Cap Karoso, Indonesia
Named for Karoso beach on which it is located, this resort is a gateway into the tightly preserved culture and landscape of Sumba island.
Surrounded by towering cliffs and turquoise lagoons with coral reefs, Cap Karoso has gone the extra mile to respect the local community and landscape, blending contemporary Indonesian art and modernist buildings with traditionally styled pavilions, ikat woven textiles and crafts made locally with age-old techniques. Everything from the 47 rooms and 20 villas to the casual and fine-dining restaurants to the onsite farm pays homage to the island of Sumba, albeit through a distinctly contemporary lens.
Led by first-time hoteliers Fabrice and Evguenia Ivara, the hotel pays equal reverence to local Marapu culture and French flair, grounded in the duo’s Parisian roots. Before they even started planning, Fabrice and Evguenia sought local advice and hosted a ceremony for 600 islanders to receive ancestral blessing to open a hotel. After demonstrating their commitment to honouring and working with the island’s heritage and communities, the locals bestowed their blessings upon the Ivaras. The couple opened Cap Karoso at the end of last year.
“When my husband and I first visited Sumba in 2017, we fell in love with the island and got this idea of creating a place for like-minded travellers, where the wildness and authenticity of Sumba would encounter the sophistication of a certain lifestyle that we both enjoy,” Evguenia said. “Now, reflecting on this journey, which has lasted six years, what I see the most is the story of human encounters and co-creation. During the work on Cap Karoso, we have crossed paths with a range of incredible professionals, from designers to farmers, from a Sumbanese ikat-weaver to a French perfume-maker. Each of them brought a part of their soul into this project – and this is what the journey was always supposed to be.”
Architecture and interior design
Led by Gary Fell of GFAB Architects, the resort’s architecture is a contemporary tribute to tradition. Clean lines and modern simplicity are combined with five buildings constructed like a Sumbanese village at the centre of the footprint. Fell’s approach to the structures are complemented by Jakarta-based Bitte Design Studio’s interior concept, which fuses contemporary aesthetics with pieces created with age-old craft techniques by local artisans. The reception and lobby area feature a cotton wall-hanging by Sumbanese master weaver Kornelis Ndapakamang, travertine blocks that reimagine Sumbanese megaliths, and bespoke teak and rattan furniture made with materials sourced from within Indonesia. Colourful custom tiles by Gaya Ceramic and geometric wooden pillars by Kalpa Taru Bali also appear in the hotel’s Beach Club.
One-of-a-kind pieces also adorn guestrooms. Walls are lined with artworks by emerging Indonesian and international contemporary artists such as Alexander Sebastianus, Yuki Nakayama, and Ines Katamso, while shelves boast hand-carved statues made by artisans in the surrounding villages. Beyond the art, each room is also a testament to indoor-outdoor living, with some offering open-air soaking tubs and others featuring private decks with lounge areas. Providing the ultimate sense of seclusion within the sprawling property, villas have private infinity pools and open-air kitchens with barbecues.
In all rooms, guests remain connected to the local area with hand-carved wooden headboards showcasing geometric symbols from Sumba ikats and additional bespoke furnishings in locally sourced rattan, bamboo, and teak. Terrazzo, polished concrete, and natural plaster restore a balanced sense of contemporaneity, alongside tables by designer Sarah Ellison and fabrics by Pierre Frey. A custom room fragrance and bath amenities were developed by Grasse-based perfumer Gerard Gatti, and Cabas bags designed by sustainable luxury brand Stelar are also placed in each room for guests to use during stays.
The casual all-day Beach Club offers family-inspired cuisine created with local produce and has a zero-waste objective, while the lobby-adjacent Julang restaurant is operated by international chefs visiting for short takeovers, reflecting Cap Karoso’s commitment to collaboration. That same spirit is applied to a host of visiting artists and DJs, whose onsite residencies throughout the year colour the hotel with a truly original ambiance and reflect an inherent enthusiasm for both the arts and one-of-a-kind guest experiences.
To help foster a sustainable development of the local community, the resort team worked with local Kodi people to better understand the surrounding villages and the communities’ beliefs and, in turn, develop meaningful cultural programmes for guests. Cap Karoso also hired alumni of the NGO Sumba Hospitality Foundation, allowing young talent to stay on their island instead of looking for work far from home.
With Cap Karoso Farm, the resort also has many programmes in place to teach local farmers and younger generations skills that they can bring to their own land. The farm hosts a training programme in biological farming and permaculture, and any interested locals can participate in workshops to learn about plant propagation, nursery skills, plant care, and garden maintenance, as well as basic health and safety in and around the garden.
The property draws at least 50% of its energy from an onsite solar panel park, and it was landscaped to rehabilitate the land as well as reduce the need for air-conditioning. Villas and bungalows are also planted with green roofs and natural fertilizer is produced from the hotel’s own buffaloes.
A 50-minute flight from Bali, Sumba feels a world away from some of Indonesia’s more well-known destinations. It is defined by a largely untouched landscape, megalithic tombs and traditional houses with soaring peaked roofs.