It's hard to escape the rain if you plan a vacation to Indonesia in March. Precipitation is all but guaranteed on most islands, and it's particularly bad in the southern central region around Nusa Tenggara, Lombok, and Flores. That said, the storms don't last all day. Typically, they roll in for a few hours, shutting things down for a bit, and then clearing up to sunny, blue skies. Meanwhile, the temperatures are hot so when it's not raining so you can enjoy all of the standard tropical vacation activities.
In Bali, temperatures range from about 85°F to 90°F during the day and drop slightly to about 71°F to 77° at night. East Java is hotter with daytime temperatures in Lumpur ranging from about 88°F to 97°F, and decreasing to a more consistent 75° in the evenings. Sumatra is cooler than both of these islands, averaging around 75°F to 80°F.
Crowds and Costs
Although the weather is rainy on many of the islands, the crowds and the costs are much better. Unlike the middle of June or July, when every beach is packed and every jungle tour is crammed with visitors, March is the time when these spaces are virtually empty. Bali gets more tourists than other places, given that it's less affected by the storms; however, it is still much less crowded than other times of the year. What's more, the hotels and airlines offer low-season rates during this time period. It's not uncommon, in fact, for lodging prices to be half of what they run in the summertime.
Where to Go
Bali is one of the best destinations for a March vacation since it's slightly less impacted by the rains that hammer the other islands. Not only that, it has better infrastructure in place due to higher overall tourism rates. That makes the roads less likely to flood and the power is less likely to go out midway through your lunch. Additionally, the tourist businesses are accustomed to the off-season and offer a variety of special activities, meals, concerts, and other promotions when it's rainy to try to bring more people in the door.
Java is another option, although you're more likely to encounter rain here. That said, the eastern part of the island stays drier so if you stick to places like Surabaya and Lumpur, you're less likely to get hit with the storms. The island is also hotter than Bali, typically seeing daytime temperatures of about 90°F to 97°F.
The Moluccas Islands (also called the Spice Islands) can make a good choice as well, provided you like a little bit of adventure and don't require luxurious amenities. These islands (which include destinations like Seram, Halmahera, Ternate, and Tidore), offer lots of opportunities for outdoor excursions such as hiking and bird-watching.
For the most part, you'll want to avoid the islands of Sumatra, Nusa Tenggara, Lombok, and Flores. Sumatra is drier up north so a visit to Medan or the surrounding areas could be all right; however, the others are wet and rainy all month long.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
In Bali, the rain will be somewhat lighter and the tourism infrastructure will be better. The south gets harder hit by storms so plan to focus on the northern and central parts of the island. Head to Ubud, for example, where you can relax at the Yoga Barn or explore the Monkey Forest (Mandala Suci Wenara Wana) where mischievous Balinese long-tailed monkeys run up to greet you as you enter. Outside town, check out the traditional silversmiths in the Celuk village or wander through the picturesque rice paddies which are lush and green this time of year.
Continue farther north to Bedugul to visit the sacred Ulun Danu Temple, a beautiful site on Baratan Lake that honors the goddess of the lake. The wet season is actually the best time of the year to watch sunrise from the beautiful temple. If you have a hankering for some adrenaline, drop by the Bali Treetop Adventure Park; or, if you're seeking tranquility, stroll through the landscape at the Bali Botanic Garden.
If you decide to head south, there's great surfing in Kuta Beach, along with wild nightlife and a robust party scene. Just keep in mind that most days you'll have several hours of rain during which you'll need to duck for cover for a bit, or spend time indoors.
The mountains of Java are wet (it's not a good time to climb Mt. Bromo, for example) but there's plenty to do in the eastern part of the island where it rains less. Check out Surabaya, for example, which is the second-largest city in the archipelago, offering food, nightlife, and entertainment. If you enjoy exploring temples and other religious sites, the Borobudur Temple complex sits near Yogyakarta and the Candi Prambanan complex is close to Borobudur.
Events in March
Holi Hindu Festival: This ancient Hindu festival, known also as the "Festival of Colors" and the "Festival of Love," involves one night of prayers and rituals in front of a bonfire, followed by a huge festival the next day. During that celebration (called "Rangwali Holi"), people use water guns, balloons, and other mechanisms to douse each other in colorful paint, alongside music, food, and festivities.
Ascension Of The Prophet Muhammad: This holiday, which occurs annually on the 27th day of the month of Rajab (the seventh month of the Islamic calendar), usually falls in late March. It is a public holiday during which most schools and workplaces are closed for parades, ceremonies, and other celebrations.
Traveling to Indonesia in March? Check out this great itinerary
Highlights of Bali - 8 Days: Rather than spending time touring a bunch of wet, rainy islands, this 8-day itinerary focuses just on Bali where the weather is better and the tourist attractions are more properly equipped for visitors. You'll begin in the southern tourist site of Tanah Lot before heading north to Ubud where you'll learn how to cook traditional Balinese cuisine and take a bike tour through the countryside. Other highlights include a tour of Sidemen and a visit to the stunning Uluwatu temple.