"The Mentawai Islands remain the benchmark for what a surf trip should be. Home to the likes of Rifles, Kandui, Greenbush & Macaronis its not hard to see why..."
In the Northern region of the Mentawai Islands you will find one of the most wave dense areas on earth.
Playgrounds is the true heart of the Mentawai Islands thanks to more than 20 quality surf breaks within a 40 minute radius. Primarily suited for Intermediate to advanced surfers, those that make the pilgrimage can enjoy some of the planets best waves including Rifles, Kandui and E-bay.
Known as Playgrounds (aka WavePark), the largest islands in this surf rich area are Nyang Nyang and Siberut and are home to a growing number of surf camps. Surfers can best reach this remote corner of Sumatra by taking the Mentawai Fast Ferry that departs Padang every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The crossing takes around 3-4 hours.
Those opting to take a Charter Boat to explore the whole of the Mentawai can usually expect to spend at least 2 or 3 days in the area.
About 1.5 hrs by speedboat, to the South of "Playgrounds", you will find the surf region of North Sipora.
This surfing area offers around 9 waves that are within 5-20 minutes of each other, with the majority being left hander's. Best suited for intermediate surfers, a family or those simply looking for the least crowded waves in the Mentawai Islands. The region can cater for beginners, which is a rarity in Sumatra.
It takes about 2 hrs by speedboat to travel the full length of the island to reach South Sipora.
Here you will find 3 of the Mentawai Islands best waves, Lances Left, Lances Right (HT's) & Bintangs as well as a number of other well kept secrets. The region is known for its consistency as well as having off shore options in nearly all wind conditions.
For those wanting to experience this part of the Mentawai, take the Fast Ferry departing Padang every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The crossing takes 3-4 hours before arriving into Tua Pejat, the Mentawai Islands capital. Guests will then need to take a speedboat to reach the southern part of the island.
For those looking to surf even more waves, guests also have the option of taking a speedboat & staying at Macaronis Resort, which is only a few hours away
In the Southern region of the Mentawai Islands are the islands of North & South Pagai
North Pagai is home to one of Indonesia's best waves, Macaronis. Its been described as the planets funnest wave and breaks with jaw dropping consistency. Primarily suited for Intermediate to advanced surfers, this region is home to several other quality waves including Green Bush. It's also one of the few regions that are suitable for beginners, thanks to the wave known as Fish Fingers, that breaks on the inside bay at Macaronis.
Guests looking to stay at Macaronis Resort can reach this remote corner of Sumatra by taking the Mentawai Fast Ferry that operates a return trip, from Padang, each Friday. The crossing takes around 4 hours, before guests will need to take a further 1 hr speed ride to the resort.
Those opting to take a Charter Boat to explore the whole of the Mentawais can usually expect to spend a day or two at Macaronis as well as Green Bush and many other waves located in this relatively quiet corner of Sumatra.
For all trips to the Mentawai Islands, guests will need to fly into Padang Airport (Minangkabau International Airport, aka "PDG"), West Sumatra.
Flights to Padang are typically via 1) Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), 2) Jakarta (Indonesia) or 3) Batam (Indonesia). From Kuala Lumpur, there is usually 1 or 2 morning flights (1hr) with Air Asia to Padang. From Jakarta, there are over a dozen flights each day that fly into Padang, from airlines such as Garuda Airlines (always recommended), Sriwijaya, Citilink & Lion Air. The third option is to fly into Singapore and then take the ferry across to Batam (Indonesia). From Batam there is usually at least 1 flight each day (1hr) to Padang. This route is the least popular flight compared to KL and Jakarta.
It's almost certain you'll need to spend 1 night in Padang at the start & end of the trip before taking the Fast Ferry to Siberut, Tua Pejat or Sikakap (depending on which surf camp you're staying at). That said there are plenty of comfortable and affordable hotels available that are also close to the Fast Ferry port. Its worth noting that surf charter trips typically don't require an over night stay in Padang.
So how do you decide between a surf camp and a surf charter boat for your next trip to the Mentawai Islands? It’s certainly a big decision for most of us. No doubt, both are amazing experiences but as a general rule of thumb a Mentawai Surf Charter is more ideal for groups of 5-14 who consist of experienced surfers of similar ability. And if you’re a pretty laid-back group that froth at the thought of being cooped up on a boat with your best buddies, then it should be a done deal.
In reality though, for most of us, a surf camp / resort will be a better option. If you’re a small group (1-4 surfers) or traveling with a family, or if your group have mixed abilities (including non-surfers) – then we’d always recommend choosing a surf camp ahead of a charter boat.
For a full write up including all the pros and cons of both surf camps and charter boats, check out our detailed blog: charter boat vs land camp
Quite simply because there is no other place on the planet like the Mentawais. It ticks just about every box for every surfer. Much like the rest of Indonesia it also boasts a tropical climate, crystal clear water, groomed and consistent surf all year round with waves for all levels. But what sets it apart from other regions is the shear number of waves available, especially when taking a boat trip. From the Playgrounds region in the North Mentawai, to the Hole in the Southern Mentawai, which spans around 200 km’s (as the crow flies) – visiting surfers can access around 100 waves. That’s pretty staggering when you think about it. The most wave dense region is Playgrounds which offers more than 20 waves, all accessible within less than 20 km by speedboat.
The main season runs from April until October with the prime months being May to September. This is when the surf is at it’s most consistent with head high to double over head waves on offer most days. Its not surprising that this is also the busiest time to visit. If you’re looking for smaller & less busy waves, then head over on the low season November to March. Around this time its also possible to surf shoulder to head high waves on most days although the number of surf spots that are working are drastically reduced. That said, there are no where near the amount of surfers visiting so it’s certainly a fun time to visit, especially for those looking for less consequential waves.
Nearly all of the surf camps and surf charters offer a photography service but always check with us first. Some resorts like Kandui Resort have full time staff taking both photos and vide of just about every wave. As a ball park guide, expect to pay around USD 200-300 for a 10 day trip for a photo package.
Yes and no! If you’re staying aboard a surf charter boat, then absolutely. You can surf from dawn til dusk. If you’re staying at a surf camp, then if you have a wave out the front, then you can surf it anytime. However, if the camp/resort doesn’t have a wave “out the front”, there can be an issue waiting to go surfing, when others aren't ready to go out on the speedboat. This can of course be due to other guests, but it can also be the camps staff too (Indonesian's are typically way more laid back than frothing guests!). It's fair to say though, that Western managed camps are usually on top of these types of situations, especially compared to the more locally run land camps. For a full breakdown of surf camps with waves out the front – check out our definitive guide to Mentawai surf camps.
Technically it’s possible if you’re taking a surf charter trip although it’s not always possible due to wind and swell limitations. Most charter boat trips do visit all the main surf areas throughout the Mentawai and include stops at HT (Lances Right), Lances left, Macaronis, Green Bush, Kandui left, Rifles etc. However, when staying at a land camp, guests will typically surf the local waves. Resorts like Kandui Resort that are in the Playgrounds surf zone still have access to around 20 waves and those staying in Katiet in front of HT’s will only have 4-5 waves to surf. Although when you have Lances right and lances left to choose from you arguably don’t need any other waves!
Most camps can arrange surfboards for you when you give them enough notice as they will often source them from Padang. Many surf resorts have their own mix of boards for rent and some have linked up with a manufacturer & can offer a legitimate quiver. For example, Macaronis Resort has a stock of fire wire surfboards and HT’s Resort offers a full range of Channel Islands. Contact us for further details.
Although the Mentawai islands are best suited for more advanced surfers, there are a handful of suitable options for beginners that are keen to surf in the area. The best beginner spots include Fish Fingers at Macaronis Resort, Tikus which is next to Aloita Resort and lastly an unamed beginner wave in front of Awera Resort. Each of these surf resorts offer beginner surfboard rental and lesson packages.
Absolutely. But it’s certainly good to understand what an intermediate surfer is! There’s sometimes a grey line between a beginner-intermediate and a fully fledged intermediate. To make it a little clearer, a “beginner-intermediate surfer” can catch waves regularly, trimming left & right but without performing many turns. Whereas an “intermediate surfer” will rarely miss catching a wave & will complete most waves from start to finish. Surfers will perform basic turns such as a cut-back, re-entry and floater. But ultimately, the better the surfer, the more suited a trip to the Mentawais will be. And for those who are on the fence, we typically advise to visit from November to March when the surf is much more manageable and typically around head high. Although it’s worth noting that there are more right handers breaking at that time of year with the exception of Macaronis left.
It all depends on the time of year and the surf spot. If Rifles is breaking in the main season, there could be as many as 60 guys out! Hard to imagine. But it breaks so infrequently that all the charter boats will be looking for an opportunity to time their trips with a session there. So when it’s on, there are usually a lot of crew around. That said, if you’re a decent surfer, and really want the waves, you’ll still get waves. Rifles is more of an exception to the rule in terms of crowds though. Some of the more popular waves like HT’s and Macaronis might have 20 guys out on a high season day with a decent swell. But again, if you really want the waves, you’ll always get the opportunity to pick off some of the best waves of your life. On average, expect a dozen or so guys out at any given surf break although there will always be windows of opportunity to score with just a handful of surfers, especially super early, around lunchtime and then just before dark. For those looking for the least crowded waves, visit in the low season from November to March.
If you choose the right resort, it can be an amazing place to bring your family. Our top picks include Awera Resort, Aloita Resort, Macaronis Resort and Kandui Villas. These offer a mix of activities including swimming pools, SUP’s, Kayak’s, snorkeling, yoga classes and surf lessons. They also have private bungalows and of course direct beach access.
There are usually child-minding services at the higher end resorts. Please contact us for more details.
The higher end surf resorts typically have more facilities including Awera Resort, Aloita Resort, Macaronis Resort and Kandui Villas. However, it depends on what the non-surfer is looking for during their trip. If a good book and a hammock as well as a nice beach to hang out on, then there are plenty of other options too such as Mentawai Surf Retreat & Driftwood Mentawai.
The local climate is tropical, hot and humid with temperatures ranging from 70f – 90f (21c – 32c). The water temperature is around 80f (27c) all year. The dry season is typically from February to September with the wet season between October – January. However, throughout the year, you expect regular rainfall in short intervals – that can be heavy at times. Winds remain variable throughout most of the year but occasionally go through periods of unsettled stormy cycles (known locally as Badai’s). Being located just a stone’s throw from the equator, the entire region does not have the same easterly trade winds as the rest of Indonesia but instead experience light and variable winds all year.
There’s no question that surfing remains the focus for 95% of visiting tourists to the area. However, for those looking for other experiences, there are a handful of other things to do, in case you’re bringing a non-surfing partner or traveling with the family. The more standard to intermediate resorts will rarely be able to offer much more than a hammock, a good book & WiFi (aside from snorkeling), but the more high-end camps certainly have more to offer. Yoga classes are offered by a handful of resorts as well as SUP rental, pool tables, ping pong tables, surf lessons and snorkeling gear etc. A number of resorts also have swimming pools and some even have air-conditioned gyms! As a rule of thumb, the more expensive the resort, the more facilities they’ll have!
The fishing can be incredible throughout the Mentawai. For many, especially those on charter boats. fishing is the most popular activity after surfing. Some of the fish you can regularly encounter include Spanish Mackerel, Tuna, Wahoo and Barracuda. More exotic species such as Sailfish and Marlin have been caught trolling in the Sipora channel. Other fish that are commonly caught are Golden Trevally and Coral Trout. All the charter boats offer trolling rigs for their guests to use as well as spinning rods. Of course, all guests are more than welcome to bring their own gear. Nearly all the surf camps will have some fishing gear available too, but reach out if you’d like more specific information. It’s worth noting that spearfishing is allowed in certain areas for free divers only.
Most Western operated surf camps will charge somewhere between USD 120 and USD 3000 per person / day. Packages typically include accommodation, meals and daily surf trips to the waves. Extras such as transfers (Padang-Resort), surf tax, photos and beers are typically not included. Most trips are around 10-14 days with any average cost of USD 2,500 per person, with a range of USD 1500 to USD 4000 per person depending on the trip duration and which resort/camp you choose. These prices do not include flights which will set you back anywhere from USD 500 to USD 1500 per person (return), depending on where you’re flying from.
Absolutely! Just let us know your trip dates and we’ll always be happy add a nice discount.
Although much of your trip will be pre-paid, it’s always good to have cash (in Indonesian Rupiah) for souvenirs, photos, massages, Wi-Fi, surf tax, fast ferry fees and beers. Even if you don’t plan on spending money on any of these “extras”, it’s always good to have a little cash for emergencies. Some of the extra costs can often be paid for by credit card as well but nearly always you’ll need some Indo rupiah (IDR). It’ll just depend on the camp/resort you’re staying with. If you’re traveling with USD or AUD, these currencies can sometimes be used as well, but not always. And it’s certainly not as easy to change money compared to somewhere like Bali. Simply with drawing Indonesian Rupiah from an ATM in Padang is the easiest way to travel with cash. And always make sure you have a few hundred dollars’ worth of IDR with you.
Bank Transfer (“EFT”): No fees incurred. One payment per group. Credit Card payments are accepted with a 2.9% fee.
Enquire as to your preferred surf camp or charter boat, dates, group size, ages and the number of surfers. Once availability is confirmed, an invoice will be emailed. Typically, a 30% deposit (of the total balance) is required to secure your trip. Final balance is due no later than 60 days before your arrival.
Guests will need to fly into Padang Airport (PDG), in West Sumatra. Flights to Padang are usually via Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Jakarta (Indonesia) or Batam (Indonesia). Although a route from Singapore (SIN) direct to Padang is another option, it’s much less reliable compared to the other options.
From Kuala Lumpur, there is usually 1 or 2 flights (1hr duration) flying with Air Asia to Padang. From Jakarta, there are certainly more flights from airlines such as Garuda Airlines (always recommended), Sriwijaya, Citilink & Lion Air. The third option & least popular route is to fly into Singapore and fly direct to Padang or alternatively take the ferry across to Batam (Indonesia). From Batam there is usually 1 flight each day (1hr duration) to Padang.
If you’re taking a Mentawai surf charter, then typically you won’t be required to spend the night in Padang. However, for those staying at a surf camp, expect to spend 1 night in Padang at the start as well as at the end of your trip, although there are 1 or 2 exceptions to this rule. That said there are plenty of comfortable and affordable hotels available that are close to the Fast Ferry port. We recommend D’Oxville Hotel & The Mercure.
Although Surf Camp Sumatra doesn’t book guest flights, we can always check routes for you as part of our service. Feel free to ask us anytime! As a general rule, we recommend using Skyscanner.com for international flights (to Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur) and then for domestic flights to Padang we typically recommend Traveloka, nusa trip or going direct to the airlines. Always fly with Garuda Airlines when possible. This is the only airline that offers free surfboard carriage and by far the best track record with delays and cancellations. Lion Air and Sriwijaya are the least reliable.
You might find that domestic carriers do not accept some foreign credit cards for purchasing tickets directly through their websites. If you have any trouble booking flights with international credit cards, look for tickets on www.nusatrip.com or other online travel agent such as expedia.com or www.traveloka.com
For a domestic flight booking agent, we recommend contacting Rudi Khelces at Email: [email protected] who is a reliable, English speaking travel agent in Padang.
International: We recommend Emirates coming from East Coast USA (JFK) and Europe, and Singapore Airlines coming from Los Angeles (LAX). From Australia Garuda is one of the best airlines, but there are plenty of options. It’s worth noting that Emirates, Garuda and Singapore Airlines include Surfboards as check in baggage.
Garuda: Surfboards fly free on Garuda Airlines!
Air Asia: Sports equipment (including surfboard bags) are charged by weight (KG) and can be paid for at the time of booking. Be sure to pay extra online to account for extra weight, as you’ll be charged 4x the online rate when you’re at the check-in counter!
Lion Air: One surfboard is free per person as long as it is within your baggage limit. Check their website for latest details.
Legally you’re allowed to bring 3 surfboards into Indonesia with you without paying any additional costs. This is often overlooked but it’s worth being aware of. Also note that airlines will charge a certain amount depending on how much weight you’re bringing with you. For those staying at a land camp, Mentawai Fast Ferry charges Rp.230.000 (approx. AUD 23.00 / USD 15) “per board bag”. It’s worth noting that this is sometimes not covered in your round-trip transfer cost, especially when staying at some of the more affordable options (check with us to be sure!)
Although we don’t book hotels for our guests, it’s very easy to find a comfortable and affordable hotel in Padang. Nearly all of them are only 5-10 mins taxi ride to the fast ferry port, including D’Oxville Hotel which is our recommended choice. The Mercure is also a very reputable option but is slightly further away from the main hotel district, although still less than 15 min from the port and remains the number one choice for many of the resort’s guests. A good starting place is booking.com which not only offers clear pricing & availability but it also offers reviews and a dynamic map to help you get an idea of where everything is in Padang. Its also worth noting that Padang isn’t much of a tourist hot spot, & so guests tend to spend the majority of their stay at their hotel, rather than explore the city. In reality, there’s not a huge amount to explore!
The Mentawai Fast Ferry is extremely reliable. It’s rare that it’s cancelled except for just a few days a year. If a large swell combined with a storm cycle occurs, there can be delays. But typically, the crossing is only delayed, rather than cancelled. Most crossings take around 3-4hrs to reach the Mentawais, although it can take longer when strong winds combine with a large swell. Travel Insurance is a must though, as bad weather does sometimes occur causing travel delays, which you can be compensated for when receiving a letter from us and the ferry operator, to submit a claim to your travel insurance company.
We no longer recommend taking the overnight ferry as it can be unreliable, especially in the high season when the swells are bigger. Sleeping cabins are also limited.
As a rule of thumb, bring all your gear with you. There are 2 surf shops in Padang but their stock is limited and unreliable.
Check out our before you go page!
In Indonesia the power plugs (2 round pins) and sockets are of type C and F.
Type C: also known as the standard "Euro" plug. This socket also works with plug E and plug F.
Type F: also known as "Schuko". This socket also works with plug C and plug E.
Check out: https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/indonesia/
Emergency evacuation to Padang can be arranged by speedboat (weather permitting), or by police helicopter (if available – must be arranged by travel insurance company).
Emergency evacuation is not included with guest reservations. All guests must have medical evacuation insurance coverage with their policy provider. All guests agree to bring along travel insurance policy information when agreeing to the Terms and Conditions of Booking.