Visiting Jakarta on a holiday doesn't mean that you have to end up cooling yourself off inside one of the city's shopping centers or getting stuck in its never ending traffic jams.
In fact, Jakarta offers you some charming island getaways just off of its northern coast that can come at surprisingly reasonable prices.
The Jakarta Post Travel has picked four islands that are part of the Thousand Islands Archipelago that you can discover and explore over a weekend with a price that definitely won't dent your budget.
Formerly uninhabited, Pari Island has transformed into one of the most popular island destinations in the Thousand Islands thanks to its clean white sand beaches and clear, turquoise-coloured waters.
Pari Island is also known for its seaweed cultivation centre, which provides employment for the local people. A marine research centre owned by the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) is located on the island as well.
The island can be easily reached with public wooden boats from Muara Angke in North Jakarta. The boats are equipped with outboard engines and can take you to Pari Island in approximately two hours. Alternatively, you can also take a speedboat from Marina Ancol to reach Pari Island in a shorter time, around one hour.
Perawan beach, Bukit Matahari dock and Pasir Kresek beach are three popular spots that are interesting to explore around Pari Island.
At Perawan and Pasir Kresek beach, visitors can take a plunge, snorkel or just relax on the beach.
For a perfect sunset view, head to the marine research centre in the Western part of the island. Some visitors also love to climb to the top of Matahari Hill near the dock to enjoy the sunset from up high.
Similar to other non-resort islands in the Thousand Islands, local home-stays are the only available accommodations for overnight visits.
But don't worry, many of the home-stays are already equipped with air-conditioning, refrigerators and even kitchens with prices ranging from Rp 500,000 (S$56) to Rp 700,000 per night, depending on how large is the place. One home-stay can fit 10 or even 15 people in one house, so it is a good bargain.
This island hosts the central administration for the Thousand Islands regency. Pramuka Island thus has better facilities than the other surrounding islands such as a hospital and a mosque.
The island is mostly inhabited by fishermen and the locals are very friendly and hospitable to visitors. You can easily find small stalls selling food and refreshing drinks by the road side, making you feel like you are not on a small island.
Similar to the other islands, home-stays are the only accommodation options available on Pramuka Island. However, the home-stays are fairly affordable with rates ranging from Rp 350,000 to Rp 600,000 including facilities, which are usually designed for families and groups of visitors. Some of the home-stays are air-conditioned and some are equipped with a fan.
Villa Delima, located right in front of the dock offers comfortable rooms with a front yard facing directly to the sea. Room rates at Villa Delima start from Rp 350,000 per room.
The island has a hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate) conservation centre, which was established in 1984. Pak Salim, an old man who manages the conservation centre, runs various conservation activities such as conserving turtle habitat, saving turtle eggs from pests and predators, hatching the eggs and finally releasing the hatchlings back into their natural habitat.
The island's clear and calm water is very suitable for snorkeling and scuba diving with some underwater spots offering spectacular coral reefs. A floating seafood restaurant nearby the island is an excellent place to watch the sunset and enjoy savory seafood.
Located a little further north than Pramuka Island, Harapan Island is a small island that offers visitors clear, blue water and clean, golden, sandy beaches. With an area of 6.5 hectares, the tourism activities on the island are managed by the locals themselves.
Visitors can spend the night at home-stays and enjoy grilled fresh seafood and coconut water as a refreshment.
There is a Brahminy kites (Haliastur indus) conservation centre situated nearby Kotok Island, which also makes for an interesting tourist attraction. The bird has a distinctive brown colour with a white head and breast and black wing tips. They feed on dead fish and are found mainly on the coast and in wetlands.
Snorkeling and scuba diving activities can be done by renting a wooden motor boat to take you to the diving spots as well as to hop to nearby islands such as Macan Island, Kelapa Dua Island, Kayuangin Bira Island and Bulat Island. It takes approximately 2.5 hours by boat from Muara Angke Harbor to reach the island. Alternatively, you can also ride a speedboat from Ancol Marina, which will take you to Harapan Island in only 1.5 hours.
Situated in the northern reaches of the Thousand Islands, visitors can go to Bira Island by riding a public wooden motor boat from Muara Angke. From there, the trip to the island will take around three hours with a short layover in Pramuka Island.
Because of its distance from Jakarta, the island hasn't received many visitors. Of course, the island's location -- far from Jakarta -- means clearer water and cleaner stretches of coast.
Accommodations on this island consists of several vintage wooden cottages that can be rented with a comfortable bed in it and a mosquito net to cover the bed.
Don't expect an air-conditioned room on Bira Island since the electricity is only available from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. So, it is advisable to charge all your electronic devices when the electricity is on.
The underwater life around the island is very colorful and you can swim or snorkel in the water by easily walking in from the shore. One of the popular spots to snorkel is around the rear dock. At certain times of the year, you can also spot pods of dolphins surfacing in surrounding waters.
There are no food stalls and shops available in Bira Island, but you can ask the cottage manager to serve fresh grilled seafood for you during your stay there.