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.
By Adam Poskitt.