Friday, June 5, 2009

East Bali - Padangbai and Candidasa

Last visited June 2013 (Candidasa) - September 2011 (Padangbai)

No shortage of dive boats at Padangbai. That's a Lembar (Lombok) bound vehicle ferry leaving the pier in the background.

South Bali attracts the majority of Bali visitors, but discerning travellers have long headed for the quieter towns of east Bali for relaxation in an attractive area.

PADANGBAIThe town bay at Padangbai has the Lombok vehicle ferry pier to the right and a neat range of mainly budget accommodation places lining the beach road on the left. The Blue Lagoon snorkelling area is the smaller bay far left and the white sand ocean beach of Bias Tugel can be seen just to the right of the main town bay (image Karangasim Tourism)

Correct north-south orientation. 1-Perama depot 2-small boat pier 3-main beachside accommodation-restaurant strip 4-Mustikasari 5-headland road to Blue Lagoon 6 path to Bias Tugel. There are now ATMs just inland from 1 and on the beachfront road a short distance to the left of 2. My labels are a bit small - click to expand image.

Padangbai is an enigma because despite its bustling ferry wharf where vessels to Lombok load and unload trucks, buses, other vehicles and people 24/7, it’s a surprisingly laid-back and appealing little town with a nice selection of budget and these days better accommodation.

Padangbai’s town bay from a now abandoned restaurant site on the northern headland. Note the ferry pier at top right of first shot . You can also catch scheduled small ferries to Nusa Peninda from nearby, plus Perama’s slow boat and several speed boats direct to the Gilis. Small boat owners will take you across to Nusa Lembongan for the right price.
There is an ATM at the bank just inland from the big pier on the main access road - left side facing inland.
And new on my Sept 2011 visit was another ATM in a moneychanging office a short distance along the bay-front road towards the main pier from the small boat pier used for the fast boat. This would be ideal for people heading for Gilis Meno and Air - there are now plenty of ATMs on Trawangan.
The near-end of the bay has a strip of budget accommodation places, dive shops and restaurants along the beach road - accomm prices were around $us9 -12, some with, some without brekka on my latest May 09 trip. Some of the more popular include Padangbai Beach Inns 1/2, Padang Bai Billabong and the Topi Inn at the end of the road has finally been rebuilt (under construction my past 2 visits - several years apart!) There are quite a few others in town although those close to the pier could be a bit noisy in the early hours. The old beachfront fish restaurants I enjoyed so much on previous trips are gone - but this has definitely opened up the beach side of the road and given the restaurants on the other side good views (click to expand image).

The beach road at the north end of the bay has some good value lower-midrange and budget places to stay - one of the former is Mustikasari in a quiet location right at the end of beach road where it starts to climb over to Blue Lagoon. A very spacious fan room cost us $us28 including breakfasts in August 2010. Attractive grounds, nice pool area. Short walk to plenty of good value eats along the beach front and closer the pier. Note next door's Toppi Inn, oft praised in the guide books, has an attractive restaurant area and good prices but we waited an hour for food on our one visit. Toppi's upstairs budget rooms were a pretty reasonable 100k in high season 2010.

The Blue Lagoon. If you continue up the steep hill which starts at the northern end of the town beach road and follow the signs you will reach this nice snorkelling spot in less than 10 minutes. Coral and fish life are pretty good by Bali mainland standards. Lots of people come around from town in hire-boats and from even as far as Candidasa which is visible about 8 km north. Quite a lot of work has been done here since my last visit - a retaining wall behind the narrow beach, tumbledown warungs replaced by attractive joints with beach chairs etc.

This is the Blue Lagoon region from a Gilis-bound boat. The town bay is over the saddle behind the sand. Those buildings high to the right are part of an flash villa resort new since my last visit - Blue Lagoon Villa

Just around the SOUTHERN headland from the town bay (but very difficult to reach by rock-hopping) is the nice white sand beach of Bias Tugel. Always popular on previous trips, I was surprised how few visitors arrived on the day of the shot. The ladies in the warungs are real keen to sell drinks/massages/etc but this is still a pleasant place to spend time. There always seems to be a decent shore-wash of waves, but I have never seen a surfable wave here.
The huge scale of the Korean financed hotel development behind Bias Tugel can be seen in the right half of this shot. The warung ladies told me the hotel could not purchase the beach - but I bet it puts a bunch of beach chairs and umbrellas there. The near-finished development at the end of the headland is Indian owned according to the ladies. Until the Korean hotel is finished, the best way to access the beach is to take the road over the hill south of town and cut through the hotel grounds. When this is closed off, stick on the road and continue to bear left at intersections etc. After about 15 minutes you will come to the end of the road where a bush track descends to the southern end of the beach.
UDDATE AUGUST 2010 - these hotels are in unfinished limbo, apparently with problems in their development applications. There is now a big BIAS TUGAL sign showing the short-cut thru the grounds and down to the beach posted a short distance up the hill as you leave town on the side road south from near the pier.


Candi is an attractive seaside town on the main coastal road in East Bali. The east coast curves here so that the section Candi is on actually runs closer to west-east.
Candidasa comprises 3 sections:
-Central Candi, the main street area which has a good range of services and plenty of accommodation of all standards both sides of the road.
-Forest Road - an area hugging the coast past where the main road turns inland towards Amlapura - far right side of map above and extending a short distance out of frame. More midrange places than budget here.

-West Candi - a strip about 2km long west of Central Candi on the approach from Denpasar/Kuta. The coastal road is up to 500m inland along here with lanes heading down to the mainly midrange/high-end resorts. This strip starts at Lotus Seaview one third across the map and extends left out of frame.
Map from AsiaRooms

This modified Google Earth image shows some of the Candidasa region locations more clearly: 1-main coastal road 2-West Candi midrange area 3-Tenganan traditional village 4-Candidasa central 5-Forest Road 6-White Sand Beach

Travellers will find no shortage of accommodation of all standards in the general Candidasa area.
I’m no gourmet but people tell me there are a handful of fine-dining restaurants in and around town. There are certainly plenty of tourist standard eats-joints. This is no place for party animals, although live music is found at one of two restaurant-bars in the main street most nights.

There are plenty of money changers, at least one bank and there is now an ATM on the sea-side towards the Kuta-Denpasar end of the main street not too far from the Perama office

There is a big range of restaurants and shops in the village. Most town restaurants offer free transport back to the resort (and from them once you have their number). There are several fixed price mixed stores with a large array of food, drink, clothing and arty stuff at good prices. Most of the main street is very close to the sea and much of the right hand side in this shot is taken by various resorts. Road unusually quiet here.  

There are plenty of budget/moderately priced restaurants in town. Intense competition keeps prices low and food/service good. One downside is traffic noise - the road is not only the main route to north east Bali but part of the trans-Indonesian highway on account it connects the ferry pier from Java at Gilimanuk in the north-west to the ferries for Lombok and further east at Padangbai to Candi's south. This is no 5th Avenue, but still pretty busy with vehicles of all sizes. Quieter dining right in town would be found at the seafront restaurants of some of the resorts on the south side of the main street, but less likely to be budget.

Candi's main street features this pretty nice lagoon towards its western end. 

Typical less expensive seaside place on the Central town strip. This is Temple Restaurant and Seaside Cottages . Note the stone pebble beach - apparently mining of the coral reef for building material some 30 years ago exposed the beach to erosion and the sand was lost. I noticed seaside places on the West Candi strip had patches of yellow sand although they were covered at high tide with waves smacking against seas walls similar to the above.

Seaside Cottages has a fine array of bungalows set in a neat garden area between the street front restaurant and the ocean front. Prices range from a ridiculously low 45k ($us4.50 at time of visit) for a backpacker-basic place to 350k for aircon, hot water and more. My 95k bungalow, second back from the ocean-front here, was a midrange bungalow in all respects except for cold water and fan-only. Hell, they serviced it daily with clean towels - for 95k! Not surprisingly, brekka aint included for this sort of money. Food in the street front restaurant was real nice, prices seemed competitive to other places I stayed this holiday - although this restaurant is one of those places which adds 15% govt and service charges to the prices in the menu.

Immediately across the main road is the well know Watergarden Resort. It has a reciprocal deal with Seaside Cottages where guests can use one's pool or the other's beachfront lounges providing they purchase food or drink. So for the price of a few Bintangs (only 17.5K each compared to the common 15k) I got to swim some laps and loll on the poolside lie-lows checking the specifications of jetsetter babes.

Watergarden is a real nice midranger with very attractive bungalows set up a hillside in lush garden surrounds. Each bungalow has its own lagoon immediately off the deck. I have a travel-agent friend who always stays here on Bali visits.

I decided to spend a few nights in Candi enroute to Amed in June 2013. I'd always liked the looks of the what I call up page the West Candi midrange area, so I looked around for a promising looking place which wasn't over the top price wise.

 The resorts in this area tend to be several hundred meters down laneways from the busy main road and are therefore considerably quieter locations. Nirwana runs a free shuttle into town on request (other bookings allowing - we never had problems on availability). We walked to the village once – about 25 minutes. Water and other basics are available less than 10 mins into this walk at a main road minimart.

The rough laneway approach suggests nothing special ahead but on arrival Nirwana turns out to be  a very nice property with excellent staff.  

Accommodation is in garden or poolside villas distributed around a nicely tended area. Our garden view villa was one of a quartet of semi-detached dwellings but clever design meant we were seldom aware of neighbours. The room was easily big enough for two plus gear, had quiet aircon which once it cooled the big area was fine, fridge, tea and coffee facilities, a comfy bed with and excellent net, big tv, plenty of storage, lots of lights (more for mood than reading), a big bathroom with cute open air shower section, good hot water.

Nice pool easily big enough to swim laps. Never a shortage of sun lounges. There is no beach here and nothing of significance anywhere else in the district short of several kms north of Candidasa town.

The nice inclusive breakfast was served each morning on this seafront terrace in front of the restaurant. The view was outstanding with an outlook directly towards Nusas Lembongan and Penida islands, Lombok to the north and seen here, the Padangbai coast to the south. Restaurant food was good with prices maybe 50% up on the average restaurant in town, still a bargain in western terms. 


A favourite short excursion from Candidasa is WHITE SAND BEACH to the north. In actual fact I found the place a bit underwhelming - the quality of sand and landscape would not land it in my top 500 beaches and some of the half-dozen or so warung operators can be quite persistent in their quest for business. The most popular way to access the beach is to hire a boatman who will take you the 4 or 5km up the coast. I hired a bicycle at 20K a day and cycled there - motorcycle rent is not too much more expensive. Go up over the winding pass on the main road immediately north of town towards Amlapura - on the other side of the pass there is a long ribbon of a village stretching about 2km along the road. The 3rd and 4th turns a fair way into the village to the right are signposted VIRGIN BEACH (look for the blue signs) - either of these will take you down to the beach about 2-3km away.

Another popular excursion is a boat trip out to snorkel one of the 3 islands above. I did this about 10 years ago - fish and coral okay but nothing to get excited about. Much better is a trip to the more distant Blue Lagoon at Padangbai, which the boat guys are always trying to push. The islands in the shot are also popular for diving and there are several dive shops in town.

On my first trip to Candidasa I climbed the impressive hill behind the main street area for impressive views of town, the lagoon, the offshore islands and some nice valley areas further inland.

Also close to town is the traditional village of Tenganan, home to one of the last groups of original Balinese. This is reached by heading inland from the main coast highway up the signposted road a few hundred meters on the Kuta side of the main street - there is a bunch of motor-cycle taxi guys waiting at the corner to cart tourists the 4km or so to the village. I found the gentle gradient real easy on my hire-bicycle but the place appeared a bit arty and tourist-trappy to my liking, so I turned around and pedalled back.

Further from town and best reached with a car and driver or hire motorcyle is Tirta Gangga - another traditional village with nice views of attractive rice terraces and the Water Palace which has great gardens, many pools including one in which tourists can swim.

In June 3013 I managed to stay a few nights at Tirta Gangga. The water palace is worth a visit and the rice terraces although not as good as some other areas I've seen are not bad.

Even more spectacular rice terraces and hill-v alley scenery can be seen by getting your driver to take one of the roads that loop behind Candidasa high up in the hills to the west. There are several turn-offs onto these roads on the highway to Amalapura and the loops will eventually descend to meet the coast road again somewhere south of Candi towards Kuta/Denpasar.

Another popular daytrip by car is to the Amed strip of quiet coastal villages along the western end of the north coast starting about 45 minutes north of Candi. Some very attractive scenery, good snorkelling, nice black sand beaches and pleasant restaurants along here. Good dive area too.

Google Images Karangasem has some nice pix o f the Water Palace, rice terraces etc.

In June 2013 we came up from Kuta by car and driver for 350k rp - $23 at the time. A fixed price taxi from the airport may now be 50k or so more.
You can go by local public bemo but this would mean changing bemos several times and would take all day. A better bet would be a public bus from Denpasser bus station to Amlapura which could drop you off going thru Candi.
Shuttle bus operators are the best no fuss low budget option for travelllers - Perama has several trips per day - usually Kuta to Sanur to Ubud to Padangbai to Candidasa although I have travelled on a direct Kuta-Sanur to Padangbai Perama. The final stetch to Candi has always been in a smaller van. I actually short-cut Perama by jumping on a motorcycle-taxi at Padangbai and fanging up to Candidasa for 20k. Perama has a stop-over of about 20 minutes. That was in '09, a 2013 price would be more likely 30k - but this would depend on your bargaining skill with the transport guys who hang around the pier in Padangbai.
Current Perama prices and timetable

Plenty of people come in to Padangbai from Lombok via slow ferry, Perama’s direct slow boat to the Gilis and the fast boats to the Gilis. I have also come across from Nusa Lembongan in the past with a bunch of surfer dudes in a chartered fishing boat.

If you are considering East Bali perhaps you might be interested in BALI'S BEST BEACHES, THE MAIN BALI PAGE, SIDEMAN, TIRTA GANGGA,  AMED  and the nearby GILI ISLANDS and LOMBOK which can all be accessed via THE INDEX

Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan (small at right) from Nirwana poolside.



shelalala said...

try amed, bali.. nice place for scuba diving.. there`s a us liberty shipwreck under the sea...

loodec said...

Candidasa is a tranquil beach town in the Samuh Bugbug Village. It is only 12 Kilometers from the main town of Amlapura in Karangasem. Candidasa was once called Teluk Kehen or Kehen Bay

AK doug said...

Great "real" info we've seen...

I remember an idyllic couple of weeks in Candidasa back in 79 -- when there was a decent beach. By my second trip in 84 it was gone, and the ugly concrete goynes had been built. But glad to hear there are other reasons to visit this place. We plan to head back to Bali some year, and may detour out this way....

AK doug said...

Great site. We are planning a month long Thailand trip and you are providing superb descriptions that we can trust. Kudos.

While looking around I noticed your Candidasa page, which brought back great memories from travels there in 79 and 84 (yeah, I'm nearing the half century mark, but still traveling kinda sorta the same way). Thought you might be interested to know that Candi's had about 10 meters of good beach on the first trip but it was a quarter of that by the second, and they had already started building some ugly concrete goynes to try to save the place. Doesn't sound like it worked, but I'm glad to hear there is still a reason to visit this area. Fond memories of my first explorations in SE Asia....