There's no question that Indonesia is rainy in January. Tropical storms sweep across the ocean and hit many of the islands with rain and precipitation, although some regions are more susceptible than others. Bali is slightly less affected than other islands (though it still receives its fair share of rain) while places like Nusa Tenggara, Lombok, and Flores get inundated with precipitation.
Temperature-wise, it remains hot just about everywhere, ranging from daytime highs of 85°F to 95°F (with the hottest being around East Java). Evening temperatures drop only slightly, hitting about 73°f to 80°F at night.
Crowds and Costs
The great thing about a January vacation to Indonesia is that you'll practically have the place to yourself. Although Bali and some of the more popular locations get a degree of tourism year-round, other destinations are virtually deserted due to the weather. The rains usually only last a few hours, either in the morning or the early afternoon, and the rest of the day is warm and sunny with blue skies.
As long as you don't mind ducking for cover on occasion—and you have a good raincoat to bring—it's a fantastic time to take advantage of the smaller crowd sizes and less packed beaches. Not only that, the prices will be better, too. January is an incredible month for finding deals on both airfare and lodging.
Where to Go
Bali is definitely one of the best places to be if you're planning a January trip to Indonesia. The popular tourist island gets less pummeled by heavy rains, and the fact that it's so touristy means there's plenty of infrastructure to handle the bad weather. The roads are less likely to wash out (especially compared to more remote islands), and all of the restaurants, bars, and tourist attractions have measures in place for bad weather, along with activities to do during the storms.
Java gets more rain than Bali this time of year; however, the eastern part of the country is less susceptible to the major storms. The temperatures stay warm and pleasant on the islands, too (hovering around 82°F to 86°F during the day), making it a pretty good destination, too.
The lesser-known Moluccas Islands (also called the Spice Islands) can also be fun since their wet season is slightly different and most of those islands are dry in January.
Sumatra, Nusa Tenggara, Lombok, and Flores are extremely wet and prone to flooding during this time. In fact, January is one of the three wettest months of the year there, along with November and December. It's still possible to enjoy a vacation to these islands, particularly if you're planning jungle excursions instead of beach activities; however, you'll need high-quality rain gear and a mindset that's OK with getting wet.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
In Bali, the beaches will be rainy off and on but it's a great season to head to the central part of the island where Ubud and similar spots will be lush and verdant. It's one of the best times of the year to walk through this area's picturesque rice paddies which will be green and teeming with life. Visit the famous Monkey Forest (Mandala Suci Wenara Wana) where you'll be greeted by dozens of the forest's 1,000+ Balinese long-tailed monkeys who love courting tourists. Other options include meditating and relaxing at the Yoga Barn or visiting the silversmiths in the Celuk village, just 30 minutes outside of town.
Farther north, make a trip to the Ulun Danu Temple which sits on the edge of Baratan Lake in Bedugul. Wet season is the best time of the year here to watch the sunrise from the stunning temple that honors the goddess of the lake. While you're in the area, get an adrenaline fix at the Bali Treetop Adventure Park or stroll through the Bali Botanic Garden.
If you venture over to Java, skip the mountain climbs (such as hiking up Mt. Bromo), as the rain will make these difficult and unpleasant. However, it's a great month to wander around Surabaya, the archipelago's second-largest city. There, you'll find plenty of indoor activities such as museums, restaurants, and shopping opportunities.
The Moluccas, which have different wet and dry seasons than other parts of the country, will be less rainy and you can enjoy sightseeing in places like Manusela National Park on Seram Island, a quaint island ecoregion that boasts stunning birds, or hiking around Halmahera or Ternate islands. Just keep in mind that these destinations have fewer amenities (wifi will definitely be spottier) and there won't be a lot in the way of restaurants or nightlife.
Events in January
Chinese New Year: In Indonesia, locals celebrate the Chinese New Year, which occurs toward the end of the month, with greater fervor than the western New Year. Although it's not the giant celebration that you find in some neighboring southeast Asian countries, places like Singaraja in northern Bali will have dragon parades while nightlife spots like Kuta Beach will be thumping with celebrations.
Traveling to Indonesia in January? Check out this great itinerary
Highlights of Bali - 8 Days: Given that many of Indonesia's islands are flooded this time of year, this trip—which focuses on the drier, more comfortable island of Bali—makes a fantastic January itinerary. Among many highlights, you'll learn how to cook traditional Balinese cuisine in Ubud, tour quaint countryside farm communities in Sidemen, and cruise by scenic tropical waterfalls.