If you’re looking for absolute beachfront digs at Balian beach, Pondok Pitaya is your only option and does a solid job at delivering beachfront comfort at a reasonable price. With a good restaurant, well-placed pool and a range of comfortable rooms there is a lot to like about here.
Originally a basic surfer hang-out, Pondok Pitaya has been through Japanese and Canadian hands but is now run by a Jakarta-based company with sister resorts planned for Ubud and an undisclosed location in Sumatra. They’ve got considerable plans for the place and have moved the price point up a little from what it once was, but the resort remains fine value for the flashpacking traveller — particularly those with kids.
Accommodation is scattered across a lawn garden that fronts right onto the sand and is made up of a collection of Javanese joglos and other rooms of refurbished teak. Rooms are oversized — especially the joglos — and while the resort has an eclectic, stylish look from the outside, the interiors, with mismatched lights, rustic fittings and simple furnishings are far more plain. Some of the smaller rooms (aimed for couples rather than multiple families) are air-con and in a very attractive two-storey refurbished wooden building behind the front row of joglos. Rooms are comfortable but have no real views.
Beds are wide bamboo framed affairs with soft mattresses and heavy red drapey mosquito nets to keep winged beasts at bay. Rooms are fan-cooled (some ceiling fans were dangerously low for tall people like us, so watch those stretches in the bedroom!) and our family-sized joglo (the “Happy House”) also came with a kitchenette, fridge and bar area. The centre area was completely vacant, which while being a hit with the kids to run around and play games, felt like a bit of a wasted opportunity with no dining table or lounge — it felt like someone had swiped our furniture for their own room, though we did have lounges outside. One ceiling fan didn’t work and a workman we nabbed couldn’t fix it.
The spacious and clean bathrooms are a throwback to the resort’s older surfer times, with extremely basic facilities, temperamental hot water and the occasional midnight (read — nobody around to fix it) leaking pipe. The shower was an open pipe — a shower head would be a great leap forward!
Our accommodation faced straight onto the large lawn area than runs to the beach and it was here that Pondok Pitaya excels. There’s plenty of space for the kids to run wild in (and enough tropical garden to allow hide and seek), while parents can relax in the lounge furniture outside the joglo. The lawn also abuts onto the pool, a freeform, mid-size, kid-friendly pool with plenty of deckchairs and again an ideal position to watch the surf. Bear in mind that Balian is not a safe swimming beach as it has some strong currents and is quite rough — weak swimmers and children will be safer and more comfortable in the pool.
Latching onto Balian’s growing reputation as a yoga centre, Pondok Pitaya built an ideally placed yoga sala down by the beach and they regularly take in teacher training groups for up to a month a time, so the resort can get quite busy with yogis. In high season, reservations are recommended, particularly on weekends. Surfers though have not been forgotten – rooms come with board racks and tuition can be arranged should you need it.
The restaurant rolls back from the pool area and doubles as reception. Food is good and, for the location, reasonably priced. Offerings range from Indonesian staples through to surfer food for those looking for a double dose of carbohydrates. Even when quite busy we found the staff to be helpful and obliging.
Rates start at 640,000 rupiah for a double “surfer suite”, 700,000 rupiah for an air-con room in the “river suite” while the larger rooms start at 1,280,000 rupiah for a “Surfer House” running through to 1,615,000 rupiah for the “Happy House” which has four single beds and two double beds — ideal for two families travelling together.
Overall, for absolute beachfront, Pondok Pitaya is solid value — particular for families and travelling groups — not just for the accommodation but also for the impressive and wild location at the mouth of the Balian River on Balian Beach.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 3rd February, 2016.