If you put Pulau Weh in Indonesia on your bucket list, be sure to read this guide on what to do once you’re there! Weh Island is a destination that you can enjoy and explore for a while, as I did, staying on the island for more than one month. I just couldn’t have enough of it. The weather is tropical, but you can get around with a motorbike. The locals are Muslim but measured. The size of the island suits perfectly a solo traveler, a couple, and families, as it’s nor immense nor little. The kind of location that you want to discover day by day. You’ll probably end up, like many others, daydreaming about moving or retiring there. Just a short flight and you’re in Malaysia, so not much hassle if your Indonesian visa is expiring and you’re sad because you’d love to stay on Pulau Weh a little bit longer. You can even fly and spend the weekend in Kuala Lumpur and be back to Sumatra in only two and a half hours.
HOW TO GET TO WEH ISLAND
Pulau Weh is accessible with a ferry from the city of Banda Aceh i Sumatra, which holds an international airport. From Banda Aceh, just a ferry ride to Sabang’s (local name for Weh Island) port, and from there ask a driver to send you to your accommodation, or to the main point of interest, which is Iboih Beach.
Now go ahead and know about the most enthralling activities you can perform on Pulau Weh.
GUIDE TO THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN PULAU WEH
1 Explore Weh Island’s coast and beaches on a motorbike.
Rent a motorbike in Iboih Beach. If you don’t know how to ride one, hitchhike from beach to beach. Locals are very friendly and there are always a number of people going up and down the island. There are three main beaches you can check out for a stroll: Gapang Beach, Iboih Beach, and Long Beach. Each of them has a different vibe and different activities but you’ll find accommodation on all of them, and places where you can eat. Long Beach is the most relaxed. Iboih Beach is the place where everything happens, it’s especially dynamic in the evening and at night. They are all a few minutes’ motorbike ride from each other. During your ride (I’m afraid the sun is too hot to walk the distance, and there’s no shade on the road), enjoy the view of the sea.
2 Reach Pulau Weh’s Viewpoint
This is my favorite view on Weh Island. Directions there: going from Gapang Beach in the direction of Iboih Beach, past the three main beaches, then the road gets steeper and you will see it to your right! It’s impossible to miss it. That’s where I took the photo. From there, you can hike down to the sea and take a left: keep walking among the rocks until you reach a crystal clear lagoon perfect for snorkeling and for pretending you’re on your own private paradise.
3 Enjoy snorkeling
Pulau Weh’s snorkeling is second only to Pulau Weh’s diving. Take your mask and fins to Iboih Beach and get in the water. If you feel brave and athletic enough, snorkel your way through the 20-some-minutes cross from Iboih Beach to Iboih Island. You can snorkel all around the tranquil Iboih Island (I even spotted an octopus there!). Other great snorkeling spots are the rocky bays right below the island’s viewpoint (previous paragraph), and the bay of the Stone Park cabins, on the way from Iboih Beach to Long Beach. You can also snorkel in front of Long Beach and Gapang Beach. Remember that there might be dangerous fishes in the water, of course, like the stonefish and the lionfish that abound in Pulau Weh. For your own safety, use your water shoes or fins. It’s good practice to avoid touching the reef and the rocks underwater.
4 Have one of the best dives in the world
If you love diving, Pulau Weh will make you happy. I wrote a specific post about diving and the best dive centers in Pulau Weh. Diving in Pulau Weh is convenient compared to many other places in Asia, and there are so many dive sites! You’ll also dive in currents, consider diving with a local divemaster if you’re not an expert diver.
5 Enjoy the sunset at Pulau Weh’s “Secret Beach”
It takes 10 minutes to hike down from the main road to “Secret Beach”. Directions: you will find a path between the bushes, on the right side of the road going from Long Beach to the island’s viewpoint. It’s easy to spot the beginning of the trail: as sunset approaches, people leave their motorbikes on the side of the road and go down to enjoy the mystical colors of the landscape. You will spot huge bats in the sky over your head, totally uninterested in you, but beautiful and graceful. Secret Beach in Weh Island is a stretch of white sand with a few trees for shade, and it’s surrounded by rocks. There is no shop or house down there, it’s all wilderness. You are still able to see fossils and corals brought onshore by the Tsunami of 2004. The locals remember. This is one more reason to visit and support Pulau Weh. Secret beach is magnificent at night too, when you can gaze at the starry sky and observe hundreds of big hermit crabs crawling on the sand in search of the perfect rock to rest upon.
6 Ride to/visit Pulau Weh‘s downtown
Taking the road that goes from Iboih Beach to downtown Sabang is a little adventure by itself. A 30-minutes ride with stunning views of the sea and the coast. The road crosses jungles with majestic trees, and at one big turn, you’ll meet the local monkeys. They are waiting for fruit to snack on or… to steal! I would never stop there, they come too close and are aggressive! Weh Island’s monkeys are more aggressive than the ones you meet in other places in Indonesia, like the Monkey Forest in Ubud. On the way to Pulau Weh‘s center, the locals sell fruit, run small restaurants that you might want to stop and check out, and there are a few mosques. Downtown there is a nice fruit market with all the papaya and the fish that you’ll ever need to be happy. The town/market vibe will please you for sure, after a few days spent on the beach. Or maybe just because you want to try the local sugary street-food dessert, “martabak”.
6 Hike to Pulau Weh island’s secluded pool and waterfall
You’ll spot the sign for the waterfall at about halfway to downtown. It was hand-written when I visited, but it was big. The path to the waterfall is on the right side of the road, exactly where it crosses a creek. The path is clear and you can make it wearing sandals, roughly a 20-minute hike. The small and beautiful waterfall creates a private lagoon 😉
Kindly tip: Pulau Weh has plenty of wildlife, included different kinds of big monitor lizards. It’s always wise to be out of the jungle before sunset…
7 Spend the evening at Iboih Beach
Iboih beach is the hub of the local nightlife (hey, nothing too loud or crazy here on this tranquil Muslim island!!). Cafes and restaurants and a few souvenir shops. It’s easy to connect with the locals and other visitors here. There are also dive shops and small markets, ATMs, and all you need to feel “social”. I’ll reveal my favorite places on Iboih Beach in a bit.
8 Connect and make new friends on Pulau Weh
I can’t say it too many times: it’s impossible to feel lonely on Pulau Weh! The friendliness of the locals and the sense of community that can develop here, it’s really something to base your trip on. If you need a hack on where/how to make friends on Pulau Weh here is one: take a snorkeling trip with a dive shop, eat dinner at Norma’s, visit Monster Divers in Gapang Beach and start a conversation with one of the owners, then spend the evening at Olala in Iboih Beach.
9 WHERE TO EAT ON PULAU WEH
1.Bixio Italian Cafè
This deserves the first place because I’m Italian, of course! This place made me very happy with a portion of vegetarian gnocchi with an Italian authentic flavor. The owner is Italian from what we consider the region with the best food in Italy: Emilia Romagna, the home of the lasagna and the bolognese tagliatelle. They do a great job with basil and tomatoes grown in the backyard of their restaurant which is at 6 meters from the water in the intimate, romantic Long Beach. They have coffee and sober, but elegant bungalow accommodation.
2. Norma’s Ong
Dinner at Norma’s Ong is served at 7 at a big, communal table, and it’s always a surprise: fish, meat, veggies, soups, a buffet where you’ll go to please your taste buds and to make friends. Feel the sense of family and community while Norma is making all the dishes ready, and be sure to be there 10 minutes earlier to reserve your seat… Norma has many simple bungalows on a great position
3. Dee Dee’s Kitchen
Run by two sisters that cook delicious Indonesian-fusion food. The portions are big, the recipes original, and there are really nice options for vegetarian and vegan travelers. They have WIFI, and that is useful. Directly on the beach.
4. Le café Bleu
A French lady and his husband prepare Western-style dishes and… crepes suzettes at any time of the day. There is usually live music on Saturday evenings.
5. Olala Café
This is one of the most lively places on Iboih Beach. Sit at the café with a sweet location: on a small hill facing the sea, local musicians might pass by and play something. Get to know the local customs having a chat with a local. They have accommodation too.
If you’re spending a few weeks in Indonesia, you might be also interested in:
And this is the essential travel guide to Weh Island / Pulau Weh… Let me know if you find it the same that I left it 🙂