Manado - Bunaken - Tangkoko - Minahasa - Sangihe/Talaud - Gorontalo - Togians


Manado, once described in guide books as one of Indonesia's cleanest cities, has changed a lot in recent years. After a period of neglect at the end of the 90's a huge building boom has started alongside the so-called "Manado Boulevard", the city's main road. Large areas have been gained by land reclamation projects along what used to be the city's coastline. New malls, shopping centers, department stores, hotels and restaurants have opened or are still being built. Especially the areas around the Mega Mall, just a few hundred meters south of the city's landmark Aryaduta Hotel (former Ritzy Hotel) and the Manado Town Square ("Mantos") have become new centers of attraction and popular meeting points. The malls themselves - apart from the usual Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken - have some very reasonable shops and at present are among the few places in town where you can get a good cappuccino and other hot and cold coffee drinks. Also lots of restaurants.

Some other parts of the city are still in a less good shape. Garbage collection doesn't always work as it should, road conditions are sometimes poor, and power & tab water supply is often problematic. However, compared to a couple of years ago improvements are clearly visible.

In any case you are hopefully not visiting North Sulawesi with the expectation of everything being like at home. Be a bit open-minded and adventurous and a stay in Manado with its hospitable and fun-loving population will be a pleasant experience. However, in terms of typical tourist sites it doesn't have much to offer, so if you don't have lots of time better don't consider spending too much of it in the city. Rather go for some of the many attractions in the surroundings which are described on this site.

Budget accommodation: Since the demise of the Smiling Hostel there is no place anymore that can be described as a "backpacker's favourite". Try the friendly Bersehati Hotel with ok rooms, or Rex Hotel. The Celebes Hotel near the harbour has gone more upmarket but still has some cheaper rooms and is quite convenient if you want to take the public boat to Bunaken. The hotel has incorporated what used to be the Smiling Hostel building.

Middle class hotels: Most centrally located are Hotel Central, Hotel New Queen and Celebes Hotel (at harbour). The Hotel Formosa in the south of Manado (ocean side of Bahu Mall) has ok rooms. Other options are the popular Hotel Minahasa, Regina Hotel and Golden Dragon Hotel. Or try the Travello Hotel with small but nice rooms at reasonable rates.

Upmarket Resorts and Hotels: Without doubt the most convenient location right in the city center has the former Ritzy Hotel Manado which is now Hotel Aryaduta Manado and has improved a lot since it has been taken over by the Aryaduta Group.
Also convenient is the Quality Hotel at Jalan Piere Tendean (Manado Boulevard), with nice rooms. Personally I found the restaurant there not very convincing though.
The Sintesa Peninsula Hotel is the only 5 star (Indonesian rating!) hotel in the city. It's located near the city center but not near the malls. Rooms are nice, food in the restaurant isn't. Rooms at Swiss-Belhotel Maleosan are equally good, the restaurant there is highly recommended.
Outside of town there are for example the Tasik Ria Resort, Grand Luley Resort, and Mercure Manado Tateli Beach Resort.

This is just a selection, many more hotels are available in and around town.

Dining out in Manado has come a long way in the last few years with more restaurants than ever offering a wide variety of dishes. A few examples:
  • Raja Sate Restaurant, Jalan Boulevard No. 39 (near Mega Mall) - one of my favourites in Manado. Satay and more satays. From beef, goat to seafood satays charcoal grilled to perfection with accompanying sides of local spicy sauce. The curries and other dishes are also worth trying, and they are reasonably priced.
  • Lesehan Malioboro - Javanese style restaurant which offers the choice of dining in the main room or outside in small houses seated on the floor at low tables. No visit is complete without an order of Ayam Malioboro which is crispy fried chicken. Other recommendations are the Sayur Urap (spicy coconut salad greens and bean sprouts) and Sayur Gudeg Yogya (slightly spicy jackfruit and tofu infused with tamarind and served as a savoury dish). Round this out with an order of Gado Gado and tempe and vegetarians won't be disappointed.
  • Peony - announces itself as the "only Halal Chinese" restaurant in town so we have to assume there's something to please everyone in this newly renovated venue. The largely Chinese/Asian menu is tasty and a couple of favourite dishes include Curry Thai Fried Rice and BBQ Chicken Taliwang. Dim Sum (Yum Cha) is being offered at lunchtime on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Sample dishes are brought out on a trolley for you to choose and then prepared while you wait.
  • Dolphin Donuts - Donuts and Western food
  • Green Garden - good seafood and Chinese cuisine at very affordable prices
  • Xanadu - good Chinese
There are lots of food places in Manado's malls, and since 2010 you'll find a big McDonalds in the Megamas area near Mega Mall. Also more restaurants and cafés in the same area.

! Fish lovers might try a short trip to Kalasey, just a few km south of Manado: dozens of fish restuarants, built on stilts over the beach, and extremely popular with locals. The barbecued fresh fish and other delicacies usually taste excellent. I'm not a big fan of these places though since I have seen that they are offering Napoleons and other species that you would rather like to see alive in the reefs than grilled on your plate!

Cafés: Choices have definitely improved in the last few years. Most popular seems to be Black Canyon in the Manado Town Square Mall ("Mantos"). Excelso Café in Mega Mall is another option.

Pubs/Discotheques: What you like or don't like depends on personal taste, so I can only tell my opinion based on my last visit in August 2008. Moreover the bands at most places are changing every couple of months. Best is if you try the various nightspots yourself.

My personal favourite is the Score at Manado Town Square. During the day it's a billard café and restaurant. In the evenings there are mostly good to excellent live bands and in the breaks between the shows it's dance floor. Until midnight you can also still play billard.

Also popular is the Corner at Bahu Mall, on the 3rd floor above Kentucky Fried Chicken. It's a quite big and quite fancy music cafe style thing, usually with live bands. Good atmosphere, many of Manado's "high society kids", in general rather young folks. Quite good though. Very crowded on Saturdays.

And the rest? Well, if you like dark karaoke places and even darker techno discotheques you will find plenty. In general nightlife in Manado naturally has less variety than in other, larger Indonesian cities. Nonetheless it can be very interesting.

More amusement: There are lots of billiard places all over town. The fanciest one you can find at Mega Mall.

Internet: Most of the bigger hotels and resorts in North Sulawesi and even some smaller resorts on Bunaken are offering reasonable Internet connections these days. Free WLAN hotspots are available at many cafés and restaurants in Manado.

This site was created in January 1998; the last major update was in November 2011.