Gorontalo is a city in Northern Sulawesi, and the provincial capital of Gorontalo province.
With its old Dutch colonial buildings, surrounding waterfalls, hot springs, and pristine coral reefs for diving, Gorontalo should be a world famous destination. However, most travellers only use it as a hub for the Togean islands. A large majority of Gorontalo residents are Muslims.
Gorontalo is served by Jalaluddin Airport (GTO IATA). The largest Indonesian airlines all connect Gorontalo to Makassar. Garuda Indonesia in addition has direct flights to Jakarta. Lion Air subsidiary Wings Air has regional flights to and from Manado, Luwuk, and Palu.
- The overnight ferry, Touna Tomini, from Ampana / Togean Islands calls on Gorontalo every Thursday and Sunday, making the return trip the next day. Note: There's only 1 ferry and when it breaks down there's none.
- The new fast ferry from Togean leave Dolong (handy for Malenge) on wednesdays at 7:00 and Saturdays at 8.00AM to Buckland (arrive at 13:00) from where it's a 3-hour drive to Gorontalo.
- Buses from Manado run daily (price Rp60,000).
- Kijang (public cars) from Manado is a more comfortable option that will drop you at your preferred hotel. Rp150,000 for front seat (more comfortable), Rp100,000 for backseat (brace yourself for a bumpy ride).
- Bentor is a cross between a rickshaw (Indonesian: becak) and a motorbike (motor), and will take you around town for Rp5,000. The price is about 20,000-30.000 Rp. for destinations outside of town, such as beaches and waterfalls. Arriving from the Togeans, the 4 km ride from Gorontalo harbor to the city should cost you Rp40,000 (Oct 2018).
- Local buses and bemos (minivan in light blue color) have been observed, but they seem only useful for the locals.
- Transportation sharing app like Grab and GoJek is available, although the number of cars are still limited. There are also some limitation (e.g. you can be dropped to the shopping center, but you can't be picked up from there).
- Dutch colonial mansions littered throughout the city.
- Fort Otanaha (Benteng Otanaha): Not much information available for this historic site.
- Hot springs
Gorontalo is home to the Salvador Dali coral sponge, indigenous to this region. With more than 25 dive sites accessible from the shore around Gorontalo, this should be a mecca for dive enthusiasts. However, so far this gem has remained relatively hidden.
- Miguel's Diving (Book from Oasis hotel).
- Nemo Adventures (book from Melati hotel).
Whale shark watching
Probably the one thing that the city is most famous for and the main reason why some tourists stay overnight. You can do this in Olele Marine Park, and you can snorkel in the area as well.
There used to be a prawn processing plant nearby which attracted whale sharks for feeding. The plant has closed, but the locals are feeding the whale sharks to keep them in the bay, so that it is "guaranteed" that tourists can see them all year round. This is arguably unethical, because whale sharks are normally migratory animals. Secondly, tour operators and tourists alike are not educated enough on how to avoid injuring white sharks (for a start: do not touch them, and get out of their way). So knowing these things, act according to your own conscience.
Supplies for Togean. The islands are remote and essentials are expensive so bring sunscreen, mosquito spray / coils and other essentials that you can think of.
- Gorontalo Mall.
- Santika Supermarket.
- 1 Red Black (near Citimall Gorontalo), ☏ . 1000-2200. Your typical fastfood joint. Try the tiny burger. It's small but it's tasty. As always with western food in Indonesia, you pay more than you would for rice and noodles (ca. 10,000 for a burger), but after the Togean diet you can treat yourself.
- 2 Ohara Restaurant, Jalan Yos Sudarso No. 51, Tenda, ☏ . 0800-2130. Here you can enjoy ikan bakar (grilled fish) from a seat overlooking the Sungai Bone (river).
- Night market (Just opposite Melati Hotel). A number of food stalls sell the usual suspects. Fried rice, Fried noodles, Soto Ayam and Gado Gado. The food is good, and the seating area near the stalls make it a great place to mingle with the locals who seem ridiculously happy to say hello to you.
- KFC (at Mega Zinur mall).
The local shops sell beer for you to consume in the privacy of your hotel. To enjoy a night out, I'm afraid you will have to put up with being at a karaoke place paying 30.000 Rp./hour for the pleasure.
- Hotel Karina. A popular cheapie with rooms to match the price. A good option if the Melati is full.
- 1 Hotel Amaris, Jl. Sultan Botutihe No.37 (just southeast of Citymall Gorontalo and Magna Hotel), ☏ . Multi-story modern hotel with free breakfast, a/c, and wifi, close to mall and other downtown amenities. Rp309,353.
The prices are mid range, but the quality really isn't.
- Hotel Paradise. Plenty of rooms, all have aircon, cable tv and comfortable beds. Not exactly paradise, but it will do. Rp300,000.
- Hotel Yulia. The rooms are fairly standard. Beds with spring mattresses and tv. All rooms have similar layout, but the more expensive has more space around the furniture. Rp400,000.
- 2 Grand Q Hotel Gorontalo, Jl. Nani Wartabone No.25 (couple blocks south of mall), ☏ . This nice hotel has pool, hot tub, gym, restaurant, bar, and wifi. Rp486,127.
- 3 Maqna Hotel by Prasanthi (next to Citymall Gorontalo), ☏ . This hotel attached to the premier mall in downtown Gorontalo has a sharp image with outdoor pool, spa, gym, a/c, wifi, and restaurant, plus great views. Rp574,514.
- 4 Century Beach Resort, Dumbo Raya, Lorong Al. Pat 11, Leato Sel. (take Jl. Laksamana Martadinata south of Gorontalo until you reach Leato Sel township, hotel next to bay (~8 km)). A beach resort in case you want to stay on the Gulf of Tomini Rp677,632.
- Togean islands for that Robinson Crusoe island experience. Take Tuna Tomini Ferry to Wakai: IDR 65,000 for Economy Class, IDR 75,000 for Tatami Class (you can lie down), or IDR 89,000 for Business Class (with aircon).
- Manado public bus departs at 5.30am (IDR 110,000), shared car departs at various time (IDR 200,000 for front seat, IDR 175,000 for middle seat, IDR 150,000 for back seat). Expect 10-12 hours ride.