Monsoon droughts, which often coincide with El Niño warm events, can have profound impacts on the populations of Southeast Asia. Improved understanding and prediction of such events can be aided by high-resolution proxy climate records, but these are scarce for the tropics. Here we reconstruct the boreal autumn (October–November) Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) for Java, Indonesia (1787–1988). This reconstruction is based on nine ring-width chronologies derived from living teak trees growing on the islands of Java and Sulawesi, and one coral δ18O series from Lombok. The PDSI reconstruction correlates significantly with El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-related sea surface temperatures and other historical and instrumental records of tropical climate, reflecting the strong coupling between the climate of Indonesia and the large scale tropical Indo-Pacific climate system.