Rinca Island is one of the 29 islands off the coast of Flores which make up Komodo National Park, the home of the mighty Komodo dragon. Rinca and Komodo are the biggest and most-visited islands in the park, offering great opportunities to spot the dragons in their natural habitats.
Why You Should Visit Rinca Island
Most tourists will visit Rinca rather than Komodo, for two reasons. Firstly, it is closer to Labuan Bajo, where most tourists stay, and makes for a more easily manageable day-trip. A trip to Rinca, including lunch and snorkelling stops on the way and way back, will normally depart around 7.30am and return around 3pm.
The second reason is that you’re more likely to spot dragons on Rinca. This is because the population is denser and there is less cover for the dragons to shelter under. It’s said that the dragons are bigger on Komodo, but sightings on Rinca are pretty much guaranteed.
How to Get to Rinca Island
Travel agents line Jl Soekarno Hatta, the main road in Labuan Bajo, with their main trade being trips to Komodo and Rinca. The majority of visitors opt for day-trips to Rinca, which include stop-offs for snorkelling at beautiful uninhabited islands such as Kelor. Snorkelling equipment and lunch are included in the price, which is around Rp 400,000 per person if you’re joining a group.
For around twice that amount, you can opt for a two-day trip to Komodo and Rinca including a night on the boat. These trips may also incorporate visits to Pink Beach and Manta Point.
Entrance Fees to Rinca Island
On top of the price of your boat trip, you’ll be asked to pay park entry fees at the PHPA office when you arrive on Rinca. These fees have recently risen sharply and differ hugely for Indonesian and foreign visitors. Foreigners are charged Rp 150,000 between Monday and Saturday, and Rp 220,000 on Sundays and national holidays.
The respective prices for Indonesians are Rp 5,000 and Rp 7,500. If you wish to dive in the park you will be charged an additional Rp 25,000. The snorkelling fee is Rp 15,000. The above charges will give you a pass which is valid for the whole park for one day. That means that with one pass you can visit both Komodo and Rinca islands that day.
Where to stay Around Labuan Bajo
If you’re feeling really adventurous, it is possible to stay on Rinca in basic rooms near the PHPA camp office. This will further enhance the immersive wilderness experience, but be warned that the rooms are very spartan. They’re also near-impossible to book in advance. If you were to stay in these rooms your only dining option would be the (very) basic café near the park office. It makes much more sense to do as the vast majority of visitors do and stay in Labuan Bajo, a charming harbour town on the west coast of Flores.
Labuan Bajo accommodates the swelling visitor numbers with a range of hotels to suit every budget – check out our guide to Labuan Bajo hotels here. A great budget choice for backpackers looking for a good value room in Labuan Bajo is Bajo View. This is a basic, if rather unique, hotel with accommodation in cylinder-shaped tents made of fabric and steel. Rooms are fan-cooled and the bathrooms are shared. You probably won’t be spending much time at the hotel, but it’s good value – and besides, there’s too much to do to stay in your room all day!
For those with a bit more money to spend, a great mid-range option is Le Pirate. Right in the heart of things on Jl Soekarno, Labuan Bajo’s main drag, this is a very stylish hotel. Rooms are compact but comfortable, in a beach-hut style and offering amazing sunset views over the harbour. There’s also a buzzing mid-level bar and a rooftop bar with swimming pool, which hosts regular movie nights. Le Pirate has another branch on Gili Trawangan and is very popular with flash packers.
Finally, a great higher-budget option is Golo Hilltop. As the name suggests, this hotel is high up on a hill, near the popular Paradise Bar. It affords beautiful sunset views which are worth the hike even if you’re not staying here. The hotel is Dutch-run and is comprised of just 10 lovely bungalows. It fills up fast, so booking in advance is advisable.
Best Places to Eat in Labuan Bajo
As mentioned above, Rinca itself is not blessed with great dining options. There’s a tiny café near the park office where some instant noodles are about the best you can hope for. Labuan Bajo, though, has a great range of restaurants for a town its size.
Bizarrely, Labuan Bajo is particularly famous for Italian food. The finest option is Made In Italy, which has a new location about 15 minutes’ walk down the main road south of the harbour. It’s worth the walk for the delicious pizzas and pastas, although it’s among the more expensive options. Mediterraneo, right in the middle of the main drag opposite Le Pirate, is another great choice. Colourful beanbags are spread out across a wooden deck, a great place to relax with a Bintang, pizza or some fresh grilled seafood.
Labuan Bajo also has some great cafés, a rare luxury in Flores. Bajo Bakery is a cosy spot with delicious pastries, sandwiches, and good teas and coffees. Café in Hit is a stylish spot, just next door to Le Pirate. It serves top-quality coffees and teas and healthy organic breakfasts. It’s normally packed with tourists, locals and expats alike.
Rinca Island is the best place to see Komodo dragons in the wild. You’re pretty much guaranteed to see dragons here because of the density of the population. There’s also less cover for them to hide under compared to Komodo Island. Trips to Rinca are easy to organise from Labuan Bajo. Labuan Bajo has a range of great hotels to suit all budgets.
Have you ever visited Rinca Island? What did you think about the island? Share your thoughts in the comments below.