Sabang is a town name on an island north of Banda Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra. Strictly speaking, the island's name is Weh Island (Pulau Weh) and Sabang is the main town on the north coast, but the names are often used interchangeably. Among locals the place is more often referred to as "Sabang" but among tourists it is well known as "Pulau Weh". The island is best known for its snorkelling and diving.
Pulau Weh is a small island off the northern tip of Sumatra. The northern-most point of the Indonesian archipelago is known as kilometre zero,or KmZero.
Three weekly flights from Medan to Sabang Airport have been discontinued as of 2019. Banda Aceh is the nearest airport. Take a 15 minute taxi/becak ride to the ferry terminal for transfer to Pulau Weh.
Motorcycles and cars are not allowed on the fast ferry but bicycles can be shipped for IDR50,000.
See the diving websites of Monster Divers, Scuba WEH, Rubiah Divers, Lumba Lumba, or Bubble Addict for up to date information in regards to getting to and from KL or Medan to Banda Aceh and from Banda Aceh to Pulau Weh.
Note: You can use the free blue TransKoetaradja buses (with a/c!) to go from the center to the harbour and back. The buses stop only at the designated TransKoetaradja bus stops, you can recognize those by the elevation of +-1m above street level. You can catch the bus to the harbour beside the Big Mosque (Mesjid Raya).
Travelling from Balohan port to Sabang costs roughly IDR30,000. From Balohan port (harbour) to backpacker hangouts of Gapang and Iboih IDR50,000 (negotiable) in shared transport (~1 hr drive) and to Semur Tiga Rp25,000 in shared transport (~20 min drive). From Iboih to Semur Tiga in shared transport costs IDR100,000 (~1 hr drive). Prices for minibuses (shared transport) from and to harbour are fixed (also if there is only one passenger in the car).
A possibly cheaper option is to arrange transport in becaks or on motorbikes. For this transport you need to bargain. You can also take the whole taxi for IDR150,000. Bargain hard, since the prices are not set (although the drivers try to show you written notes with prices). A motorbike ride should cost around Rp30,000.
Alternatively you can rent motorbikes at Iboih and Gapang and Semur Tiga (IDR100,000 per day). Besides that bicycles are for rent in Iboih,Santai Sumur Tiga and several Places like Kartika and Holiday Hotel. If you want to cycle from the port to your hotel its best to rent a bicycle in Banda Aceh and take it with you on the boat.
The main reason to go to Pulau Weh is for the beaches. Relaxing, swimming, snorkelling, diving. Don't worry about doing anything else. There is now a yoga studio so it is also becoming a great place for yoga teacher training.
Kilometer Nol (Kilometre 0), the most Western point in Indonesia, is on Pulau Weh. You can rent a motorbike from Iboih for around IDR100,000/day and head out on your own, or rent a minivan and guide to take your group.
It's still considered a secret spot even amongst the diving community and Pulau Weh's reefs are genuinely untouched and offer something for every level of experience. The bottom topography ranges from large boulders on sandy slopes and deep volcanic pinnacles to craggy wall sections and coral gardens. Pulau Weh is notable for strong currents that can present dangerous conditions for unprepared divers.
The house reef at Gapang Beach boasts a wide range of macro life including rare critters like Frog Fish, Star Gazers and Gurnards. Large pelagics like Mantas, Whale Sharks and Mola Mola also come to feed when the season is right. All operators on Gapang Beach prioritize safety. Pulau Weh offers some of the finest diving in Indonesia, yet it is still very much undeveloped.
Snorkelling - Lots to see including octopus, turtles, morays.... Nothing - nice place to do nothing as well :) - Rubiah Island Sea Graden off Iboih is AMAZING even for snorkelling and you can start at the southern end and float along in the currents to the northern end. You could hire a boat (with driver) for the afternoon and should not cost more than RP300,000. Must do.
Learn Indonesian. Speak to Eva in Iboih beach
Dive instructors are at the local dive centres are almost always westerners - backpackers that hang around a bit longer. If you are an instructor, and persistent, you could be lucky and find work here. Divemasters are plentiful both among the staff and guests, so I wouldn't get my hopes up.
Before 2014 ATMs were only in the city of Sabang, which is about 40 minutes from Gapang and Iboh beaches. Now, another 2 have been set up in Iboih beach. Still, they only work when the electricity is on which is not as often as you would imagine, so it's still wise to bring plenty of cash from Banda Aceh. Iboih Inn and Rubiah Tirta dive center accepts credit cards at a 3% charge.
There are a few souvenir shops around the island. We really recommend Seahorse in Iboih though, Teupin Sirkui (inner beach). The owner has got to be the nicest & most honest guy on the island.
- Dang Dang Na is next to Lumba Lumba and serves a range of local and western food, prepare for a long wait though. Gado Gado is a peanut and salad based Indonesian dish well worth a try, also noodles and curry available. Best to order early as everything is on island time, and try to relax if your having to wait.
- Further down the beach there are Limbo Cafe, Zero Cafe and Mama Jungle (best to order in advance), all places can do fish and sometimes chicken BBQ's, give them a little notice first though.
- Barracuda is the newest around and is between the Lumbalumba Dive center and the souvenir shop. Owners speak very good English, and serve a comprehensive menu with the tastiest food on Gapang. Their curries and Tacos are just delicious.
- Tipsy Toby Cafe is in Bubble Addict below Flying Elephant Yoga. They serve sandwiches, fresh fruit, yogurt, pizza, naan wraps and various other western cafe dishes for breakfast and lunch (closes 7pm). They have a professional espresso machine for the best coffee on Pulau Weh.
Sumur Tiga If you like it more for western taste, you should visit the east coast of pulau weh,the new tourist destination, for people who not only want to dive but also can. There are some accommodations at Sumur Tiga area.
- Freddies () who, next to his normal restaurant, daily from 7:30 p.m. serves delicious four course meals (let him know before 5p.m. that you want to join) for IDR65,000.
- Casa Nemo () has a limited menu but the people are very friendly and the food is fresh and good.
- Further about 6 KM the newest comfort accommodation on Pulau Weh on Anoi Itam Bay the Rasa Seni Hotel Resort.
Most restaurants have somewhat the same menu like fried noodle, fried rice (IDR15,000) or curries (IDR25,000). The guacamole and avocado salads are excellent choices at most any of the bungalow restaurants.
You can expect to wait as long as an hour for your food even if the restaurant is nearly deserted. The best strategy is to arrive well before you plan to eat and place an order for a later time.
A few places that stand out are:
- Home High has you covered with a substantial menu that caters to both your local and western tastebuds. Also treat yourself to the donuts (2000 RP) in the morning. You won't be sorry.
- Olala also makes great food, try the taco or the superb pizza on pizza-night.
- Norma (at Oong's bungalows) makes homecooked communal meals (25,000 Rp). Just swing by before noon to announce your attendance and you will be treated to a feast.
- DeeDees serves delicious food and has homemade bread. Especially her curries are amazing. And try the Tempeh-burger. Wifi works better than many other places. Great setting on the beach. Meals from IDR20-40,000
- "Le Cafe Bleu" Run by a French expat. Homemade bread, pastas, crepes and sandwhiches from IDR20-35,000.
About 4km walk from Iboih (30 minutes, if you cross through the jungle. Just follow the signs) you will find Long beach, and there the best (and only) Italian Restaurant. Prices from 40,000. Homemade pasta, gnocchi, tiramisu and also a small range of local dishes.
There are no nightclubs or bars on Pulau Weh, if you like to party this is the wrong place to go. Alcohol is generally forbidden in the entire Aceh province, however some places may have it available. Beer (IDR25,000) and banana brandy (80,000 Rp) makes up the selection of the local poison.
Popular places for a sundowner at Iboih includes Ozone Restaurant and Olala. Oong's, Iboih Inn and Yulia's all have beer in the fridge for sale, if you prefer drinking at home.
At Sumur Tiga, Freddies has a menu of drinks inside the four-course meal restaurant. You can even get wine here. Casa Nemo serves beer.
Other option is to go Sunset Bar & Grill at Pulau Weh Paradise. This place is located near Pasir putih side, between Gun Sarang and Pasir Putih beach. They offers beers and Gin and Tonic. Lovely place to watch sunset
Backpacker style beach huts with hammocks on the balconies from RP50,000 per night (Mama Mia)(longstay) up to RP400,000 (short stay) depending on the location and features of the bungalow (and your negotiating ability). Shared bathrooms (squat toilets) are the norm, but more and more bungalows with private western toilets are being built (ca. 350,000 Rp).
Walk east along the road from the village and you'll find the newer, more expensive upmarket bungalows with air-conditioning (starting around RP300,000). Walk west past the village and up along the path into the jungle to find the budget accommodations. From the village you find the following in this order:
Although not much of a tourist destination in itself, there are a few guest houses and "resorts" if you want to be someplace closer to town life. There are a few in the residential areas of town, but the more interesting ones are on the seaward side of town.
There is less accommodation available right on Gapang beach. This means that the prices are higher, and it is somewhat more exclusive. There is a largish upscale resort close to the entrance to the beach, which offers some of the best accommodation on Gapang (glass windows, hot showers, a/c). Don't be scared away though, you can always haggle and the beach has more to do than Iboih for a non-diver.
Kincir Long Beach
Also known as Teupin Redeup. A secluded beach just before the forest reserve three km northeast from Iboih. Seulako View Cafe & Bungalows has three bungalows and 3 rooms above a friendly seafront restaurant. Divers at Steffen Sea Sports can book one of the dive centre's new, colourful rooms.
Bixio Weh Reastaurant, Cafe & Bungalows Beachfront bungalows accommodation and family rooms on a beautiful sandy beach and close to the jungle. Possibilities to arrange a lot of activities: tours North of Sumatra, trekking, snorkeling, diving, fishing, rafting, surf... Price from 150,000 Rp to 400,000 Rp. New built bungalows.
Sumur Tiga and Anoi Itam Bay
The newest accommodations with higher standard are to find on the east coast of Pulau Weh Island.
Fredies Santai Sumur Tiga with nice Bungalows (Fan)in traditional Style, hot and cold water shower (no bath), drinking water tank in the room and Restaurant with good food and drinks.
Casa Nemo also with nice Bungalows (Fan) in traditional Style, hot and cold water shower (and bath), drinking water tank in the room, good views from the hammock and seats on the veranda. Diving provided.
Rasa Seni Hotel Resort Anoi Itam, the newest and most comfortable accommodation on Pulau Weh, with air conditioning, hot and cold water shower and studios also with bathtub and mini bar. Restaurant with international food and Asian specialties. Very good dive spots in front of the Resort in Anoi Itam Bay
Pulau Weh is at the end (or beginning depending on your point of view) of Indonesia. From here you can only go back to Banda Aceh.