Exploring Hidden Paradises – Labengki and Sombori Islands in Sulawesi
Nestled in the remote part of Sulawesi, Indonesia, Labengki & Sombori islands are one of the last hidden paradise destinations. It might be the most untouched place we have ever visited. The islands offer not only a unique blend of natural beauty, pristine beaches, and vibrant marine life. But thanks to their remote location and rather hard access, they haven’t been spoiled by tourism yet. It’s the only place we visited where we haven’t encountered another tourists. There is little to no information on the web about this off-the-beaten-path destinations. Therefore, in this article we will reveal all the gems of Labengki and Sombori, so you too can discover Indonesia’s best kept secret (but don’t tell anyone 😋).
- Where are Labengki & Sombori islands
- How to get to the Labengki & Sombori
- Best time to visit the islands
- How long to stay in Labengki
- Labengki & Sombori Tour
- Cost of the tour
- Labengki beach huts
- Labengki itinerary example
- Places to see in Labengki & Sombori
- What to bring to Labengki
Where are Labengki & Sombori islands
Labengki is located in Southeast Sulawesi in Indonesia. It’s composed of two islands: Labengki Kecil and Labengki Besar. On the tiny island Kecil, there is a small finish village- that’s where the locals live. Besar is a large, mountainous island with steep cliffs. There are 2 resorts located here – Nirwana Resort and Labengki Beach Huts.
Sombori is a nearby group of islands and lagoons with some of the most awe-inspiring scenery we’ve ever seen. It can be visited as a day trip from Labengki (a 2h boat ride).
How To Get To Labengki Island
Labengki and Sombori are remote islands, so getting there takes a bit of efforts. It’s one of the main reasons the islands remain unspoiled and there are little to no tourists there.
The first step is to fly to the city of Kendari (KDI). There are direct flights to Kendari from Jakarta (CDK), Surabaya (SUB) in Java, or Makassar (UPG) in Sulawesi. An important note is that even if the flight from Jakarta or Surabaya to Kendari is sold and named as a direct, it might have a stopover in Makassar first. Also- Makassar is often referred to as ‘Ujung Pandang‘, its old name. It can get confusing, especially at the airport.
Once you get to Kendari airport, a taxi (or a driver) will take you to the harbor. The drive takes about 45 min. From here you will embark on a boat journey to Labengki. This takes about 2 hours by wooden boat.
↬ NOTE: The old engines at the local boats are VERY noisy. Bring earplugs for a more comfortable journey.
We started our journey with a Lion Air 6:30am flight from Surabaya. We had a short stopover (which we didn’t know about) in Makassar and arrived in Kendari at 10:40am. At 12:30pm we started the boat ride and arrived to Labengki at 2:30pm.
Best time to visit Labengki & Sombori
Indonesia’s dry season falls from April to November. In general, this is the best time to visit Labengki & Sombori islands.
However, because of global warming and the changes it brings, the seasons are not as defined as they used to be. We traveled mid August and were supposed to have the perfect weather. But on 2 out of 4 days we visited, we encountered a heavy storm. The waves were too big for our small, wooden boat to handle, so we couldn’t get to some of the amazing spots in the area.
How long to stay in Labengki
Most people visit on a 3 Days 2 Nights or 4D3N tour. This trip gives you enough time to see the highlights of Labengki/Sombori and get the feel of being lost in the hidden paradise. However, if you enjoy the simple lifestyle you could easily stay longer.
We stayed for 4 Days / 3 Nights and thought it was perfect, especially as we lost a whole day to the storm. It’s important to know that if you come for 2D/1N, you will not be able to visit the Sombori island. Which in our opinion is the main reason for this trip.
Labengki & Sombori Tour
A trip to Labengki & Sombori needs to be organised by a local company. We arranged our entire trip with Oji. His company is called ‘Kelas Vakansi’ and he can be contacted by WhatsApp +62 813-4340-6633 Oji speaks English and will arrange the whole tour for you (except of the flights). The tours includes:
- Tour guide during the trip.
- Accomodation during the trip
- Private Wooden boat during the trip.
- Meals 3 times a day during the trip.
- Tourist levies.
- Documentation (Exclude Drone).
- Mineral water during the trip (gallon refill)
- First aid kit (P3k)
- Pick up and drop Airport/ Hotel
- Snorkeling gear
The accommodation options are: “Luxury” Nirwana Resort, mid-budget “Labengki Beach Huts” and budget “homestay” options. For Labengki Beach Huts and homestay the whole trip can be organised by Oji.
A trip to Labengki Nirwana Resort can be organised directly with the hotel via WhatsApp +62 811‑4410‑733.
Cost of the tour (as of 2023)
All the tours include everything mentioned above and the only difference in price will be the accommodation you choose. There is “luxury” Nirwana Resort, mid-budget “Labengki Beach Huts” and budget “homestay” options. As of August 2023, when we visited the prices are as follow:
Labengki Nirwana Resort:
2D/1N: from idr. Rp 5,743,788 to idr. Rp 9,613,780
3D/2N: from idr. Rp 7,889,255 to idr. Rp 13,145083
4D/3N: from idr. Rp 10,277245 to idr. Rp 16,970305
You can find the exact trip itinerary, accommodation choice and prices in this pdf file.
Labengki Beach Huts
3D/2N: Idr. 6,655,000-/ 1 pax
4D/3N: idr. 8,300,000-/ 1 pax
5D/4N: idr, 9,650,000-/ 1 pax
6D5N: Idr.11,750,000-/ 1 pax
3D/2N: Idr. 5,855,000-/ 1 pax
4D/3N: idr. 6,800,000-/ 1 pax
5D/4N: idr, 7.778,000-/ 1 pax
6D5N: Idr.8,875,000-/ 1 pax
We chose the 4D/3N Labengki Beach Huts tour. Since our flight was arriving at 10:40am and normally the tour starts at 8am, we negotiated the price a bit and payed 7,900,000 per person. The cost of this trip is way higher than anything else we’ve payed for in Indonesia.
↬ IMPORTANT: Oji will send you an invoice and you need to send him a 30% deposit. We sent our deposit via Revolut to avoid extra bank and exchange fees.
Labengki Beach Huts
We were so excited about this trip. An escapade to a real, hidden paradise. We imagined living barefoot, sleeping in a small hut right by the sea, enjoying the simple life and seeing the spectacular scenery on day-trips. And for most part our trip was exactly like this. Don’t understand us wrong- the trip was absolutely spectacular. However, we wish we knew a bit more what we were getting for such a high price.
The communication with Oji and organization of everything was very simple. The boat, even if a tad old, was comfortable and took us everywhere we needed to go. The first problem started with our guide Akbar not speaking English. We couldn’t communicate with him, therefore couldn’t learn anything about the area we were in, or the places we were visiting. We thought it was a pity. That being said, Akbar was very kind and optimistic so we just read whatever we could online and focused on the positive parts.
The whole team which was there with us- the captain, his assistant and 3 ladies who cooked for us daily were so nice! And the food delicious. We still remember the taste of ‘pisang goreng‘ (fried bananas) which was waiting for us an an afternoon snack each day.
The power is available only at nights and it’s provided by a generator. We had perfect 5G internet connection with Telkomsel.
The only disappointment were the Labengki Beach Huts themselves. Of course, we knew what we were signing up for- mattress on the floor of a tiny hut, common toilets and showers, no hot water. Very basic, yet everything you need in a lost paradise. You will also find wonderful reviews and opinions of the Labengki Beach Huts on other blogs and google. However, most of those are pre-covid (3-4 years old) and unfortunately the place has not been maintained since then…
When we arrived we were the only guests and it seemed that no one else for the last 2 years (covid) even set foot in that place. It was so ran down. The bathroom was full of mold and dirty. There was no running water, no shower, no sink. There was a big bucket with stagnant water (who knows how long was it there for) and a smaller bucket to pour the water on your body. The bins in which you are supposed to dispose of the dirty toilet paper were filled up the top. You get the picture.
The inside of our hut was cute. The outside behind part was full of mold. The mattress and the pillow we slept on for 3 nights were fully rotten and covered with mold. Luckily they had clean, blue sheets over them.
All that being said- we still consider this to be an amazing adventure. We used bottled water to wash our teeth and spent all days outside anyways. Since we swam in the sea each day, we survived without the shower for 3 days. We aren’t saying all this to discourage you from visiting Labengki and Sombori islands. We simply think you should know what you are signing up for. If we came with the right expectations, the state of this place wouldn’t shock us this much.
Was the Labengki Beach Huts worth what we payed for them? Absolutely not. Was the whole trip worth it? ABSO-****ING-LUTELY. Would we do it again? YES!
Labengki Itinerary Example
This is what a typical 4D3N Labengki itinerary will look like:
- Day 1: Travel from Kendari to Labengki. Check in at your beach hut, lunch. Swimming at Pasir Panjang, a beautiful beach
- Day 2: Sombori day trip. Visit Goa Allo, Pantai Air Kiri, Goa Berlian, Puncak Kayangan view point, Red sand beach and more
- Day 3: Labengki day trip. Visit Labengki Kecil Lighthouse, Laguna Mahumalalang, Twin Lagoon, Blue Lagoon, Swimming Pool Cave and more.
- Day 4: After breakfast head back to Kendari for your afternoon flight
Places you will see in Labengki & Sombori Islands
Oji will organise everything- including the itinerary. You don’t have to worry, as your local guide and boat captain will know exactly where to take you. They’ll show you the most beautiful spots to see, to snorkel and explore. The most important thing about visiting Labengki and Sombori is that you get to be completely ALONE in all those amazing places. During our stay we didn’t see any other tourists.
It’s name in Indonesian means long beach. It’s a perfect stretch of white sand with a palm forest and calm blue water. It’s located just 10 min boat ride from Labengki Beach Hut.
The Blue Lagoon is a hidden pool that you can reach by climbing a ladder over some jagged limestone rocks. We aren’t sure why it’s called ‘blue’ when in reality the water was this incredible shade of emerald green!
Twin Lagoon & Tobelo Lake
Two really beautiful spots we hope you’ll be more lucky then us to visit. On the day we were exploring the Labengki island it was raining and the big waves made it impossible to visit either of the lagoons.
Red Sand Beach
This awesome beach has not only a red sand as the name suggests. It also has cool bent palm trees that you can climb!
Located next to the Red Sand Beach. We took a bit too long at Sombori and no longer had the time to visit Shark Lagoon. Next time for sure!
Kimaboe Hill and Love Bay
Located next to Nirwana Resort. You can climb to Kimaboe Hill for amazing view of the bay. Unfortunately it was raining like crazy when we visited so we didn’t get great visuals.
It’s a small island with a fishing village and population of about 500 people. If you choose to travel on a budget, your homestay will be located here.
Here you can visit a lighthouse (you can no longer climb it though) and a very cool swimming pool in a cave.
According to instagram of Kelas Vakansi there is now a lake filled with stingless jellyfish you can swim in. It was discovered recently, so we didn’t get a chance to visit it. But hopefully next time!
Goa Allo & Goa Berlian
Two really cool caves you will visit in Sombori.
Pantai Air Kiri
It’s a beautiful lagoon with tall limestone cliffs around.
The most picturesque spot of the area. This very picture made us want to visit Labengki & Sombori.
What to bring to Labengki
- Power bank- the electricity only runs at night. You’ll need a power bank to charge your phones and camera during the day.
- Dry bag- since you will spend most days on the boat you need to make sure all your gear stays dry.
- Spf cream- otherwise the strong sun will burn you to a crisp.
- Hat- same reason as above.
- Mosquito repellent- mosquitos are active during the evenings and nights.
- Wet wipes- a much needed refreshment since the shower isn’t available.
- Camera- to capture the beautiful scenery.
- Drone- even if theoretically you need a permit to fly it, since there is literally nobody except you and your guide, you can fly without problems.
- Beach towels- there are bath towels in the huts, but you’ll need beach towels to take with you during the day trips.
- Waterproof shoes or havaianas- there are a few spots where you need to climb over the limestone rocks.
- Ear plugs- for the boat rides as the engine is very noisy!
- A book- this is a perfect place to lie in the hammock and read a new book.
↬ NOTE: Labengki and Sombori islands, as the rest of Indonesia are Muslim. Be respectful towards locals. Even if I had no issues being in a bikini most of the time, the guide asked me to cover up when we went to visit the local town.