Most visitors to the islands are immediately seduced by the relaxed atmosphere and the most activity they are likely to muster is a stroll from room to sea and back. For those willing to tear themselves away from the beach, the main island offers swimming, snorkelling, hiking and birdwatching.
Biking around the main island of Pulau Karimunjawa by scooter is a popular pastime, with stops possible at various beauty spots along the way. The mountainous terrain doesn't lend itself to first-time bikers, although many give it a go regardless; rental prices are generally 75,000Rp per day.
The most popular activity from the main island of Pulau Karimunjawa is island hopping, which involves a half- or whole-day boat trip with opportunities to swim, snorkel on the reef and land on one or two nearby deserted tropical islands. The uninhabited islands of Menjangan Besar and Menjangan Kecil both have magnificent sweeping white sands and offshore snorkelling, and are within easy reach of Pulau Karimunjawa.
Further out, Pulau Menyawakan is the site of Karimunjawa’s only major resort. Pulau Nyamuk, Pulau Parang, Pulau Bengkoang and Pulau Genting are all home to small, traditional communities, but island-hopping excursions seldom visit any of these islands unless expressly chartered to do so.
Chartering a boat costs 1,500,000Rp for a half day for two people or 1,700,000Rp for a full day. Hotel owners often ring round to muster a group, saving costs for their guests. For a place in a boat (maximum 15 people), it costs 175,000Rp for a half day or 225,000Rp for a full day.
As a marine park, many parts of Karimunjawa – including Pulau Burung and Pulau Geleang – are officially off limits (although this protected status is unfortunately not always strictly enforced). It helps if visitors respect the off-limits zone to minimise the negative impact of increased tourism.
Swimming & Snorkelling
It's not necessary to put out to sea to enjoy the crystal-clear water surrounding Palau Karimunjawa: two excellent beaches with snorkelling opportunities lie just a 7km ride by motor scooter from the island's main town.
There's a modest fee for parking at these sandy beaches – Batu Topeng and Pantai Tanjung Gelam – which helps to keep them clean of litter that washes up. A handful of warungs and bars, set up beneath the coconut trees, collect an assembly of like-minded souls at sunset.
Hiking & Birdwatching
While it's hard to pull yourself away from the shore, park rangers can help organise a hike up Pulau Karimunjawa’s 600m peak, Gunung Gendero, and guesthouses can usually arrange this on behalf of their guests.
On the north coast of the island there's a circuit of wooden walkways, which allow an exploration of the extensive mangroves that fringe Pulau Karimunjawa (just mind the rotten slats!). At dawn and dusk it's a haven for birds and there's a multi-tiered hide on the edge of the grove for excellent birdwatching.