just about the only way to really see the remarkable interior. The roads are safe and well maintained in most places but driving during the rainy season (November to March) can be challenging – keep an eye on weather and traffic reports. Most Indonesian cities are easily managed with a mix of public transport and taxis. There are regular daily flights from Jakarta to Yogyakarta and Bali and flights from Bali to Lombok take 30 minutes.