Java's answer to Kuta: Pangandaran

What we say: 3.5 stars



It’s no secret that we here at Travelfish.org are big fans of Bali and in particular the fabulous beaches around the Bukit area. With such stunners as Padang Padang, Bingin and Balangan, you really are spoilt for choice. And then there is Kuta. Once a deserted strip of pristine sand fringed by swaying palm trees stretching as far as the eye could see, it is now home to countless pushy sellers, often quite a bit of rubbish, and the backdrop of bustling Kuta itself. It’s disappointing because the beach itself is actually a good one, if not a touch treacherous.

Kuta Beach is great until you get hassled by sellers

Kuta beach. The wandering vendors haven't found me yet.

Enter West Java’s Pangandaran. Pangandaran is a fishing village on the south coast of West Java with a palm-fringed beach yawning away into the distance. In many ways, it looks like some of the photos we’ve seen of Kuta beach from about 30 years ago — it could just be the sort of place you’re looking for.

Locals predominantly from Jakarta and Bandung flock to Pangandaran on public holidays and weekends to paddle in the surf, eat cheap fresh fish and play games on the sand. There’s even a small national park containing wild deer on the nearby peninsula. It’s a very local affair that enhances the experience for foreign visitors sick of travelling overseas only to be greeted by the very fellow countrypeople they were trying to escape.

Palm-fringed. Check. Deserted. Check.

Palm-fringed. Check. Deserted. Check.

From the national park on the peninsula in Pangandaran, the beach goes on and on, kilometre after stunning kilometre. At times we could not see another single human being in any direction no matter how hard we tried. Bliss. Of course, as with any beach with waves, you do have to be careful when swimming — about 10 people per year drown here every year. We’re not sure if this is because many locals can’t swim and get caught out, or whether the surf really is that dangerous. It’s possibly both, so do please be wary.

Aside from the beautiful beach and an untamed national park, Pangandaran is also located close to a fabulous waterway called Green Canyon. Green Canyon is so named because of the beautiful colour of the water and lush green vegetation that lines the canyon. Boats can be hired (75,000 rupiah) for a 30-minute journey up to the main swimming hole where it’s possible to take a dip into the crystal clear water. Again, hardly any foreigners come here and photo shoots with hordes of locals is to be expected.

Green Canyon. A great spot for a dip.

Green Canyon. A great spot for a dip.

If you’re into bustling streets, nightclubs and raucous atmosphere, you won’t find it Pangandaran. The town is relatively quiet and conservative with nary a drunken yobo to be found. Not many foreigners make it here meaning you’ll be treated like a B-grade celebrity by locals as you wander around town, along the beach and through the markets. It’s a great experience and so different from that of Kuta.

Just you and the odd fisherman

Just you and the odd fisherman.

So, if you’re in Bali looking for an Indonesian beach getaway and are sick of the hassles of Kuta, jump across to Pangandaran. It can be accessed by flying to Bandung and catching a connecting Susi Air flight to Pangandaran for about 300,000 rupiah. But shh, don’t tell the hotel developers.

Last updated: 29th November, 2014

About the author:
Adam gave up a corporate career in 2009 and left Australia for the hustle and bustle of Southeast Asia. He now lives in Indonesia, where as well as writing for Travelfish.org he plays around with www.pergidulu.com.
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