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Likupang: North Sulawesi’s Hidden Gem for Eco-Tourism and Strategic Investments

According to a legend, there is a place where nine heavenly angels descended to bathe in a lake. The angels came down precisely at a lake owned by a farmer named Mamanua. He managed to restrain an angel and marry her and have a child named Walangsendau.

Unfortunately, due to a mistake made by Mamanua, his wife had to return to heaven.

Before returning to heaven, the angel advised Mamanua to invite Walangsendau to walk through the forest, rivers and mountains following the sunlight while the child was crying.

This long journey took Mamanua to clear blue water and white sandy beach, where he could see the coral and fish in it. This area is now known as Likupang.

Located about 29 miles (45km) north or approximately an hour from Manado, North Sulawesi, nestled between lush green hills and crystal-clear waters, Likupang is a place where nature’s beauty takes center stage.

The road to Likupang is a scenic one. As you leave Manado, you’ll drive through dense tropical forests. Along the way, you’ll encounter charming villages where locals go about their daily lives. The road then ascends into the hills, offering panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. You’ll pass through winding roads with hairpin bends, surrounded by thick foliage. The misty peaks create a mystical atmosphere.

As you approach Likupang, the road descends toward the coast. Suddenly, you’ll catch sight of Likupang Bay—a crescent-shaped stretch of turquoise water framed by rolling hills. It’s a picture-perfect moment.

The name Likupang itself refers to several districts in North Minahasa Regency, North Sulawesi: West, East, and South Likupang. The area is known for pristine beaches, vibrant coral reefs, and dense tropical forests and is currently being designated as a Special Economic Zone. In contrast to most SEZs in Indonesia, the Likupang SEZ has advantages in the resort-themed tourism sector.

The zone aims to balance cultural, natural, and economic aspects while preserving its natural beauty through zero waste management practices and a circular resource economy. It is designed to be an international resort conservatory and marine park, drawing inspiration from destinations like Maldives, Ibiza, Bali, and the rich biodiversity of the archipelago.

Likupang SEZ is also one of Indonesia’s Super Priority Tourist Destinations, promising a harmonious blend of community development, local economy revitalization, and eco-conscious tourism. The development includes a variety of potential investments such as resort hotels, marine eco-tourism, international MICE event venues, sport complexes, equestrian facilities, resort villas, ecological preservation, and water & waste recycling initiatives.

Looking at what Likupang has to offer, it is not a surprise why Indonesian government wants to highlight and further develop this hidden gem in Northern Sulawesi. Likupang presents a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and investment potential.

The vast majority of Likupang’s beaches, lakes, and hills offer exotic vistas. One of the primary spots is Pulisan Bay, currently being developed PT Minahasa Permai Resort Development under Sintesa Group. According to the corporation, they imagined Pulisan Bay as an eco-resort area and started realizing their ideas until the 1998 monetary crisis forced the project to come to a halt.

In 2014, the whole project was revisited and expanded into a concept of "sustainability through nature culture conservation". An eco-tourism resort is currently being developed, focusing on marine and wildlife sanctuary tourism. It offers all sorts of marine touring activities within a naturally preserved marine life. The Pulisan area also features other distinctive tourism spots such as Pulisan Beach, Pulisan Hills and Pulisan Savanna.

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