Looking for an off-the-beaten-track destination in Indonesia? Look no further than Red Island Beach!
Situated in East Java, Red Island is a beautiful bay with an iconic rock islet jutting out of the water.
It’s everything you’d want from a remote island destination and is the perfect place to spend a few days in Java.
Here’s everything you need to know about Pulau Merah (Red Island) in Java.
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How to get to Red Island (Pulau Merah)
Red Island, otherwise known as Pulau Merah, is located on the east coast of Java.
It’s about 2-hour drive south of the port city of Banyuwangi.
If you’re visiting Bali and have time to explore other islands in Indonesia, I highly recommend that you include Red Island in your Indonesian itinerary.
I rented a scooter in Canggu, Bali, and headed north before taking a ferry to Java.
Here, I stopped in Banyuwangi to climb Mount Ijen and then headed south to Red Island Beach.
It’s quite an adventurous road trip, with Red Island being the last and most relaxed destination of all.
8 Reasons to visit Red Island in Java
1. Red Island Beach
Red Island Beach, or Pulau Merah Beach, is the main attraction in the area.
It’s arguably the best beach on Java Island and is the sole reason you come to Red Island. Everything else is just a bonus!
The beach is a beautiful long stretch of soft sand, and the water provides perfect swimming conditions.
A few sun loungers and a lifesavers shack line the shore. But other than that, the beach is free from restaurants, bars, and development.
On the far right of Red Island Beach is Pantai Mustica. This beach isn’t much to write home about as it’s right next to the harbor (and smells like fish). So rather stick to Red Island Beach instead.
2. Red Island Surf
Red Island is a popular surf spot in Java.
Not only does it offer a fun beach break with uncrowded waves, but it’s also located near G-Land, one of the best places to surf in Indonesia.
The waves at Pulau Merah are well-suited for beginners. If you get it at the right time, they’re also great for more experienced surfers.
You can rent surfboards from the lifesavers shack on the beach, or there are a few surf camps in town.
If you’re looking for the best place to surf near Red Island, I’d highly recommend that you head over to G-land, which is close by.
3. The relaxed atmosphere
I visited Red Island Beach after a busy two months of island hopping in Indonesia. I was exhausted!
So, when I arrived at Red Island, Java, I wanted to do absolutely nothing but laze on the beach and relax.
My daily routine after arriving went something like this
Wake up, have breakfast, walk to the beach, swim, read, relax, go for lunch, go back to the beach, surf, walk around (or take an afternoon nap on the beach), swim (again), read (again), sip on a coconut, watch the sunset, have a beer, go for dinner, play a game of cards, shower, sleep.
3 days of pure “chill”. And there’s not much around to convince you to do otherwise.
4. The sunsets
The sunsets from Red Island are hard to beat. Especially when you’re lying on the beach, book in one hand and a coconut in the other!
Pulau Merah Beach is also a popular sunset spot among the locals. At around 5 pm daily, you’ll notice an influx of families and friends who live in the nearby villages, all heading to Red Island to catch the sunset.
I love that the locals are able to enjoy what’s in their own backyard and that Red Island isn’t over-run with tourists… yet!
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5. Adventure to Pantai Wedi Ireng
Pantai Wedi Ireng is a hidden beach that was recommended to me by a local store owner.
It’s quite a mission to access the beach and involves a short but strenuous hike. However, what’s waiting for you when you arrive makes it all worth it.
You can also take a local boat from the harbor near Red Island Beach to Pantai Wedi Ireng.
Make sure you bring enough sunscreen and water as the beach is deserted.
How to get to Pantai Wedi Ireng, Java
Here’s the location for Pantai Wedi Ireng. I’ve detailed how to get there on foot below.
- Take a scooter from Red Island Beach to Pantai Mustica, which is 5 minutes away. You can also walk along the beach to Pantai Mustica, but you have a lot of walking coming up, so I suggest you opt for the scooter ride instead.
- Once you’ve arrived at Pantai Mustica, you can either pay for a fishing boat to take you to Wedi Ireng or you can continue by foot.
- If, like me, you choose to walk to Wedi Ireng, park your scooter in the parking lot at Pantai Mustica and walk toward the harbor, cross the stream (yes, the same stream that you may find fishermen taking a dump in!). Head toward the lush forest ahead of you.
- There are no clear signs, and you may not be sure of where to go. I thought I was lost the entire journey!
- Among all the shrubs and palm trees, you’ll see a rugged path. Just follow that for about 35 minutes.
We saw a few locals getting to Pantai Wedi Ireng on motorbikes, but they went on a different route. The paths weren’t in great condition, and it looks like an accident waiting to happen.
The walk is a scenic one, so I’d recommend opting for that instead.
6. The town itself
Tourism in Java is on the rise. I thought that the same would apply to Red Island.
But turns out it’s a sleepy village with an authentic feel.
There are no clubs or bars. There are no shopping centers or clothing stores.
The locals are friendly, and you can walk everywhere. And it’s safe!
If you have more time to explore, check out these other awesome attractions in Java – they’re well worth a visit!
7. Red Island is off the tourist path
When I arrived in Red Island, I was expecting to see tourists sipping on cocktails and surfers taking over the waters.
But I was pleasantly surprised to find the complete opposite. There was not one tourist in sight!
After walking around the town, we ran into a few other travelers at Mojo Surf Camp, and some Aussies who work at the mine nearby, but that’s about it.
8. It’s cheap
When you’re backpacking Indonesia, your daily struggles include deciding when to splurge and when not to (especially when the price of a beer is the same as a meal!)
Luckily for us, we didn’t have that dilemma at Red Island because everything was so cheap.
We paid 250 000 IDR ($17) per day for a double room with hot water, aircon, Wi-Fi, and breakfast!
Your average meal will cost 15 000 IDR ($1), and you’ll pay even less than that for a fresh coconut.
Red Island Accommodation
The main road in Red Island is lined with homestays. If you’re not fussy about where you stay, you can knock on the doors and inquire about availability.
Here are a few other options that may better suit your budget.
- Luxury (but still affordable): There aren’t many luxury accommodations available near Red Island, Java. But Red Island Villas is certainly the best place to stay in the area. It boasts a massive garden dotted with palm trees and a swimming pool with day lounges.
- Backpackers or Surfers: Mojo Surf Camp is one of the best places to stay in Red Island. It’s a popular backpacking hub with many organized trips stopping off here. It has a great vibe with foreigners and surfers hanging out, but it can be quite pricey. Mojo also offers private rooms, a pool, yoga, and surf lessons. Check availability here.
- Mid-Range: The Wisma is just a stone’s throw away from Red Island Beach and offers a comfortable stay for families or travelers looking for an affordable option.
- Budget: Shanum Homestay is a great option for budget travelers looking to stay with locals. The hospitality and kindness of the hosts will leave a lasting impression.
Overall thoughts on Red Island, Java
I loved my time at Red Island, Java, and rate it as one of the best destinations in Indonesia.
But you don’t need to stay more than 3 nights as there’s not much to do in the area.
If you prefer the beach clubs and nightlife of Bali, then give Red Island a skip and add a few extra days to your Bali itinerary.
But if you want to experience a relatively untouched island destination, and you don’t mind limited choices when it comes to activities and restaurants, then Red Island is for you!
- What to expect: A relaxed atmosphere, not many tourists nor activities to keep you busy so bring a book to read and prepare to chill
- Distance from Banyuwangi, Java: 2 hour drive
- Time needed: 2 Days
- Best time to go: October (not busy and great weather)
Looking for more Indonesia travel information? Check out my other posts!
- How to Rent a Scooter in Bali
- 9 + Best thing to do in Kuta, Lombok
- The Ultimate Flores, Indonesia, Itinerary
- Epic Travel Guide On How To Explore Sumba Island in Indonesia
- What to Pack for Bali: Comprehensive Packing List