It may lack the well-developed, sybaritic appeal of Bali to the southwest, but Indonesia’s North Sulawesi has charms all its own. The lush province, set along the volcanic Pacific Ring of Fire, teems with biodiversity- from forested nature preserves to the world-class Bunaken marine reserve, home to more than 2,500 varieties of fish. Though the island has maintained a low profile, it’s definitely on the rise, thanks to direct flights from Singapore to its capital, Manado, and a wealth of sustainable ecotourism projects in the works (including a recent, successful campaign to prevent a gold mine from dumping its harmful tailings into the sea). The pick of the province’s resorts is the year-old Kima Bajo Resort & Spa (62-43/186-0999; www.kimabajo.com; doubles from $230) set on remote Wori Bay. Here, a collection of 32 elegant suites and freestanding thatched-roof villas- some with outdoor rain showers and bathtubs- and a serene spa cascade down a hill to a volcanic-sand beach. Guests spend their days cruising Bunaken and the surrounding islands, dining on superb Indonesian fare, and taking in the breathtaking sunsets over Manado Tua, a dormant volcano rising from the sea.
Organize a hike with Tangkoko Ecotourism Guides Club (62-43/187-1845; www.neba.nl) through the densely forested 21,745-acre Tangkoko-Batu Angus Dua Saudara National Park to spot the fabulously eccentric spectral tarsier, a tiny nocturnal primate with enormous eyes that can swivel its head 180 degrees and jump 10 times its body length. Try finding that on Bali.