A minor Japanese base during WWII, Morotai leapt to prominence when it was captured by the Allies and used to bomb Manila to bits. That was the sadly destructive fulfilment of General MacArthur’s ‘I will return’ pledge to retake the Philippines. Among the Japanese defenders who retreated to Morotai’s crumpled mountain hinterland was the famous Private Nakamura: only in 1973 did he discover that the war was over. A WWII US amphibious tank still lies rusting in a hidden palm grove, a five-minute ojek ride behind Morotai’s village capital Daruba. There are attractive palm-backed fishing beaches along the narrow Nefelves Peninsula, stretching south from Daruba. But for better beaches explore the array of offshore islands in Morotai’s sparkling turquoise waters. With a decent longboat (400,000Rp to 750,000Rp) you can make a great day trip combining Pulau Zum Zum, Pulau Kolorai, and the idyllic and uninhabited Pulau Dodola.
Speedboats leave Tobelo (Halmahera) for Morotai (100,000Rp, two hours) at 8am, 9am and 10am, and there’s a kapal motor at 1pm (50,000Rp, four hours). They return at the same times.