The real highlight of Bintan Island are its beaches, with miles of fine white sand and palm tree-fringed shorelines to explore. Best of all, the sand here is real, a nice change for Singaporeans who only have the imported stuff in Sentosa to enjoy! There’s also an emphasis on eco-tourism in Bintan, and the island boasts a relatively long history dating back to the 16th century, when it became a main trading port in the South-East Asia region.
Head to the isolated and very tranquil Trikora Beach on the east coast, or for more in the way of amenities, try one of the many beaches around Sebung Village or the main built-up areas of Tanjung Pinang and Tanjung Uban. Aside from the beaches, be sure to check out the elephant centre, Masjid Raya Sultan Mosque on Penyengat Island and the famous Banyan Tree Temple on the nearby Senggarang Island.
Where to stay in Bintan
As a popular island getaway from Singapore, there’s no shortage of hotels and resorts on Bintan Island. These range budget two and three-star hotels to more luxurious four-star villa resorts overlooking the South China Sea.
Although hotels and resorts around the coast normally prove popular with holidaymakers, there’s plenty in the way of accommodation in the main town centre too, with many industrial workers choosing Tanjung Pinang as the place to stay for its convenience. The hotels serve as great bases and retreats from where to explore the rich highlights of Indonesia's Riau Archipelago. Business and leisure travellers are well catered for and prices here a normally much cheaper than in Singapore, although prices do tend to fluctuate in high season and during public holidays.
What to do in Bintan
Aside from lazing on the beach (that’s if you have the energy to drag yourself away from your resort), Bintan actually presents a decent array of activities, popular with all ages. Golf here – just like neighbouring Batam and, of course, Singapore – proves to be one of the most popular pastimes. The main clubs are Ria Bintan Golf Club, Laguna Bintan Golf Club and Bintan Lagoon Golf Club and range from 9-18 holes.
For the adrenalin junkies, Bintan Island also has a Go-Karting track (at Bintan Usahatama), paintballing (at Nirwana Beach Club), spas, scuba diving trips, mountain biking routes and island trekking.
Where and what to eat in Bintan
Visitors to Bintan are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out. The main highlight here is fresh seafood and there’re plenty of places near or even on the beach serving up fresh fish and crustaceans straight from the barbeque. It’s also worth experiencing some of the local favourites too, such as ‘keropok’ (prawn or fish crackers), ‘kueh lapis’ (traditional Indonesian layered cake made from spices, butter, sugar and eggs), ‘soto’ (noodles in slightly spicy broth served with pieces of beef of chicken), and ‘gado gado’ (Indonesian vegetable salad). All can be found in abundance on the streets of Bintan and are normally sold by pushcart vendors for cheap prices. For a true local dining experience, head to the main Tanjung Pinang town to find the best variety.
Shopping in Bintan
Bintan’s retail scene, unlike neighbouring Batam (with its free trade policy), has never really taken off; perhaps a good thing for the many Singaporeans and Malaysians visiting who have had enough of all the megamalls.
However, being as large as it is, there’s always going to be some stores and markets where you can pick up all the basics like clothes, electronics and souvenirs. The most convenient place is at the Bintan Ferry Terminal, where you’ll find a modest, undercover market. Other notable shopping spots include the charming Tanjung Pinang arcade, and for clothes head to The Real Bandung Factory Outlet.
Where to go at Night in Bintan
For most visitors, nightlife in Bintan is generally limited bars located in the island’s large resorts. For party-goers, the best place to head would be Silk club – Bintan’s first ever nightclub located at Bintan lagoon Resort. There’s also a trio of venues at Nirwana Gardens (Jalan Panglima Pantar), including a bar, pub and disco.