When I try to picture “the perfect beach”, I imagine soft white sand and clear waters. And because we travel with kids, shallow waters are always welcome.
We found our little piece of paradise in Bintan, a mere 45 minutes away from Singapore by ferry. Which is perfect because sometimes flying is part of the fun, but sometimes you only have time for a quick getaway and need relaxation, pronto. One morning over breakfast we chatted with some flight attendants who were on a 3 day stopover in Singapore and chose to spend it on Bintan Island instead – it’s that easy to hop over!
We’ve travelled to Bintan about 5 times, twice as a family. It’s the perfect place to just be at and stroll along the beach, watching the gentle waves lapping up against the shore. It’s romantic enough for couples (check out the gorgeous sunset – we caught this one while having dinner along the beach), family friendly enough for young kids (the beach is really enough for them – they’d probably wouldn’t mind spending all day sitting in the water), has activities for those who crave it, and peace and quiet for those who prefer to just chill.
What to do in Bintan?
Well, the beach obviously. The clear waters go quite far out so even if you don’t want to get your feet wet, your kids can go out a good distance with the water still not even at their knees.
If you’re up for it, go on a boat ride and explore the mangroves. I was all geared up and ready to go but then realised that the smallest life jacket available was way too big for my baby, and my then 5-year old had the jitters. In the end we decided against it. We’re all for adventure but just didn’t have a good feeling about those boats. Probably because of the chairs. Note that I did not say seats.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of elephant park but we all went for an elephant ride through the forest and enjoyed it. It was a good half hour ride at least (which feel long when you’re about 3 metres above the ground telling your child “It’s alright!” to make yourself feel braver when said child is squealing away with delight). You get to feed the elephants too for a small fee. No pictures because I was too occupied with holding on!
There are also water sports, bike tours and nature hikes you can sign up for through your hotel, but for us, we were just happy to hang out on the beach.
Where to stay in Bintan?
We’ve stayed at Nirwana Gardens, Mayang Sari and Banyu Biru, all of which fall under the Nirwana group. Nirwana Gardens is the main hotel with all the facilities; and if you’re staying at any of the three establishments, you’re allowed to use the swimming pool. However, while it is a decent hotel, we didn’t find anything in particular that made it stand out.
Mayang Sari on the other hand, was lovely. The compound (I say compound but there aren’t any fences and it’s pretty much open for anyone to walk through. Not that I’m saying it as a bad thing) is made up of rustic little huts. Get a beach-facing one and you’ll literally be 30 seconds away from the water. We especially loved the little hammocks that lined the beach. It’s hard not to feel relaxed when in a hammock that’s gently swaying in the breeze with the sound of gentle waves closeby. I think I may have fallen asleep in one.
We were invited by Bintan Resorts to stay at Banyu Biru for 2 nights. It was a beautiful 2-storey bungalow that was way too big for our family of 4. It’s perfect for families, but the walk to the beach is ever so slightly further compared to if you choose to stay at Nirwana Gardens or Mayang Sari. We were there during the week so it was quiet. Perhaps just a tad bit too quiet.
What to eat in Bintan?
It is of our own fault that we didn’t want to venture too far out, so we pretty much only ate along the stretch of beach. Most of the hotels share the same shuttle service (it’s free!) so you can hop on and off wherever you like. It loops so just stay on until you find something you like.
Kelong Restaurant is popular because of its location (a restaurant built on stilts on the water) but while the food there was enjoyable, the prices were not. In fact, most of the food in Bintan were very pricey. Most places had prices in SGD, for the bigger establishments at least.
Some folks head out to Tanjong Pinang for cheaper food but we didn’t feel it was worth the hassle. So in summary, food’s alright but don’t expect typical Indonesian prices.
If you’re considering a quick getaway from Singapore, do give Bintan a shot. If you know anyone who’s planning a trip to Bintan, feel free to share this post with them!
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