Photo: Time for some waves.


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The laidback fishing village of Batu Karas is one of Java’s most chilled beachside destinations, a haven for surfers or anyone happy to watch the waves roll on in one after the other, with very few other distractions bar a book and a hammock.

The village wraps two bays on the southern coast of West Java, 33 kilometres west of the local tourist hotspot of Pangandaran and is close enough to its big sister that many of the areas sights can be visited from either. As Pangandaran develops with more and more big hotels and draws increasing local holidaymakers, Batu Karas’ small collection of charming guesthouse and low-key vibe have growing appeal for foreign tourists. On weekends however, Batu Karas sees an influx of domestic tourists too and can be just as busy.

Can you boogie? Photo taken in or around Batu Karas, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Can you boogie? Photo: Sally Arnold

For folks looking for a Bali-style beach resort, you won’t find it in Batu Karas, life is simple with basic infrastructure and people going about their daily life. You won’t be hassled by touts or trinket sellers either although you will be greeted with a friendly “Hello Mister” (regardless of gender).

Surfing is the big draw at Batu Karas, with two popular breaks and another less so. The main surfing beach is a tiny black sandy bay that offers some of the best waves for a beginner to learn in Indonesia although it can get crowded and may be a little disappointing for more experienced surfers—but there’s always neighbouring Pangandaran. Surfboards, boogie boards and inner tubes can be hired and much of the beach enjoys good swimming too. Local tourists tend to favour water sports over the surf and there are the usual banana boats and other noisy distractions. Unfortunately there are seasonal jellyfish and bluebottles, so you might consider packing a light wetsuit.

Make the time to explore. Photo taken in or around Batu Karas, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Make the time to explore. Photo: Sally Arnold

Just to note this is a relatively conservative area and bikinis are not appropriate swimwear—boardshorts and a rashie are more suitable for the beaches here.

Once you’ve had your fill of the surf, you could jump on a bike and explore the local area. A nearby rickety bamboo suspension toll bridge is a sight you won’t see in safety-conscious Western countries, but makes a good photo opp and is a shortcut to the road to Pangandaran.

About one and a half kilometres from the beach on Jalan Sanghiangkalan, a small bamboo community centre, Bale Tau run by a community led organisation CLEAR, offers occasional yoga, Indonesian language and cooking classes. They also provide free English lessons to locals and a library as well as regular beach clean-ups and environmental education. Pop by and give them your support.

Not everyone is here for the surf. Photo taken in or around Batu Karas, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Not everyone is here for the surf. Photo: Sally Arnold

Continue along the same road, and eventually you will end up at the Centre of Mangrove Restoration and Education. Not only is this a pleasant spot to wander the boardwalks and see some birdlife, you’ll also be supporting a sustainable environmental project.

For day trips further afield, refer to Pangandaran’s sights—you can enjoy the spectacular natural waterways at Green Canyon and Citumang or try tubing on the Santirah River; admire the views from Wonder Hill Jojogan and Batu Hiu headland; check out the local culture and see traditional puppets and home industries or get up close with the wildlife at Pangandaran Nature Reserve.

Visit the mangrove centre. Photo taken in or around Batu Karas, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Visit the mangrove centre. Photo: Sally Arnold

Dining options in Batu Karas are mostly limited to local warungs, but you’ll have your choice of fresh seafood and restaurants attached to hotels offer some Western style alternatives. Nightlife is the occasional beach bonfire.

Getting to Batu Karas from Java’s major cities can be a long and not-hassle-free adventure, but we say it is definitely worth the effort.

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The closest town to Batu Karas is Cijulang about ten kilometres away. From the main road that runs through Cijulang, a side road, Jalan Pantai Indah, follows the river and leads to the beach. At an entrance gate before the beach a toll of 6,000 rupiah per person plus various fees per vehicle depending on size is payable to enter the area. Keep your ticket as it’s a one off payment.

A right turn at the intersection takes you up over the hill to the main tourist and surf area where you’ll find most of the accommodation within about 100 metres of the beach, cafes, warungs and shops and a left turn will take you to the longer bay with the other surfbreak and a smattering of other places to stay.

Pick your plank. Photo taken in or around Batu Karas, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Pick your plank. Photo: Sally Arnold

An ATM is on the intersection where Jalan Pantai Indah meets the beach road. A minimarket is not far from the toll gate, and a handful of local warungs in the village sell sundries.

The closest medical facilities, police and post office are in Cijulang.


What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Batu Karas.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda
 Read up on where to eat on Batu Karas.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Batu Karas.
 Read up on how to get to Batu Karas.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Batu Karas? Please read this.
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