Mentawai Islands – The Complete Guide To Surfing In Paradise
The Mentawai Islands are one of the most stunning parts of the world I’ve ever visited – with more palm trees than you could ever imagine!
The combination of remote, tropical islands, warm clear waters and pumping world class waves make it a dream surf destination and it’s home to some of the best surf spots in the world.
So if you’re planning on ticking it off your surfing bucket list here’s everything you need to know about the Mentawai Islands – from how to get there, the best surf spots and the best Mentawai surf camps…
Mentawai Islands – The Complete Guide
Where Are The Mentawai Islands?
The Mentawai Islands are situated off the coast of West Sumatra in Indonesia. Geographically it’s in the Northern part of Indo, almost in line with Singapore. The islands themselves are situated around 150km off the coast and are made up of around 70 individual islands – most of which are uninhabited.
Do You Need A Visa?
The Mentawais are part of Indonesia so the same visa rules apply as if you were surfing in Bali. For most nationalities this is now a free 30 day visa on arrival, but you can also pay 500,000IDR (in local currency, cash at the airport) for an extendable visa which can be extended to 60 days at the embassy.
If you’re flying in from elsewhere in Indo (like Bali) you’ll be on the same visa so make sure you don’t overstay!
How Do You Get To The Mentawai Islands?
So how do you get to the Mentawai Islands? It might seem like a bit of a mission the start off with but having done the trip myself it’s actually not that bad!
1. Flying To Padang
First off you’ll need to get to Padang (airport code PDG), which is the nearest major city to the islands – and the easiest way is to fly.
If you’re already in Indonesia, most likely Bali if you’re heading this way for waves, there are a variety of internal flights that wont set you back too much.
My Bali to Padang flight went via Jakarta and cost me under
£250 return, including surfboards with Lion Air.
2019 Update: Lion Air no longer includes luggage and is now charging 200,000IDR ($20) per board, PER sector, payable at the airport.
This means if you do the Bali > Jakarta > Padang route you get charged 400k per board! On the upside you dont need to buy luggage allowance on top of this (so I stuffed everything in my board bag) and also just said I had one board so saved some cash there too. That being said I’ve heard sometimes they check.
An alternative (and now well worth weighing up the comfort and convenience) is with Garuda, which includes a 23kg luggage allowance + free surfboard – but the flights are a bit more pricey.
For those going internationally there are a few routing options.
From Australia you can fly into Kuala Lumpar or Singapore, grabbing a low cost airline from there down to Padang. Air Asia is a great example of this and on my last trip there my brother flew Gold Coast to Kuala Lumpur to Padang return with them for under $750AUD return.
Also if you get it on a single ticket Air Asia now has a free surfboard policy for flights to/from Australia of 15k – winning!
Another friend of mine opted to splash a little more cash and flew with Singapore Airlines to Singapore and then grabbed a separate ticket for the Singapore, Padang return. A little less fly time and a little more comfort.
Check out Skyscanner for a few options and be flexible with dates for the best deals.
2. Padang Airport To The City
From Padang airport you’ll then need to make your way into Padang city itself – usually the day before your ferry, but more about that in a mo!
An airport taxi will set you back around 200,000IDR (approx $20AUD), however some hotel like Hotel Savali (one that I personally recommend) include a free airport pickup, which is pretty awesome!
If your hotel or guest-house doesnt offer this service (or it isn’t included in your surf camp/surf charter package) hit up my driver Marta via Whats App on +62 821-7441-1171 – he charges 150,000IDR for an airport pickup/dropoff including transfers to/from the ferry port too!
3. Padang To The Mentawai Islands
From Padang you’ll head out to the islands on one of three options – the fast boat, the overnight ferry or speedboat.
Mentawai Fast Boat
The fast boat is a ferry which takes around 3-6 hours (depending on the day) and departs for Siberut – expect to pay around $22 one way + roughly the same for board bags (although this it tiered on weight and that’s up to 16kg).
Tuesday and Saturday departs Padang @ 7am, with a 6 hour journey
Thursday is departs Padang at 7am but only takes 3 hours as it goes direct
For the return journey it departs Siberut at 3pm on Tuesday and Saturday, arriving into Padang at 6:30pm – or on Thursday the 12pm departure arrives into Padang at 6:30pm too as it’s not direct.
With that in mind it’s always best to arrive and depart Padang a day before your booked trip.
The overnight boat in theory cuts out the night spent in Padang before heading to the islands and takes a while longer (10-11 11 hours!) and will set you back $110 for the twin room or $195 for the quad share. However the company running it isn’t the most reliable and the schedule can change with little warning and can even be cancelled last minute so beware.
Departs Padang @ 7am on Wednesday and Friday, arriving in Siberut around 7am the following morning
For the return from Siberut it departs @ 4pm on Thursday or 7pm on Saturday – both arriving into Padang the next morning around 7am.
If you’ve got a group of you or have a bit more cash to splash you can also charter a private speedboat transfer – but it will set you back $1500USD one way!
Most people opt for the fast boat option (as it’s the easiest with timings) and most Mentwai Surf camps offer transfers direct from here included in their package costs.
4. Siberut To Your Surf Camp/Charter
Once you arrive at Siberut (the gateway to the rest of the Mentawai Islands) it’s usually about a 1 hour local speedboat transfer to most of the main surf camps in the area.
Surf camps will usually include this transfer in your package (so they’ll meet you off your boat) and surf charter will either meet you there or in Padang too.
If you don’t have one included in your package or you’re staying at a homestay or local guest-house instead expect to shell out around $150-200 each way for a private transfer!
Where To Stay In Padang
Due to the ferry times the chances are you’re going to need to do a night pre and post Mentawais in the city of Padang. Luckily there’s a huge range of guesthouses and hotels to choose from – with everything from 5* hotel chains to quaint little gatehouses and even hostels.
A couple of my personal favourites and ones I’ve been recommended include;
Click on the links for the latest prices and availability
Mentawai Surf Tax
Where there’s tourism there’s always a way of trying to get even more money out of you and unfortunately Mentawais is no exception. At the end of 2016 the government introduced (and began to enforce) a Mentawais Surfer Tax.
The kicker here is it’s a pretty hefty 1,000,000IDR ($100!) per surfer and covers 15 days.
You pay for this in Padang before boarding the boat and get a wrist band as proof. I also recommend keeping hold of your receipt too.
I would love to say this is of huge benefit for the local community, but from what I’ve heard people in the Ments unfortunately don’t see the benefit of this extra tax – making it even more frustrating to hand over a solid wad of cash!
What’s Best Time To Visit The Mentawai Islands?
If you’re heading out to the Mentawai Islands for waves the main Mentawai surf season runs from March to October (much like the rest off Indonesia.
That being said there is surf all year round, but not quite as consistent or world class.
I actually headed there in early March (shoulder season) and loved it. Not only was the surf a bit more manageable, but there were less crowds and the surf camps had much better deals on too – so if you’re not a pro and want to get the most bang for your buck shoulder season would be my top tip!
Weather wise the surf season also coincides with dry season too – happy days. If you want to avoid wet season Jan and February have the highest rainfall.
The Best Surf Spots In The Mentawai Islands
The biggest draw of the Mentawai Islands has to be the world class surf – and it’s certainly a bucket list destination to anyway who wants to score pumping tropical waves!
1. Burger World
This super fun, long right hand point break is probably one of the most picturesque waves I’ve ever surfed! The takeoff spot offers up some fun little barrels with the inside section a lush running wall which is heaps of fun. This spot is s swell magnet so if everywhere else is small this is the best spot to head. Suitable for all levels.
2. Beng Bengs
My personal favourite this left hander breaks over a deep reef, so it has a great shape but is super forgiving. Great for all levels, including loggers and beginners you’ll have heaps of fun here and it can handle a huge range of swell.
A fun, draining left hander right in front of Beng Bengs Surf camp there are some fun barrel sections, finished off with a fast wall perfect for laying down some big hacks. When it’s working it reels and there’s an awesome look out spot right in front of it so get your buddy there with a camera!
4. Pit Stops
Just along from Ebays, Pitstops is a great wedge right hander that serves up some punch rides. What this break lacks in length of ride it makes up with in fun little barrels at the take off spot, followed by some cartable walls – and it breaks in a variety of conditions.
5. Bank Vaults
If you’re after draining barrels then Bank Vaults is the spot to head to. Handling some serious swell this spot isn’t for the faint hearted and if you mess up the section you’ll pay the price on the shallow reef – so for advanced surfers only!
6. Good Times
The left hand version of Burger World, Good Times does exactly what it says on the tin! Suitable for all levels of surfer this fun wave has a mellow takeoff and long walls to play with. When the swell picks up it’s a great spot for advanced surfers looking for some carving sections.
Breaking over a fast, shallow right hand reef NiPussi is a favourite in the area as it’s one of the most consistent breaks. It’s also pretty sheltered when a lot of other spots are onshore or being messed up by the wind.
This will probably be one of your new favourite waves on the planet – and Macaronias (aka Macas) produces some of the most fun left handers in the Ments with perfect waves reeling in most conditions.
A favourite with long boarders and those wanting a forgiving wave Playgrounds is as its name suggests, lots of fun! Great for those looking to progress or of a beginner to intermediate level but more advanced surfers will also love it here too on a bigger swell.
Also known as Kandui Right Riffles is another one of the more famous waves in the area due to it’s speed and size. It’s all about the barrels here and when it’s firing you’ll get some of the longer cover ups you could ever imagine. But due to this it can attract quite a crowd so wait your turn!
Surf Camp or Surf Charter?
Mentawai Surf Camp
If you’re looking for the most budget friendly way to explore the Mentawais then a land based surf camp is the way to go. For those who are really on a budget camps like Beng Bengs offer pretty affordable package deals (although dont expect cheap, it is the Mentawais after all!) with comfortable accommodation and wave son your doorstep.
For those wanting luxury the Mentawais has some of the most luxurious surf resorts on the planet with spots like Kandui Resort including everything from a pool to nanny service.
If you’re travelling with a non surfer or family this is also the best way to go as well.
Pros: Budget friendly, extra space, caters for mixed levels of surfer, great for families
Cons: tied to the camp boat schedule, cant access more remote surf spots
Mentawai Surf Charters
For those wanting the ultimate surf trip you don’t have to look much further than a Mentawai surf charter! Hit up some of the more remote breaks, wake up with waves just off the boat boat and be the first to paddle out at dawn in true surfer style.
But this kind of adventure also comes with a hefty price tag and there are quite a few boats covering a wide range of budgets – so check out your options before deciding!
Pros: hit the more remote surf spots, first to paddle out each day
Cons: more expensive, not as much personal space
Mentawai Surf Camps – Our Top Picks
There are plenty of Mentwai Surf Camps to choose from for all styles and budgets. They’re not all on the same island though – they’re spread across Masokut Island, southern Siberut Island and beyond – so if you’re wanting to surf certain breaks that might dictate which camp will be best for you!
That being said though most camps offers daily surf boats to a variety of spots, so it’s worth chatting with them beforehand.
Beng Bengs Surf Camp
This is where I personally stayed and I absolutely loved it! Run by two Italian surfers you’ll be well fed and taken care of. Hosting up to 16 surfers across two dorm rooms and two doubles it’s fully kitted out with A/C and hot showers and is right on the beach.
Slightly confusingly it’s not in front of Beng Beng surf spots, instead Ebays is right in front, with PitStops a short walk around the corner. They run 2 boats twice daily to surf spots, allowing them to cater for a variety of surf levels and find the best waves of the day for everyone at the camp.
Stay from: $669 (8 day stay, all inclusive)
A relatively new camp (it opened in late 2019) Driftwood Mentawais is where I headed for my second trip to the Ments. Situated just along beach from Beng Bengs Surf Camp and only 140m walk to Ebays this is a great option for those on a budget at from just 1.2million IDR per night.
This then includes your return speedboat from Siberut, 3 daily meals, unlimited tea/coffee/coconuts and of course daily surf boats out to the surrounding breaks.
Currently it sleeps just 6 (2 x twin rooms and 1 x double) so it’s also the perfect option for those wanting a smaller group vibe or even book the whole place out for a small group of friends surfing together!
Don’t expect hot water or A/C at those prices though, but an awesome budget friendly surf camp package!
Stay from: $120AUD Per Night (inc return speedboat, 3 meals a day and daily surf boats)
When it comes to surfing local knowledge goes a LONG way to scoring the best waves – and The Shadow is owned and operated by local surfers, so you can expect some truly expert and insider knowledge on the breaks from these guys!
The Shadow is actually based on it’s own private island – so its just 16 guests in tropical paradise! You would think that with the label of private island comes a premium price tag but at $150USD per night it’s not as out of reach as you might have thought. Especially when you consider that it includes everything you need – including return airport transfers and the fast ferry.
With a selection of A/C bungalows, mix of local and western cuisine and a selection of surf boats to take you to the best break for the conditions and your ability a stay at The Shadow will certainly have you scoring perfection!
Stay from: $150USD Per Night (all inclusive)
Located in front of Playgrounds this is a great base for those who want a super fun wave right on the doorstep and plenty of world class wave just a short boat ride away. This beautiful Mentawais surf resort offers all the luxuries you’d expect from a high end surf camp – including pool, spa, yoga classes, in house photographer and even a nanny service.
On elf the best rated surf camps not only in the Mentawais but also the world this is the place to head if you want the ultimate in surf luxury.
Stay from: $1,875 (8 day stay, all inclusive, low season)
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Wave Park Resort
Along with Kanduis this is also one of the more premier surf resorts in the Mentawais, with a small collection of waterfront bungalows hosting up to 12 surfers and their families – it even has its own music studio!
With gorgeous sunsets from the hammocks amongst the palms, access to 26 world class waves and luxury accommodation this is another one to consider if your budget can handle it.
Stay from: $1,600 (8 day stay, all inclusive, low season)
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As the name might suggest this surf camp is situated right in front of Pitstops – with Ebays just a short walk around the corner. This stunning set of 3 bungalows, sleeping a max of 10 surfers overlooks the break and is set amongst some beautiful grounds.
It’s the perfect place to book out for a group of buddies and head out to sample some of the best waves in the area with some great hospitality.
Stay from: $249 per night (discounts for larger group sizes)
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Slap in front of one of the funnest waves in the world Macaronis surf resort caters for up to 20 surfers and is another epic luxury option. With in room wifi, a choice of ocean, pool and lagoon views, bar, restaurant and spa it caters for those wanting some serious comfort alongside their days of surfing.
And if you want to stray away from the perfect left in front of your resort you can of course jump on one of the boats to sample even more of the best surf breaks the Mentawais has to offer.
Stay from: $1,170 (4 day stay, all inclusive, also nab 20% off all packages with their early bird specials!)
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With super fun left hander Alaias right in front of this luxury surf resort you can even check the surf from the pool! With a max of 10 surfers this another awesome little boutique Mentawai surf resort.
The whole thing is built on the corner of the island too, making it perfect for some incredible sunrises AND sunsets – there’s not many spots in the area that can boast that!
As you’d expect from the price tag luxe is the order of the day with in-house wifi, pool and the rooms are an awesome luxury take on the traditional Indonesia style.
Stay from: $??? (currently waiting to hear back about rates!)
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Mentawai Surf Charters – Our Top Picks
Sola Gracia (aka Mentawai Surf Co)
A firm luxury favourite the Sola Gracia – run by the crew of Mentawai Surf Co) is a well established and reviewed Mentawai surf charter – and one look at their Instagram feed shows they score every trip with their experienced crew and surf guides!
With 3 cabins catering for up to 11 surfers the Sola Gracia is a good small group vibe – and you can even private charter it, choosing from a surf trip to either the Mentawais, Telos or Banyaks.
The Sola Gracia is also well known for its awesome onboard photographers too – so if you want to score that perfect barrel shot their photo packages are well worth it for the bragging rights!
Stay: from $245USD per day (11 day charter)
A relatively new comer to the Mentawais (launching in 2019) the Maki Boat is nothing short of beautiful to look at and all 3 decks of this luxury surf charter have all the creatures comforts of home and you’ll be surfing in style!
With A/C throughout and the master suite offering 270 degree views across the lineup you’ll be totally spoilt on this recently refurbished vessel which was original a luxury dive charter Komodo.
With a max of 12 surfers it’s another great charter size and again offers private bookings as well – you can even opt to include a jetski for your in water pickups at extra cost too!
Get in quick to save up to $700 on their early bird spots as well – making it incredible value
Stay: from $318USD per day (11 day charter)
Ratu Motu Charters
If you want to go ALL out for your Mentawai surf charter then Ratu Motu Charters is what you need to be booking – the boat even has it’s own help pad!
Not only will you be scoring world class waves but after a hard day in the surf you’ll be able to relax in pure luxury onboard the Ratu Motu. With en suites, wifi and even Apple TV this is more a floating surf hotel than charter boat – ideal for those who want that epic once in a lifetime experience or simply with the bank balance to afford it!
Stay from: $499 per night
This 80 foot, 6 cabin Mentawai surf charter is perfect for those with a mid range budget and caters for up to 12 surfers, with A/C twin share rooms and even includes a daily beer allowance too!
Departing from Padang this trip will either head to North Mentawais or South Mentawais depending on the group and surf forecast.
Stay from: $288 per night
Specifically designed for the Mentwais this is another great mid range surf charter with plenty on space on board to relax. With a maximum occupancy of 14 (usually sailing at 8-10) there’s 4 twin bed cabins and a larger quad room to choose from. Again you’ll have A/C to keep you cool in the tropical nights.
Stay from: $290 per night
One of the more affordable mid range charters the Huey 1 has heaps of experience, operating in the area since 1999, so you’re in good hands! With a max surfer occupancy of 10 across twin and dorm rooms it’s great for solo surfers looking to join a small group.
Stay from: $??? Prices on request.
Great for larger groups or solo surfers wanting some new buddies in the lineup the Moon Palik offers a variety of sleeping options across 4 twin cabins and a larger cabin with 4 bunks and a double bed – so grab your surf crew along for the ride!
It’s also the most bundle friendly one of the list – ideal for those who want to score the waves of their lives in comfort without smashing their bank balance!
Stay from: $277 (8 day stay, all inclusive, low season)
Other awesome Mentawais boats include;
- Barren Joey
- The Bintang
- King Mellenium II
For a full rundown guide of EVERY charter boat in the Mentawais check out this awesome guide.
Is There Wifi/Phone Signal?
Another pressing issue for the modern day surfer – oh the joys of technology hey?!
Bad news for all those tech addicts though, you wont be getting any phone signal in the Mentawai Islands, even with a local Indonesian SIM card.
That being said a number of surf camps (and some high end charters) now have access to wifi. They usually charger around $15AUD per 500MB or between $35-50AUD for your entire stay, but the prices do vary a bit. Also dont expect to be streaming Netflix whilst you’re out there as it’s not the strongest or most reliable connection on the planet.
At the end of the day though you’re in the Mentawai Islands – kick back, unwind, disconnect and enjoy paradise! My first trip there and I did a forced digital detox for 10 days…it was bliss!