A relaxing beach getaway is only one hour from Singapore
Singapore weekend getaway: Bintan Island
Singaporeans are spoilt for choice when looking for great beach destinations in easy reach. Only a one-hour ferry ride away, Bintan Island in Indonesia is no doubt one of the easiest choices for a quick weekend away.
We chose the Angsana Bintan, a five-star resort in the north of the island. Although there are resorts and hotels across the whole of Bintan, many of them including Angsana are located in the north on the best beaches. It's also close to the tourist ferry terminal, so there is only a short drive from the ferry to the hotel.
For a couple travelling with a young toddler, Angsana was a good choice. The rooms, although they could do with some updating, are large and clean. The pool has a child-friendly shallow section, there's a kids club and plenty of activities for all ages. Snorkelling, jet skiing, ATV safaris, nature walks, traditional Indonesia fishing, mangrove tours, beach volleyball and soccer, beach aerobics, spa treatments and golf at nearby Laguna Bintan course were all on offer.
Despite this wealth of activities, we chose to spend our short time by the beach. The resort is set right on the kind of beach that tropical island dreams are made of; a long stretch of white sand fringed by greenery, warm water and some gently rolling waves. When we first arrived at the hotel we dropped our luggage in the room, changed straight into our swimming attire and headed to the pool. It was fairly quiet around the pool area, and once we finally made it to the beach we could see why. No need to swim in the pool when you've got a beach like that.
The Angsana offers a choice of restaurants. We found the beach barbeque at the Pantai Grill to be the best, but the prices are on par with Singapore dining. At Angsana, you are relatively cut-off from other dining options. The only nearby choices are other resorts with similar prices, otherwise, it's a fairly lengthy taxi-ride to leave the resort area and find some local Indonesia cuisine.
For those looking for a more luxurious getaway, the Banyan Tree next door to Angsana shares the same beach and looks very lavish. There are also many other nearby resorts for a range of budgets. The four-star Nirwana Gardens resort has a variety of accommodation options and is set on large grounds with a big swimming pool. I have also heard good reviews of the Bintan Club Med.
Activities around Bintan We took a half day guided taxi tour around the island, which coincided with a downpour of rain so unfortunately, we didn't explore much outside of the taxi. But it gave us an insight into the island outside the resort enclave. Lunch was at an Indonesian kelong-style restaurant (built over the water). The seafood was very good and we were able to pick our own fish from the restaurant tanks, but again prices were not particularly cheap (around SGD$50 for one seafood dish, one chicken dish, fried rice and noodles).
For those with more time to explore the island, you may want to check out the Trikora beach area on the east coast, a series of lovely beaches popular for day trips. Or arrange a trek through the rainforest to the top of Mount Bintan.
If you're after more than just lazing on the beach, kite-surfing, windsurfing, mountain biking tours and fishing tours can all be arranged.
The main town in Bintan is Tanjung Pinang. It's a fairly long taxi-ride from the Angsana resort, over 30 minutes. But this is where you can find a variety of shops including a supermarket if you need to stock up on anything during your stay.
The main way to get to Bintan is via ferry from Singapore's Tanah Merah terminal.
The one-hour ferry ride, operated by Bintan Resort Ferries, was efficient and easy. There are two classes of seats: economy and 'emerald' class. Emerald class is a bit less than double the price of Economy and offers larger, more comfortable seats, complimentary refreshments, priority check-in and boarding, and access to a lounge at both Singapore and Bintan terminals. We ended up booking Emerald class only because we booked at the last minute and those were the only tickets available. It was a lovely service, but I'm sure for the one-hour trip economy class would be fine and is much better value.
Note that you need to go through passport control at both departure and arrival, and this can be lengthy. Allow plenty of time prior to the ferry departure. Many nationalities do not require a visa for Indonesia. As Australians, we did require a visa, but there is a 'visa on arrival' service. Check the ferry website here for more visa information.