Wondering what to do or where to stay on the Indonesian island that’s a short ferry ride from Singapore? Check out our kid-friendly guide to Bintan Island!
If you’re itching for a change of scenery and long to feel the sand between your toes (but don’t want to deal with the hassle of air travel), then nearby Bintan Island in the Riau Province of Indonesia is just the ticket, mama!
Chock full of kid-friendly resorts and featuring a myriad array of cultural and nature activities, Bintan has recently undergone a major revamp with the opening of new attractions and hotels (including luxury apartments, villas, and even glamping tents!).
In terms of what to expect, Bintan is lower-key than what you would find in Bali or Phuket. Expect to do a lot of chilling out on the beach or at the pool, and take most of your meals within your hotel (there aren’t too many standalone restaurants). Many Bintan hotels have kids’ clubs to keep little ones occupied as well. The island is also increasing its offerings for excursions and activities, including one-day tours like adventure treks and cultural heritage visits, along with popular leisure pursuits like golf and spas.
Bintan weather is similar to what you’d find in Singapore: hot and sunny all year round, with increased thunderstorms around November to January. Due to choppy seas and decreased visibility, some resorts don’t offer water sports like SCUBA diving and snorkelling at this time of year. Box jellyfish are also an occasional threat in the water (and you may spot the occasional oil tanker ship off in the distance).
We’d say Bintan is perfect for a weekend getaway or perhaps up to about 4 days of R&R – head further afield if you’re looking to fill up a week or more. Also note that weekend rates are substantially higher since everyone from Singapore has the same idea; midweek stays will be your best-value option.
Getting There & Visa Info
Bintan can be reached by ferry boat in just under an hour. You catch the ferry from the terminal in Tanah Merah (not too far from Changi); there are five daily departures during the week and up to seven on weekends (Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays), with up to nine return ferries from Bintan on weekends. Click here for the current schedule.
As Bintan is a popular babymoon destination, it’s worth noting that you’ll need a doctor’s note if you travel while pregnant, just as you would for flying. They generally recommend against visiting past eight months due to limited medical facilities on the island.
Ferry rates range from $50-$58 for a child (round-trip) and $58-$70 for an adult. Note that you can also upgrade to Emerald Class, which will get you a larger, more comfortable seat, complimentary refreshments, priority baggage handling, and – best of all – expedited immigration clearance so you can basically walk right off the boat upon arrival without having to queue up.
There is also an exclusive executive lounge on both ends with drinks, Wi-Fi and reading materials. The Emerald Class Lounge also offers the only baby changing table at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal (!). Round-trip Emerald Class rates start from $86 for kids/$102 for adults and are well worth it, in our opinion, for the convenience and comfort factor!
Bintan is visa-free for most nationalities (click here for the exact list). Put the money saved toward cocktails, we say!
Where to Stay
Check out our comprehensive guide to Bintan hotels in the gallery above. We’ve pooled all our personal experiences and rated each resort on kid-friendliness!
One of the things we love most about Bintan is its huge range of accommodation; there’s everything from rustic beach bungalows to luxe pool villas and modern apartments (perfect for families!). On average you can expect to pay about $100-$200 per night for most accommodation; the most basic digs can cost as little as $50, while the high-end resorts could be anywhere from $350-$500 depending on the day.
What to Do (and Where to Eat!)
Bintan is a great place to take out of town visitors who come to Singapore but also want to see more of the region or turn a city trip into a proper beach vacay. If you’re keen to step outside of #resortlife and get a taste of Indonesia, there is much to be explored outside of the manicured property that is Bintan Resorts. As soon as you exit the border of the resort area, you will feel like you are actually in Indonesia with tiny warungs along the road, chickens and goats roaming freely, temples, a beautiful mosque, and lots of small farms. You can arrange for various excursions and activities through Bintan Tours.
This place takes leisure to the next level! There are so many activities, you won’t know what to do first! You pay an entrance fee that gives you access to the Crystal Lagoon, where you can lounge around and take a swim and then add on from a huge list of both land and water activities. Some fun things to try include ATV riding (mini ones available for kids 4+), water slides, rent a solar powered-boat, see-through kayak, stand up board or paddle boat, wake boarding, and if you stay to watch the sunset, you can end the day by lighting a wishing sky lantern. This is a great cue for the kids that the day is over since they surely will not want to leave.
Culture & Heritage Tours
Bintan Tours can also arrange to take you to various attractions on the East Coast to see a large indoor Buddha, a temple tucked inside a Banyan Tree, a fishing village on stilts, and a Catholic pilgrimage site called Grotto Santa Maria. We recommend using their Tour Services to find all the hidden spots.
If you love running, swimming and/or biking, and would like a change of scenery from the standard F1 route around Marina Bay, Bintan offers a slew of fun races throughout the year, including the Bintan Triathlon, Ironman Bintan, the Bintan Marathon and Tour de Bintan. Many of these races offer fun family races and kids’ categories; look out for a 3km family run at the Bintan Marathon coming up this September!
Bintan has three terrific golf courses, all available at cheaper rates than what you’re likely to find in Singapore. All the golf courses are happy to arrange one-off day trip packages that include ferry tickets and transfers, too. Ria Bintan is a 27-hole Championship course designed by Gary Player with a spectacular oceanfront setting. Bintan Lagoon has two 18-hotel Championship courses, including one designed by Jack Nicklaus. And Laguna Bintan is an 18-hole course originally designed by Greg Norman and revamped in 2016.
For a really unique experience and some fantastic photo opportunities to confuse your friends, Gurun Pasir Busung is the perfect spot. This former sand mining site was left deserted after sand extraction was prohibited and now resembles an exotic desert sandscape. There are also naturally formed lakes that have collected rain water and combined with unique minerals from the ground, form the most unusual colored water that needs no Insta filter to impress!
Many of the hotels run turtle conservation programmes, collecting the eggs of the Green and Hawksbill turtles and burying them in a hatchery to protect them from poachers and natural predators. Eggs are monitored until they hatch (approximately 60 days), and the baby turtles are released back into the sea. The middle of the year is generally the best time to see this, and you can check with the individual hotels on the expected hatching and release dates and times.
This outdoor shopping mall by the sea is a fun spot to spend the day with lots of great restaurants and attractions. There is a public beach where you can rent chairs for a small fee or sign up for water and land activities including paddle boards, jet skis, banana boats, and ATV bikes. We had a delicious Indonesian lunch at the hip and casual Warung Yeah! restaurant and then spent some much needed indoor time in the afternoon at the trick-eye museum called Rumah Imaji.
If your kids love to ham it up for the camera and enjoy getting into all kinds of funny poses this is your chance to clean a house upside down, compete in a dragon boat race, run from a tiger, and fall down a waterfall. All artwork is hand-painted by local artists from Yogyakarta. Other attractions include the Lantern Park, bouncy castles, various shopping outlets and a day spa. There are also frequent pop-up events and performances in the common spaces and some rooftop bars and restaurants overlooking the sea.
When you live in a city with one of the world’s best zoos, it’s easy to dismiss other animal parks while traveling in the region, but the Bintan Safari Lagoi Eco Farm is well worth a visit! It is a working farm, an animal sanctuary, and an environmental conservation centre. It’s a beautiful setting to stroll through with your family, learn about sustainable farming, and get up close to elephants, birds, monkeys, bunnies and tons of other animals. They even have a Komodo dragon! Most are rescued from the illegal pet trade or exotic meat markets or are being rehabilitated after an illness or injury. You can walk around on your own or take a guided tour.
Along the East Coast are elaborate floating fish platforms called Kelongs that resemble something out of the film Waterworld. Fishermen spend all night out at sea collecting their catch with large nets below and during the day these structures are docked along the coast where you can get a great view of their intricate wooden structures. These beaches are loved by locals who visit with their families on weekends and rent out small thatched huts to picnic and spend the day.
We had a local seafood lunch at Teluk Bakau including black pepper crab, prawns, squid and the local favorite, Gong Gong (sea snails). They also had mixed vegetables, fried rice and chicken dishes that were more kid-friendly. The kids also enjoyed playing on the sand while we finished our lunch and checking out the big tanks of live crab and lobster.
This restaurant was closed on the day we tried to visit but it is run by an Italian family and meant to be an authentic and delicious wood-fired pizza spot with a rustic setting along the beach. You sit at picnic tables, hang out on hammocks and can even take a swim with on-site showers to rinse off.
Lead image courtesy of The Residence Bintan
Rates from S$154 per night; 2-Bedroom Island Family Suite from S$439 per night
Our family of four spent two nights at the Angsana Resort, which is nestled between the more luxurious Banyan Tree and The Cassia serviced apartments. We stayed in the Island Family Suite, a large apartment with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room (with dining table and kitchenette) and a large deck complete with jacuzzi. The kids loved that they could run from the deck across the large grassy yard and directly down to the beach and pool.
Friendly wildlife abounds on the hotel grounds – on our first morning we spotted frogs, tadpoles and fish in the pond. In the rockpools we found a sea cucumber, tiny crabs and fish and in the late afternoon heat we discovered a large monitor lizard cooling himself in the pond.
Enjoy happy hour on the beach beanbags as the kids dig happily in the sand, and then grab pizza or fried rice for dinner at XANA Beach Club. For lunch it’s worth heading next door to The Cove at Banyan Tree for some next level views and delicious Modern European food.
The kids’ club was fairly standard – colouring activities and lots of toys in a little room (located conveniently close to the spa!), and a few scheduled activities you could book in for. Word has it there’s a new Ranger’s Program, with lots of fun nature and conservation themed activities, so we’re looking forward to checking that out next time.
From Now Until 18 December 2019
Save 25% off Best Available Rate, Spa, Food & Beverage and Gallery when you stay for a minimum of TWO (2) nights. In addition, you get to enjoy any ONE (1) complimentary Exceptional Experience.
Rates from S$384 per night; 2-Bedroom Villas from S$619 per night
My husband and I visited the Banyan Tree for our “babymoon” in 2014 before Maggie was born, and I’ve since returned a few times to take advantage of their phenomenal spa, which has a tranquil seafront setting that’s just unlike anything you’ll find in Singapore. In retrospect, the peace and quiet was wasted on us childless folk!
The Banyan Tree offers luxe pool villa accommodation – just about all of it with lovely water views – although there are limited 2-bedroom options (and you’ll pay dearly for them). In short it’s great for a weekend away as a couple or with a baby, but might not be ideal with older kiddos. The vibe is “rustic luxury”; kids will feel more comfortable at the Ansgana next door (the two resorts share a beach). In fact, kids staying at the Banyan Tree will want to check out Angsana’s fab kids’ club.
Rates from S$115 per night
Not only is Bintan Lagoon Resort great for families, but it’s also perfect for couples, gal pal getaways and even relaxing enough to take the grandparents. Despite its large grounds and high guest capacity it still felt very private (honestly it was like we were on a private island!). Highlights of the resort include the fuss-free ferry transfers (the ferry goes straight there!), amazing beachside massages, multiple dining options, 2-storey pool villas for large families (or couples looking to live large for the weekend), and a world-class golf course.
Rates from S$114 per night; 2-Bedroom apartments from S$318 per night
We loved our stay at the Cassia where we shared the same gorgeous beach with the Banyan Tree and Angsana Hotels, but had our own modern beach club vibe and a large 2-bedroom apartment complete with kitchenette.
The staff are very friendly and they go out of their way to entertain the kids throughout the day. There is a foosball table in the lobby and staff from the Kids’ Club (located next door at the Angsana) show up on the beach in the afternoon to plan beach activities. There is also a ‘foam party’ at the pool on Saturday afternoons with happy hour drinks for mum and dad and a snack bar for the kids with hotdogs and candy floss.
Rates from S$135 per night
This is actually just one of five lodging accommodations on the Nirwana Gardens property, which ranges from rustic beach chalets at Mayang Sari and Nirwana Beach Club to multi-bedroom villas like the Indra Maya Villa (great for families and big groups!).
Nirwana Resort Hotel offers the most traditional hotel set-up; our family stayed there, with two connecting rooms. I love this option now that my kids are older because it removes the guesswork about the bed configuration, how much privacy you’ll have, the number of bathrooms, and the general layout that you always take a gamble with for a family suite. The kids (ages 7 and 9) were thrilled to have their own room and “real beds” rather than a rollaway cot or converted day bed.
The hotel grounds are beautiful with a large green lawn for running around, a playground, beach volleyball and pétanque courts, and plenty of hammocks and lounge chairs for all. There’s even a bowling alley! The pool is large and overlooks the sea with lots of nooks and crannies that are fun to explore. The beach is stunning with white sand and clear water and the most beautiful pink and purple sunsets. The Poolside seafood buffet had a wide variety of live cooking stations offering barbecued meats and seafood with plenty of both Asian and Western options. They also had a candy floss and DIY S’mores station so the kids were thrilled. There was entertainment that evening rotating between traditional Indonesian dancing and a pop music cover band. Both made for a lively setting and kept the kids sitting at the table longer than usual.
The hotel does have a Kids Club called NABLEZ for children ages 4 years and up that is open daily from 9am-5pm. Hotel guests can pay between SGD10-20 (2-hour, 4-hour, and full day options available) and many activities are included in the daily schedule such as arts & crafts, cooking, horse feeding, archery, and games. Special teen activities are also available for kids 11-15 including horseback riding, kayaking and snorkelling.
Rates from S$116 per night; Villa prices from S$277
Looking for huuuuge rooms that have their own beachfront? Then you should consider The Residence Bintan. We were so impressed with our Beach Front Villa with its own plunge pool we wanted to stay for more than just the weekend. You can go for a Garden Villa, or stay right on the sand and have a nice walk along the beach each time you want to head up for breakfast / lunch.
There are two restaurants to choose from, Rica Rica their main restaurant is a great place to indulge in Indonesian food. We couldn’t get enough of the perfectly cooked Satay and, highly recommend the wagyu beef rendang.
It’s not all eating and relaxation at The Residence (think amazing spa + complimentary yoga classes). If you like adventure then you can take a boat ride to explore the mangroves and in the evening hunt for fireflies, hit the waters in a kayak or even take a tour on a quad bike. We didn’t get to try it, but were told that a highlight for next time would be to try a snorkelling trip to Mapur Island, 20 minutes away by boat.
Downside on The Residence is the extra drive from Bintan ferry terminal as it takes just over an hour’s drive, plus I personally felt like the beach needed extra attention as my kids kept picking up plastic waste from the beach. I hope that the manager heard us on that and I’m sure that improvements to keep the beach clean have already been implemented.
For young guests, the Kakatu Kids Club offers an adventure playground for some fun in the sun, and the staff at the Kids’ club organise treasure hunts and cooking classes. They will also organise playtime in the pool and on the beach.
Rates from S$611 per adult per 3-night stay (all-inclusive)
Club Med Bintan Island is a great option for families. The mini club keeps kids aged 4-10 busy with things like circus school, dance classes and archery. Older kids can do windsurfing, snorkelling and play video games in the Junior Club, too. There is a nice beach and also two big pools which allow guests to enjoy and relax. The G.O. are extremely friendly and create a wonderful atmosphere. And it’s all-inclusive, so there are no surprises when the bill comes!
Bintan Spa Villa Beach Resort: Rates from S$110 per night
The Canopi Bintan, a Tribute Portfolio Resort: Rates from S$168 per night
Mayang Sari Beach Resort: Rates from S$164 per night
Mutiara Beach Resort: Rates from S$49 per night
The Sanchaya: Rates from S$550 per night
Trikora Beach Club: Rates from S$132 per night