Indonesia Travel Guides

The Best Homestays in Raja Ampat: Our Reviews & Recommendations

In total we've spent almost 6 months in Raja Ampat, residing in various different homestays across Gam, Kri, Mansuar and Arborek. As our exposure to the homestay experience developed, we uncovered certain aspects and simple comforts which can really make or break a stay in this faraway land.

Here is our personal review of some of the best homestays in Raja Ampat. We have given a rating (out of 10) for location, accommodation, food, hygiene, house reef and diving. Hopefully this will help you find your perfect homestay in wild West Papua.

The best homestays in Raja Ampat

Beser Bay Homestay

 Beser Bay gam island overwater bungalow

Beser Bay was our first experience of a Raja Ampat homestay. We made our reservation through stayrajaampat.com for 11 nights during Oct 2017, but loved it so much that we extended for another month. We stayed a further 6 weeks through 2018/19 and can safely say that it was just as good (if not better!) than our previous experience.

Beser Bay is owned by a Papuan man named Anthony. He and his wife Anna previously ran the homestay, however after taking on a job in Waisai, he manages the homestay remotely leaving the day to day running of things down to his incredibly hard working family; Tina and Boy, Patrick and Novi. This amazing team are some of the warmest and most hospitable people we’ve met in all our travels, and in our opinion, they run quite possibly one of the best homestays in Raja Ampat.

Location

The homestay is situated on the less populated Southern tip of Pulau Gam. Gam is a huge expanse made up of steep dense jungle with tiny communities and homestays dotted sparsely along its shoreline. Beser Bay stands alone in a secluded cove on a tiny island, surrounded by mangroves and karst islets.

Sitting on the edge of a peaceful lagoon away from open waters, it is breathtakingly quiet. The only sound being the enchanting tropical birdsong echoing from the encompassing karst walls. At low tide it is possible to take a relaxing walk around the perimeter of the island. The setting itself is beyond remote, there is a real sense of distance from civilisation. However, as of May 2018 the installation of a phone mast on Arborek has provided Beser Bay with connection to the outside world.

There are two adjoining villages close to Beser Bay, reachable within 5-10 minutes by boat. If you are feeling adventurous, it is possible to snorkel from the house reef to the first village of Kapisawar, taking approximately 1 hr 30 – it is a stunning snorkel. Follow a pathway through the colourful neighbourhood and tropical foliage of Kapisawar to the larger village of Sawinggrai, where you will find more infrastructure such as a church, school and a couple of tokos (tuck shops) selling snacks and a few basic items.

Beser Bay has to be one of the best homestays in Raja Ampata for exploring other parts of central Raja Ampat. On a fair weather day, it takes just over an hour to reach Waisai. Arborek, Mansuar and Kri are in close proximity and its not too far from Piaynemo, Maiyunfun and the Pam Islands. However getting to Batanta or Wayag would be an epic journey to say the least.

Score 10/10

Accommodation

Although homestay conditions are notoriously very basic, the accommodation at Beser Bay is of a high standard as they have succeeded in adding special little touches to make you feel more comfortable. Bungalow configuration includes a good sized bedroom with a thick mattress on the floor, covered by a mosquito net. There is a table, plug sockets, a small mirror and rope tied up with a few hangers provided for your clothes. A bonus adjoining ‘chill out area’ with another mattress is included in the space, along with the ultimate accessory, a hammock. Bungalows also come with their very own tea and coffee making facilities – More on this later!

If you’ve ever dreamt of staying in an overwater bungalow, then this is your place. Sitting on stilts, each bungalow enjoys an open verandah complete with sun lounger. These decks make an excellent viewing platform for the hive of activity both above and below the water. Hours can easily be spent spotting Walking Shark and baby Black Tips, plus many types of fish in the lagoon. If you like to birdwatch, Beser Bay’s surrounding jungle is home to a variety of bird life. After the sun sets and the generator is turned off, enjoy stargazing at the celestial skies above. There is no light intrusion in Raja Ampat, making night time a thing of wonder.

A gentle word of warning to anyone who bags the big bungalow at the end (‘the honeymoon suite’ as we fondly call it). From here it is possible to access a strong 4G signal, but be prepared for people turning up on your doorstep to check messages and make phone calls. Despite it’s private walkway, this doesn’t seem to deter guests from enjoying more than just the sunset. This new addition has spoiled the solitude of our favourite bungalow just a wee bit.

The majority of homestays in Raja Ampat enjoy a communal dining area. Beser Bay’s is tucked away in the jungle against an open karst wall. The seating includes two long wooden tables and benches. Watch out for mosquitos, they congregate here especially at dusk.

Bathrooms are shared with neighbouring Ano Homestay, and have been constructed in the same manner as the bungalows (palm thatched walls). There are three toilets, two western, one squat and two shower rooms with traditional Indonesian Dip Mandi’s plus a shower head. Water is drawn from the ground and available on tap. During our first stay the water here was fresh, however in 2018/19 it had changed to brackish. Electricity is supplied by a generator which runs from sunset till around 10pm, so make sure to get all your gadgets charged during this time. If you need the loo in the night be sure to take a torch.

Score 10/10

Food

The food at Beser Bay is just another example of a homestay run well. Tina the chef will spoil you rotten! How she manages to whip up such inventive meals in a very basic kitchen with limited ingredients will never cease to amaze me. Breakfast portions in Raja Ampat are characteristically small, usually revolving around fried bananas, bread or cakes. At Beser Bay this is no exception, however breakfast is a personal affair. Once the family see you are awake they bring a flask of hot water and freshly baked goods directly to your door. Talk about VIP service!

One of the most endearing features of Beser Bay is ‘the bell’ which the family ring to notify guests when lunch and dinner is served. Unlike other homestays, you are each given your own generous portion of food. Tina sets out dishes with such love and care, sometimes decorating with palm leaves and flowers. There is always a good balance of protein – At 6am each morning the fisherman comes to sell his catch, meaning fresh barracuda in huge white chunks for lunch. Expect other types of fish or chicken in delicious sauces, eggs, tasty veggie curries, crackers, peanuts and mountains of white rice. We were rarely served the same dish twice.

Another reason why Beser Bay is so special is because of their afternoon tea. Yes, at 3.30pm the family deliver a fresh flask of hot water, tea, coffee and a sweet treat to your bungalow. This delicious afternoon snack was so welcome, especially after a long day snorkelling. I still dream about Tina’s pandan chocolate pancakes!

Score 10/10

Hygiene

Although homestay facilities are far from what we are used to in the West, the cleanliness and hygiene standards at Beser Bay are really very good. The toilets and mandis could do with a little TLC, however we always found them to be clean and well stocked with toilet paper. Due to their location and natural construction, they often attract the local wildlife, so be prepared to share the odd intimate moment with the occasional eight legged creature.

One stand-out feature at Beser Bay is that your bungalow will be cleaned almost daily. Generally, Papuan communities in Raja Ampat are not familiar with Western hotel standards, however the family here sneak into your room whiles you are out to make up your bed, bring fresh towels and take away any remains from breakfast. As previously mentioned, the food standards at Beser Bay are excellent. We never got sick and everything we ate always tasted of utmost freshness. The family take great care in the appearance of their homestay, constantly sweeping and cleaning communal areas. They like to decorate things, and even constructed a Christmas Tree complete with fairy lights during Dec 2018!

Score 9/10

House Reef

The reefs around Beser Bay are sprawling and diverse. The main house reef at the south side is vast. By following the drop off to the left, you can snorkel all the way to Sawinggrai Village. If you follow the reef to the right, loop around the islets and exit at the back of the homestay. Watch out for the current here though, depending on the tide it can be very strong for a few metres before calming down. Overall the reef is in excellent condition, there is a stunning mix of hard and soft corals and an array of marine life. We’ve seen Mantas, Eagle Rays, Turtles, Sharks, Boxfish, Octopus, Eels, Pufferfish, Sea Snakes, Dolphins and on one very lucky siting, Dugongs.

By entering the water on the opposite side of the island next to Ano Homestay, follow the rocks either side of the bay to discover unusual macro life, anemones, sea fans and soft coral formations. We love swimming out to the small karst islands too. The lagoon itself also offers some great snorkelling opportunities – especially at night! If you like critter hunting, take a torch and scan the seabed for Nudibranchs, Sea Slugs, Crabs, Crocodile Fish, Walking Shark and much more. It is also worth noting that this area is sheltered, so if you have young children it’s a safe place for them to play.

There are some downsides to snorkelling at Beser Bay though, which is why we’ve given it an overall score of 8 out of 10. The south side drop-off is only accessible during high and rising tide, so snorkelling must be planned accordingly. If the tide is too low, you may risk damaging the coral or unable to exit. The visibility on the main house reef tends to be patchy, but this does improve depending on sea conditions and time of year.

Score 8/10

Diving

There are no diving facilities at Beser Bay, but despite our love of scuba, we know that a dive centre here would spoil its tranquil setting. However, if you are desperate to dive there is a way! We recently discovered that it is possible to arrange a pick up with the neighbouring dive centre, Daroyen Village, also on Gam. They are happy to collect you from Beser Bay as long as there is space on their boat, or if they have the minimum amount of divers to make it economically viable.

It is best to ask Boy at Beser Bay to arrange this with Daroyen since the homestay speak very little English. We did have some amazing dives with Daroyen, however it is definitely not the most reliable service as they often cancelled on us at the last minute. The Papuan guides know the local sites well and are very experienced. For 6 or more dives it costs 450k IDR per dive, equipment rental is 250k IDR per day.

Score 7/10

Ano Homestay – special mention

Despite never actually staying here ourselves, we would like to give Ano Homestay a special mention. It is situated on the same plot of land as Beser Bay and is run by extended family, husband and wife team Indexina and Pulus.

Ano Homestay is on the opposite side of the island, consisting of 3 overwater bungalows facing the rear of the bay looking out over the islets beyond. It is often used as overflow if Beser Bay is fully booked. The comfy bungalows are similar to Beser Bay’s and include a bedroom, chillout area with extra mattress and hammocks and an open verandah. A raised dining area set back from the little beach is where guests congregate for lunch and dinner. Indexina is an excellent cook, and fish is often on the menu since Pulus is a local fisherman. Ano Homestay also provides breakfast to your room and afternoon tea at three!

The family speak no English, so communication is usually via Boy or Patrick from Beser Bay, who are always willing to help. They have two young sons and a fluffy dog named Brino who enjoys boat rides! You will often see them playing together in the lagoon. Since the two homestays are so close, they often share boat trips. Pulus has a cute traditional wooden outrigger (suitable for 3 people) which we often took for snorkelling excursions. If Beser Bay is fully booked, we would highly recommend Ano Homestay as an alternative.

Score 10/10

Warahnus Homestay

Best Warahnus homestay on kri island, raja ampat

Giving into our preconceived notions of Kri (and to indulge in the local snorkelling opportunities) we chose Warahnus for its quieter location on the islands Southern shores and stayed for 8 nights during Jan 2018. The homestay is run by a young man named Bermon. He and his family take good care of their place, although it is a little on the rustic side. Nick was very sick during our stay, so Bermon kindly took me to the pharmacy in Waisai. Even though he is incredibly shy, he speaks great English and helped translate when getting the correct medicine. Despite being further away from the West and North shore crowds of Kri, we still found Warahnus Homestay a bit too busy for us.

Location

Warahnus sits in a beautiful sweeping cove on a soft white sand beach, against a tropical backdrop. Six bungalows located just at the waters edge are shaded by the jungle canopy, with views to Batanta and neighbouring Mansuar island. The turquoise sea is clear and calm, very enjoyable for cooling off in the midday sun. Warahnus’s house reef is in easy reach, with only 30 or so metres to the start of the coral. If you don’t feel much like swimming, there is a long jetty with steps down to the drop off.

It is possible to hike up to the top of Kri island for views over the Dampier Strait, and access the North shore on foot in about 20 minutes. At low tide, you can walk from the north west side of Kri to Mansuar across a spectacular sand bar. Over the pond, there is a village with a few small shops and a good 4G data connection if you have the right SIM card. Kri is a great location for snorkelers and divers alike, making it the Dampier Strait’s most popular island. We chose Warahnus specifically for its snorkelling, with Yenbuba Jetty in swimming distance, plus the likes of Sauwandarek and Cape Kri only a short boat ride away.

Score 8/10

Accommodation

There are four individual bungalows, plus two larger twin bungalows sleeping up to 4 guests. We stayed in one of the individuals, and found it a lot smaller than average. The bungalow configuration includes a sleeping area plus a closed verandah, equipped with a hammock and bench, which was a bit of a squeeze for two people. The bedrooms are dark and basic with no mod cons, just a thin mattress on the floor covered by a mosquito net, and a set of plug sockets. The twin rooms are a newer addition, and according to other guests have real beds! However their palm leaf walls provide little sound proofing.

The toilets and dip mandi style showers at Warahnus were rustic but well kept. Next to the bathrooms is a handy washing area with buckets and line provided for cleaning clothes etc. One of the best places to relax at Warahnus was in the dining room, a large seating area overlooking the ocean housing drinking water, tea and coffee making facilities.

Score 6/10

Food

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the main dining room. Breakfast was different every day, we had little bread rolls, cakes and pancakes – a welcome change from fried bananas. We did encounter a bit of an issue with missing breakfast, so be sure to get there at 7am sharp. We highlighted this to the kitchen and were made extra pancakes! In our experience, lunch and dinner was always plentiful and delicious. We had a good mix of fish and chicken, tempe, veggies and even fruit for afters. It was Nicks birthday during our stay, so I put in a request for chicken and cakes for us to share with the guests after dinner.

Bermon’s Father is a fun character, creating a good atmosphere at the homestay. In the evening he will often join the group for some banter and a Bintang, and encourages guests to buy a beer – so these are usually available if you enjoy a drink.

Score 8/10

Hygiene

Although the homestay is well tended to, it could do with some improvement. Our main gripe was the dark and dingy bedroom area. We are well used to the rustic conditions in RA, but there was a damp smell in our room which I found almost unbearable. The mattress and pillows were very old and musty and our mozzie net looked like a patchwork quilt. The bungalow was not cleaned during our stay, however a broom is provided to sweep away sand.

The toilets and mandi were always clean and we never ran short of toilet tissue. Food and hygiene-wise, the dining area was usually left in a bit of a state after meals, overall it could have been cleaner. It is also worth noting that despite what people say, there really is a rat problem on Kri. The ceiling of our bungalow was very open and directly underneath the trees, meaning visitors most nights. Apart from being constantly woken by the sound of scuffling, Nicks Osprey bag got eaten into even though our snacks were buried deep inside. Definitely don’t leave any food lying around!

Score 4/10

House Reef

Our stay at Warahnus was all about the nearby reefs. From the homestay you can access the channel to Yenbuba Jetty, which is renowned for its excellent snorkelling. Swimming from the house reef across this stretch past the islet, we saw multiple Sharks, Trigger Fish, Turtles, Eagle Rays, Bumpheads, Barracuda plus lots of schooling fish.

Yenbuba Jetty rarely disappoints but sometimes gets too busy with day tripping boats and divers. To the right of Warahnus’s jetty, the house reef is beautiful, the current is minimal and the visibility is good. However the reef towards Lumba Lumba homestay is entirely dead.

Score 9/10

Diving

You are spoilt for choice with homestay dive operations to choose from on Kri. A number of guests staying at Warahnus were using Wobbegong Dive Centre on the North shore, hiking across the island daily to join the boat there. If it weren’t for Nicks illness, we would have done so too. Apparently Lumba Lumba has relaunched its dive centre, so this could also be an option.

Score 9/10

Marko Homestay

Overwater bungalow in Marko Homestay on Mansuar island, Raja Ampat

We took a bit of a chance with Marko Homestay, as there were no reviews on stayrajaampat.com. at the time of booking. We originally planned to stay for 11 nights during Dec / Jan 2017 however we only made it to 3.

It wasn’t long before we discovered that the management had arranged for an extra 17 guests to arrive for Christmas, along with a large group of men from the Indonesian Army who would be camping on the beach next door, using the homestay’s facilities. With only 4 bungalows available, it wasn’t turning out to be the quiet Christmas we’d had in mind, so we cut our stay short. This was a shame as there were some great points about this homestay.

Location

Marko’s lies on the north shore of Pulau Mansuar, approx 3km west of Yenbekwan village. The location is secluded and untouched. Palm trees and steep jungle hills dominate the scene behind the homestay, in front of the turquoise sea overlooking Gam. It gets great sunrise and sunset views. Sunsets in Raja Ampat are some of the best we’ve ever seen.

There is an intrepid path which leads along the coastline to the village, but it’s not for the faint hearted. We made it as far as the Raja Ampat Dive Lodge and decided to turn back. Along the way we discovered a number of incomplete homestays which were interesting to explore.

We chose this homestay due to its proximity to Sauwandarek Jetty, which is on the other side of the island and one of our favourite snorkelling spots. However getting there is not that easy and is about an hours hike through the jungle along a slippery path. The hike itself is very beautiful, taking you past a hidden lake. Marko Homestay is a good location for West and South Mansuar, Manta Sandy, Arborek, Kri and Gam. If you have the right SIM card, Marko’s does support an internet signal.

Score 7/10

Accommodation

The overwater bungalows are well built in traditional Papuan style, and are adjoined to the main jetty. They are well equipped with comfortable mattresses, mosquito net and bedding. There was also an electric fan (such a treat!!) a mirror and a drying wrack for wet clothes. We also had our own water dispenser, a table and two plastic chairs. There was a slight lack of privacy since the bungalows face the jetty, ours was also missing a bedroom door so we felt a bit exposed.

The communal dining area is in a bigger traditional bungalow, dominating a tiny slice of beach. There is one long wooden table with plastic chairs looking out at beautiful views over the Dampier Strait. The bathroom is set back from the beach in a concrete building with a tin roof. There is one western toilet and a Dip Mandi which also had a shower. A generator runs from sunset until sunrise, so plenty of time to charge the gadgets, but the downside is its quite noisy. Marko’s also has solar lighting in communal areas, handy when power outages occur.

Score 8/10

Food

The food was excellent and truly one of the best homestays in Raja Ampat for portion sizes. We had abundant fresh fish, tempe, delicious mixed green vegetables, nasi goreng and fried bananas in the afternoon. The chef was not just a great cook, but very welcoming and hospitable. One evening he saw us relaxing on the jetty and brought us a cold coke and some biscuits, and we sat together watching the stars.

Score 10/10

Hygiene

The bungalows and dining area at Marko Homestay were immaculate. Our bedsheets were changed on day two (quite unexpected but we weren’t complaining!) This was let down slightly by the toilet and shower facilities which weren’t as clean, although having a concrete building opposed to the typical thatched palm style construction did mean less creepy crawlies to deal with.

Score 9/10

House Reef

Sadly the reef in front of the homestay is mostly destroyed. There really isn’t much coral and despite a strong current, fish were lacking especially for Raja Ampat standards. The best option is to hike to Sauwandarek village and snorkel there. Day trips were possible to nearby reefs but the boat costs at this homestay are overly expensive.

Score 4/10

Diving

Marko Homestay was in the process of setting up a new dive shop during our stay and we really wanted to dive with them, but found the prices were 50% higher than what other homestays were offering. We did point this out to the dive master who was really helpful in trying to negotiate the price with the owners, but unfortunately we couldn’t come to an agreement so decided against it in the end. It is worth noting that they do have a brand new dive boat and good equipment.

Score 3/10

Tau Yado Homestay (closed Jan 2019)

beach bungalow at Tau Yado homestay in Raja Ampat

After our disapointing experience at Marko Homestay, we made a quick exit and moved to Tau Yado on Gam. We arrived without a booking, although we knew of this homestay as it is right next door due to Corepen, where we were due to stay in a weeks time.

We ended up staying at Tau Yado on and off throughout Dec 2017 / Jan 2018 as we moved back and forth from Corepen during times they were fully booked. It really does feel like a genuine ‘homestay’ as guests are secondary to the families duties of carpentry and logging in the forest behind. We enjoyed watching them go about their daily chores, giving us a taste of true Papuan life.

Location

Tau Yado is located in the middle of the beautiful wide beach of Yendebabo, on Eastern Gam. Although it shares the same spot as Yendababo Homestay (the one with the terrible blue tin roofs) it does not spoil this super secluded spot.

If you like to beachcomb, Tau Yado offers some excellent shell hunting opportunities. Enjoy spectacular sea views while rocking gently on either of the two driftwood swings located underneath sweeping palms in front of the homestay, but watch out for falling coconuts – there are many! The nearby forest is home to interesting Papuan bird life. Black cockatiels with big red beaks can be seen early in the morning and colourful squawking parrots are a regular occurrence. There is something incredibly Robinson Crusoe about Tao Yado and its location.

Score 8/10

Accommodation

Four private bungalows sit under shady beachside trees. Each has a little deck for chilling, the only thing missing is a hammock. The bungalows are well constructed and clean, however the bedding was a bit smelly and the pillows felt especially damp. The mattress was old and thin and definitely smaller than a double. A square mosquito net was provided, along with towels, a wooden table, plug socket, washing line and a couple of hangers. It wasn’t the most comfortable space, but the beach more than made up for this.

The tiny dining hut is set closer to the sea. Tea, coffee and drinking water can be found here although supplies often ran short. The bathroom facilities are newly built and constructed of concrete with a tin roof. There are two toilets and two mandis both of which were very clean and bright, and felt a lot less creepy than some others we’d tried! There is also freshwater on tap, great if you need to do some hand-washing.

Score 7/10

Food

The food was Tau Yado’s biggest let down. There was sometimes fish but often very bland egg, rice and vegetables and the taste was variable. We were often left hungry and craving fruit… not ideal when stranded on a desert island!

Score 4/10

Hygiene

Although the family at Tau Yado are very sweet, there is a general lack of care and replenishment (toilet tissue, drinking water etc). The communal areas were clean enough, but sometimes we ran out of cups to use.

The homestay own a large pack of dogs who are undernourished, and they put on their saddest faces, looking up at you whilst you eat. This is a daily ritual for the dogs (who are mostly well behaved) as they seem to survive on guests left-overs. We hope they fatten up soon.

Score 5/10

House Reef

We snorkelled the entire width of Yendababo and found the reef most abundant in front of Corepen – about 100 metres out. Overall the corals are not the prettiest as far as Raja Ampat standards go, however we did see turtles and lots of reef fish. You are not far from Friwen Wall, which has superb snorkelling and can be reached by boat within 10 mins.

Score 6/10

Diving

The reason we chose to stay here was ultimately due to its close proximity to Corepen Homestay, who we wished to dive with – and dive we did! If you struggle with availability at Corepen, the next best option would be Kordiris Homestay which also has a dive centre.

Score 8/10

Corepen Homestay

dive centre at Corepen homestay in gam , Raja Ampat

We first came across Corepen during our hunt for a homestay with a dive operation. We specifically chose to avoid Kri as we really wanted a more intimate affair for our first experience of diving in the region. We had heard that Corepen was one of the best homestays in Raja Ampat, as it offered the perfect combination of a secluded location and well equipped dive centre.

We’ve stayed at Corepen on several occasions, most recently in Jan 2019. Our first experience in 2017 was so good that we decided to make this our homestay of choice when diving the main Dampier Strait sites in Raja Ampat. The dive centre is managed by Sandi and Maria, an amazing Indonesian couple who have been diving the region for many years. With a maximum of 8 divers at any one time, we really loved the exclusivity and freedom that these small groups gave us.

The homestay itself was previously run by a local Papuan man known as Papa, along with his family, however we sadly found out that he passed away in 2018 leaving the homestay management in the hands of Sandi and Maria, and the day to day chores up to a variety of extended family members.

Our most recent trip has taught us that things change quickly in Raja Ampat, and development is rife. Since our stay in 2017, Corepen and its dive operation has expanded significantly. With the addition of 6 new bungalows and a brand new dive centre we are sorry to say that the homestay has lost a little of its charm.

Location

Corepen is situated in East Gam, on the same stretch of beach as Tau Yado & Yendababo Homestays. In terms of a location for diving, its great as you are close to some of the best dive sites the Dampier Strait has to offer. Cape Kri, Chicken Reef, Sardine Reef, Mioskun, Blue Magic and Lau Lau are reachable in under 30mins.

It is possible to walk all the way along the beach to Yendababo Homestay and even as far as Kordiris Homestay at low tide, where there are karst islands. The beach is picture perfect, huge tall palm trees curve over its white sands. The sea here is safe for children and excellent for swimming. Behind the homestay and into the forest there are trails to explore and opportunities to see the indigenous Cuscus and Red Bird of Paradise, so bring a pair of binoculars if you have them!

The closest village to Corepen is on Friwen Bonda island, where the homestay family originate. Both Friwen Bonda and Friwen Wall are only a 10 minute boat journey away. Although we didn’t explore it ourselves, a mangrove channel runs behind the homestay close to Kabui Bay making for a scenic boat trip. Corepen catches an internet signal from Waisai, but it can be a bit sporadic. It is a good central location with Waisai, Kri, Mansuar and Kabui very close by.

Score 9/10

Accommodation

Corepen offers varying accommodation options including 7 beach bungalows, (1 couples sharer) and 2 bungalows on land. We’ve stayed in both kinds, and our preference is the beach bungalows. However the two bungalows inland are slightly cheaper, so worth noting if you’re travelling on a budget.

They are all well cared for with a good sized bedroom and a roomy open verandah looking out to sea. Each includes two hammocks, plastic chairs, plug sockets, a broom and plenty of line to dry clothes. Some bungalows have a ladder from the verandah allowing you to easily access the sand below. Swaying in the hammock watching the sunrise in the morning or relaxing post dive is one of our favorite pastimes here.

In our experience, the comfort of the bungalows does vary. During the last trip, our bungalow had a very thin mattress and a mosquito net too small to cover the bed, but on our previous stay we had a large square mosquito net and a thick comfy mattress. Maybe this is simply luck of the draw!

There is a breezy communal dining area looking out over the ocean with two wooden tables to accommodate everyone. This is a great place to relax and plan dives with fellow guests.

The main bathrooms include one western toilet, one squat toilet plus and a single dip mandi constructed from concrete and traditional palm leaves with a tiled floor. Further up the beach, there is a separate toilet and shower room to cater for the 3 new bungalows, however the homestay could do with adding another bathroom in the main living quarters too.

Score 8/10

Food

Our first two occasions at Corepen left us really impressed at mealtimes. Everything was served in big portions and we often had fried chicken (which is rare in Raja Ampat!) Plus lots of vegetables and side dishes such as tempe and noodles, fruit for dessert, plus a big bunch of bananas and fresh limes provided as snacks throughout the day.

Our most recent stay left us a little disappointed on the food front. Some days were better than others, but it was neither consistent in quality or quantity, so much so that we had to ask the kitchen for more as there simply wasn’t enough to go round. Although Maria manages the dive centre, she is well versed in hospitality and cares a lot about her guests! One evening she noticed that the food provided by the kitchen was lacking, so took matters into her own hands by cooking up extra noodles and sharing Mango with us. She’s also an amazing baker and sometimes makes beautiful fresh sponge cake for breakfast.

Score 7/10

Hygiene

Corepen receives a higher turnover of guest traffic due to many divers passing through, and with its recent extension there is much more to maintain. Our first experience left us really impressed with the appearance and hygiene of all communal areas, however the homestay now seems to be struggling with general upkeep and cleanliness standards have dropped.

As of 2019, the bathrooms and showers were dirty and unkempt, bins left un-emptied and toilet paper running short. We rarely saw the the dining room being cleaned and the communal drinks area was always full of used mugs and no cutlery.

Unfortunately during the course of our week-long stay in Jan 19, a number of guests (including ourselves) came down with food poisoning at different times. We’re not exactly sure what it was that caused the upset, since nothing we ate tasted bad, but have put this down to a general lack of cleanliness currently at the homestay. We understand their growing pains, and Sandi & Maria are aware of the situation, but we really hope to see things improve with time.

Score 4/10

House Reef

Corepen’s house reef is not the most abundant for Raja Ampat standards, however there is still some fun stuff to see such as Black Tip Reef Sharks, a friendly Turtle and a spectacular garden of clown fish buried in the hard coral. The drop-off is only 30m from shore and there is minimal current. It’s also an easy place to do some shore dives.

Score 7/10

Diving

We came here specifically to dive and were not dissapointed. Sandi and Maria are superb, taking us to some amazing sites and looking after us at all times. Sandi is always flexible with the location, especially when there are too many other dive boats and liveaboards around, or if the current isn’t right, he will take you to another spot.

Being a relatively new diver back in 2017, I was quite nervous about diving for the first time in Raja Ampat, but never felt unsafe for a moment under their supervision. Maria took extra care of me by hooking together when the current was strong, enabling the more experienced divers to go at a different pace. She helped me become a better diver, and by the time we left I felt much more confident!

Corepen recently built a new dive centre, which makes storing equipment much easier. They now have two speedboats and more guides, allowing more flexibility and more dives per day. Night dives have also been introduced, along with a couple of new dive sites which we can highly recommend. They’ve also updated and increased equipment supplies (although some varying in quality). Despite its growth and our overall experience in 2019, Sandi and Maria run a slick operation. In our view, Corepen is still one of the best homestays in Raja Ampat for diving.

Score 10/10

Kayafyof Homestay

turquoise waters at Kayafyof homestay in Arborek, Raja Ampat

We were a bit skeptical about Arborek, however our experience far exceeded our expectations and overall added some diversity to our Raja Ampat trip. We booked Kayafyof via stayrajaampat.com for 7 nights in Jan 2018.

Although there are many homestays to choose from on Arborek, we liked the look of Kayafyof’s bungalows and because the homestay is located on a more secluded side of the island. Correspondence and pick up with our host Papa Bani in Waisai was very smooth.

Our main reason for choosing Arborek was to be in close proximity to Manta Sandy, and just on our approach to the island we encountered a large pack of of them at the ridge, skimming the top of the water, we couldn’t have asked for a better welcome!

Location

Arborek itself is a tiny island in the middle of the ocean, which sits between the far Western tip of Gam and Mansuar. You can walk all the way around it in about 30 minutes. Unlike surrounding islands of the Dampier Strait, Arborek is flat, and there is no jungle or wildlife here. Much like the Maldives, it is at risk of inundation from sea level rise.

Arborek is firmly on the Indonesian tourist map, and is a stop for daytripping boats on their way to nearby Piaynemo, so at times it gets quite busy. The village offers better than average amenities and there are a number of little shops to buy supplies. You will also see regular Papuan music and dance ceremonies, adding to the vibrancy of the island.

As of 2018, a new phone mast has been installed on the island, so Arborek now receives a strong and fast 4G signal, which almost seems a bit out of place for somewhere so remote!

Score 9/10

Accommodation

There is an attractive path leading to the homestay from the village. Kayafyof is positioned on the quietest side of the island, away from the main jetty. It has has 2 water bungalows and 2 land bungalows, with great views to Mansuar and Batanta and the added bonus of sunrise and sunset.

Our overwater bungalow was big and really well made, with a beautiful sun deck and a hammock to relax in. The bedroom was a good size, we had a comfy mattress, nice bedding and a brand new mosquito net. There was shelving for our belongings and well positioned plug sockets. The bathroom facilities were good, however there was no freshwater or tap, so the mandi had to be filled manually. Meals are served in a tiny shack on the beach.

Score 8/10

Food

The food served at Kayafyof was always tasty, but generally portions were on the smaller side and definitely lacking in protein. Without fail, breakfast was fried bananas, whilst lunch and dinner were a mix of rice, vegetables and mostly omelettes and boiled eggs.

Score 6/10

Hygiene

Overall the hygiene and cleanliness at Kayafyof was ok. The bungalows were great, but communal areas were left rather uncared for. We noticed that the dining area was often uncleared until the next meal was served, attracting rats and insects. The mandi water buckets had little worms in, leaving us unsure about whether or not to use them.

The family who run the homestay live in the village (not on-site) so you are often left to fend for yourselves. We kept running out of basics items like tissue paper, toilet & mandi water, and hot water for tea and coffee. Nobody checks on whether things needed replenishing, and if Papa Bani wasn’t around we didn’t really know who else to ask.

Score 5/10

House Reef

Snorkelling under the famous main jetty was nice, except when there were boats. Sometimes there are multiple boats turning up at once which can be quite dangerous when snorkelling or free diving. Plus lots of boats and large groups of tourists would often scare the fish off.

However, only 100 meters past the second jetty (swimming towards Kayafof) was excellent snorkelling. On our first session, we saw 2 mantas and huge schools of big fish such as Giant Trevally feeding in the deep. The best time of day is between 4.30pm and sunset, where they were in hunting frenzy mode!

Following the reef further past the Barefoot Conservation jetty, there is a beautiful drop off and lots of great reef fish. Carry on snorkelling just opposite Kayafyof and a patch of hard corals attracts a large family of Bumphead Parrotfish. At only 2 or 3 metres depth, this is an impressive sight! We snorkelled here every day for an entire week and loved it. This was by far the highlight of Arborek for us.

Score 8/10

Diving

Arborek Dive Shop is currently the only dive operator on the island available to homestay guests. It is run by a passionate Indonesian couple, Githa and Marcel who know the area well. Due to the islands location, they often head out to alternative sites such as Manta Sandy, Citrus Ridge, Mayhem and Melissa’s Garden, so if you’re looking to try out some different spots to those around Kri, it might be worth stopping here for a few days. Nick had the flu during our stay so we were unable to dive with them, but we have friends who did and could highly recommend.

Score 8/10

Batu Lima Homestay

Biodiversity eco resort on gam island

We stayed here in Nov 2017 for 7 nights, however this homestay has since relocated and the original Batu Lima has closed. Their new homestay is called Taporbam on Gam’s Eastern coast. The Batu Lima family are absolutely charming, and Rose the cook is an excellent chef!

We still wish to share a little information about the original location of Batu Lima since there is a neighboring homestay, Yenanas Paradise which is an alternative option. Although we cannot comment on their accommodation etc, location-wise it’s good!

Location

Located on an idyllic soft sand beach, this beautiful spot on Gam offers swaying palms, safe swimming and an excellent house reef. The beach is also home to the Raja Ampat Biodiversity Resort. They have a lovely long jetty which also has cheeky wifi and good snorkelling opportunities. You are about 30mins from Waisai here, with the neighbouring islands of Waigeo, Kabui Bay, Kri and Mansuar all very close.

Score 9/10

House Reef

This easy to reach reef sweeps the entire width of the beach. The coral is impressive, but generally lacked a little in fish life for us. There is no current, making this a great place for kids and beginner snorkelers. If you swim past Biodiversity, about 100m to the right you’ll spot a cluster of small rocks (called Batu Lima, which translates to 5 rocks). This famous dive spot has some interesting corals. It is also possible to snorkel Yenros Homestay’swhich is very good – plus they have a resident wobbegong shark!

Score 8/10

Diving

If you’d feel more comfortable diving with a resort than a homestay, then the Raja Ampat Biodiversity Resort are happy to take non-resident divers. They are expensive, but have a great team, good boats and know the area very well.

We were lucky enough to meet a freelance dive master at Batu Lima, who took us out on a few of trips. Nico can provide equipment and a good boat, although this option is probably better for more experienced divers.

Score 8/10

Tips for booking your Raja Ampat homestay

Most homestays can be found on stayrajaampat.com which is the best place to book your accommodation. Reservations can be made quickly and easily via their online booking forms and requests are usually confirmed by email and/or text within 48 hours. If a homestay does not respond to your request, this may be down to a poor internet connection, or they are full. Keep trying – there are often cancellations and changes.

As is the nature of Raja Ampat, many travellers arrive without a reservation or decide to extend their stay, disrupting the ‘booking system’. Sadly we’ve seen many guests turned away or told to leave due to overbooking, even if they had a booking.

However, stayrajaampat.com reservations generally take precedence over any verbal agreements with homestay owners, so our advice is: Book online, confirm with the homestay directly via all available methods and reconfirm again a few days before arrival.

So which are the best homestays in Raja Ampat?

Although we take away some very special memories from every place we’ve stayed, each homestay has its own set of pros and con, and fundamentally, living conditions are going to be basic. However, choosing to stay in a traditional Papuan homestay is an eye-opening and wonderful experience. It gave us an opportunity to taste a different way of life and realise that the luxuries of the Western world are not always required. Our advice is to go with an open mind and know that there will be compromises in a place as wild and remote as West Papua.

Are Raja Ampat homestays for you? Please click here to find out more about what it is like staying in one of the most remote parts of the planet. We hope you found this article useful. Have you ever stayed in a Raja Ampat homestay? What was your favorite place and why? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

12 comments

    1. Hi Vatnel,

      Yes that’s right – We are out here now and pleased to report that the signal from the new tower at Arborek is reaching us at Beser Bay 😃

      Thanks so much for your comment, we’ll be updating the blog with this new info very shortly. Hope you had a wonderful trip to Raja Ampat!

      Warmest wishes,
      Claire.

  1. Hello Claire, hello Nick
    Very very interesting Blog, congratulations, and it was a pleasure to meet you at Corepen,
    but
    Corepen Homestay never again!
    The food is just horrible, at my stay almost everyone got sick with stomachproblems, incl. me at day 11 of my stay, no way to recommend this place! I left the place then as fast as possible…
    and the 6 dogs are really no fun, sorry, too many and barking at night so often, and you forgot the 4 dogs of the neighboring homestay at the same beach…
    Then the beds, they are lousy, stinky and worn out! sorry again… and one of the landbungalows smells like a wet dog, dreadful…
    Edmond from Canada has visited a few homestays in RA and he said, that Corepen is the dirtiest homestay he has ever seen… and Beverly, a women from Toronto as she heard all the stories she just left the Homestay the same day of arrival…
    and did you see all the rubbish filling up in the back of the homestay, sorry again… now there are also some chicken hanging around, and roosters are coming soon.
    The hygienic conditions are untenable!

    1. Hello Urs, It was lovely meeting you at Corepen!

      Thank you so much for visiting our blog and sharing your thoughts and honest experience with us. We are truly sorry to hear your story. As you know, our most recent stay at Corepen was our 3rd visit there, thus this post is still yet to be updated with the findings you have outlined. Unfortunately Nick and I were also both hit with food poisoning, resulting in me only diving twice and cutting our trip short.

      I regret to say that Corepen has changed considerably since Feb 2018. It has doubled in size, and as we sadly discovered, the dear Papa who previously managed the homestay passed away not long ago. This has definitely had a knock on effect with the day to day running of things, and basics such as food and hygiene have taken a hit. As returning customers, this discovery was a huge disappointment to us also, especially since Corepen had been our preferred homestay for diving.

      Sandy and Maria are still doing a brilliant job at the dive centre (they are some of the best guides in Raja Ampat) but clearly having to manage the homestay and it’s growth, is becoming too much to handle. We sincerely hope that Corepen are able to get back to their former glory in due course.

      Following from our most recent trip to R4 (Nov 18 – Jan 19) we’ll be updating all our blog posts, as we have a lot of new and interesting info to share with our readers – Things change very quickly in Raja Ampat.

      We’re so sorry to hear of your experience, but hope that it did not spoil your overall impression of the region.

      Warmest wishes, Claire & Nick.

  2. Hello,

    So finally we can say that we are going to Raja Ampat next october. We planned our visit compleet on comments from this website and booked Besar Bay. I only hope that there will be no problem with the reservation because i heard sometimes they are overbooked and just let you know when you are already on your way………Thank you for this great website, i would never discouver this special place on earth without this.

    1. Ahh thank you Sammy, we’re really happy to hear that!! Just be sure to follow up your booking with Beser Bay directly. We recommend sending them an email a week or two prior to arrival and then again 1-2 days before you check-in just to be on the safe side 🙂 Raja Ampat does tend to get ‘busier’ from October onwards, so it is worth making sure your reservation is confirmed. Please feel free to mention Nick and I to the Beser Bay family – they’re dear friends of ours 🙂 Hope you have an amazing time, we’d love to hear about your trip! All the best – Claire.

  3. Claire thanks for the informative blog. We are on a liveaboard fir 11 days and then want yo do a land based diving with a homestay. It is overwhelming to sort out one place to go. I don’t mind primitive at all but our main goal is diving. If you had to choose one place that was “ the best” and THE one you want to return to can you narrow it down?

    1. Barbara – thanks for your comment and happy to hear you’ve found our blog informative. I totally understand your dilemma. If we had to narrow it down, it has to be Beser Bay. We’ve stayed here for over 2 months, and would absolutely go back in a heartbeat. I’m sure you can tell from reading our above reviews that it stands out on many levels.

      The only ‘issue’ with Beser Bay, is that there is no dive operation on site. However this doesn’t spoil the appeal for us because it is such a special place, plus the surrounding reefs offer some of our very favourite snorkel spots. It is possible to arrange dives with nearby Daroyen Village who are happy to pick you up free of charge, as long as there is space on the dive boat – You just need to be prepared that this isn’t always a guaranteed option.

      If your main goal is diving, then perhaps Corepen would be a better option for you. It is generally our go-to homestay for diving. The guides are fantastic and they run a great dive operation. The homestay is set on a beautiful beach, but it lacks a little of Beser Bay’s charm. In our opinion, the Raja Ampat ‘on land’ experience is arguably better at Beser Bay 😉 Hope you find this somewhat helpful, and if you have any further questions please feel free to ask. All the best, Claire.

  4. Hi claire, your blog is very helpful, please continue. we’re planning going Raja Ampat in October. Do you know something about Methos Homestay? Many thanks, Su

    1. Hi Susana, thank you thats so kind of you to say! We’ve not stayed at Methos (as far as I know it is not part of the ‘Stay Raja Ampat’ association). However we know its location well, since it is close to Beser Bay, our favourite homestay. Methos is in a great spot – close to the beautiful village of Sawingraii and has an excellent reef which runs all the way down to Beser Bay. Maybe see you there in October! – Claire

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