Balikpapan is one of the most preferred tourist destinations in Indonesia, located on an inlet of Makassar Strait on the Borneo Island’s eastern coast. A seaport city, Balikpapan is regarded as the gateway to the East Kalimantan province – one of the country’s richest provinces that stand out for its plentiful resources such as timber and mining as well as petroleum products. Being a large exporter in mining and oil products, Balikpapan is sometimes known as the ‘Oil City.’ The place is also lauded for its stunning natural scenery that includes picturesque beaches, majestic mountains and untouched forests.
Before emerging as a booming centre of the oil industry, Balikpapan was a small, remote Bugis fishing village. A local folk story has it that a king tied his newborn baby to some planks and threw her into the sea in order to safeguard her from his enemies. As such, the city got its name (‘Balik’ meaning ‘behind’ and ‘Papan’ meaning ‘plank’). During the late 19th century, a small refinery company was opened here for oil drilling works. With the arrival of a Dutch oil company, the city underwent major developments in the form of road construction, bungalows and offices and warehouses. However, Balikpapan’s oil refinery business was badly affected from 1942-5 as a result of WWII.
Balikpapan is now an advanced city, boasting numerous oil companies, superb infrastructure facilities and a world-class international airport.
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Lots of interesting attractions await people touring this destination. Of Balikpapan’s highlights, its stunning beaches such as Melwai Beach, Kemala Beach and Manggar Segarsari Beach deserve a special mention. Located about 10 kilometres from the city centre on Asrama Hill, Japan Canyon is another noteworthy attraction. Equally worth visiting is the city’s beautiful gardens including Wanawisata Garden that abounds in birches and fruits, Bapakai Garden whose prime highlights are an attractive monument and fountain and the Agro Tourism Garden that sprawls over an area of about 100 hectares and is complete with picnic places, resting areas, camping facilities and a children’s play area.
Your vacation in Balikpapan would be incomplete without visiting the awesome Crocodile Breeding Farm, where you can feed the crocs. There are thousands of crocodiles of different species such as the muara, and swamp crocodile. As the Main Gate to East Kalimantan, Balikpapan enables you to explore its unspoiled forest that is home to rare and varied flora and fauna, from rattan vines, black orchid to animal species including chimpanzees, orangutans and dolphins.
Above all, Balikpapan enables you to easily access some of East Kalimantan’s top attractions such as Berau, famed for its Batiwakkal Museum and Mesjid Agung Baitul Hikmah, Muara Muntai with Mahakam Lake at its centre and Samarinda – the capital of the province.
Whether your preferred food is Chinese, Western, Continental or local cuisines, Balikpapan has restaurants to cater for all types of taste buds. To enjoy tasty seafood, some of the recommended choices are Bondy Restaurant, Ocean’s Seafood Restaurant and Pondok Nelayan Seafood Restaurant. For crab dishes, be sure to visit Restoran Dandito and Kepiting Kenari where mouth-watering crab is served with black pepper and sauce. Among the choices to try out local delicacies are Simpang Raya with its Padang dishes and Torani Restaurant. A variety of choices are also open to people for relishing Chinese, Japanese and international cuisine by way of Takigawa, Batakan Beach Club, Palm Court Restaurant and Dapeen Café. Pacifica Food Court, in Balikpapan Plaza Mall, also serves a delectable array of cuisine to satisfy your palate. Additionally, popular food chain restaurants such as KFC and Pizza Hut are available here.
Even though the nightlife in Balikpapan is not as hot as other major cities in the country, Balikpapan still offers a couple of decent choices for an enjoyable evening in the form of bars, pubs and clubs. If you would like to spend your evening in another way, take a relaxed stroll through the quaint Dutch section of the city, after dining at one of its many superb restaurants. You can also opt to watch movies in a theatre or dropping into any of the city’s hassle-free cafés to sip a refreshing coffee.
The shopping in Balikpapan enables you to take back home unique souvenirs and handicraft items, beautiful gemstones and apparel as well as fashion accessories. A recommended choice to buy some handicraft items at bargain prices is Kebun Sayur Traditional Market Centre. This market is also famed for shops that sell gemstones like diamonds and jade. To find a good selection of souvenirs, step into Fitriah Souvenir at Sudirman No. 12. For a unique shopping experience, take a tour to Pasar Klandasan, which allows you to buy fresh products at local prices. However, Balikpapan shopping is not just confined to its traditional markets; it also includes a variety of shopping malls replete with most modern facilities such as boutiques, restaurants, food courts, theatres, ATMs, banks, and expansive parking areas. Plaza Balikpapan, Balikpapan Trade Center, Fantasy Junction and Rapak Plaza are good examples of this genre of shopping.
The city’s marvelous beaches enable you to indulge in activities such as swimming, fishing, sailing, riding banana boats and playing beach volleyball. To enjoy sport activities like soccer, head to Merdeka Square with its peaceful ambience. A trip to the Orangutan Sanctuary, about a one-hour drive from the city, is sure to enthrall animal lovers and adventurers. To add to your fun and excitement, stay at the eco lodge in the sanctuary, which helps you to experience the wildlife there at its best. Likewise, Kutai National Park that is easily reachable from the city provides nature enthusiasts with a thrilling experience. A short excursion to Derawan Island - a part of Sangalaki Island - is a haven for snorkeling and diving, thanks to its rich marine life. Further, during your stay at Balikpapan, take a river safari, for which you can seek assistance of experienced local tour operators.
Good to Know:
How to get there?
Balikpapan’s Sepinggan International Airport serves both domestic and international routes, and offers the services of almost all leading airlines such as Lion Air, Batavia Air, Silk Air and Sriwijaya Air. By road, the bus terminal connects it to other important cities such as Bontang and Samarinda. With one of the busiest ports in the country, Balikpapan operates cruises to and from destinations like Makassar, Tarakan and Surabaya, apart from catering to cargo ships that come from Indonesia as well as other Southeast Asian countries.