Pangandaran is located on a thin peninsular seven hours from Bandung and 10 hours from Jakarta, dependent on traffic. It is the premiere beachside destination for residents of West Java and is often touted as the local alternative to Bali -- the place you go if you can't afford to get to Bali.
That said, there are many similarities with the beach in Pangandaran and Bali's Kuta. It's a dark-yellow coloured crescent that extends as far as the eye can see, with a constant stream of surfable waves crashing into the shoreline. In fact, it's the waves that are the reason that this place is on the foreign tourist map in the first place, with surfers from Australia coming here many years ago. They've since moved on, however, and now can be found up the road at Batu Karas and further afield in villages so small that regular accommodation isn't available.
Aside from the waves, Pangandaran beach is a great place to relax and sunbathe, have a drink in one of the many beachside bars and to have a ride on one of the four-wheel motorbikes that are for rent. The feel is very local, but refreshingly so with still enough foreign visitors to ensure that Western food is available and accommodation with Western standards is present.
The Pangandaran peninsula has a surf beach on one side called the West Beach or Pantai Barat and a sea wall on the other side called East Beach or Pantai Timur. They call it a beach, but in truth there is nothing of the sort since a tsunami ripped through the village in 2006, causing hundreds of deaths and washing away what little there was of a beach on the east side. It's possible to see photos from that fateful day in 2006 at the Surf Lifesaving Club on the main road, across from the West Beach.
Three main roads run from the end of the peninsula near the national park in a northerly direction, and these are the roads that most visitors become familiar with over the course of their stay in Pangandaran.
The most westerly road runs along West Beach and is the location of many hotels and restaurants. The most easterly road runs along East Beach and has access to most of the seafood restaurants and a multitude of water sport activities such as banana boat rides. The centre road is where mostly local tourists come to eat, shop and hangout. On Saturday nights, this road is throbbing with local tourists from as far afield as Jakarta letting off steam in true Indonesian fashion â€“ karaoke!
The bus station is a short walk from the majority of the guesthouses foreign tourists will choose to stay in, but a becak will set you back just 10,000 rupiah if you can't be bothered walking or if it's raining. Beware any commissions the becak driver or any other person following you may seek to get from your hotel owner, as this will inflate the price of your room.
A few ATMs are in town, with the easiest to access being at the bus terminal and across the road from Restaurant Relax on Jalan Bulak Laut.
Free WiFi is available in many guesthouses and hotels in town and 3G coverage is widespread on all carriers.
By Adam Poskitt