Pulau Weh is a hilly volcanic island, sitting peacefully at the top of northern Sumatra. It’s just a short boat ride from Banda Aceh. The island is a true paradise, both above and below sea level. The most popular villages on Pulau Weh have a laid-back backpackers vibe. It’s a perfect paradise to relax and have a good time away from it all.
Pulau weh is volcanic, the hills are lush green, the views are breathtaking, the beaches are sugary white and the sea is crystal clear. Bring your flip-flops, sunblock, a good book and prepare to snooze in a hammock by the sea (if you’re not spending all of your time underwater). Do note that Pulau Weh is no party island. There is no nightclub and alcohol is difficult to get by as it is strictly forbidden in the Aceh area of Sumatra.
Getting to Pulau Weh From Banda Aceh
From Banda Aceh you will need to travel 40 kilometers to get to the Ulue-lue port. From here you can catch the ferry to Pulau Weh. The fast ferry leaves two times a day at 09.30am and 4 pm. It takes around 1 hour and costs Rp 80,000 for an economy class ticket. The regular ticket is a bit more expensive. Alternatively you can also take the slow ferry. This leaves at 8 am and 2 pm and takes 2,5 hours. It costs Rp 25,000. All boats arrive at Balohan Port. From here, you can take a motorbike taxi or a Becak to your destination on the island.
Flying to Sabang
Sabang is the main city of Pulau Weh. It has its own airport these days making it very easy to access the island. Garuda Indonesia and Wings Air both operate flights to the airport from Medan. You can get connecting flights to Sabang from most parts of Indonesia.
Sabang is the main city of Pulau Weh, but there is not much to see here. Most travelers head towards one of the backpacker villages around the coast. The most popular tourist destinations are Iboih, Gapang and Sumur Tiga.
Iboih beach is the most popular place among backpackers, located on the west side of the island. This is the place where I stayed at a few years ago. In those days, I didn’t dare to drive a motorbike yet, so I didn’t see as much of Pulau Weh as I could have but I absolutely loved hanging around in this sleepy village, gazing over the azure blue and exploring the marine life. Iboih has got lots of guesthouses and charming oceanfront restaurants.
Gapang is a smaller and quieter place to stay on the island and it is home to a beautiful beach. From here, you can walk to Balek Gunung where you can see flying foxes, visit waterfalls and do jungle trekkings. At Gapang beach there are, apart from some simple beach huts, also more luxurious bungalows to stay at, with air-conditioning and a hot shower, and you can even opt to stay in one of the resorts if you want to splurge.
This unspoiled tropical beach is located on the east coast of Pulau Weh, just a 15-minute drive from Balohan Port. The ambiance is quiet and peaceful and the beach of Sumur Tiga is the best place to watch the enchanting sunrise in the early hours of the morning.
Where to Stay On Pulau Weh
There’s a lot of choice for accommodation on Pulau Weh. Most of the accommodation is targeted at backpackers. The hotels range from simple huts by the beach through to mid-range bungalows and small time resorts. Regardless of what you choose you can almost guarantee a beautiful view.
If you’re on a budget it’s easy to find something suitable to your needs when you arrive as most backpackers huts don’t advertise online. For mid-range accommodation I’d recommend the eco-friendly Treetop Guesthouse. Another nice option for this budget range is Freddies Santai Sumurtiga and Pulau Weh Resort, both come highly recommended and offer bungalows by the beach.
At the top end you have the dive resorts which offer diving facilities and luxury bungalows. Lumba Lumba Diving is a popular diving school in Gapang and Iboih Diving Center is a highly-rated dive school in Iboih. Both offer packages with on site accommodation in nice bungalows.
Things to do On Pulau Weh
Pulau Weh will steal the hearts of those travelers who appreciate nature. It’s the kind of place where you can get away from the crowds and the party scene. The island offers beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters, untouched nature and some of the best marine life in all of Indonesia. Here are some great things to do on Pulau Weh;
Enjoy the Beaches
The obvious thing to do when you arrive on Pulau Weh is to just lie back and enjoy the beach! The island is the perfect place to soak up the tropical ambiance. Just lie around in a hammock, sip a young coconut, swim a little and relax. I promise after a few days you will continue your travels rejuvenated!
Diving and Snorkeling
Most travellers come to Pulau Weh for the underwater life (it is truly amazing)! In fact, Pulau Weh was the first place I snorkelled in Indonesia. I was stunned by the diversity of the wildlife. You can see whale sharks, manta rays, turtles, barracuda, stingrays, dolphins and much more.
The ocean at Iboih is home to the Rubiah Island Sea Garden. You will start at the southern end and the current takes you gently to the northern end. You can go snorkelling just right off of shore and you can also hire a boat to go on a snorkeling trip, bringing you to the best spots.
If you are a dive addict you will not be disappointed. Diving is affordable compared to most places in Indonesia. There are 20 dive spots to choose from and they are suitable for a range of levels. Some spots have very strong drift dives and deep decompression dives, only suitable for experienced divers.
Explore the island by motorbike.
If you have driving a motorbike before, don’t miss out on renting one here so you can go explore. The island has three well-paved main roads, making it easy to find your way. It takes around 2 hours to get from one side to the other. On the way, you will be treated to empty winding roads, amazing views, and raw untouched landscape.
If you take a ride around the island I recommend stopping to take a photo at the Kilometer Zero Indonesia Monument. This is the most western tip of the country where Indonesia begins. It’s also worth checking out Jaboi Volcano Crater (wander through the volcanic landscape of yellow rocks). A motorbike should cost Rp 100,000 a day.
Jungle trek to Gunung Keris
Gunung Keris is the highest peak on Pulau Weh Island. On a trek through the nature reserve you’ll see lots of birds and butterflies. It’s a nice trek and you get some good views of the island on the hike. If you want a half day adventure then get your hiking shoes on and go!
Don’t expect any high-end cuisine on Pulau Weh. Most guesthouses and cafés located in the popular tourist villages serve simple Indonesian and western food. The best dishes are normally the local ones. The locals know how to make a good Nasi Goreng but when it comes to pizza, I’m not sure 🙂
Pulau Weh is one of the highlights of Aceh. I’d definitely recommend visiting Pulau Weh if you have the chance. You’re sure to enjoy the diving, the beaches and the laid back lifestyle. Just make sure to book your return ticket otherwise you might stay for too long.
Have you ever visited Pulau Weh? What did you think of the island. Share your thoughts in the comments below.