Banyuwangi is at the easternmost tip of Java, and is best known for its ferry connection at Ketapang to Gilimanuk in Bali. This area has a lot more to offer though and it is becoming better known as a visitor destination in its own right. Banyuwangi is also the gateway to some stunning volcanic scenery on the Ijen Plateau as well as the main access point for the Baluran National Park, world renowned surfing at G-Land (Grajagan), and the remote Alas Purwo National Park.
Banyuwangi Train station, ☎ +62 333 510396, is close to Ketapang ferry port, about 300 m to the northwest. Seats on air conditioned business- and executive-class train cars are available in addition to fan cooled economy-class train cars. The train can be ridden from major cities including Surabaya and Probolinggo.
The main bus terminal is Sri Tanjung, ☎ +62 333 510635, 2 km south of Ketapang port. Surabaya is 285 km away by road, and buses take about 6 hours.
Ferries run from Gilimanuk in Bali to Ketapang every 30 min, operated 24 hours a day. The journey takes about 45 minutes, although loading and unloading can take much longer. Price Rp 8,000 for foot passengers. The ferry operator is ASDP, ☎ +62 333 413730. If travelling from Bali into Java, there is no need to go into Banyuwangi if you do not plan to stay there, instead take a bemo 2 km north from the ferry terminal to the bus terminal (10,000, max 20,000IDR) from where you can catch onward public buses to Probolingo, Surabaya etc. (train is better way of traveling, cheaper and no scam) If you arrive in the evening and wish to break your journey there are a couple of pleasant homestays available in Ketapang, just a short walk from the ferry terminal, locals can point the way if you don't spot a sign.
Banyuwangi’s small airport (Blimbingsari) is located approximately 9km south of city center. Wings Air and Garuda are operating some flights mostly to/from Surabaya (50 minutes).
There’s no public transport to/from the airport. Despite the LP is saying that a taxi costs around 35,000Rp, we paid 100,000Rp with the taxi meter on as of sept-15 (scam ?).
Despite there is an tiny Tourist Information Center at the airport, service is not as good as in the one from city center.
The main bus station in Banyuwangi is at Ketapang ferry terminal. From there, regular yellow coloured bemos and shuttle buses run into the city (Sri Tanjung bus terminal/Brawijaya bus terminal), and elsewhere in the vicinity. Becaks (horse-cart/pedicabs) are widely available in town.
Most surfers heading for G-Land are doing so from Bali, and transportation to the camps is part of their surf package. You can however reach G-Land independently with a bus from Sri Tanjung terminal to Benculuk (about 1 hour), where you change and catch another bus to Grajagan (about 30 minutes).
You can hire private jeeps with a driver in Banyuwangi. Vital for independent trips up to the Ijen Crater or for exploring the remote parts of the south eastern coastal National parks.
Motorbikes are available for rent at the Karangasem train station. Negotiation starts at 75,000 to 80,000 IDR but it is possible to bring the cost down to 55,000 - 60,000 range.
Another reputable motorbike renter is Tripoli Tours located across the street from the Blambangan Terminal. (Jl. Jenderal Basuki Rahmat No. 77, Banyuwangi)
Alas Purwo National Park
This is one of the more remote and least populated parks areas of Java, and one which is relatively under-visited due to both the difficulties of getting there and the lack of developed accommodation options. It is also an area of great mystical significance to the Javanese - local legend has it that this was the first area of the whole world to emerge from the ocean.
The park is largely flat with highest peak only 320 m and covers some 43,000 hectares. There are some beautiful, deserted beaches here as well as large swatches of lowland tropical forest. The world famous G-land surf camp is on the park borders.
The key access point to the park is the village of Triangulasi which is about 80 km south east of Banyuwangi. Before visiting you should make contact with the national park office in Banyuwangi at Alas Purwo National Park Head Office, Jl A Yani 108, ☎ +62 333 428675. There is some very basic self-catering hut accommodation at Triangulasi, as well as a camping ground and the park office will be able to advise you on this.
Mammals to be seen inside the park include banteng (the buffalo of Java), asiatic wild dog, leopard cat, muntjac deer and ebony leaf monkey. The park's western beaches are noted turtle hatching areas with olive ridley, hawksbill, green and leatherback turtles all occurring.
The Ijen Plateau
Near Banyuwangi and Bondowoso, this is a spectacular area of volcanic activity. The Ijen Plateau is the centerpoint of the large mountain range west of Banyuwangi, and which abuts the Baluran National Park to the north. Sights at the Ijen Crater include 1) bright blue flames from burning sulfur gasses seen only in the dark, 2) sulfur vents spewing yellow liquid molten sulfur which is collected and hauled out by miners, and 3) the warm acidic aqua blue lake that fills the crater.
The Ijen Crater (Kawah Ijen) can be approached from Bondowoso in the west or Banyuwangi in the east. From Bondowoso you are best off finding a guide with a car (preferably a 4x4) who will drive you through the village of Wonosari and eastwards up a very basic pot-holed road which winds its way up the mountain. You will pass through native casuarina forest and extensive coffee plantations before the road ends at the village of Jampit where there is some shelter available (Pos Paltuding). If you are travelling late in the day, you could actually bed down with a sleeping bag or camp here as you could in the disused volcanology station huts slightly further up the mountain. The crater lake is a 90 minute hike further on from here. When you arrive the colour of the water in the lake is scarcely believable being an extraordinary vivid aqua blue. Evidence of volcanic activity is everywhere with steaming water and brilliant yellow crystalline sulphur deposits. Collecting the latter is an industry here and one with extremely harsh working conditions. You will see many workers trudging up and down the mountain carrying sacks of sulphur.
Tour agencies from Mt. Bromo, Bondowoso, Probolinggo, and other places west of Ijen will likely arrange one night stay in the Sempol area at one of the two homestays: Arabika Homestay or Catimor Homestay. Both are very low quality while Catimor has a naturally heated hot tub and pool. After sleeping a few hours the tour operators will rouse the tourists around midnight to 1am to begin the drive to the entrance of Ijen. The tour from the west can be arranged for 400-500,000 IDR and includes a night stay at the above mentioned homestays, transport, park entrance, guide, and transport away to Banyuwangi or other locations.
A tour arranged from Banyuwangi can cost around 300,000 IDR and includes transport to the Ijen Entrance (leaving at midnight), entrance fees, guide, gas mask, and return transport to Banyuwangi. A plethora of nice sleeping options in Banyuwangi make using this city as a home base to visit Ijen an easy option.
To the crater there are two roads: one from Banyuwangi and the other from Bondowoso. Both come together at Pos Paltuding, from where you can go up to the crater. Both roads are are in excellent shape. They are steep and winding but there are very few potholes or sections with loose gravel. The Banyuwangi approach is shorter, the Bondowoso approach gives you much better views. Entrance fee: 100,000 IDR.
As of October 2015 the entrance to the volcano trail and the ticket office open at 3:00 AM. It will take you about 30 minutes to get the ticket as the guides mob the entrance to the ticket booth. This makes it rather challenging to see the blue flames of the sulfur fire inside the crater because daylight begins to break around 4:30 AM leaving you only about an hour to get to the top of the volcano and descend into the crater. The hike is 3 kilometers of constant uphill. With dedication and some sweat it is possible to complete it in under an hour. Consider carrying additional layers with you and only putting them on as needed at the top. You will get very warm very fast as you begin your ascend. A headlamp, warm clothes, sturdy shoes, and a gas mask are absolutely required to visit the crater at sunrise. A nice optional addition would be ski goggles to prevent burning sensations in eyes from the intense sulfur clouds. Gas masks can be rented at the entrance to Ijen Crater for 40-50,000 IDR, and make sure that it works and you can breath easily through it. Some of the masks handed out are clogged and difficult to breathe through. The trek to the crater before sunrise can be quite dangerous with the toxic sulfur gasses and difficult walking terrain in the dark, and hiring a guide makes the experience a lot easier. Do not attempt this trek without a gas mask because the wind at the crater can change quickly and send thick sulfur clouds in your direction for long periods of time.
There is no public transport available to the Pos Paltuding. You may need to hire a taxi from Banyuwangi. The rate for roundtrip for a full car/SUV is at around 350 to 550k IDR. It's recommended to walk through the town and check rates with the tourist info desks available and grab the best rates. As of Sept. 2015 a 4WD chartered at the tourist office is IDR 500 000 including masks and torch, excluding entrance fee (100k IDR) and guide to the crater. The guide is unnecessary for this trip as the trail to the volcano is easy to follow and there is very little information he can share with you with his limited English.
The road from Banyuwangi is in excellent shape and the trip is easily doable by motorcycle. Kawa Ijen is sign-posted from Banyuwangi and once you leave city limits it is easy to follow. First half of the road is well lit while second half not at all. A scooter will be able to handle the incline with a single rider but may be struggling with two in several short but steep sections. The night ride will take about an hour and a half. You can leave Banyuwangi around 1AM to make it in time for the opening at 3:00. There is no need to spend the night on the mountain prior to the climb. Wear an extra layer of clothing because the temperature drops precipitously as you ride towards Ijen.
On return trip be careful not to overheat your brakes. Pump them instead of depressing them continuously. Also use engine braking as much as possible to lighten the load on brake pads. If you feel that a brake lever all of a sudden travels much deeper than before stop immediately and allow the bike to cool for 5-10 minutes. This happens because of overheated brake fluid and will prevent the brakes from working altogether if not allowed to cool. After the brake fluid cools the brake function returns. The front and rear brakes use separate systems so even if one temporarily fails due to overheating the other will still allow you to stop.
Street stall and simple warung food is the go in Banyuwangi and you will find lots of it. Easy to find in the middle of town.
Bintang pilsner (4.7%) is the local beer and is available in 330ml cans for around 20,000R or 600ml bottles for 35,000R.
There are a lot of fairly identical budget accommodation in Banyuwangi and there are often several well-meaning and well-mannered touts at Ketapang terminal eager to take you to their option. Not such a bad thing to play along - it will cost you little, if any, extra.
The telephone area code for Banyuwangi is 0333.
Public buses leave from the Kapuran terminal, 2km north of the ferry terminal in Ketapang and from the Blambangan (KarangEnte) terminal in Banyuwangi. Any Surabaya-bound bus will pass through Probolingo, price for public bus is IDR 50 000 / 70 000 for Economy / Executive bus [Sept. 2015].