Ch-Ch-Ch Chan-dee Dasa — let’s just get that right first — you don’t want to sound like an uninformed tourist. It is sweet, but it’s not candy. Candi Dasa is a popular tourist focal point in East Bali. A relaxing — some would say sleepy — beach resort, with little beach due to some serious environmental errors made in its recent past. But don’t let that put you off!
Candi Dasa offers excellent diving and snorkelling, interesting historical villages, some great trekking opportunities — and beautiful beaches within easy reach. A range of good accommodation across the board, most of it within earshot of the lapping waves, qualifies Candi Dasa as an excellent base for exploring East Bali. One long road edging the coast forms the main centre of Candi Dasa, with hotels oceanside and restaurants mountainside. This road forms a section of the main around-Bali route, so traffic noise can be a concern when thundering trucks roll through town. Bear this in mind when you are choosing somewhere to sleep. Rooms closer to the sea don’t have the same issue.
In the centre of town, a pretty lotus-filed lagoon sits between the main temple and the sea — particularly lovely at sunrise or sunset. At the northeastern end of town, the road spurs to follow the coast as the main highway does a sharp turn continuing to Amlapura. This coastal area houses most of the local inhabitants of Candi Dasa, and a growing number of hotels — it’s a quieter option than the main road. The villages along the coast to the west of Candi Dasa are much sleepier, and here you’ll also find a small selection of accommodation. You won’t be in the middle of the action, but you won’t be too far away either.
The beach at Candi Dasa, or lack of it, is due to a sudden boom in development in the 1980s. Whether it was unregulated, or uninformed or just plain greed, a coral reef was removed to produce lime for cement to construct hotels. It allowed the power of the Lombok strait to erode the very thing people visited Candi Dasa for: the beautiful beach. We can only hope that this is a cautionary lesson for future unplanned development. Concrete sea walls now provide protection from further erosion, and result in waters being very calm and good for snorkelling along the wall. There are pockets of sand too, although some disappear altogether at high tide.
Despite most of the beach being gone, there’s still a laidback seaside ambience, and the coastal views over Amuk Bay are scenic. Offshore you can see three small rocky islands, and further in the distance, Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan, while to the southwest you can see Padang Bai. The closer islands of Gili Biaha, Gili Tepekong and Gili Mimpang are home to many varieties of large fish and sharks. Snorkelling and diving or fishing trips can easily be arranged from the fishermen on the beach or one of the many dive operators along the main road. Note that currents can be very strong around the islands, and may only be suitable for experienced snorkellers and divers. A delightful way to pass an afternoon is to arrange a sailing trip in one of the traditional jukung boats. Most have motors, and some don’t even have sails, but ask around — we were quoted 250,000 rupiah for a short trip.
While much of the beach in town has washed away, an exceptional strip of sand is a mere 20-minute drive or leisurely boat trip north of Candi Dasa. Virgin Beach (formerly known as Pantai Pasir Putih or White Sand Beach) makes for a great half- or full-day trip. While no accommodation is available, a bunch of seafood eateries are set up along the shore with deck chairs and umbrellas.
Historically, Candi Dasa was thought to have been settled pre-11th century, existing for centuries as a fishing village until the beginnings of tourism as we know it today in the 1970s. In Balinese, Candi Dasa literally translates as ‘ten temples’, but there are several versions of the history of this name. One is that it’s a corruption of an earlier name ‘Cilidasa’, meaning ‘ten children’. Pura Candi Dasa, the temple on the hill above the lagoon, is said to house a statue of the fertility goddess Hariti surrounded by a group of ten children. It’s a popular pilgrimage site for childless Balinese (the temple was being renovated when we visited in early 2016, so we couldn’t see). The temple is also home to a Shiva lingga. Temple records are said to explain that by uttering ten ‘aksara’ (ritual sounds) this lingga is a means to heaven. Perhaps it’s that these utterances are the ten temples. Pura Candi Dasa can be visited — as it’s a holy site for the Balinese, please wear a sarong and sash.
Fifteen minutes’ drive inland are two very interesting traditional Bali Aga villages, Tenganan Pegringsingan and Tenganan Dauh Tukad. They’re well regarded for their unique beliefs and handicrafts, and can easily be visited either as part of an organised trip from Candi Dasa, or independently. Alternatively a popular trekking route from Kastala village concludes at Tenganan Pegringsingan. The surrounding hills and villages offer a handful of other scenic trekking opportunities too.
Sites further afield around Amlapura are easily visited as a day trip, but will require some form of transport.
Many visitors to Candi Dasa book accommodation in advance, meaning that the cheapest guesthouses are sometimes difficult to come by, especially in peak seasons. However in low season, massive discounts for walk-in guests are easily available. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from. Of course, there’s fresh seafood and the tiny village even supports two wine shops. Nightlife is rather limited — a couple of pubs and a few restaurants have low-key live music, but it’s usually all over by 23:00.
Candi Dasa is a delightful laidback place to visit for a few days, whether you plan to simply relax or explore sites further afield.
The police station is on Jalan Raya Candi Dasa opposite the beach night market. Tourist police T: (0361) 224 111. There is no post office in Candi Dasa, but a postal agent opposite Ida’s Homestay is open daily 09:00-20:00. ATM’s are scattered along Jalan Raya Candi Dasa. Most Candi Dasa hotels and cafes offer free WiFi.
A pharmacy is located opposite Asri Shop. Two professional local clinics, open 24 hours, are a 10-minute drive east from central Candi Dasa. Klinik Penta Medica Candi Dasa: 88 Jalan Raya Manggis, Desa Manggis; T: (0363) 41 909; F: (0363) 41 002; email@example.com; www.pentamedica.com. Yagya Dasa Clinic: Jalan Sengkidu-Candi Dasa; T: (0363) 41 378; T: (0818) 565 313; F: (0363) 42 166; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.yagyadasaclinic.baliklik.com
A few shops are interspersed with the restaurants along Jalan Raya Candi Dasa selling souvenirs and beachwear. Snorkel gear and sunblock can be bought in several of the small shops. Asri Shop and Gemini Shop are two large local supermarkets while the ubiquitous Alpha Mart and Indomaret both have outlets on Jalan Raya Candi Dasa. Ata grass basketwork can be bought in shops in Candi Dasa or directly from craft producers in Tenganan village where you can also buy traditional weavings and lontar books.
By Sally Arnold. Last updated on 12th October, 2016.