A weekend at Bintan Island, between sea, hills, and little towns

photo: courtesy of Bintan Lagoon Resort

There is a place in Riau, a province of Indonesia, that you wouldn’t think of visiting on a trip. One of those places that doesn’t pop up first when you google “where to go” or “what to do and see.” You might think it’s just an archipelago of islands with small towns, nothing exceptional. It’s Bintan Island, just a boat ride away from the neighbour cities of Singapore and Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and you might be wrong. Bintan is the largest island in Riau and it’s a breath of relaxation.

This is the place for families, friends, couples, or anyone who wants to veer away from overcrowded destinations and prefers a slow, peaceful holiday immersed in tropical beauty. It’s perfect even for a weekend getaway, combining the infallible classics of relaxing on the sand, swimming in the warm ocean, hiking up the green hills, and trying out local cuisines. However, if you’re more curious, you might also enjoy wandering the local markets, the charming temples, and exploring deeper within Bintan’s forests and rivers.

With such a simple, classic getaway it can seem hard to decide which corner of the island to settle on, but from first-hand experience we suggest the Bintan Lagoon Resort covers most of your retreat needs on Bintan Island. Just a ferry and a shuttle from Singapore, it welcomes you warmly with a dance at the entrance and your own buggy to help you get lost—and find yourself—in the wide, looping curves that branch around the resort, up its hills, down to the beach, around suites and villas, pools and gardens, swallowed by huge trees, and full of restaurants, bars, and cafes everywhere. Let’s break it down a bit more.


Waves, sunset, and a candle-lit dinner quite unlike any other

The Bintan Lagoon Resort is big enough that it’s easy to get lost, but this is exciting, too. Wandering around in the manicured nature is so grand, thinking about which destination your path will reveal. However, wherever you go, make sure to head down to the beach just before sunset to make a relaxing, tropical start to your night. The sun sliding down creates a dramatic orange blaze, straight out of every tropical movie ever, which blends with the blue skies above and casts a peaceful glow across the sea. The sounds of waves crashing, people murmuring, music playing from afar, the earthy scent from the trees, and the fine sands under your feet complete the whole vibe. After a day of travel, it’s perfection. Peace. Relaxation.

And just in time—for the evening, go on a candle-lit dinner by the bay at the resort’s top restaurant, Nelayan. Soak in the spectacular views as you drink coconut water, enjoy a seafood grill, have a chat, and admire the atmosphere.

Even the suites and villas are raw and exude a relaxed atmosphere, surrounded by lush gardens, and the deep blue sea. It is serene, bathed in the colors and hues of an endless summer. If you’ve had enough urban noise for a while, this is precisely the slice of peace and quiet that the doctor ordered: it deserves to be experienced with every sense.

Nelayan Restaurant (photo: courtesy of Bintan Lagoon Resort)

Morning swim, local towns, tiny markets, temples and farms

Like any other weekend getaways on an island resort, there is time and place for taking a dip (whether the beach or the pools, and why not both). The sun is warmer than you’re used to already early in the morning, so take advantage of the glistening, bright colors to start your day with some water. Do your bikini pose, jump into the water, listen to the birds enjoying that tropical summer together with you.

As the day heats up, step away from the beach and the waters for a bit of sightseeing and tours outside your resort and in the heritage centers of Bintan—though you won’t be tanning on the sand, don’t forget your hat and your sunscreen! Tanjung Pinang and Tanjung Uban are the main towns of Bintan Island—and they’re the places to meet the local community and taste their way of life. While each village has its own distinct personality, the special charm here is the hide-and-seek experience of finding their little gems. Among the houses are well-preserved temples and remote farms. You’ll notice the utmost respect and obsessive care for lawns, pathways, and every little detail of the area. And you’ll experience that incredible silence of the midday heat.

You may ask—as you drive through, passing bungalows and schools, students walking or motorcycling in a summer day, children playing and parents sitting on benches in the shade of trees, enjoying what their little town can give—what could be so interesting about this? The beauty lies in the quiet glimpses of how its people enjoy the moments of their everyday towns. You can feel the tension dropping away from you—there’s no grand destination you must absolutely reach, just the moment to enjoy—and time for lunch on the riverbank at Seafood Kelong to wrap up the detour. Walk your meal off with a visit to the small local market to see the local finds, before heading back to the resort.

As much as you would like to stay outside to enjoy the landscape, it does get hot in the afternoon, so feel no shame whether you simply go for another swim, or even lock yourself in your perfectly air-conditioned room.

If you do feel like powering through your early-afternoon snooze mode, you’ll be spoiled for choice, with activities from ATVs to golf, archery to simple bike tours. If you prefer to stay in the water, there’s jetski, kayaking, and snorkeling available as well. Just—and I know I’m repeating myself—don’t forget the sunscreen. With so many leisure options, dining spots—and did we mention beach massages by the beach?—You’ll never run out of things to explore at Bintan Lagoon Resort.


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Last day picnic breakfast on top of the hill

A hill overlooks the seaside resort and it’s the perfect spot to set-up a picnic breakfast. Outdoors, with nobody to bother you. A slice of earth between the heaven and the ocean without anybody to disturb you. I strongly recommend you do this in the elegant calm of morning before leaving Bintan (if you’re up early enough to catch the sunrise, that’s the loveliest). From high above the lagoon you’ll see an almost 360-degree panorama of the vast lagoon with the shifting shades of azure skies, aquamarine waters, and emerald trees painted by the rising sun.


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On Bintan Island you have to enjoy exploring, finding, and appreciating its little gems. It doesn’t scream for your attention. Instead, it offers you an authentically relaxing weekend when you can grasp the undemanding and the underrated. You’re not going here for groundbreaking encounters and experiences, but simply for a place to open your eyes, mind, and heart to enjoy the quiet simplicity of time well and satisfyingly spent.


Want to check Bintan Lagoon Resort yourself?

Website: https://www.bintanlagoon.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bintanlagoon

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bintanlagoon

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bintanlagoonresort/


This article is sponsored by Bintan Lagoon Resort. It is editorially independent. The writer really enjoyed visiting Bintan. The editors are all quite jealous.

Marj Ostani

Marj is a Filipina culture & entertainment writer currently based in Manille. You'll best spot her at gigs, fairs, bazaars and exhibits with the signature tote bag. Former INFJ-turned-INTJ, a gemini rising feminista!

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