Introducing Halmahera: Maluku’s Largest Island

Halmahera is the largest island in all Maluku, and by far the largest one in North Maluku province.

Strangely shaped with four mountainous peninsulas, its geographic features also include several active volcanoes, scenic lakes, unexplored caves and plenty of pretty off-shore islands. It also boasts Aketajawe-Lolobata National Park, the first in North Maluku, and one of the most pristine and unvisited in all Indonesia. Halmahera also possesses the highest number of endemic birds of all Maluku islands, and a fascinating variety of reptiles – with several interesting new species discovered in recent years.

halmahera batu bacan

Its native inhabitants are mostly members of unique ethnic groups who speak languages more closely related to those of Papua and the Pacific than to languages spoken elsewhere in Indonesia or even Maluku. These peoples hold onto some fascinating traditions, though like everywhere in the region, you must be lucky enough to happen on a special event to see traditional rituals, costumes and dancing.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Halmahera the most interesting island in Maluku, and have been paying repeat visits since 1999. And we still have plenty to go back for!


This once obscure village on the west coast of Halmahera has been chosen, rather controversially, to replace Ternate as the future capital of North Maluku. Beyond the original, sleepy coastal village it is now just a huge construction site, with wide roads bulldozed into the jungle and huge, lavish government offices being built along them. Locals agree it will take many many years for Sofifi to become a real city, and government workers must dread the thought of having to relocate here from Ternate. For visitors, Sofifi is only of interest as the hub of road transport around Halmahera, and thus the best gateway into the island.

halmahera 2


Once the fourth sultanate in North Maluku, Jailolo’s main attraction today are the beautiful setting of its capital of the same name, and the traditional rumah adat (village halls) in the ethnic Sahu villages north of the town.


A major Japanese base during the 2nd World War, the district of Kao offers some war relics around its capital town of the same name, plus good beaches and snorkelling at Pulau Bobale just off the village of Daru.
It is also the starting point for hiking across the interior to Ibu.


Tobelo is the largest district in North Halmahera, and its capital of the same name is the most frequently visited destination on the island. While the town itself is dull, the district offers fine beaches, off-shore islands, and even an active volcano.



An easy day-trip from Tobelo, but even more rewarding if given more time, the Galela district consists of a dozen villages fringing 3 beautiful volcanic lakes inland from its capital Soasio, plus remote coastal ones along the eastern side of Hamahera’s northernmost tip. There is a lot to see or do here, from climbing North Maluku’s most impressive active volcano through exploring WWII relics and remote waterfalls to snorkelling on some of Halmahera’s finest reefs.

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