Is Bintan the New Bali?

Bintan’s known as an easy weekend getaway but is often labeled a poor cousin of Thailand or the better known Indonesian islands. That just might be changing though with a slew of fresh and revamped resorts being launched as well as the new Bintan Resorts International Airport opening mid-2015. The island’s a smart bet for hoteliers. “Bintan’s an easy escape for those based in Singapore, as it’s so close to the country. It is also an ideal additional spot for the more than 13 million visitors who come to Singapore each year,” says Mark Edleson, president of Alila Hotels and Resorts. “It has lovely beaches and forests; with the new international airport, it’s experiencing a new building cycle.” Here, we’ve sized up the most exciting new entries driving the change.

Bintan Lagoon Resort (Revamped October 2012)

The buzz: Recently refurbished, the place now has its own private ferry terminal offering a direct 75-minute ride from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, Singapore.

The facilities: There’s Taman Sari Spa and dining options like clubby seaside joint Rice, international coffeehouse Kopi-O and Japanese restaurant Miyako. Two golf courses (the Woodlands and Sea View Course), snorkeling gear and banana boats as well as ATV vehicles ensure there’s never a dull moment.

The details: The resort has 473 deluxe rooms, villas and suites, many boasting pretty views of South China Sea.

Perfect for: A quickie visit. None of Bintan’s resorts is that remote but this joint’s extra convenient with its on-site ferry terminal.

Banyan Tree Bintan (Relaunches March 2013)

The buzz: Award-winning homegrown hospitality brand Banyan Tree is overhauling one of its earliest resorts, which originally opened back in 1995.

The facilities: Two pools (one by the beach and the other elevated on rocks), an 18-hole championship golf course, spa and marine center for water sports. There’s also a conservation lab—helmed by an environmental naturalist and two wildlife rangers—which offers nature walks and bird-watching.

The details: Situated on Tanjong Said beach, the getaway’s 64 hilltop villas are raised on stilts—strategically positioned to avoid sacrificing natural greenery—and offer clear views of the bay. After the renovation, each villa will also have its own private relaxation pool.

Perfect for: Eco-warriors who’ll appreciate the resort’s effort to conserve plant and marine life.

The Sanchaya (Opening June 2013)

The buzz: A new member of boutique hotel group Secret Retreats (read our interview with the group’s managing director Stéphane Junca), this getaway—with private villas and only a handful of rooms—is no typical Bintan mega project, but an intimate escape.

The facilities: Expect a 50 meter infinity pool and on-premise antique boutique Piece of a Collection. There’s also an all-day dining restaurant, casual eatery which dishes out Southeast Asian food and the Library & Bar for a smart combination of international titles and bespoke

drinks. The food rivals anything found at more famous Indonesian retreats. Michael B. Gaehler, estate manager at The Sanchaya, says, “Bali may be famous for Tanjung Pinang food but we also have those dishes and you don’t have to travel so far. We’re careful to provide authentic flavors from ASEAN and even carry cheese from the Philippines and Myanmar.”

The details: This resort has 19 villas (one-, two- and three-room options) and nine suites outfitted with super king-sized beds, private verandas plus high-tech details like Bang & Olufsen televisions and iPads.

Perfect for: Exclusivity junkies. It’s so secluded you won’t have to worry about mixing with the plebs.

Alila Villas Bintan (Opening 2014)

The buzz: This fresh property is part of Alila Hotels and Resorts, which is already known for their ultra-luxe retreats in Bali, Jakarta, India and Cambodia.

The facilities: Included in the development is a four-hectare hilltop lifestyle center called The Village. It encompasses a museum, art gallery, spa, boutiques, fine dining establishments, the Alila Cooking School and an organic farm where guests can try their hand at farming.

The details: An expansive 14.4-hectare gated development at Lagoi Bay, this resort will comprise 12 beachfront residences and 52 one- and two-bedroom guest villas.

Perfect for: Hands-on types who’ll head to The Village for its arts, shopping, dining and cooking facilities.

Grand Lagoi (Opening 2014)

The buzz: Construction on this latest project by the Swiss-Belhotel International group (a big name in

Indonesia with properties in 20 cities nationwide) started in March. It’s the first condotel (aka condo cum hotel) in Bintan, meaning that buyers can rent out their vacation homes as they would any hotel room.

The facilities: The five-floor building includes a rooftop pool, spa, gym and plenty of meeting space.

The details: With 196 rooms, the hotel features six grades of accommodation ranging from a 37.2 sq. m. deluxe room to a 112.9 sq. m. presidential suite.

Perfect for: Any regular visitor to Bintan looking for a way to earn some extra cash. 

The Alternative…

If Bintan’s not your bag, try another Indonesian island, Batam. Linked directly to Singapore via the Nongsapura Ferry Terminal, Montigo Resorts Nongsa—opened July 2012— is only an hour away. The Mediterraneanstyled hotel is set on a private beach along the Indonesian island’s northeastern coast. It has 88 villas, each with a private plunge pool, alfresco dining area and sky terrace. A spa specializing in Javanese and Balinese treatments rounds out the pampering options.