Maluku Travel Information - Saparua

Saparua: The Centre of the Lease Islands

Saparua is the largest and most populous of the Lease Islands just east of Ambon, the capital of Maluku province.
With its friendly population (mostly Christian), pretty villages, plentiful historical relics, good beaches and fine coral reefs, it was also the most popular island for a quick escape from Ambon before tourism in Maluku collapsed in 1999.
It is now rapidly becoming more visited again, and its once varied and pleasant beachside accommodation options and dive-shops are reopening, too.

From Saparua you could also visit the smaller and more remote neighbouring island of Nusalaut - well worth considering if you have an extra 2 days' time or so!

Attractions Off the Track Activities Shopping Getting There Accommodation Food

Main Attractions


Most visitors arrive in Saparua at the jetty in Haria village.
Just off the road near the jetty there is a huge, semi-traditional baileu village hall, and history buffs could also visit the family home of anti-colonial hero Thomas Mattulessy (alias Pattimura), where a small museum exhibits his memorabilia like what are said to have been his clothes, and books written about him.

Kota Saparua

The island's sleepy capital is a good base for short visits.
It has three accommodation options, a fine beach, a fort, a busy market, and lots of colonial buildings.
It is also the centre for transport around the island.

Duurstede Fort

This large, 17th century Dutch fort stands on the sea-side in Kota Saparua. It has been heavily restored, making it look a bit like it has been built of concrete just a few years ago.
Though it has lost its originality, its location remains beautiful, right next to the beach.
If it is locked, you will need to find a care-taker to let you in - ask at the nearby Penginapan Duurstede first.

The Museum

Just next to the fort stands a huge modern building housing a large number of dioramas and other exhibits depicting Saparua's role in the struggle against Dutch colonialism.
At my last visit, this was rather neglected with the lights not working, but as the caretakers for the fort also hold the keys to this museum, it's worth a quick look anyway.
And the explanations are posted in readable English as well! ;-)

The Town Beach

Saparua was unique in having a gorgeous stretch of fine, white sand right in front of town, next to the fort. There is accommodation on the beach, but it's freely accessible to all.
Unfortunately in 2012 an idiotic project endorsed by the local government built a thick and tall concrete wall along the beach, even digging up its sand to use in the construction. It's beauty is now much diminished.

The Market

Kota Saparua has a daily market in the town centre, but it gets a whole lot busier on Tuesdays and Saturdays when people come here from all over the island, as well as from neighbouring Nusalaut and Haruku.
This is a good example of a traditional Malukan market, with mostly typical local products/foodstuff sold - like these basketfuls of raw sago.

The Town Baileu

Near the school in the centre of the town stands the island's second most traditional baileu.
It is quite small, has concrete bases and nails holding it together, but overall it still looks very traditional and even has its own little megalithic stone altar fronting it.
Worth a quick look.

Sirisori Islam

One of the two remaining Muslim villages on Saparua, Sirisori Islam is clearly visible from Kota Saparua just across the bay, down the southeastern peninsula.
It remains a stronghold of local traditions, and here you can still hear the native Saparuan language that is no longer spoken in the Christian villages.
Check if their long korakora canoe is in its shed - they won several races with it.
The local Raja's colonial-style home is also worth a look.


This village in the south-eastern corner of the island is Saparua's most interesting, offering a number of attractions: a small fort, pottery-making, and two fine beaches (a few kms away).
It also used to have accomodation on one of the beaches but that has closed a few years ago - with some luck, it may reopen one day.

The Pottery-makers

Ouw is the only village in the Lease Islands that has traditionally produced pottery for local use. These are sold as far away as the markets of Ambon.
Due to the island's popularity with tourists, several younger craftspeople have also received training in Bali to produce more ornate pieces for tourists. These are now even exported to Holland, where the nostalgic Dutch-Moluccan community, many of whom come from Saparua, provides a ready market for them!

Ouw's Fort

The ruins of this small, derelict fort stand behind Ouw's small market.
It is totally unrestored and local family has actually built a small home within the walls.
Nevertheless, it is worth a quick look exactly for its overgrown, time-worn state.

Nolloth's Old Church

Up in Saparua's NE corner, Nolloth is another village well worth visiting.
It is dominated by a fine, massive colonial-era church with thick walls.
Until 2007 or so it also had a uniquely preserved sago-thatch roof - which has now sadly been replaced by the more common tin! :-(

The Nolloth Baileu

Perhaps even more interesting is however Saparua's finest surviving example of a traditional baileu village hall standing by the road-side. It's the only one on the island constructed without nails!
Near this baileu are some old megaliths.
Ask for the locals' permission before poking around and taking pictures - apparently some impolite tourists have had a negative effect on their attitudes here.

Inside the Baileu

If you inspect the building closely, you can see that it was constructed entirely without nails. Everything was tied together with traditional methods.
Quite amazing in an otherwise very modern, Christian village!

Off the Beaten Track

The West Coast Beach

What locals claim is the finest, longest beach on the island stretches along its western coast between the villages of Kulur and Porto.
It is rather remote and not easy to get to, but you may enjoy great views of it from the boats from Tulehu.

Laino Beach

Located at the end of a newly upgraded road beyond the hamlet of Haria Perak across the bay from Haria proper, this is one of Saparua's most secluded and finest beaches, with the added attraction of views of Molana Island.
A few dedicated locals visit it on week-ends, otherwise it is totally deserted.
It is now once again possible to stay here, too - see my accomodation tips.

Pulau Molana

This small, hilly, uninhabited island off Saparua's south-western tip is known for its excellent dive-spots, and has the finest white sand beach anywhere in the Lease Islands.
Incredibly, it also has a few newly opened bungalows where those looking for total seclusion could stay - see my accommodation listing.


Diving & Snorkelling

Saparua has several good dive-spots, and it also has a dive resort in the village of Paperu - see my accommodation listing for more info on that.
Another dive resort in Mahu village has now reopened, and diving is offered at some of the lowest rates in Maluku.
Otherwise, resort to snorkelling - still very nice!



The village of Ouw is the pottery-making centre of Central Maluku.
Most pottery is functional, rustic, and made for local use, but this is the only village in Maluku where locals are used to making more ornate pieces for tourists!
You can find some Balinese-influenced pieces and maybe even figurines, and if you have a few days to wait, you can also order pieces made to your taste.

Getting There and Around

By Sea

The most common way of getting to Saparua is by boat from Ambon.
A daily wooden boat (around noon) and usually several speedboats (starting early morning)leave from Tulehu on on the east coast of Ambon's Leihitu peninsula.
In Saparua they usually go to Haria, just a few kms west of Kota Saparua.
A large, slower car-passenger ferry also operates from Tulehu to the port near Kulur in remote NW Saparua, and a few villages in NE Saparua, like Itawaka or Mahu also have direct speedboats to/from Tulehu.
To leave Saparua, you should aim to be in Haria by 6.30 am to catch the wooden boat.
There are also speedboats to Seram (near Masohi) every morning from Mahu village, and on market days (Wed & Sat) there are several boats to Nusalaut.
To Haruku you may well have to charter.

By Road

Saparua has a good network of roads connecting all villages to Saparua town in the island's centre.
Bemos serve most villages, and of course there are ojeks, too.


Penginapan Duurstede

This place had a great location right on the beach in Kota Saparua. Now however, with the horrid concrete wall built along the beach, the rooms that once had sea vistas look at the wall!
It is still the cheapest place on the island.
Why? Well, it has no air-con, just fan, and suffers from periodical water shortages. Nor are the owners really tuned to tourists' needs, offering no services besides accommodation.

Penginapan Lease Indah

This place right in the centre of Kota Saparua gets most of the visitors, tourists and locals doing business in town alike.
It offers a range of rooms in a somewhat neglected garden.
Note that it stands on a dirty stretch of the coastline though, so if being on the beach is what you want, keep looking elsewhere...

Penginapan Perdana

The owner of the Lease Indah has opened this new, more upmarket place next door to his old place in 2008.
It's more plush and a lot more fresh, but with no beach whatsoever, it is more likely to appeal to visiting businessmen or government officials than to tourists.
Still, if you want comforts and a central location, you might like it.

Mahu Lodge

The dive lodge in Mahu village finally reopened in 2010. Its lines of rooms stand in a spacious garden on the coast, though unfortunately there is no swimming beach here - you get a pool instead. Rates here include breakfast and dinner, making this once mid-range place now very good value. The owner, Pak Paul Tomasoa, is one of the most experienced hosts in Saparua, and can arrange a range of excursions including hikes on the nearby regions of Seram! Diving is now offered again, at rates similar to those elsewhere in Indonesia and lower than those currently available elsewhere in Ambon or Saparua. For the latest, call 0811977232.

Rumah RP

Another option is this new homestay-style place in the nearby village of Ihamahu. It is located on the seaside (though not on a beach) and offers 2 rooms in a furnished house on the seaside with full board for a very reasonable rate. See their website for more details, and to book in advance:

Puti Lessi Indah

Across the bay from Mahu and Ihamahu in the remotest corner of Saparua, before the Muslim village of Kulur in a very quiet, almost jungly setting on the coast, these once very popular bungalows also reopened in 2010. Here too, the owner has a long experience with tourism and can offer a range of activities. This is one of the best places around Saparua for those looking for total seclusion, though renovating the facilities was still ongoing in 2010, and asking prices for room and food (there's nowhere else to eat nearby) could be a bit too high for the standards offered (bargain if necessary).

Kalifornia Bungalows

On remote Laino Beach overlooking Molana Island, there were once 3 places to stay. Only one of those has survived the touristless past decade and has now reopened. You may have heard/read about it under the name "Leano Beach", but locals all know it by the old name, Kalifornia. You will need to get here by ojek from Haria or Kota Saparua, and once you arrive, you are likely to have both the place, and pretty much all of the fine white sand beach on which it stands, to yourselves. As with the place above, there's nowhere else to get food nearby, so check the prices for meals before settling in.

Molana Beach Bungalows

You couldn't get any more secluded than this in the Lease Islands!
The bungalows on the gorgeous, uninhabited island of Molana were renovated and reopened for business in March 2008.
As they have yet to appear in the guidebooks, no tourists seem to know about them, so you could most likely have the whole island to yourselves...
All this comes at a price, of course.
Rooms are not too expensive, priced at 100.000 inside the main building, 200.000 for a separate bungalow, both options sleeping two people.
Meals however cost 50.000/person for a lunch or dinner, which is not cheap, but then remember that all food and water, as well as the staff to cook it (and look after you) have to be ferried over to the island from Haria on Saparua itself!
You'll also have to pay for a transfer by speedboat, costing ca. 200.000.
If you aren't on a rock-bottom budget, and especially if there are several of you, this may well be worth it though!
Also, if you stay more than just 2-3 days, there may be room for some negotiation... ;-)
Don't just show up - talk to the owner, Pak Agust Kaya who lives in Haria village, first!
His phone number is on the link below, as is a contact email that may be less reliable.

Paperu Resort and Spa

Saparua's luxury option, this Swiss-owned place opened in late 2007.
It has a number of large, comfortable bungalows in spacious grounds a few kms from Kota Saparua.
Its main target clientine are divers, but if you can afford its rates, you could stay without diving, too.
For more pics and info see their website linked below.


Limited Choice

There are a few simple warungs near the market in the centre of Saparua town.
They serve the usual rice and fish or chicken dishes.
The best variety of more typically Malukan food, including traditional sweets, is to be found at the town's market on Tuesdays and Saturdays.