Suddenly, everybody seems to be talking about Canggu, the laid back, surf-happy spot on the outskirts of Seminyak in Bali. Here’s why.
The next beach north of renowned, hotel-lined Seminyak, Canggu has been steadily rising on the Bali travel scene. There’s lots here to suit beach, music, food and yoga fans, and what sets it apart from the other west coast beaches is that without the international hotel chains and retailers (yet, anyway) the place retains a boutique, indie vibe. Although small, attractions are dispersed and separated by rice paddies with unmarked roads in between, so it pays to know where to go.
Here’s my guide to some favourite places I found across two visits. Although part of the fun is that in this rapidly growing destination, by the time you get there, there’ll be more new finds around every corner!
First up, it’s important to say the name of the place correctly. In the local language, Bahasa Indonesia, a “c” makes a “ch” sound so it’s “Chung-goo”. If you get it wrong and say “Kang-goo”, for example, taxi drivers will probably give you a confused look and you might miss out on getting there altogether!
Canggu is only a 15-minute drive from the centre of Seminyak, but if there’s traffic, the journey may take a bit longer. Going home, you should always account for possible traffic en route to the airport in Denpasar; it’s only 14 km away but it’s safer to allow over an hour. Taxi drivers should be familiar with the few hotels in Canggu, but the vast majority of accommodation is private villas. It pays to have the location open on your phone’s maps app to show your driver, or have them phone the proprietor to get directions.
Once settled, you can easily hire drivers for single trips or a few hours (just ask the manager of your hotel or villa), or rent a scooter. I’m a keen walker, but I found the sporadic paving and lack of through roads between the strips of shops a bit challenging. The basic layout of Canggu is three hubs of entertainment centred around the surf beaches that run south to north: Berawa, Batu Bolong and Echo Beach. The parallel streets that run down from the main highway (Jalan Raya Canggu) to these beaches are quite far apart, with few joining roads; scootering means you can use the concrete-path shortcuts that run between.
The most prominent of these shortcuts (known as Jalan Shortcut) boasts its own restaurants and bars, including Pretty Poison, a warehouse-style space specialising in gin cocktails. Cool young things gather round the empty swimming pool out back where local and tourist skate kids take turns.
At one end of this main shortcut is Jalan Pantai Batu Berawa, lined with eateries and shops and punctuated by the beautiful Finn’s Beach Club. We loved to chill out there with sunset cocktails, feet in the sand, and listening to live DJs spin chilled out sounds.
At the other end is Jalan Pantai Batu Bolong, the busiest strip in Canggu with a string of restaurants, bars and retail from where the road forks at Deus Ex Machina (custom bikes and tasty pizzas) down to Batu Bolong. Here, beach club Old Man’s plays host to seriously good live music, barbecues, and a good-looking, friendly surf crowd.
Finally, in the north at Echo Beach, there’s the rustic Echo Beach Club, smoothie bowls at Shady Shack, and a Sunday organic market at Samadi Bali.
Here are a few more attractions not to miss around Canggu:
Make the half-hour drive up to one of Bali’s key temples, Tanah Lot. The temple is built at the top of a rocky outcrop perched amid crashing waves. It’s famous for its striking silhouette in the setting sun. But to beat the inevitable crowds, we visited at sunrise instead and were pleasantly surprised to be the only non-locals there in the thick of a Hindu procession to the temple.
Stay - or at least dine - at Hotel Tugu by Echo Beach. Built and filled to the brim by Indonesia’s foremost antiques collector, Tugu is a lesson in the rich art history of Bali and the Indonesian archipelago.The Japanese-style restaurant Ji does great fusion fare and superb cocktails. Sit on the terrace and gaze at the big orange ball of a sun setting over Batu Bolong.
Refuel with delicious breakfasts and strong coffee at Betelnut Cafe, perched like a treehouse above Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong.
Smack bang on the sand and run by a New Zealander, The Lawn Beach Lounge has an excellent menu that includes must-try babi guling (Balinese pork belly). It also boasts live music and a seriously good lineup of cocktails.