Banggai Islands Travel Guide & Itinerary For Sulawesi

by David & Intan

The Banggai area in Sulawesi is one of Indonesia’s most underrated places to travel, with an amazing blue lake called Paisupok and other good things to see including beaches, caves, waterfalls, and wildlife.

This is a big area that includes three different regencies — Banggai, Banggai Islands, and Banggai Laut — so it’s a bit more complicated than visiting other places in Sulawesi. My wife is Indonesian so that helped a lot.

We visited the Banggai islands independently, arranging our own hotels and transport for each step of the journey, and this blog post will explain how you can too. I’ll also share some contacts for local tour guides if you want to join a group or do a private tour to make it easier.

Either way, Banggai has some wonderful sights and it’s well worth a visit if you’re already planning a trip to Sulawesi. Here’s our travel guide!
 


 

Banggai Islands Itinerary Day 1: Luwuk To Peleng

• Fly To Luwuk

This itinerary for the Banggai islands starts and ends in Luwuk, which is a town of about 35,000 people in central Sulawesi.

There are multiple flights daily to the Luwuk airport (LUW) from Makassar in South Sulawesi, otherwise you can hire a driver and go overland to Luwuk from Ampana after visiting the Togean islands, which is another nice place to visit in Sulawesi.

If you’re flying to Luwuk from Bali, Jakarta, or somewhere else in Indonesia, then you’ll have to transit in Makassar on the way to Luwuk. You can shop for flights on Skyscanner.

Pantai Mandel Beach Banggai Islands Luwuk Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary

Mandel Beach — probably the nicest beach in the Banggai islands!


 

• Take The Ferry To Peleng

Once you arrive in Luwuk, there are taxi drivers waiting to take you to town and the drive is only about 20 minutes. We paid 50k Rupiah for the airport transfer.

From Luwuk town, you can take the public ferry from Luwuk People’s Port (‘Pelabuhan Rakyat’) over to Leme Leme on Peleng island. It departs every day at 2 PM and the journey takes 2 hours, although it usually leaves an hour late (i.e. Indonesian rubber time).

Tickets can be bought on the spot for 54k Rupiah (~$3 USD) per person. This is a big wooden boat that carries about 50 to 100 passengers, and it has bunks and benches to sit on, but they’re not very comfy. If you want more privacy, you can rent a small room for two people which has bunk beds and a fan. This costs an extra 50k Rupiah per room.

Alternatively, you can arrange a speedboat to take you over to some of the best sights on Peleng island, including Paisu Pok Lake & Poganda Beach. In that case, the journey takes about 1 hour from Luwuk, and you can sometimes see dolphins on your way over.

A day tour with a private speedboat like this will set you back anywhere from 1.5 to 4 million Rupiah (~$100 to $250 USD) for the roundtrip, so it’s not cheap, but it’s quicker than the ferry and it could be economical in some cases if you’re traveling with friends to share the boat cost.

Regardless of whether you choose the ferry or speedboat, the sea is very calm between Luwuk and Peleng island, so I wouldn’t expect waves to ever be an issue for crossing in normal situations.

Paisu Pok Lake Paisupok Banggai Sulawesi Indonesia

Paddleboating on Paisu Pok Lake


 

• Stay Overnight In Peleng

By the time we arrived in Peleng, it was already past 5 PM and the sun was setting. We were anxious to go see Paisu Pok Lake, but there wasn’t enough time left in our first day.

We stayed the night at Novpitri Homestay, which is right by the harbor in Leme Leme. The rooms are very basic, with a fan, squat toilet, and cold water bucket for showers. When we visited in late 2023, electricity was by generator only, but they now have 24/7 electricity there.

They only have one air-conditioned room, so it’s a good idea to book this in advance if you want it. They’re slow to respond on WhatsApp even if you speak Indonesian. Don’t expect luxury at the homestay, but if you’re out exploring all day it’s fine. We already knew this would be the roughest place we’d stay on our Banggai trip, so two nights here was no problem.

The normal rate is 200k Rupiah per night for the A/C room, or 150k for the fan room. Hopefully they’ll add mosquito nets soon. The family was helpful and cooked supper for us, which was also very cheap and good: rice, veggies, omelets, fried tofu, and chicken.

If you want to stay closer to the Paisu Pok Lake, there are a bunch of very basic homestays in the Luk Panenteng village, which is right by the lake. If you stay there, you can walk to the lake and swim every day.

Before going to bed, we arranged a scooter rental from the homestay so we could spend the next day going to the lake and the beach. They had it ready and waiting for us by the time we went to sleep!

Pantai Mandel Beach Banggai Islands Luwuk Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary

Banggai has lots of little private beaches like this one near Mandel Beach.


 

Banggai Itinerary Day 2: West Peleng Island

• Paisu Pok Lake

Paisu Pok Lake is a beautiful blue lake on Peleng island, and it’s one of the main highlights of the Banggai area.

You can rent a small boat, canoe, or standup paddleboard for exploring the lake, or you can swim and snorkel in it. The lake has some of the bluest water I’ve ever seen. It’s just as nice as it looks in the photos.

Paisupok is a 1 hour drive from Leme Leme because some parts of the road are broken and you have to slow down to pass them safely. There’s very little traffic on the road and it’s easy to find the lake.

I wrote a complete travel blog post about our visit to Paisupok, with lots of tips and photos, which you can check out in the link below.

Read More: Paisu Pok Lake

Banggai Islands Luwuk Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary Paisu Pok Lake Paisupok

Paisu Pok Lake has incredibly blue water.

Paisu Pok Lake Paisupok Banggai Sulawesi Indonesia Drone

Drone view of Paisupok Lake


 

• Paisu Batango

The next stop on Peleng island is a little lagoon called Paisu Batango, which is a 5 minute drive from the lake. On maps it’s marked as ‘Luk Bath Panenteng.’

The name Paisu Batango means ‘trunk water’ or ‘water from a tree trunk’ since the lagoon is fed by a natural spring. Sadly the locals use this place for bathing and washing their clothes with detergent, which messes up the clarity of the water a bit.

The cold spring water has a nice turquoise color even though the deeper side of the lagoon mixes with salt water from the ocean.

Paisu Batango

Paisu Batango


 

• Poganda Beach

The third place to visit on Peleng island is a white sand beach called Pantai Poganda, which is approximately halfway between Leme Leme and the lake. From Paisupok, it’s just a 30 minute drive.

This is a peaceful beach with calm water and palm trees, and it’s a good spot for snorkeling. We were surprised to see lots of starfish, even without snorkeling. There are a bunch of them sitting in the shallow water near the beach.

It’s a good beach for seeing either the sunrise and sunset, depending on the time of year. There are also several swings and a pier where you can sit and relax.

Pantai Poganda Beach Banggai Islands Luwuk Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary

Poganda Beach

Pantai Poganda Beach

The pier at Pantai Poganda


 

• Stay Overnight In Peleng

After spending all day sightseeing, we went back to Leme Leme and spent another night at the Novpitri Homestay.

If you need to go back to Luwuk at this point, there’s a ferry from Leme Leme at 8 AM daily, but we decided to head east to Salakan and continue exploring the Banggai islands.

Before going to bed, we arranged a driver with a van for sightseeing and then taking us to Salakan the next day.

The cost was going to be 850k Rupiah (with petrol and driver) to take us directly to Salakan, or 1.2 million Rupiah to go visit two caves in southwest Peleng before going to Salakan. We decided to see the caves!
 

Banggai Itinerary Day 3: Caves & Salakan

• Driving To The Caves

Our driver Anto met us at 6:30 in the morning and then we started our day trip. First, we had to fill up on petrol, which took about 45 minutes since we had a hard time finding a place that was open this early.

The journey to the caves is a scenic drive with hills, jungles, palm forests, and ocean views. This involved about 5 hours of driving — 2 hours to the caves, and then 3 hours to Salakan — so we were happy to be in a car instead of a scooter.

As we found out, the Peleng roads are paved but they’re broken in many places. You could do it with a scooter, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have some experience.

The best time to photograph the caves is in the morning, when the sun is right. We got to the first cave (Gua Susendeng) at 9 AM, and this was perfect.

Green Lizard On A Tree

Green lizard


 

• Gua Susendeng

The first cave we visited was Gua Susendeng, a shallow limestone cave with a high ceiling and a blue pool at the bottom. To reach the cave from where we parked at the main road, it was a 10-15 minute downhill walk on a grassy path.

The walk down is easy, but going back is a bit harder because it’s all uphill and there’s no shade to escape the sun. Once you get to the mouth of the cave, there’s a concrete stairway in good condition that goes down to the blue pool.

The color of the water is amazing and it would be fun to swim here. Our driver said the cave has been explored by scuba divers, and there’s apparently an underwater tunnel at least 200 meters long!

Gua Susendeng Cave Banggai Islands Luwuk Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary

Gua Susendeng

Gua Susendeng

Inside the cave

Gua Susendeng Cave Banggai Islands Luwuk Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary

Blue pool


 

• Gua Bab’banang

From the first cave, it’s only a 10 minute drive to the next cave, which is called Gua Bab’banang. Then, there’s a short 5-10 minute walk through the forest, where you can see lots of blue-tailed lizards and also some nice bright green lizards.

Gua Bab’banang is great for pictures, especially when you’re looking down at it from above. There’s a concrete stairway that goes to the bottom of the cave. The water here was even more blue than the first cave! It’s beautiful.

Sadly the locals have already built an ugly concrete bathroom right by the mouth of the cave, and there was a lot of trash in the forest too. Hopefully with the increased interest from tourism, they’ll have some motivation to keep this area clean. The cave itself is very nice!

Gua Babbanang Cave Banggai Islands Luwuk Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary

Gua Bab’banang

Gua Babbanang Cave Banggai Islands Luwuk Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary

Amazing colors at Gua Bab’banang


 

• Drive To Salakan

After we got done at the caves, it was a 3 hour drive to the town of Salakan. We hoped to stop for lunch on the way there, but we didn’t see anything that looked worthwhile, so we decided to wait and have a late lunch in Salakan.
 

• Stay Overnight In Salakan

We spent one night in Salakan. It’s a small town with only 2,000 people, but there are several comfortable hotels and restaurants to choose from.

We stayed at Wisma Sidapore Teluk Bayur, which had clean A/C rooms and free breakfast. Other options are Wisma Sidapore Jalur Dua (owned by the same people) or Wisma Alfrend Salakan.

You can make a booking with any of these hotels via WhatsApp. They can also arrange a scooter rental, or a car and driver.
 

Banggai Itinerary Day 4: Salakan To Banggai Laut

• Bone Pompon Beach

For our 4th day in Banggai, we hired a driver from Salakan to take us to several beaches and then drop us at the harbor in Tobing so we could go to our next destination, Banggai Laut island. This time the cost was 800k Rupiah for the car, driver, and petrol.

The first beach we visited was called Bone Pompon, and it was a 30 minute drive from Salakan. At Pompon, you can hire a small boat to visit several hidden beaches, including a little secret island called Pulo Tambun, which has a white sand beach.

However, we were in a hurry to get to our next beach (Mandel) since it sounded like it might be even better.

Pantai Bone Pompon Beach

Bone Pompon Beach


 

• Mandel Beach

Mandel Beach is a white sand beach more than a kilometer long, and it’s probably the most beautiful beach in all of central Sulawesi.

This beach has extremely white sand and turquoise water. Even though it’s only a 1 hour drive from Salakan, we only saw two other people there! It was amazing to have it all to ourselves. I expected it to be crowded like Paisu Pok, but since it’s a bit harder to reach, I think that has kept the crowds away.

It’s a wonderful beach and I hope it doesn’t become overdeveloped. There was some rubbish on the beach, so we filled two small bags with trash and tipped our driver for helping dispose of it in town.

Pantai Mandel Beach Banggai Islands Luwuk Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary

Mandel Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Banggai islands.

Pantai Mandel Beach Banggai Islands Luwuk Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary

White sand at Mandel Beach


 

• Bone Uluno Abason Beach

The third beach we visited was called Bone Uluno Abason, and it was a 30 minute drive from Mandel. It’s a long beach with brown sand.

This was a nice beach, but there was trash everywhere. It was sad to see. This may have been partly because of the rainy season, because I’ve seen pictures of this beach where there was no trash at all, so your experience may vary depending on when you go.

Pantai Bone Uluno Abason Beach

Drone pic of Bone Uluno Abason Beach


 

• Tendetung Lake

If you still have extra time before going to the harbor, you can see Tendetung Lake. It’s a winding turquoise-green lake that looks really nice in drone pictures.

We decided to skip the lake when we were there, because they told us it wasn’t the right season and we were running low on time anyway.
 

• Boat To Banggai Laut

After we were done seeing beaches, we drove to the harbor in Tobing, which is the best spot to get a boat transfer to Banggai Laut island. Another option is the harbor in Kalumbatan, but it’s apparently more expensive.

From Tobing, it’s easy to get a boat ride to Banggai Laut. The cost was 80k per person because we shared it with four locals and their kids. The last shared boat goes at 5 PM, so if you show up later than that you might have to pay more to charter a boat.

The boat ride is safe and comfortable, and only takes 15 minutes to get to Banggai Laut. It’s a small speedboat but there’s plenty of room for luggage.
 

• Overnight In Banggai Laut

Once you arrive in Banggai Laut, there are hotels and restaurants within walking distance from the harbor.

We stayed at Hotel Banggai, which was a little pricey by Indonesian standards, but it was comfortable and had free breakfast. We paid 500k per night.

The owner Refly was extremely kind and helpful for every aspect of our stay on the island, so that was a huge bonus. He also speaks English and was able to arrange a scooter rental, private driver, and other things for us in Banggai Laut. You can contact them by WhatsApp at ☎ +62 813-1931-6124.

If Hotel Banggai doesn’t work with your budget, another good option is Batara Guest House, which is a bit cheaper and also has free breakfast.
 

Banggai Itinerary Day 5: Banggai Laut

• Bontolan Beach

We expected bad roads in Banggai Laut, but actually almost every road on the island is paved and in good condition. There are some steep roads when you’re going up or down a hill, but nothing too crazy.

The first place we went was Bontolan Beach, which is just 15 minutes from town. The beach may not be very remarkable above water, but it’s a good spot for snorkeling. You can see some nice fish species here, including the endemic Banggai cardinalfish, which only lives in the Banggai archipelago.

Pantai Bontolan Beach

Bontolan Beach


 

• Oyama Beach

Oyama Beach is a nice little white sand beach on Banggai Laut that can only be reached by boat, although it’s a short and easy ride that takes 10 minutes or less.

You can hire a boat driver from either Lokotoy or Popisi village in northern Laut, and the total cost is only 50-150k Rupiah for the return trip. Our boat was small but held 7 people, so you could try to join others and split the cost.

Oyama has a private feel, and nice turquoise water. If you look around in the trees there are lots of colorful green lizards, and a boardwalk that leads to a mangrove forest behind the beach.

Pantai Oyama Beach

Drone pic of Oyama Beach

Pantai Oyama Beach

Oyama Beach from above


 

• Lambangan Pauno Beach

This is a nice beach near the upcoming airport in Banggai Laut. It’s unusual because it has a natural rock arch, which you can only reach at low tide, and it’s also a good spot for sunrise photos.
 

• Tanjung Gundul

Tanjung Gundul is an interesting little cove and beach that’s only accessible by boat. The starting point is Pasir Putih village, and the boat ride takes about 15 minutes.

Tanjung Gundul is probably one of the most unique beaches in Indonesia, with white pebbles instead of sand, and a giant rock arch that’s been carved out of limestone by the wind and waves. It reminded me of the white pebble beaches in Kefalonia, Greece.

A short trip here with a private boat starts at 150k Rupiah to go there and back, and you can also combine it with a visit to the Teluk Lalong lagoon mentioned below. If you share a boat with a group, you could do it cheaper. Local tourists usually go in the morning, so that would be your best bet for sharing.

Tanjung Gundul Sea Arch Drone Banggai Laut Islands Luwuk Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary

Drone pic of Tanjung Gundul

Tanjung Gundul Beach White Pebbles Banggai Laut Islands Luwuk Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary

The unique white pebble beach at Tanjung Gundul


 

• Teluk Lalong

There’s a nice lagoon just a short distance away from Tanjung Gundul, so you can visit both places in the same boat trip.

The Teluk Lalong lagoon has bright blue and green water. You can see fish and coral in the lagoon, and we even spotted a sea turtle, although I wouldn’t recommend swimming in the lagoon because the locals told us there are crocodiles.

Teluk Lalong Lagoon Boat

Teluk Lalong lagoon

Teluk Lalong Lagoon Drone

Drone pic of the blue and green lagoon


 

• Kelapa Lima Beach

Kelapa Lima is a remote beach with palm trees and tall limestone cliffs. It’s a nice beach, and it was empty when we visited. The name means 5 coconut beach.

This was the only spot in Banggai Laut where we felt like we actually wanted a car. The road was very rough and it’s a hassle with a scooter, although you can still do it.

Afterwards, we went back to town and stayed another night on Banggai Laut island.

Pantai Kelapa Lima Beach

Kelapa Lima Beach

Pantai Kelapa Lima Beach Drone

Drone pic of Kelapa Lima Beach


 

Banggai Itinerary Day 6: Mbuang-Mbuang Island

• Boat Trip To Mbuang-Mbuang

One of the best places to visit near Banggai Laut is the island of Mbuang-Mbuang, which is about 80 kilometers to the southeast.

There are a bunch of good things to see on Mbuang island, but it’s not very easy to get there, especially if the weather is unfavorable, like it was for us. We had to skip this day trip because the weather just wasn’t ideal in December.

You can get there with a public slow boat, which is cheap and relatively safe, but it takes about 7-8 hours one way. The other option is to do a day trip with a private speedboat, which takes about 2 hours each way, but it’s more weather dependent since the boat is smaller.

The speedboat is pretty expensive (up to 4 million Rupiah), but it’s a lot more convenient than the public boat, and it may be economical if you have friends to share the cost.
 

• Pasir Panjang Beach

This is the main beach at the village of Mbuang-Mbuang. You can walk directly to this white sand beach from the village, so it’s easy to access once you get there.
 

• Paisu Batongan Jellyfish Lake

The top attraction on Mbuang-Mbuang island is a lake where you can swim with stingless jellyfish! Because of the remoteness, it’s still not as well known as some of the other jellyfish lakes in Indonesia.

There are two different kinds of jellyfish in the lake, and both are harmless to humans. It also has some fish in it, including the endemic Banggai cardinalfish.
 

• Palanggang Beach

This is a small hidden beach near the Mbuang village that’s supposed to be good for snorkeling. It’s not far from the village or Pasir Panjang beach, but you still need a boat to reach it.
 

• Popisi Hill

There’s a nice viewpoint here called Bukit Popisi, where you can see several islands spread out on the ocean. It’s kind of similar to the views in Raja Ampat, Sombori, or Ang Thong Thailand. The hike to the top takes about 10-15 minutes.
 

• Pingo Beach

This is a long beach with white sand on the east side of Mbuang island. It’s surrounded by limestone hills, so the only way to go there is by boat.
 

• Overnight In Banggai Laut

If you visit Mbuang island on a day trip with a speedboat, you can stay the night back in Banggai Laut again, where there are plenty of hotels.

Otherwise, if you go with a slow boat, there’s only one place to stay in the Mbuang-Mbuang village and it’s a very basic guesthouse that includes meals.
 

Banggai Itinerary Day 7: Return To Luwuk

• Ferry From Banggai Laut To Luwuk

After you get done seeing everything in Banggai Laut, the only way to get back to Luwuk is by boat.

The ferry from Banggai Laut to Luwuk goes every day at 1 PM (or 2 PM if it’s tardy), and then the trip takes about 8 hours. The boat is big and safe, and reasonably comfortable. The sea was a little wavy in some spots but it was mostly calm.

The ticket cost is 130k Rupiah per person, and if you pay an extra 200k you can rent a little room for two people, with bunk beds and A/C. Our room was freezing cold, but it was nice to have a place to rest in private on the long boat ride.
 

• Overnight In Luwuk

Once you arrive in Luwuk, there are plenty of restaurants and hotels where you can spend the night.

Cheap hotels in Luwuk include Ayana Homestay, RedDoorz RSUD, and RedDoorz Plus Syariah. There are also several high end hotels like Swiss-Belinn, Hotel Santika, and Estrella Hotel.

We stayed at Hotel Kota, which was a nice balance of comfort and affordability. The price was 345k Rupiah per night for an A/C room with free breakfast.
 

Banggai Itinerary Day 8: Waterfalls

• Piala Waterfall

One of the best things to see near Luwuk is the Piala Waterfall, which is a big turquoise waterfall with multiple cascades, located right outside of town. The drive only takes about 15 minutes.

This one reminded me a bit of the famous Kuang Si Falls in Laos, which also has turquoise colored water and lots of separate cascades and natural pools where you can swim.

This waterfall is still mostly unknown to international tourists, but plenty of locals go there, so if you want to beat the crowds then you have to go in the morning, preferably on a weekday!

Read More: Best Waterfalls In Indonesia

Air Terjun Piala Waterfall Luwuk Banggai Islands Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary

Piala Waterfall in Luwuk, Sulawesi

Air Terjun Piala Waterfall Luwuk Banggai Islands Sulawesi Indonesia

Close up view of Piala Waterfall. It’s nice for swimming!

Air Terjun Piala Waterfall Luwuk

One of the smaller falls at Piala


 

• Laumarang Waterfall

This is a second waterfall near Piala, and it’s accessed by the same road, but you have to go a bit farther and the road becomes very rough.

You can get to Laumarang by hiking from the parking area at Piala, but it takes at least 1 hour for the roundtrip. They’re working on improving the roads here, so hopefully soon there’ll be better access.

If you hike past Laumarang, there’s also a nice and big third waterfall called Akar Darah.

Black Lizard

Lizard near the waterfalls


 

• Dendengan Waterfall

Dendengan Waterfall is another spot near Luwuk, just a 20 minute drive from the airport or 40 minutes from town. It’s fairly popular and easy to reach, with a paved road all the way to the falls.

Sadly the waterfall was dried up when we went in early December, but the pictures I’ve seen from other times of the year look nice.
 

• Kamumu Waterfall

This is another turquoise waterfall that’s located northeast of Luwuk. It’s very nice but you can’t drive all the way to the falls, so it requires a bit of hiking.
 

• Salodik Waterfall

This is the last waterfall we visited in the Luwuk area, and it’s about 40 minutes from the town center. The road is good and there’s plenty of parking.

Salodik is a nice waterfall with a bunch of different cascades, but it’s very overdeveloped.

They’ve turned it into a bit of a concrete jungle, sadly, with lots of ugly buildings all around the falls. It was a bit distracting and made it hard to enjoy the natural scenery of the place.

Air Terjun Salodik Waterfall

Salodik Waterfall

Air Terjun Salodik Waterfall

The lower falls


 

• Overnight In Luwuk

We stayed another night at Hotel Kota in Luwuk.
 

Banggai Itinerary Day 9: Pulau Dua

• Pulau Dua

Pulau Dua is a scenic little island that you can visit on a day trip from Luwuk, with steep hills and a stairway you can hike to the top of the island. The terrain looks a little bit like Padar island in Komodo, and it’s also a great place for snorkeling.

From Luwuk, it’s a 2.5 hour drive and then a 15 minute boat ride to get to Pulau Dua island. The boat cost is 300k to 400k Rupiah per day for the whole boat, and they’ll bring you all around the island wherever you want to go.
 

• Overnight In Luwuk

Spend your last night in Luwuk before catching a flight to Makassar, and then onwards to your next destination.

Alternatively, you can hire a driver in Luwuk to take you to Ampana, where you can catch a boat to go visit the Togean islands and then explore Gorontalo in north Sulawesi.
 

5-Day Banggai Islands Itinerary

If you’re limited on time in Banggai, you can do many of the highlights like the lake, beaches, and waterfalls in 4 or 5 days.

Here’s what a shorter itinerary for Banggai could look like:

  • Day 1. Arrive In Luwuk. Take the 4 PM ferry from Luwuk to Salakan, and then stay overnight in Salakan. The ferry ride takes 3.5 or 4 hours, and tickets cost 74k Rupiah per person.
  • Day 2. Beaches. Drive 2 hours from Salakan to the southeast harbor in Kalumbatan and take a quick speedboat ride over to Oyama Beach and back. They charge around 500-750k Rupiah for the whole boat roundtrip, and you can arrange it on the spot. Afterwards, drive overland to Mandel Beach and Pompon Beach before returning to Salakan to spend the night.
  • Day 3. Lake. Drive from Salakan to western Peleng (2.5 or 3 hours) and then visit Paisu Pok Lake, Paisu Batango, and Poganda Beach. Stay overnight in Leme Leme near the harbor.
  • Day 4. Return To Luwuk. Take the 8 AM boat from Leme Leme back to Luwuk (2 to 3 hours), and then go see Piala Waterfall and the other waterfalls near Luwuk town. Stay overnight in Luwuk.
  • Day 5. Leave Luwuk. Fly out from the airport to Makassar, or continue overland to Ampana to visit the Togean islands and north Sulawesi.
Colorful Seashells

Colorful seashells at Tanjung Gundul

Pantai Mandel Beach Banggai Islands Luwuk Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary

Another view of Mandel Beach


 

Map Of The Best Things To Do In Banggai

Here’s a map of some of the best things to do in the Banggai area. Sights are marked in blue, hotels in yellow, harbors in green, and airports in red.

Keep in mind the Banggai area is still very new to tourism and we didn’t get to see everything, so there are undoubtedly more hidden gems waiting to be found in this area if you look around. That’s the most fun part!


 

Tour Guide Contacts For Banggai

When we visited Banggai, we booked our own hotels and also arranged our own transport (drivers, boats, and motorbikes), usually with a bit of help from our hotels. My wife is Indonesian, so that made things a lot easier.

If you’re only planning to visit Paisupok Lake and other things near Luwuk, then a tour isn’t really needed in my opinion.

However, if you want to go to all of the caves, beaches, etc in Banggai and you don’t speak Bahasa, then it could be helpful to have a local tour guide who can arrange everything for you.

Here are some good local contacts for that:
 

  • Michael Wagey – Freelance tour guide based in Salakan on Peleng island. Mick does private trips and also monthly shared trips in Banggai. He’s the main person who popularized the Banggai islands, and his viral Instagram posts have inspired a lot of people to visit.

    Even though we didn’t do a tour with Mick, he was very helpful answering questions for us, and he was able to put us in touch with a driver in Salakan to take us to the beaches and then drop us at the harbor to go to Banggai Laut. You can contact Mick Wagey by WhatsApp at ☎ +62 813-4201-5440 or on his Instagram page.
  • Acho Akina Chowji – Freelance tour guide in the Banggai area. You can contact him by WhatsApp at ☎ +62 822-9374-8745 or on his Instagram page.
  • Butros Galileo Delim – Freelance tour guide based in Peleng island. You can contact him on his Instagram page.
  • TripBanggai – Tour company in Banggai. You can contact them by WhatsApp at ☎ +62 811-433-7690 or on their Instagram page.
  • HV Trip – Tour company that sometimes does open trips to Banggai if you want to share a tour. You can contact them by WhatsApp at ☎ +62 821-5942-7772 or on their Instagram page.
Banggai Islands Luwuk Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary Paisu Pok Lake Paisupok Drone

Drone picture of the amazingly blue Paisu Pok Lake.

Underwater Blue Snorkeling Trees

Underwater shot in the lake


 

Other Contacts For Banggai

  • Boni – Taxi driver based in Luwuk. He can transfer you from the airport or harbor to your hotel in Luwuk, or vice versa. You can contact him by WhatsApp at ☎ +62 853-8562-5578.
  • Anto Unus – Driver with a van based in Leme Leme on Peleng island. The Novpitri Homestay put us in touch with him, and he drove us to the caves and then to Salakan. You can contact him by phone at ☎ +62 822-7855-7858 or on his Instagram page.
  • Novpitri Homestay – This is the guesthouse where we stayed in Leme Leme. You can contact them with the WhatsApp number listed on their Google Maps listing, but don’t expect a fast response.
  • Luk Panenteng Homestay – This is a guesthouse at the Panenteng village directly by the Paisupok lake. They’re a 5 minute walk from the lake. You can contact them with the WhatsApp number listed on their Google Maps listing. We don’t have experience with them, but I’m including it here for information sake.

Gua Babbanang Cave Banggai Islands Luwuk Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary

Blue pool at Gua Bab’banang cave


 

Other Tips For Banggai

  • Airports: Currently the only airport in the Banggai area is the one in Luwuk (LUW), which has multiple flights per day from Makassar. They’re also working on an airport in Banggai Laut, so that should open up some new travel possibilities when it’s finished.
  • Roads: The roads are mostly good in Luwuk and Banggai Laut. The bad roads we encountered were in Peleng island, although it’s still okay with a scooter if you know what you’re doing.
  • Language Barrier: The locals in Banggai can barely speak English, and this area is still very new to international tourism, so it’s a good idea to download a translator app for communication.
  • ATM: There are ATMs in Luwuk town and also at the Luwuk airport if you need cash. We used the BNI Bank ATM in Banggai Laut and it worked fine. There are also ATMs in Salakan, although we didn’t use them.
  • Food: Banggai isn’t Bali, so don’t expect loads of choices, but we never had trouble finding good places to eat, and a lot of the hotels had their own restaurant menus with the typical Indonesian food. Luwuk has a KFC and Pizza Hut in town if you find yourself missing western food.
  • Apps: You can use the GoJek app for taxi rides and food delivery in Luwuk, but most people use a local app called Draiv, which has some of the same features. This app also works in Banggai Laut.
  • Electricity: You’ll have 24/7 electricity in all of the significant towns in Banggai like Luwuk, Salakan, and Banggai Laut. When we visited Leme Leme in late 2023 it was also generator only, but they now have 24/7 electricity there. In remote places like Mbuang Mbuang, power is still by generator only. They’ll usually turn it on from around 6 PM to 6 AM, and you can charge your phone and other electronics during this time.
  • Cell Service: We had good 3G/4G signal with Telkomsel everywhere in Luwuk, Peleng, and Banggai Laut except while driving through the hills and such.
  • WiFi: Surprisingly, we had usable WiFi at every hotel where we stayed in Luwuk, Peleng, and Banggai Laut. The only exception was at the homestay in Leme Leme, where our room was out of range of the WiFi connection. If you go to Mbuang Mbuang island, don’t count on any WiFi there either.
  • Malaria: According to this Lancet study from 2018, Malaria has been greatly reduced in the Banggai area, but it may still be present to some extent. I would err on the side of caution and do everything you can to protect yourself from mosquito bites. We didn’t take Malaria pills / prophylactics.
  • Wildlife: The Banggai area is home to some endemic animal species like the Banggai cardinalfish, Quince monitor lizard, and Peleng tarsier. You can see the tarsiers by trekking in Peleng island or Banggai Laut. The locals told us there are cobras and pit vipers in Banggai too, although we never saw any snakes during our time there.
Pantai Pasir Putih Beach

The beach at Pasir Putih village on Banggai Laut

Paisu Pok Lake Paisupok Paddleboard Banggai Islands Luwuk Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary Paisu Pok Lake Paisupok

Paddleboarding at Lake Paisu Pok


 

When To Visit The Banggai Islands

For most of Indonesia, the best time to visit is from April to November, which is the dry season. However, Banggai seems to follow its own weather pattern and it’s not very predictable.

We visited Banggai in early December, but the rain was usually at night and it didn’t really cause issues for our trip. However, we had to skip Mbuang-Mbuang island because the waves were too challenging for the sea crossing.

Some of the waterfalls in the Luwuk area start to dry up around September or October, and they stay that way until around January or February, but the Piala Waterfall is good all year. It had plenty of water when we visited in early December, even though the climate around Luwuk was still pretty dry at that time.

Paisu Pok Lake is normally good in any month of the year. Just try to avoid holidays and weekends since it can get very crowded at that time. Sunny days are best for seeing the color and clarity of the lake.

Blue Tailed Lizard Skink

Blue tailed lizard


 

Conservation In Banggai

If you love the Banggai islands, your help is appreciated to keep them clean. We made sure to leave every place cleaner than we found it, and at some of the beaches we filled a bag of trash to take away.

I think some tourism can be helpful for this area as long as people are careful to clean and protect it. It’s a remote area with not a lot of infrastructure, so I don’t think it will have mass tourism like Bali any time soon, thankfully.
 

More Indonesia Travel Tips

Thanks for looking! I hope you enjoyed this travel guide for visiting Luwuk and the Banggai Islands in Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Don’t forget to check out my complete guide for Paisupok Lake for more tips and photos of Banggai’s most famous attraction.
 

See Also


 
Pinterest Banggai Islands Luwuk Sulawesi Indonesia Travel Guide Itinerary

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25 comments

Shannim February 25, 2024 - 12:36 am

Hi David, great post, incredible photos! Exactly what I need, Can’t wait to be there. soon. Your post has just initiated me to book my flight right away! Thank you so much for the details. They’re very helpful. I’ve read a lot of your articles on your blog post & I like your style of writing. Informative, easy to understand and I get the feel that you try to support the locals, sharing their contacts on your blog. Well done! I’m a big fan of Indonesia by the way. Been ravelling there back and forth for over 30 years and still can’t get enough of it! Thanks so much for sharing this- Shannim

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David & Intan February 25, 2024 - 8:37 am

Nice! Thanks Shannim, have a great trip to Banggai.

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Kris March 2, 2024 - 12:05 pm

Thank you so much. This is very helpful. Take care and safe trip~

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endrich March 10, 2024 - 7:01 am

Hi there, did you made the trip to Mbuang-mbuang island on this trip? and how about bajau tribe village in banggai laut called mandebolu, do you know about that?

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David & Intan March 11, 2024 - 5:17 am

Hi. We didn’t do Mbuang-Mbuang on this trip, but I included the info in case people want to go there. The beaches and jellyfish lake look really nice and we’ll probably try to go there next time we’re in Banggai.

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Lee March 17, 2024 - 4:48 am

Hi David and Intan, I was wondering if we can book perhaps grab car from the airport to the people’s port? Or is it something that we need to book a few days prior?

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David & Intan March 17, 2024 - 5:06 am

Hi Lee. There is GoJek in Luwuk and also a local app called Draiv, but not Grab. We didn’t try the apps at the airport to see if they could find drivers, we only used them in town. But there were taxi drivers at the airport asking us if we needed a ride, so it should be easy to find one there without booking.

We paid 50k Rupiah for our airport transfer with Boni. You can contact him by WhatsApp at ☎ +62 853-8562-5578 if you want.

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Lee March 20, 2024 - 7:06 am

Thank you so much! What about the boats that you’re using to go to different islands? How do we get one and what is the average cost?

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David & Intan March 21, 2024 - 6:20 pm

It depends which boat, but the full details are in the blog post. You don’t need a booking for the boats unless you want to do a private boat.

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Anna May 3, 2024 - 1:03 pm

Hi David, I would like to do a private boat of one day just to go from Luwuk to the lakes and come back. Where can I do this booking?

David & Intan May 3, 2024 - 10:56 pm

Hi Anna. The private boat to those spots can be arranged by Mick Wagey or Butros Delim.

Chong April 18, 2024 - 10:37 am

Thank you for sharing! Your blog is an absolute treasure trove of inspiration and adventure! Keep up the good work and I look forward to following your next journey!

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David & Intan April 18, 2024 - 3:25 pm

Thanks Chong!

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Tobi April 22, 2024 - 2:48 pm

Hi David, just one suggestion: Could you please add a date to the blog posts? At least in the mobile version I couldn‘t find one. It‘s just good to know, as some of the information can change quickly. For example there are no more direct flights from Manado to Luwuk currently and Leme-Leme has 24hrs electricity now:)

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David & Intan April 22, 2024 - 4:15 pm

Thanks Tobi, I just added that info about the flights and electricity. I was experimenting with hiding the dates because they normally only show the last time the post was updated, which can be a little bit confusing.

We were there in December and I wrote the guide in January. But I do edit these guides constantly to try to keep them up to date, so any notes are appreciated until I can get back to Banggai hopefully later this year. I’m checking with our local contacts in Banggai now to see if there have been any other changes recently as well.

That’s disappointing they stopped the Manado flights to Luwuk, but hopefully they bring them back again in the future. Or maybe they’re planning to fly to the new airport in Banggai Laut when it’s finished.

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Markus Raiser May 25, 2024 - 4:21 am

Hello David & Intan,

First of all, thank you so much for this really detailed blog, it helped us a lot on our trip!
We followed your itinerary almost exactly and did everything like you. That’s why I’m sharing a few of our experiences here so that you can perhaps add a few details.
First of all, it’s about the travel time. I read from you that the best time to travel to Banggai is from April to October, as this would be the dry season. Unfortunately, it’s the other way around, and I’ve had this confirmed by all the locals. Anto, the driver, and Refly at the Banggai Hotel both said that the best time is from October to December, when it is the dry season and the wind is not yet too strong. Unfortunately, we had a lot of rain, wind and only three days out of ten when it was mostly sunny. At Paisu Pok we only really had a bit of sun for 20 minutes, but it was enough for a few good shots. Unfortunately, we had to abandon Mbuang-Mbuang in the middle of the boat trip because the wind and waves were just too strong. Pouring rain included. In general, it rained through the three days on Banggai. Unfortunately, we were also unable to visit the Piala and Laumarang waterfalls as both were closed due to flooding. So much for the weather and the ideal travel time.

Otherwise the prices for Leme-Leme Novpitri Homestay have gone up a bit, AC-Room is 200/day and Fan-Room 150/day. Scooter rental costs 150/day. Anto charged us IDR 1.3 million for the trip to Salakan and only IDR 700 for the trip to Pompon and Mandel Beach and then to Tobing.
The prices on Banggai for Hotel Banggai were still the same as yours.
The boat trip to Mbuang-Mbuang would have cost us 4 million, as we had to cancel it we visited the Kokungan waterfall on the way back and then agreed on a price of 2.2 million.
In Luwuk, we hired Boni as our driver for the whole trip. I can highly recommend Boni as he speaks English reasonably well and has fair prices. 50/airport transfer, 500 for the visit to Salodik and Kamumu waterfalls, Piala and Laumarang on the way back included (if they are not closed). We paid a million for the transfer to Pulau Dua and back.

In Pulau Dua we paid 400 for the boat for the whole day.

I would also like to say about Luwuk that everyone here has to adjust a little to the public harbor, that you are practically the superstar there. We were grabbed and stared at as if we were Alliens😂 Be careful with your luggage, several people tried to carry it for us as porters to the ferry and also into the harbor building, the backpacks were almost torn out of our hands. A determined and confident demeanor helped us a lot here.

In the end, the 3-hour wait for the ferry was bridged with a full-on photo session with the locals.
I can also recommend Rispan as a contact at the harbor in Luwuk, whom we met while waiting. He speaks very good English and made it much easier for us to communicate with the locals. Here is his Instagram account: rzn_galih
He works there in the port supervision and helps with buying tickets and finding your way around the port.

We were also recommended Danau Tendetung, another lake in Peleng that you can visit on the way from Mandel Beach to Tobing. We only got the tip on the ferry from Banggai to Luwuk, but the pictures the local showed me looked fantastic.

All in all, I was really impressed with how well you can replicate your trip through Banggai. Absolutely doable for the three of us without speaking a word of Indonesian, but with the great help of the locals and a good offline translator.

Thank you very much for your very helpful guide and I can really recommend everyone here to take the Banggai adventure. It is infinitely worth it!

Thousands thanks and all the best for you all!

Markus Raiser
IG: mk.rs.travel and favorite.travel.moments

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David & Intan May 25, 2024 - 5:03 am

Hey Markus, thanks so much for the comments and your experience! Sure, I’ll update the blog post with those details.

Glad you guys had a great trip to Banggai! Sorry to hear the weather wasn’t cooperating. That’s strange, because we had some of the same weather problems in December, and Refly told us we should’ve come in April – November. Maybe the weather in Banggai is more random than I thought.

Luwuk was very dry in December, but the islands like Banggai and Peleng were cloudy and raining on several days. We ultimately decided not to go to Mbuang-Mbuang for that reason. They told us it was very wavy and may not be safe. Next time, we’ll try to take the big boat over to Mbuang-Mbuang instead of a speedboat. It’s a lot slower, but should be better on the waves.

You’re right, the locals are very friendly and overwhelming at the harbor in Luwuk. Haha. Glad you guys had a fun trip!

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Markus Raiser May 25, 2024 - 5:40 am

Yes, the weather is really very unpredictable, but I actually asked every local and driver and hotel owner what they say the rainy season and the dry season is, the answer was always from April to November. But subliminally, I sometimes had the feeling that they didn’t really know themselves haha. We met another expat in Banggai Laut who had moved here from Russia. He didn’t speak English very well, but he was still able to give me some good information about Banggai, for example the two volcanic eruptions in Halmahera and Ruang would probably have a strong impact on the weather due to the gigantic ash clouds. Which of course can significantly affect seasonal conditions. I think it’s like everything else, you often need a bit of luck and patience. We are definitely planning to come to Banggai again, with a little more than 2 weeks stay. Among other things, to visit Mbuang Mbuang by slow boat.

And I agree with you, after getting used to the people, it ended up being one of the best experiences we had with the locals in Indonesia haha.

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David & Intan May 27, 2024 - 12:23 am

Yeah, that makes sense. I hope you guys get better weather on your next trip so you can see Mbuang and the other places!

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Anonymous May 30, 2024 - 10:01 pm

Hi! Your travel posts are so inspirational. Although I’ve only been outside of the United States twice, I can’t wait to use your helpful tips and guides to plan a memorable trip!

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David & Intan May 30, 2024 - 10:42 pm

Thank you!

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Marcelo June 6, 2024 - 12:44 am

Hi David, first congratulations and thank you for such an informative post, I’m at that point where one gets stuck in the loop of looking for information about this trip and your post covers pretty much everything! I’m planning a trip for September, got in touch with a few guides, and as much as I appreciate the job of the guide, unfortunately the tour prices are a bit too high, around 2 million per day per person for 2ppl, and I must confess that apart from the high prices, I also enjoy the adventure too much to spend that amount of money on a guided trip that can be done independently 🙂 I’ve been summing up the costs you shared on the post, boats and accommodation, but not food and scooter rentals which add up not that much more. Would you say for the same trip for 2 people , around 8 million should be enough ? Thanks in advance, and safe travels ✌️

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David & Intan June 6, 2024 - 3:14 am

Hi Marcelo! Yeah, we were in Banggai for 10 days and spent around 1 million Rupiah per day for everything except flights. I’m sure we could have done it cheaper too. For example, in Banggai Laut we hired a driver with a car on the first day because we were afraid the roads would be bad, but actually it was good enough for a scooter (and we did that afterwards). We also could have stayed cheaper at Batara Guest House instead of Hotel Banggai. Good luck!

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Aristide Pourikas June 17, 2024 - 2:34 am

Hello David and Intang,
Thank you for the amazing tips. Me and a friend of mine are planning to go there in July.
I wanted to do the 5 day itinerary that you proposed. Some questions I have: Is it possible to rent a scooter there, for example to drive from Salakan to Mandel beach?
Or from Salakan to Leme-Leme?
If yes, do I need an international drivers licence there or is my German license enough?
Can I book the ferry from Luwuk to Salakan in and the ferry from Leme-Leme to Luwuk in Advance or is that not possible/ not necessary?
Thanks in advance, I really appreciate your help.
Regards, Aris

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David & Intan June 17, 2024 - 6:01 am

Hi Aris. Yes, any hotel in Salakan should be able to rent a scooter for you, or else they’ll put you in touch with someone who can. International drivers license is required, although they probably won’t ask or care.

Salakan to Mandel beach wouldn’t be a hard drive. There are some broken spots in the road, but it isn’t very steep. Salakan to Leme-Leme is a bit harder and it’s a long drive (3+ hours), but still doable if you’re careful.

For the ferries, you don’t need to book them in advance and I don’t think there’s any system for doing that anyway at the moment. They won’t sell out. Good luck!

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