I love traveling with Jetlag and Mayhem but sometimes you need a kid free minibreak. It’s good for the soul. So when my husband and I found ourselves with a few days to disappear, I had one destination in mind; the adults only paradise of Cempedak. Where is this slice of heaven? Cempedak is a private island located 9km off the East coast of Bintan, an Indonesian island accessible by boat. The best part of this place is that no kids under 16 are allowed. In case you can’t sort childcare and need to take the little ones with you, they operate another private island, Nikoi, which is more family focused. Stay tuned for an upcoming review on Nikoi!
The island has only 20 rooms and is gaining in popularity by the minute. They opened the resort officially in April 2018 and the place is often fully booked. Lucky for me, we were traveling on a random Tuesday to Thursday so they had 2 rooms remaining. The island has two room types, the slightly more expensive beach villa and a sea-view villa. I went for the cheaper option which was SGD 450 per night. Now just when you think it’s already costly, be prepared for the next add-ons – $95 per person per day for 3 meals and also $90 per person for the return transfer from the Bintan Ferry. You will need to book the Bintan Ferry yourself but bear in mind, their transport will only meet the following ferries: 11:10am, 5:00pm and 8:00pm ferry to Bintan and return on either the 5:35pm or 8:15pm on the way back to Singapore.
Getting to Cempedak from Singapore
Bintan ferries depart from Tanah Merah ferry terminal, close to Singapore’s Changi Airport. It is advised you arrive an hour before your ferry, especially if you are checking in luggage. The ferry crossing takes just under an hour. At certain times of year it may be rough but it was fine when we traveled in September. On arrival at Bintan Ferry terminal, you are whisked away through VIP immigration and then to the VIP lounge.
I had assumed all the Cempedak guests would pile into a shared minivan to transport us across the island. I forgot that when you have a luxury resort transfer, guests don’t want to join together, so each of the 4 couples was given their own private car and driver. The drive takes just under an hour to Cempedak’s jetty launch. The next small boat takes approx. 30 mins to Cempedak. Waving you in are the friendly staff members who organise check-in and escort you to your villa.
Despite the overcast weather, my first impressions of Cempedak were WOW. All the staff took their time to greet us and the architecture is just magnificent, blending in perfectly with its surrounds.
I’ll start by saying I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in a more beautiful hotel room. We were in a ‘Seaview Villa’, a curved bamboo building with a huge thatched roof. On the ground floor you have a large living space, bathroom, pool, sunloungers and table with chairs. Winding up the stairs is an enormous master bedroom and bathroom.
The villa is open-air, save for a large window in front of the King size bed. There’s no TV, no air-con but to be quite frank, who needs this. You’ve got a fan for the warm nights and the bed is extremely comfortable with mosquito netting all around it.
Guests are given an ipad and you can use this to communicate with the staff.
In addition to your private villa pool, there’s a larger pool in front of the beach. Here you’ll also find complimentary kayaks and SUPs, although windsurfing etc is extra.
There are daily activities such as a mountain biking and the nature walk. We did the nature walk, which was a great way to learn about the island – not just nature but an inside look into how Cempedak operates.
The spa is beautiful, built in a similar style to the villas, into the rocks on one side of the island. Not only was my massage top notch, the price was far cheaper than a Singapore equivalent.
Don’t expect the turquoise waters of the Maldives although the beaches are still lovely. You can’t walk around the entire island but you can walk half of it.
This for me was the highlight of Cempedak. There’s one restaurant (although you can dine in-villa) and no menu. Instead (taking into account personal dietary requirements), you are informed of what is planned for the next meal, usually 3 courses. It was actually lovely to have the decision making process taken away from us! The chef uses ingredients that are in-season and locally sourced.
I sampled some of the most exquisite food I’ve ever eaten.. squid ink pasta with lobster, panzanella salad and green chicken curry. The restaurant is set above the rocks and you can dine upstairs or in comfortable alcoves just above the beach.
The Dodo Bar is an awesome place to hang out and closes when the last guest goes to bed. We would head there for scrabble and a cocktail before sunset.
Would I return to Cempedak?
I wanted to love Cempedak whole-heartedly. However we had an issue with noise in our room as there was building work going on opposite. Although we complained and they tried to minimise the noise, you could still hear it. When you’ve paid a lot of money for your room and you really want to hang out there, this is a shame. So I would advise anyone looking to book, just to check that there is no building work happening around the villa.
What makes Cempedak Island stand out (in addition to the food and room) is the staff. I have never come across a group of luxury hotel staff members who are so friendly and make their guests feel at ease.
So despite the noise issue, I would return to Cempedak Island in a heartbeat. Yes the beach doesn’t quite match the island paradise of somewhere like the Amanpulo but then it isn’t as crazily priced and it’s more accessible from Singapore. Plus I’m also adding their family friendly island of Nikoi to the bucket list!