Ultimate Travel Guide to Rote Indonesia

Rote Indonesia is a beautiful remote island in East Indonesia, part of the East Nusa Tenggara province, known for its pristine white sand beaches. Rote island surf is also next level.

I am so happy to be back here after almost 3 years and writing this blog post for you all!

Rote Island is still relatively undeveloped compared to other islands in Indonesia. It’s a hidden gem and one of my favorite places to stay for a few months of the year. This island is so special to me because it’s where my husband and I spent a lot of time during the pandemic, and where I created the Wanderlover Business Academy.

After having traveled here many times, here is the ultimate travel guide to Rote Island, Indonesia so you can have the best trip!

Quick Facts

  • Currency: Indonesia uses the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
  • Language: The official language of Bahasa Indonesia is spoken and locals also speak their dialect of Rotenese. Most people don’t speak English unless they are foreign or working in the hospitality industry.
  • Religion: Unlike most of Indonesia that practices Islam, Rote is a Christian island.
  • Plugs: Indonesia uses the Type C/F plug (the one with two circular pins).

How to Get to Rote Island?

White airplane on the runway to Rote Island Indonesia
Lion Air flight from Denpasar, Bali (DPS) to Kupang (KOE)
  1. Fly to Kupang El Tari Airport (KOE) from Jakarta or Bali, Indonesia
  2. Stay one night in the Aston Hotel Kupang, grab dinner at the best local seafood restaurant across the street at Taman Laut Handayani, and get breakfast at the hotel’s all you can eat buffet
  3. Fly or take a ferry to Rote Island
    • Option 1: Flight. Flights run a few times per week and need to be booked in advance. They also do not run year round and the airline that operates this route changes often, so this might not be an option to begin with. When running, because the planes are tiny, it is usually not possible to take any boards over 7 feet. Therefore, you either need to arrange someone to get your boards to Rote if you choose to take the flight, or take one of the ferry options.
    • Option 2: Fast ferry. The fast ferry takes around 2 hours and you can buy tickets at the ferry harbor. Bring a sweater because it’s usually FREEZING as they blast the air conditioning.
    • Option 3: Slow ferry. The slow ferry takes around 4 hours and you can buy tickets at the ferry harbor.
  4. Arrange a driver to pick you up from the airport or ferry port in Rote to your accommodation. You MUST do this in advance! Depending on the port where you arrive, the drive will be around 1-2 hours. This is a great time to visit the ATM in Ba’a if you are passing through to take out cash if you haven’t already.

Can You Take Longboards to Rote?

Yellow longboard surfboard bag at the airport in Kupang
Checking in my longboard on Lion Air

Yes! I’ve been able to get my longboards here without any trouble every time. You’ll have to fly to Kupang with your longboards. It’s not possible to book sports equipment ahead of time via Lion Air, so you have to show up at the airport and pay cash for them at the check in counter. As of May 2024, they charge 200k IDR (Around $12 USD) per board, per flight. This applies to boards of all sizes, and they accept my 9’6 board bag without fuss.

Once at Kupang, you will have to transport your bags to the hotel and/or ferry port. If you are taking a flight, you will have to arrange with your accommodation for someone to pick up your longboard bags and get them on the ferry. As mentioned before, the flights to Rote are tiny so usually they don’t accepted oversize luggage.

If you are taking the fast or slow ferries, you will be able to travel with your longboards on the boat.

Once in Rote, your driver will have roof straps to strap them to the top of your vehicle!

Best Time of Year to Travel to Rote

As with much of Indonesia, Rote has two seasons, rainy season (December – March) and dry season (April – November). Because Rote is a surf destination, this correlates to an “off” season where the waves aren’t consistent and the winds aren’t favorable.

Shoulder Season: The best time of year to visit Rote is April-May or October-November. This is known as the “shoulder season” where there aren’t as many tourists, and the waves aren’t as crowded. There are still swells that make it super fun to surf, or even take lessons!

Rainy Season: Surfing during rainy season isn’t ideal, but there are still plenty of other things to do on the island if you want to visit between December and March. A lot of restaurants and hotels are closed during this time because it is the off season, but you’ll have more of the island to yourself!

Peak Season: The peak tourist season in Rote is June-September, as this is when the waves are pumping and wind is mostly offshore or non-existent. This is also when everything (including the breaks) are most crowded!

Top Things to Do in Rote

Rote Indonesia Surf

Girl on a surfboard cross stepping on a wave in clear blue waters.
Surfing in Rote is great for all levels!

Rote Island surfing is world class, and the waves of Rote are suitable for all levels. During the season, the waves are consistent, the wind is minimal, and it’s still possible to find perfect, uncrowded, point break waves. Most breaks are over reef, so it’s up to you if you want to buy reef shoes or not.

Some breaks you’ll need to take a boat out, and there are many to choose from when you show up to the beach. If you would like to arrange in advance, DM me on Instagram and I’ll share local contacts with you!

If you don’t surf, check out Nemberala Surf School where you can book lessons and surf beginner spots.

Snorkel/Dive

Because the waters here are so clear, it’s the perfect spot to grab a snorkel and see all the colorful marine life. You can also organize dive trips around the island.

Telaga Nirwana (Nirvana Lake)

Brilliant blue lake surrounded by lush green fauna

Telaga Nirwana is a beautiful lake that is perfect for stand up paddleboarding and swimming. It’s a perfect day trip exploring the surrounding area, and you can even go fishing on the way!

Kayaking in the Mangroves

Brown starfish laying on sand covered in seaweed.
Starfish in mangroves

One of my favorite things to do is kayak through the mangroves. Sometimes on lower tides, you can see so many starfish!

Visit the Local Farmer’s Market

The local farmer’s market is on Tuesdays and you can buy the freshest fruits and veggies here! Be sure to arrive early around 6am as most things are sold out or closed by 9am.

Take a Class at Rote Training Center

Girl posing in front of the mirror at the gym in Rote Island
Open gym at Rote Training Center

The classes at Rote Training Center will kick your butt and it’s a great place to work out when there is no swell. You can drop in for a class or visit during their open gym hours. They have state of the art equipment, weights, and offer massage, chiropractic and osteopath sessions too!

The Best Sunset Spot at Vicki’s

Cotton candy skies in Rote Island, Indonesia during sunset
The best sunset in Rote

The best spot to watch sunset is hands down at Vicki’s! Her little spot is right on the water at Tunggaoen Beach. You can grab a beer with friends or order some local dishes for a quick bite. It’s super local so you won’t be able to find it on Google Maps but I’ll include the link here. Support local ❤️

Sunset Beer at Shipwrecks

Silhouette of a pig on the beach during sunset on Rote Island, Indonesia

Shipwrecks in Nemberala is a great place to watch sunset and sometimes see pigs roaming freely on the beach!

Where to Stay in Rote

Bo’a Vida

This is where I’ve stayed every single time when visiting Rote and I refuse to stay anywhere else! They value sustainability and truly go above and beyond with service. It is located right in front of the wave Bo’a which is perfect for both getting barreled and longboarding when the tide is higher. Each room overlooks the surf break so you can wake up and check the conditions from your bed. See my Instagram post here for a behind the scenes look of what staying here is like!

Where to Eat in Rote

Indika

Girl smiling at the camera with a coconut in front of her at a health food restaurant in Rote Island
Post-surf coconut

Indika is my favorite place for slow, healthy food. The atmosphere is rustic, earthy, and inviting. They have a locally sourced menu that is nutritious and SO YUMMY! If you’re ever feeling sick, I would recommend getting their jamu drink as it truly is a magic potion. Indika also has an outdoor garden area that is perfect for a digital nomad style work day.

The Pasar

The Pasar has great coffee and freshly baked croissants and breads. It’s a perfect breakfast/lunch spot but they also do dinner.

Fishbones

Fish special at Fishbones

Hands down one of my favorite dinner spots! Fishbones serves quality food at a super reasonable price. They have pizza, burgers, satay, and local food. Their chefs are professionally trained and the presentation is immaculate.

81 Palms

Catch of the Day at 81 Palms

81 Palms serves Spanish and Western food including paellas, charcuterie, pastas, and seafood. The chef used to work at a Michelin star restaurant and their food is truly out of this world!

Warung Mia

Warung Mia is a local restaurant where they serve quick, tasty local food. It’s the perfect stop for some post-surf fuel.

Is there Wi-Fi in Rote?

Some places in Rote like Bo’a Vida will have wi-fi, but it all uses the 4G Telkomsel data network which can be fickle. I recommend getting a Telkomsel SIM Card (can be bought here), downloading the app, topping it up at the local shop, and using your phone hotspot for the most reliable connection.

The speed can really vary throughout the day, and the data network can go out without warning especially when it rains. It was honestly a lot better during the pandemic. As of May 2024, download speeds range from 0.5-10 mbps and upload speeds 0.5-30 mbps depending on the time of day. This is definitely enough to check emails, communicate with team members, and post on social media, but if you are thinking about uploading videos or hosting big group calls, that might be an issue!

Therefore, I would not recommend having super important work calls or interviews frequently. Working online from Rote is definitely possible if you are flexible!

Important Tips for Your Rote Trip

  1. Pack bug spray! If you get bitten easily like me, make sure to pack lots of of bug spray because there are mosquitos.
  2. Take out cash beforehand. Western hotels and restaurants accept credit card, sometimes with an additional processing fee. Local restaurants are cash only. As of May 2024, there are no ATMs in the main tourist area of Nemberala.
  3. Rent a scooter. There is no public transportation or taxis, so renting a scooter is definitely recommended.
  4. Have most toiletries ready. There are a few local shops where you can buy things like adaptors, SIM cards, and toiletries.
  5. PACK SUNSCREEN AND ZINC! The sun gets HOT during the day and you’ll want to protect yourself from burns.
  6. Pack a first aid kit. If needed, there is a clinic where you can get medical care, but be ready for reef cuts.

What to Do Next:

Traveling to Bali Before or After Rote?

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Danielle Hu

Danielle Hu

Danielle Hu is a multiple 6-figure travel influencer, business coach, and Founder of The Wanderlover. She has traveled to over 65+ countries running her online business and surfing in remote tropical destinations. Her mission is to help creatives and coaches achieve time freedom, location freedom, and financial freedom through online entrepreneurship.

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Hi, I’m Danielle

My mission is to help you design a location-independent lifestyle through online entrepreneurship, to achieve time freedom, location freedom, financial freedom.

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