Photo: Time for a light lunch.

Canggu beaches, Bali

3.5 1

Canggu is a beach and ricefield area out to the northwest of Seminyak. It’s famous for three things: the surf, the ricefield views and the private villa rentals. Given private villas in Canggu generally fall outside the reaches of the meagre budget, we just spent a weekend traipsing around looking at everything from cheap homestays and surf camps through to luxury hotels and here’s our brief guide to Canggu.

Sunset on Nelayan, Canggu. Note to self, hold camera straight while being blinded by sun.

Sunset on Nelayan, Canggu. Note to self: hold camera straight while being blinded by sun.

While we refer to this whole swathe of Bali as Canggu, that’s not really accurate. It’s actually a series of villages, each with their own beaches. The main throughfare is the roughly east-west running Jalan Raya Canggu which lies parallel to the beach, but around 4-5 km inland from it. From east to west, running down from Raya Canggu to the beach, are Jalan Pantai Berawa, Jalan Raya Baru Bolong, Jalan Padang Linjong (which morphs into Batu Mejan) and Jalan Raya Pantai Pererenan.

Running along the ridge tops of valleys filled with paddy, these roads are not well interconnected and, while there are some back ways for short hops (eg Nelayan to Berawa), it is quicker to walk down to the beach. The most important back way we found connects Batu Bolong and Berawa running from a block north of Cafe Canggu across to near where Deus is. There’s another good one (bike only) from near Desa Seni that cuts through to Kelecung in Umalas, and lastly there is a goat track that becomes a trail, sort of, midway along Pererenan, which links back to Padang Linjong (absolutely bike only).

Big skies, big holes. Back roads in Canggu

Big skies, big holes: back roads in Canggu.

What is a good hotel in Canggu?
The vast majority of accommodation in Canggu comes in the form of private luxury villas, which we as a rule don’t cover due in general to their expense. So for homestays and hotels in Canggu, here is where really stood out for us.

For budget travellers, your options are quite limited. Puri Rama on Berawa is great flashpacker value, with Canggu Mart Homestay coming a close second. If those two are going to break the bank, consider either the spartan Jepun Bali Homestay or Serenity Villa — the latter has cheapish rooms with shared facilities. If these are still too costly, commute in from Legian/Kuta.

For a comfortable mid-range hotel in Canggu, Ecosfera is pretty good — it’s a slightly more expensive hotel than the nearby Echoland, but we think worth the extra money.

Batu Bolong Beach ... there be dragons in them waters

Batu Bolong Beach ... there be dragons in them waters.

For deluxe hotels in Canggu, Hotel Tugu Bali is where it’s at, but at this priceline you’re straying into smaller villa territory, so shop around and see what you can find. There are a gazillion villas to choose from, and Agoda has a pretty good selection of villas in Canggu to use as a starting point.

Lastly, for keen surfers there are a smattering of surfer camps in Canggu. The Chillhouse is the best known but we also spied Andy Surf Villa out in Pererenan, which looked promising, but we couldn’t find anyone to show us around.

Where to eat in Canggu?
Echo Beach has the biggest concentration of Western-style eateries and bars. Echo Beach House and well-off-the-beach Deus stand out but you’re still only talking of a half dozen or so places to choose from. Old Mans at Batu Bolong is excellent and Berawa has Cafe Canggu, plus Sukertis, down behind the Legong Keraton, but the latter was closed the entire time we were in Canggu — have heard good things about it though. There’s a scattering of warungs, but don’t hit Canggu expecting the rich food scene of Seminyak.

Likewise the, ummm, nightlife is pretty limited. Don’t expect Seminyak and Legian-style beach bars. At each beach head, there’s generally a small warung (that is, a woman with an esky) who sells cold drinks (that is, beer) through the day into the early evening, but otherwise you’ll need to pack all your wild and crazy selves over to Echo Beach House et al.

What is a good beach in Canggu?
While each of the beaches has its own name, they’re really all just a continuation of the same strip of sand broken up by small rivers. Our favourite was Berawa, as you’re within walking distance of a couple of beach bars towards Batu Belig, there’s lots of beach and the waters were good and unthreatening for swimming.

3: Don't shooting on the bridge (Specially for business activities)

3: Don't shooting on the bridge (Specially for business activities)

For surfing in Canggu, Echo beach was the most crowded/popular and if you like a beach scene with lots of places to eat and drink, then this is probably your best bet. Note though that there is a lot of construction going on around here.

Further afield, we really liked Pererenan beach, both for its deserted vibe and the pretty crescent of sand just to the north — it looked to be safe enough for the kids to have a wade, though as with all Bali’s surf beaches, you’d still want to keep a close eye on them.

Grommets at Pererenan

Grommets at Pererenan

Lastly, Nelayan beach was interesting for the still-active fishing fleet (if a dozen or so jukungs count as a fleet), and with a shallow drop-off again is probably okay for families with kids.

Public transport
For all intents and purposes you’ll be needing your own transport. If you don’t have transport, you’re going to be very limited in where you’ll be able to go, so choose your hotel or villa carefully. You will not see passing taxis looking for a fare. We did all our traipsing around by motorbike, but save a couple of the backroads, all is also traversable by hire car.

Seminyak or Canggu?
Canggu and Seminyak don’t look all that far apart on the map, but it’s a bugger of a ride on poorly surfaced, badly rutted roads and not one that you want to be doing after perhaps a martini too many at Naughty Nuri’s in Batu Belig. If you’re thinking of staying in Canggu and commuting into Seminyak most nights for eating out, we’d say reconsider, or stay no further out than Berawa — the drive gets old, fast.

Nuri's is a rough ride away

Nuri's is a rough ride away

If on the other hand, you’re looking for a slow stay away from the hectic mess that Seminyak is, then Canggu could be just what you’re looking for. There’s enough of a mix of fancy eateries through to warungs to keep most happy and the beaches, while not as beautiful as the beaches on Bali’s Bukit peninsula, are nevertheless pretty enough and quite clean.

How long to stay in Canggu?
Most people we talked to were there for the surf and were staying between four and ten days. If you’re not a keen surfer and want to see a fair spread of Bali, then three or four days should be sufficient for a first time visitor.

Forecast: Sunny with an occasional shower of villas

Forecast: Sunny with an occasional shower of villas.

Must sees in Canggu
Pererenan ricefields: Take a ride along the northern end of Jalan Pantai Pererenan in the late afternoon. Stunningly beautiful paddy scenery.
Sunset drinks: Head to Warung Agung Kayu Putih on the beach (walk south from Berawa Beach) for a sundowner. Just remember no shooting (even if business-related) on their suspension bridge.
Coffee at Deus: We were underwhelmed by the breakfasts here (lunch is a better bet), but the coffee is fabulous, so chug a few down then take a look at some of the expensive toys on offer.
Lunch at Old Mans: Slot in a few hours in the afternoon for a slow-grazing meal at this well-appointed seaside restaurant on Batu Bolong. Order the small size so you can try more dishes.
Sunset at Nelayan: Catch the late afternoon light on the jukungs pulled ashore by the fishermen’s huts. Lovely for sunset pics.

Yes to fishing boats, no to villas. Rinse and repeat.

Yes to fishing boats, no to villas. Rinse and repeat.

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