Bira Beach (Pantai Bira): White Sand Spoilt by Litter

A friend’s opinion that Bira was the most beautiful beach in Indonesia secured my decision to visit as the endpoint of my South Sulawesi trip, which had taken me north to Tana Toraja and to the city of Makassar.

Bira Beach, a few hours drive from Makassar, has become one of South Sulawesi’s most popular traveller haunts, with domestic and international tourists coming to enjoy the powdery white sands and crystal clear waters.

White sand at Bira BeachTourism = Litter

Unfortunately, as happens in many places that become tourism’s new best friend, the main part of the beach, where the road finishes abruptly at the seashore, was covered in litter. Plastic bags, food and drink containers and other random objects had been churned up by the waves and dumped on the beach, and the situation did not change during our three-night stay.

Rubbish on the beachYes, the sand is some of the most powdery soft white sand I have ever set foot on, but the need to constantly watch my step to avoid treading on broken glass rather spoilt the moment.

The sign on the right tells people to keep the beach clean. Beside it is a pile of litter.

The sign on the right tells people to keep the beach clean. Beside it is a pile of litter.

A Changeable Sea

On our first day the sea was relatively calm; people buzzed back and forth on banana boats dragged by speedboats. Other boats anchored near the beach, with passengers from nearby islands alighting. I swam in the sea, and as long as I avoided the boats, it was pleasant for swimming.

On day two, however, the waves were bigger and it was impossible to do proper swimming. Sunsets along the beach were beautiful, but not of the sun-dropping-into-the-ocean type.

I found that walking further along the beach, away from the hubbub of Bira with its souvenir stalls and rubber ring hire shops, led me to cleaner sand with fewer people, and I swam there on day three.

Not a Peaceful Idyll

So, Bira is definitely not the peaceful idyll that some guidebooks and people would have you believe. It’s a small but bustling tourist place, with plenty of places to stay and eat, and lots of shops to buy your Sulawesi t-shirts.

With this kind of under-planned tourism, where places just sprout up to cope with demand, there is often a lack of thought for keeping an area clean and pleasant. I hope that this issue will be addressed by the local businesses who rely on a steady stream of beach-going visitors. And for the time being, I suggest avoiding Bira – there are plenty of better beaches in Indonesia (here’s one example).


South Sulawesi in Pictures 5: Bira Beach


This gallery contains 10 photos.

Having been told Bira Beach (called Pantai Bira in Indonesian) was some kind of idyllic white sand paradise, I was disappointed. However, once you ignored the rubbish that litteres the central section of the beach, the sand was indeed powdery … Continue reading

Hotel Sapolohe, Bira, Sulawesi: A Large Stilt House with Sea Views

Having quickly moved hotels after a ghastly experience at Bira Beach Hotel, we found Hotel Sapolohe just up a side road, away from the Bira’s main drag, but right near the beach.

Hotel SapoloheStay in a Stilt House!

The hotel itself was a massive house on stilts, which instantly appealed to me because of architecture alone. We paid Rp. 350,000 for a deluxe room with sea view, a TV, air-conditioning and hot water, but not including breakfast. We bargained to get this price, which we considered on the expensive side, down from Rp. 420,000.

The room was tastefully decorated and we stepped out on to a communal veranda looking out to the beach. There were no other guests during our two-night stay, so we had the veranda to ourselves. Set up on a cliff and upstairs in the stilt house, our position was high above the beach and we enjoyed looking out to sea. The hotel has direct access to the beach through a gate at the bottom of the garden.

BedroomThe Other Details

The bathroom had a bathtub with a shower over it, but there was no plug for the bath or the sink, although we tried to request one. The bathroom fittings, unlike the bedroom, were quite old and worn but perfectly usable.

There was no housekeeping or room service of any kind. Since the hotel wasn’t serving breakfast for guests, there was nowhere to buy food or drinks at the hotel, but it was only a short walk to find a range of eateries. (Of particular note was the delicious freshly cooked food at Salassa Restaurant, along the main road going away from the beach.)

We were told that a new owner had recently bought Sapolohe and was planning to redevelop it, but it wasn’t clear what would happen or when.

Sea View from our RoomFor a Sea View on Stilts

Overall, Hotel Sapolohe is a good option for a quiet break, away from the central area of the village and overlooking the sea. I enjoyed the feeling of staying in a stilt house and the sea view from up above everything was fantastic.

Bira’s hotels are a mixed bunch with many friendly options up the main road away from the sea. If you’re intent on a sea view while still being close to the village, and you don’t mind paying a bit more, Hotel Sapolohe is a good choice.