The Indo-Pacific warm pool houses the largest zone of deep atmospheric convection on Earth and plays a critical role in global climate variations. Despite the region's importance, changes in Indo-Pacific hydroclimate on orbital timescales remain poorly constrained. Here we present high-resolution geochemical records of surface runoff and vegetation from sediment cores from Lake Towuti, on the island of Sulawesi in central Indonesia, that continuously span the past 60,000 y. We show that wet conditions and rainforest ecosystems on Sulawesi present during marine isotope stage 3 (MIS3) and the Holocene were interrupted by severe drying between ∼33,000 and 16,000 y B.P. when Northern Hemisphere ice sheets expanded and global temperatures cooled. Our record reveals little direct influence of precessional orbital forcing on regional climate, and the similarity between MIS3 and Holocene climates observed in Lake Towuti suggests that exposure of the Sunda Shelf has a weaker influence on regional hydroclimate and terrestrial ecosystems than suggested previously. We infer that hydrological variability in this part of Indonesia varies strongly in response to high-latitude climate forcing, likely through reorganizations of the monsoons and the position of the intertropical convergence zone. These findings suggest an important role for the tropical western Pacific in amplifying glacial-interglacial climate variability.