Looking for a quick family getaway from Singapore, without the hassle of a plane ride? Try Nikoi Island, a magical, rustic, natural paradise for a super relaxing break and to get back to nature with the kids.
As an island city-state with five million people, Singapore is a bustling urban hub. Getting back to nature can be a bit of a challenge, and although we love the Botanic Gardens and the beachy lifestyle of Sentosa, sometimes you just want to lose access to technology and enjoy the simpler things in life. Enter Nikoi Private Island. An oasis off the coast of Bintan, Indonesia, this villa-only resort has all the creature comforts you need without the fuss.
Screens are not recommended (or necessary). The kids club is a dream of wooden play equipment, a pirate ship and climbing frames, including bespoke hand-made toys for the kids to really get into the Robinson Crusoe spirit during their stay. The food is delicious, nutritious, and fuss-free. There is no menu. Just a simple chalkboard displaying the dishes that will be served for that meal. Activities are water or sporting based, designed to get you moving and exploring. There are plenty of poolside sun chairs to recline on and a rustic spa to visit if relaxation is more your vibe. Sound like heaven? Here’s our experience (and our travel tips!) to enjoy this little slice of paradise…
Psst… Want to learn more about Nikoi Island as a sustainable business and the challenges that came with building a luxury resort on a remote island in Indonesia? Our Honeycombers Founder, Chris Edwards, sat down with hotelier Andrew Dixon to talk all things Nikoi Island on the brand new Good Business podcast! Listen now
Nikoi Private Island with kids: How to get there, what to pack, and things to do
1. How to get to Nikoi Private Island
The big drawcard of a visit to Nikoi is that there are no aeroplanes involved. Cutting out the airport and all the drama that goes with it is music to this toddler parent’s ears! Instead, this island getaway means taking a ferry (we used Bintan Resort Ferries) from Tanah Merah ferry terminal to Bintan, where a private car from the resort will meet you and take you on a one-hour journey across the island.
Our little one fell asleep during this part of the journey, which was a blessing, however, the drive was an eye-opening experience for the rest of the family to see the local people living their daily lives from our car window. There are farm animals to count, and when we neared the coast, the kids loved seeing the fishing boats cruising around the bay.
The car pulls into the speedboat jetty, where you are offered a refreshing drink and towels, and a bathroom break! Then it’s the most exciting part – a fifteen-minute speedboat ride across the bay to Nikoi Island, where you are greeted with smiles and escorted to the main clubhouse.
Note on travel costs: You pay for your own ferry tickets from Singapore to Bintan via Bintan Resort Ferries. Check with the Nikoi Island team about which ferry times are best to take for your visit in order to reduce transfer fees. Transfer fees are paid per person when you book your accommodation directly through the Nikoi Island website.
2. What to pack (and what to leave behind) for a trip to Nikoi Island
A visit to Nikoi Private Island is a chance to unwind, disconnect from technology, and reconnect with your family. Our first piece of packing advice would be to leave the screens at home. If you must have your devices on hand, there is wifi available (a little sketchy at the outermost villas, but fairly reliable in the main clubhouse). Pack enough clothes for at least one outfit per person per day – there are limited clothes-washing facilities, and as a nature-based holiday, it’s a guarantee that the kids will get dirty! Flip flops, reef shoes and sneakers are a good idea (for hikes and tennis), but formal clothes and shoes won’t be needed. The vibe of the whole resort is casual.
Some essentials outside the usual tropical packing list that we would recommend:
- Bug spray
- A basic first aid kit, including both adults’ and kids’ Panadol and Ibuprofen
- Playing cards/family board games (there are some well-loved games available from the clubhouse, but we packed our own Bananagrams and cards)
- Simple colouring books/water wow for meal times
- Face masks (you need these when coming through Indonesia immigration)
- Binoculars and a torch for nature spotting
- Your own reusable water bottles to refill and keep with you
- Reef shoes/flip flops/sneakers
- Enough clothes for one outfit per person per day
- Snacks for the kids, as there are limited food options available between meals
- A bottle of wine per adult to enjoy with a meal at the restaurants ($25 per bottle corkage is payable, maximum 1 litre of alcohol allowed per adult)
3. Which villa?
All of the villas on Nikoi Island are made of repurposed wood and are largely open to the elements. Facing the ocean, they are mostly unfenced, with pathways through to the beach. The private pool villas (numbers 18, 19, 20) are perfect for a stay with older kids. The saltwater infinity pool has a view of the ocean dotted by coconut trees, which add privacy. There are several daybeds and sun loungers, perfect for quiet family bonding as you all have space to relax, chat and read, and just be together.
Things to note on the accommodation:
- The pool isn’t fenced, but you can request one to be set up if you have younger kiddos
- The tide goes out and reveals the rocky shoreline – still beautiful, but not the quintessential ocean view you might expect
- The sea can be loud! Personally, we loved it, drifting off to sleep with the sound of the sea. But if you need silence to sleep, bring earplugs.
Some of the family villas have bunk rooms downstairs, while the master bed and bathroom are upstairs. Older kids will love this adventure, but ours were scaredy cats. Luckily the daybeds in the master area convert to little sleeping nooks for the kids, complete with mozzie nets that had our little one feeling like a fairy princess. Just be prepared that you may have everyone sleeping in one room if you have young kiddos!
Pssst… At the time of booking, see if you can request a villa close to the main club house if you have young kids and don’t want to walk too far in the dark after dinner – see more on this below!
4. The food is sublime, and there’s no meal planning needed!
The main dining area is set up as a long communal table, with your toes in the sand. There are chalkboards showing the day’s menu, which is derived from fresh seasonal produce, a lot of which comes from Nikoi’s own farm. There is no choice, it’s what the chef decides, and everything we tasted was delicious. Indonesian favourites sprinkled with a hint of Western. We had fish and chips, chicken Ayam, steamed and spicy green curry fish (delicious – this was our fave). Kids loved pasta night (of course).
The best bit about dinner is that you can do it in shifts. Kids eat first, from 6-7 pm, while the adults sit with them and enjoy a cocktail and family dinner chat. Then ‘Yogi’ or another kids club leader will give a shout, and we all head down to the beach for a bonfire and roasting marshmallows on long sticks, lit by the light of the moon and a million stars. This never gets old, it was so special every evening.
After the bonfire, the kids head to the kids club, where they all choose a beanbag and watch a movie on the big screen. The adults head back to the restaurant for a candlelit date night dinner! If the little ones fall asleep, the team will literally carry your sleeping child back to your table. Impressive service!
This is where the importance of the choice of villa kicks in – carrying a sleeping kiddo down a long, very dark path can be a tad exhausting, so one close to the main dining area might be a better choice. There is no transport from one end of the island to the other (no carts or bikes, just your own two legs!). Although we did hitch a ride in a delivery trolley one night from some kind staff, who took pity on our three sleepy kids!
5. Activities galore that the whole fam will enjoy
There is so much to do on Nikoi, and you can choose to do as much or as little as you like! The kids club is next level and based around having fun in nature. You can kayak, go sailing, snorkel, scuba dive, jetty jump, hunt for hermit crabs, hike, fish, swim, do yoga, enjoy a spa session, or play tennis! There is no shortage of activities, and even when it rains, finding time for a quiet family board game or reading a book while the breeze ruffles your hair from your sun lounger on your deck makes for many a relaxing and magical moment.
Check out a reel of our adventures over on Instagram!
Keen to book your stay? Head to nikoi.com.