Mar 26 2011

Driving around Bali: Sanur to Candi Dasa

Published by at 4:10 pm under Driving around Bali

We’re starting our trip around Bali from Sanur just because that is where we happen to live, and we’re aiming for Candi Dasa, a somewhat aging resort town to the northeast of Sanur. It’s an easy 90-minute drive if you take the direct route, but we’re not going to do that.

Bridge crossing near Sukawati, Bali

Bridge crossing near Sukawati, Bali

The most direct route is along the coastal Prof Dr Ida Bagus Mantra Bypass (we just call it the “Kusamba Road”) — an Australian aid-funded road that is currently running about six millennium behind schedule. It’s been in a half-built state ever since we moved to Bali three years ago but these days, the road heading toward Candi Dasa seems to be a lot closer to completion. The other direction is still a long way off being finished so for now there are still innumerable roadworks to dodge, along with plenty of trucks and other traffic.

An alternative inland route winds via Sukawati, Gianyar and Klung Kung to Padang Bai and Candi Dasa, but the first portion of that is also crowded with Ubud-bound traffic, so instead we opted to take the Kusamba Road as far as Ketewel, then take a left up to Sukawati, then dog leg our way left and right up through this rice-growing region till we eventually hit the south side of Gianyar.

A river crossing near Sukawati

A river crossing near Sukawati

There are no signposts at all along this route so have a map and be prepared to get lost. Roughly speaking the route takes you through the villages of Giwang, Sukawati, Saba, Belege and Bona to Gianyar. The scenery is pretty with a couple of low slung bridges and ample rural scenery. Best of all there is no traffic at all.

Eventually, after much to-ing and fro-ing, you’ll reach the south side of Gianyar. From here, unless you’ve got the time (and navigational skills) to go well out of your way to the north, it is a better idea to stick on the main road through to Klung Kung — the traffic will have dropped off anyway. On the east side of Klung Kung you’ll pass an impressive weir, climb out of town and then it is a straightforward run down to Kusamba and, after that, our first rest stop, Goa Lawah (the Bat Cave temple).

The black sand beach at Goa Lawah is dotted with beachside warungs where you can pick up a bakso and a cold drink for a reasonable price. Once you’re fed and watered, pop over and hire a sarong for a visit to Goa Lawah, one of Bali’s cardinal temples. Allow an hour or so for lunch and a visit to the temple.

Bakso on the beach

Bakso on the beach

From here it’s about 30 minutes to the turn-off to the port town of Padang Bai and another 30 to Candi Dasa. Padang Bai is well regarded for Blue Lagoon — an excellent snorkelling spot — and the town also has some quite good seafood restaurants. Being a port town (this is the main ferry point to Lombok) there are plenty of places to stay in Padang Bai, from cheapie flophouses to quite luxurious digs, but overall we’d say it probably isn’t our favourite spot in Bali.

If you do decide to stay here rather than Candi Dasa, note there is a third beach (beside Blue Lagoon and the main town beach) — it’s just to the south over a rise. Plenty of warungs and good swimming is to be found at Pantai Kecil.

A seafood lunch at Padang Bai

A seafood lunch at Padang Bai

So after you’ve had your lunch, head back to the main road and it is another 30 minutes to Candi Dasa town. Candi Dasa is worth at a minimum an overnight stay, but you could easily justify a three-night stay here with one day spent snorkelling at the offshore islands followed by an afternoon jaunt to the Bali Aga village of Tenganan, one day at White Sand Beach (Pantai Putih) and one day on a full-day trip to Tirta Gangga.

White Sand Beach near Candi Dasa, Bali

White Sand Beach near Candi Dasa, Bali

Or you could just grab a coffee at Vincent’s and blow through the lot, taking the inland route, and be at Amed in an hour. But where is the fun in that?

Recommended beds
Both Padang Bai and Candi Dasa have plenty of places to choose from across all budgets.

In Padang Bai, backpackers on a budget should head to Pondok Wisata Tirta Yoga Inn while those looking for a few more creature comforts should opt for Hotel Puri Rai. While not great value, Bloo Lagoon takes the cake for the upper end.

In Candi Dasa, budget travellers will do well at Ari Homestay, flashpackers, especially those with kids should have Kelapa Mas on their shortlist (while the lack of hot water is a bit of an oversight, the beach terrace area swings the deal). At the upper end, we were impressed with the private pool villas at Villa Sasoon, while the resort offerings at Alila Maggis were seductive and especially impressive given the age of the property.

Just another Candi Dasa sunset

Just another Candi Dasa sunset

Next leg takes us from Candi Dasa through a remarkably scenic stretch along the coast road to Amed.

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7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Driving around Bali: Sanur to Candi Dasa”

  1. Adam @ SitDownDiscoon 28 Mar 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Although I’m not a big fan of Padang bai, I think some of the hotels & homestays down the back streets make up for the negatives of the ferry horns blasting throughout the night. :)

  2. […] with the first section of our round Bali trip, there are a couple of routes you can take — the more direct route makes you more or less due […]

  3. […] What's next? In the next entry we'll tackle the first leg of the loop: Sanur to Candi Dasa. […]

  4. marco felicianoon 03 May 2011 at 12:24 pm


    i was planing to do a similar trip. I live in Jakarta and im heading to bali in 2 weeks. Was planing to drive to amed from Denpasar. Your post is very helpful, and I want to try to follow the route that you went on. It seems that you took the scenic route on the way up to amed. Do you think its possible to do it the other way around? Im just doing a one night trip to amed, then drive back down to Denpasar the following day. Basically my idea is to Bypass Candi Dasa and go straight up to Amed, but on the way back go from Amed to Candi Dasa, Candi Dasa back down to denpasar following your route…

    Do you happen to have a map? Finding a good map of bali is very difficult. Town names will do if you happen to know all of them.

    Thank you
    Warmest Regards

  5. adminon 03 May 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Hi Marco,

    From Denpasar the quickest way to Amed is via Candi Dasa (head from DPS down to the coastal bypass rood – it’s in a pretty good state now) and zoom along past Goa Lawah and past the Padang Bai turnoff. We went to Amed a couple of weeks ago and it took a little under three hours door to door (from Sanur).

    If you take the scenic coastal road back from Amed to Candi Dasa, add an extra 30-45 minutes as it is pretty slow going — especially in a car (I was on motorbike) as the road is a little broken up in places, narrow and windy.

    I’ve got quite a good road atlas for Bali, the Bali Periplus Road Atlas – it’s probably overkill for the trip you’re doing, but you should be able to grab it in Jakarta.



  6. Jeremyon 29 Jun 2013 at 5:49 am

    Are any of these drives being suggested doable with a car rather than a motorcycle?

  7. Samantha Brownon 30 Jun 2013 at 7:53 am

    Hi Jeremy — yes, they are all doable by car as well as motorbike.