Labengki island (and its exotic neighbor Sombori) might be one of Indonesia’s best kept secrets. This untouched tropical paradise in Sulawesi is impossibly beautiful. It’s one of the most enchanting places we’ve visited in our travels.
Labengki and Sombori haven’t been spoiled by tourism yet, and English documentation for these places is still virtually non-existent on the web. We half expected to see dinosaurs as we explored the lagoons, caves, and jungle covered beaches.
This Labengki travel guide will explain how to get there, where to stay, all the best things to do, and everything else about how to experience this gem of Indonesia yourself!
Where Is Labengki Island?
Labengki is located in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia.
There’s actually two islands: Labengki Kecil (small) and Labengki Besar (big). Most of the population is in a fishing village on Kecil.
Labengki’s main tourist sights are on Besar, but it’s a mountainous island with steep cliffs so it’s virtually impossible to settle (check it out in the picture below!).
Tours to Labengki also include Sombori, a nearby group of islands and lagoons with some of the same spectacular scenery.
Sombori actually sits on the edge of Central Sulawesi province, but it can be visited pretty easily on a day trip from Labengki.
How To Get To Labengki Island
Labengki and Sombori are remote islands, so the process of getting there takes a bit of effort.
The first step is to fly to the city of Kendari (KDI), which requires a transit stop in Makassar (UPG). Makassar is easy to reach from Bali or Jakarta, and it has non-stop daily flights to Kendari for 300k Rupiah ($20). You can shop for flights to Kendari at Skyscanner.
From Kendari city, the next step is a drive to the harbor, and then a boat journey to Labengki that will take about 1 hour by speedboat, or 3 hours by wooden boat.
Labengki Island: What To Expect
The most popular way to visit Labengki and Sombori is with a package tour that includes your food, lodging, and boat. You can try to arrange these separately, but the price won’t really change.
The standard format is a 3D2N or 4D3N tour, and that’s a little rushed in my opinion, but it’s enough time to see some of the top highlights of Labengki/Sombori. As a solo traveler, you can do the 4D3N private tour for as low as 4.5 million Rupiah ($300 USD) if you stay in a very basic homestay.
We paid 15 million Rupiah ($1,000 USD) to upgrade to a 7 day package that included Kendari airport transfers, the boat journey from Kendari to Labengki, 6 nights in the Labengki Beach Huts, unlimited private boat touring around the islands, and all of our meals for two people. Keep in mind these were corona prices from 2020 when there were no tourists in Indonesia, so during normal times the prices will be a bit higher.
These prices are pretty high for Indonesia, but most of the cost is for the private boat charter and petrol. There’s very little wiggle room because it’s such a remote area and hard to bring supplies of any kind. My wife is Indonesian and she tried negotiating. A deposit is also required since they have to buy the food and fuel before you go.
With that said, the final price depends on how long you stay, what type of boat you use (wooden motor boat vs speedboat), and where you stay (homestay, beach huts, or resort). If you join an open trip (shared trip) those are also cheaper, but may still be hard to find.
Best Labengki & Sombori Tour
We arranged our entire trip with Oji, a Kendari native with a lot of experience in Labengki and Sombori. He was very helpful and handled our lodging, meals, and boat tours.
You can contact his company ‘Kelas Vakansi’ via WhatsApp at ☎ +62 813-4340-6633, and he speaks English. If you don’t hear back right away, he may be on a trip at the moment. You can also try to contact them on their Instagram page.
Side note: The locals at the village in Labengki and Sombori speak very little English, and that goes for most people in Kendari too. This was a non-issue for me since my wife is Indonesian, but for others it’s something to keep in mind.
It’s best to iron out any important details before you start your trip, and if there’s anything specific you really want to see then maybe save a picture of it in your phone to show your boat guy.
Best Things To Do In Labengki
• Labengki Kecil
This island is the smaller of the two Labengki islands. It has a fishing village with a population of about 500 people, and a growing number of cheap homestays for tourists (more on that later).
Even if you don’t stay on Labengki Kecil, it has some cool spots to explore like an old abandoned lighthouse, a few beaches, and a small limestone cave called Gua Kolam Renang (Swimming Pool Cave).
• Long Sand Beach (Pantai Pasir Panjang)
This is Labengki’s longest beach, hence the name. It’s a perfect stretch of white sand with a palm forest and calm blue water.
If you stay at the Labengki Beach Huts, you can reach Pantai Pasir Panjang in 10 minutes by climbing over some limestone rocks!
• Love Bay (Teluk Cinta)
This is Labengki’s most famous heart shaped bay that you may have seen on Instagram. Teluk Cinta is Indonesian for Love Bay, and it sits near the Labengki Nirwana Resort.
You can get some great views here by climbing Kimaboe Hill, but to really see the heart shape you’ll need a drone.
• Blue Lagoon (Laguna Mahumalalang)
The Blue Lagoon is a hidden pool that you can reach by climbing a ladder over some jagged limestone rocks.
A better name for this spot might be the green lagoon. The color of this water is like nothing I’ve seen before! We called it Gumby Lake.
• Twin Lagoon (Danau Kembar)
This is a pair of lagoons separated by a small mound of limestone rocks. You’ll definitely want some kind of footwear for climbing on the rocks, because they can be super sharp.
Our guide told us a story about how the lagoon at one time (years ago) was used by local fishermen for catching and breeding sharks! We also spotted a couple of Sulawesi Hornbill birds here.
• Tobelo Lake (Danau Tobelo)
This is a hidden lake that can only be reached by wading through a small cave connected to the sea.
Inside, there’s a spotless turquoise lagoon with fish and coral. If you fly above the lake with a drone, it’s even shaped like a perfect heart!
Tobelo Lake is only reachable at low tide, when the water level is below the cave. Even then, our boat guy told us the tide conditions are only right for one week per month.
Needless to say, we consider it a huge privilege that we got to see this spot!
• Red Sand Beach (Pantai Pasir Merah)
The Indonesian name for this beach is Pantai Pasir Merah and it means Red Sand Beach — a name that comes from the reddish-orange color of the sand.
The giant cliffs and bent palm trees on this beach are picture perfect. It was hands-down my favorite beach in Labengki, and one of my favorites anywhere in Indonesia!
• Shark Lagoon (Laguna Hiu)
On the way to Red Sand Beach, you’ll pass this hidden lagoon that sits up against the steep coastline of Labengki island.
It’s hard to see at first, because the trees blend in with the rest of the cliffs, but if you get closer you’ll see that there are actually two lagoons inside: one big and one small.
We didn’t go for a swim, but our boat guy said he’s seen lots of sand tiger sharks in the lagoon, hence the name!
• Labengki Beach (Pantai Labengki)
This is a long white sand beach on the south end of Labengki island, near the Nirwana Resort.
Most tours don’t stop here, and the beach was empty except for a palm forest, but we thought it was one of the nicest beaches we saw in Labengki.
• Jellyfish Lake
There’s a newly discovered jellyfish lake in Tarape island (between Labengki and Sombori) where you can swim with millions of stingless jellyfish!
This lake was only discovered in 2023 so it’s not very well known yet, but you can see pictures from our Labengki tour company on their Instagram page and it looks amazing.
• Sombori Island
After you finish exploring Labengki Island, there’s lots more to see and do in nearby Sombori, another group of islands and lagoons about 2 hours north of Labengki.
A typical 3-day or 4-day Labengki/Sombori tour spends a full day in Sombori, or if you’re staying longer (like we did) then you could easily spend another day or two exploring Sombori.
The scenery in Sombori is at least as amazing as Labengki. It’s a beautiful tropical paradise loaded with lagoons, limestone peaks, and hidden caves.
Read More: Sombori Island
Sample Labengki Itinerary
This is what a typical 4D3N Labengki itinerary will look like:
- Day 1: Travel from Kendari to Labengki. Check in at hotel and go swimming at the beach (Pantai Pasir Panjang).
- Day 2: Sombori day trip. Visit sights like the Kayangan Viewpoints, Diamond Cave, Grandma’s House, Koko Island, and more.
- Day 3: Island hopping near Labengki. Visit sights like the Labengki Kecil Lighthouse, Blue Lagoon, Swimming Pool Cave, and more.
- Day 4: More Labengki islands. Visit sights like Kimaboe Hill, Love Bay, and other mini islands. Head back to Kendari.
Where To Stay In Labengki Island
• Labengki Beach Hut
We stayed at the Labengki Beach Huts on the big island (Labengki Besar), and I really think it’s the best place to stay if you can fit it in your budget.
The location is magic. 10 little beach huts sit at the bottom of the steep cliffs, and you have a private beach right in front of your room. Another white sand beach (Pantai Pasir Panjang) can be reached in 10 minutes of hiking.
The food is fantastic and there’s lots of variety in every meal. We had fresh fish, squid, chicken, rice, veggies, shrimp, fruit, eggs, pancakes, and too many other things to list.
The price we paid included daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with free flow tea and coffee. For everyday drinking water, they had big containers of clean mineral water so we could refill our bottles from the tap.
The rooms are comfy, but very basic. There’s no electricity except via generator from 6 PM to 6 AM, so that’s when you have to charge all your electronics. There are plenty of outlets and a fan. We had decent cell service with Telkomsel.
For bathrooms, there are 6 outhouses with drop toilets. You do your showers by washing yourself with a pale and bucket. Remember, this is a Robinson Crusoe experience. Don’t expect luxury, but it’s comfy enough.
Some maintenance was overdue when we visited. The hammocks were broken and so were some of the other facilities. This accommodation is pricey by Indonesian standards, so there’s not much excuse for the lack of upkeep (except the remoteness, I guess).
Still, what you’re here for is not luxury but an exotic tropical escape, and the Labengki Beach Huts deliver that in spades!
You can contact them on their Facebook page or via WhatsApp at ☎ +62 853-9750-5163.
• Labengki Nirwana Resort
The highest budget lodging in Labengki is the Nirwana Resort.
They have overwater villas with great views and swimming right in front of the balcony. The rooms look pretty comfy for something so remote. They have air conditioning, 24/7 electricity, and proper bathrooms.
I haven’t checked their rates lately, but the last I heard is that they vary from 1.1 to 2.5 million Rupiah ($75 to $175 USD) per night, depending on room.
You can contact them on their official website where they have an email address and several WhatsApp numbers listed.
• Labengki Kecil Homestay
The cheapest place to stay in Labengki is in the fishing village on the small island (Labengki Kecil). There are lots of local homestays popping up there.
Accommodation is very, very basic. Like the beach huts, you’ll have a drop toilet and wash bucket, with a fan and electricity in the evenings. All meals are included and there’s Telkomsel cell service now.
The main drawback is the location, since the fishing village is kind of shabby — nothing like the private beach at LBH. You also can’t expect the food to be amazing (just fish, rice and veggies), but it should still be yum.
Prices range around 250k Rupiah ($17) per night per person, so this is definitely the most economical lodging in Labengki.
• Other Accommodation
More accommodation is planned in Labengki and Sombori. One of these projects is the new Priyanka Resort on Pulau Tarape, an island halfway between Labengki and Sombori.
There’s also the option of staying at a cheap homestay in Sombori. The price and standards should be pretty similar to staying on Labengki Kecil, but you won’t have cell service.
Last, but not least, the owners of the Labengki Beach Huts allow tent camping but you’d have to bring your own gear. This would be one way to save on costs while still having an epic natural setting.
What To Bring To Labengki
These are very remote islands, so keep that in mind when you’re packing. Here are some of our top recommendations.
- Snacks: If you’re like us, sometimes you just crave a Snickers bar. You won’t find any Circle K or Indomarets out here.
- Snorkel: There are some good snorkeling spots, especially in Sombori, so you’ll want to bring gear for it.
- Power Bank: Labengki and Sombori have no electricity except via generator from 6 PM to 6 AM, so it’s nice to have a fat power bank to supplement this for charging your stuff.
- Dry Bag: A waterproof bag is essential for your camera and other electronics, because you’ll want to spend a lot of time island hopping by boat.
- Drone: As beautiful as these islands are, they look even better from above!
Other Labengki Tips
- Mosquitoes: We haven’t heard any reports of malaria from Labengki or Sombori. The best source I can find is this Lancet study from 2018, which says malaria is eliminated in South East Sulawesi (which includes Labengki), but there may be some cases of malaria in Central Sulawesi (which includes Sombori). It’s a big area, so it’s hard to say for sure. We saw some mosquitoes during our one week stay, but managed to get only one or two bites the whole time. The Labengki Beach Huts were small and well sealed so we didn’t really need a mosquito net while sleeping. We were very careful to avoid bites outside of the room, but didn’t take malaria prophylactics.
- Religion: The local people in Labengki and Sombori are Muslim. There’s a noisy mosque on Labengki Kecil island, so you may want to bring ear plugs if you’re a light sleeper and plan to stay on that island. For us staying in the Labengki Beach Huts, noise from the mosque wasn’t a problem.
Best Time To Visit Labengki
Indonesia’s dry season (and best weather) is normally from April to November.
With that said, Labengki and Sombori seem like they follow different weather patterns and I know of several people who went in the rainy season and still had great weather.
Our trip was in September and we had mostly fantastic weather, except for one big storm at night that felt like it was going to carry our beach hut away!
How Long To Stay In Labengki
Most Labengki/Sombori tours are 3 or 4 days, and that’s plenty of time to see the top highlights, but if you enjoy the Robinson Crusoe lifestyle you could easily stay longer.
We stayed 7 days (6 nights) and still didn’t manage to cover the whole area! There are lots of hidden lakes and lagoons here just waiting to be found.
Our Labengki Island Video
Last but not least, here’s my 4K Labengki Island drone video from our trip to show you just how incredible this place is.
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