Compared to its more sophisticated counterparts such as Bali and Yogyakarta, or its cosmopolitan cousin Jakarta, Batam seems to us like the underachieving step-sister of Indonesia. Its proximity to Singapore has not made it the region’s most glamorous vacation destination, and the bumpy ferry ride to the island isn’t exactly the coolest thing either. But a trip to the Riau island doesn’t have to be boring, not when you have these seven things to check out on your next weekend escapade to Batam!
For an intimate vacation, see our guide to the 10 best private island getaways near Singapore, featuring Telunas, Pulau Pangkil, Pulau Joyo, and plenty more.
Explore the greenery of Batam’s northern coast
Escape the concrete buildings sprawled across the island and plunge yourself into the tranquil forests that span the entirety of the island’s northern shore. A 30km hiking trail runs from Turi Beach in Nongsa, through the verdant foliage that borders the coast. At the end of your journey, you’ll discover the most magnificent tropical greenery set atop the rolling hills of Tering Bay Golf Club. For the best jungle trekking – or biking, if you wish – experience, it is best to go during low tide.
Gaze upon the seascape from Barelang Bridge
This little-known landmark may be 45 minutes away from the city, yet increasingly, many tourists are making pilgrimages here. The chain of six connected cable-stayed bridges was initially designed to connect Batam to the islands of Rempang and Galang, and is an iconic architectural monument to admire in itself. Additionally, street hawkers line the curbs of the Tengku Fisabilillah bridge segment, where you’ll be able to sink your teeth into cheap and mouth-watering Indonesian fare, from Matarbak pancakes to Goreng Pisang.
For your perfect #nofilter Instagram picture, stay till the evening, for you’ll be rewarded with a picturesque glimpse of the neighbouring islands basking in the sunset’s golden gleams.
Take a boat tour through lush mangroves
Decades of rapid development have destroyed the swathes of mangroves that used to border Singapore’s coastline. Now that large portions of Batam’s mangroves are facing a similar fate, take your rare chance to sail – on a rustic fishing boat, no less – into the beautiful greenery of the mangroves, and get up close with the vibrant flora and fauna hidden within. Organised by environmentalist groups such as Rumah Bakah Indonesia, these trips will open your eyes to the immaculate wonders of nature.
Conquer the waters with extreme watersports
Wakeboarding, parasailing, flyboarding – you name it, they’ve got it. Surrounded by the incredible white-crested waters of the South China Sea, it’s only natural that such adrenaline-inducing water sports are all the rage in Batam. While most resorts host their own sea-sport activities, Cabana Club at Nongsa Point Marina and Resort proves to be the most popular. Its friendly staff and stunning stretch of private beaches making your daredevil experiences utterly to die for, regardless of whether you’re gliding across the waves or over the sea.
Wind down at Brewsky & Co
It’s not exactly a secret that Batam isn’t known for its pubs or alcohol, given its religious makeup that would naturally lead one to conclude that the locals just don’t drink. Alas, with the urbanisation of the region, drinking spots have been popping up all across the island in recent years. And where better to chill after a long day of exploration than at the island’s very first microbrewery? With its breezy and relaxed vibe, Brewsky & Co is the ideal place to wind down after sundown.
Eat like a local at Acia Ikan Bakar
When in Rome, do as the Romans do, so why not get out of the malls – and A&W – and experience authentic Batam street food? These places are not unlike Singapore’s local hawker centres, but they are certainly where you’ll find the best street food on the island. At Acia Ikan Bakar, you can expect to savour the freshest of BBQ seafood dishes, including BBQ mackerel (Ikan Makarel Bakar) and BBQ squid (Sotong Bakar).
Additionally, taste some curious twists on familiar foods, such as Chakue Campur – a curious mix of black carrot cake, char kuay teow, and fried yellow noodles – and Chakue Otah – a combination of black carrot cake and otah otah.
Treat yourself to a seafood feast at Kopak Jaya 007
No trip to Batam will be complete without a feast of the freshest catch from the sea. Hidden away on the south of the island, about a five-minute drive away from Barelang Bridge, is Kopak Jaya 007, a rustic seafood restaurant where your meals are brought straight from the sea to your plate. Perched on the edge of the coast, you’ll be able to lounge by the beautiful turquoise sea whilst digging into the most divine salted egg crab and cheesy crayfish. For something more local, do try the delectable steamed scallops, as well as the salted and spicy fried sotong. Faraway from the city and free from tourists, this charming establishment is the place to go for an indulgent afternoon by the sea.
Top Image courtesy of John Payne