Candidasa is a relaxed spot on the route east, with hotels and some decent restaurants. However, it also has problems stemming from decisions made three decades ago that should serve as cautionary notes to any previously undiscovered place that suddenly finds itself on the map.
Until the 1970s, Candidasa was just a quiet little fishing village, then beachside losmen (small Balinese hotels) and restaurants sprang up and suddenly it was the new beach sensation in Bali. As the facilities developed, the beach eroded – unthinkingly, offshore barrier-reef corals were harvested to produce lime for cement in the orgy of construction that took place – and by the late 1980s Candidasa was a beach resort with no beach.
Mining stopped in 1991, and concrete sea walls and breakwaters have limited the erosion and now provide some tiny pockets of sand. The relaxed seaside ambience and sweeping views from the hotels built right on the water appeal to a more mature crowd of visitors. Candidasa is a good base from which to explore the interior of east Bali on a walk; it’s also a place to spend some quiet time.
The main “town” is basically one long road that runs the length of the bay and whose beach side is lined by most of the hotels and guesthouses. The road forms a section of the main around-Bali-road so traffic noise is an issue — while you may notice it less during the day, in the evening and especially early morning it is a bit annoying to be awoken by thundering trucks rolling through town, so try to get a room as close to the water as possible — better to be woken by the waves than the number 42 bus.
The town is split by an especially pretty lagoon that sits between the main temple in Candi Dasa and the sea. Lotus filled, with a small islet it is lovely in the early morning and late afternoon and it empties out onto a slither of sand where a handful of fishing boats are pulled up. You’ll find more fishing boats on any bit of beach they can fit them onto.
This same rood is lined by most of the restaurants in Candi Dasa. While there are a couple of close-to or on-the-beach eating options, most are on the far side of the road meaning you get to observe the traffic rather than the water. One of the exceptions to this (and one of the cheapest places in Candi Dasa to eat) is the seaside warungs towards the start of town — the tremendous sunsets are free! There are a couple of fancier options available as well.
Despite most of the beach being gone, the coastal views over the Amuk Bay are still very scenic. Offshore you can see the three offshore (uninhabited) islets of Gili Biaha, Gili Kambing and Gili Mimpang, with Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan further in the distance, while to the southwest you can see Padang Bai. The closer islands form one of the main activities in Candi Dasa — snorkelling. You can hire a jukung for the trip out and back allowing for a couple of hours snorkelling (or diving). It certainly isn’t world class, a lot of the coral is quite badly banged up, but there are plenty of fish — some quite big.
The second main claim to fame for Candi Dasa is the Bali Aga village of Tenganan which lies a fifteen minute drive inland from Candi Dasa. They’re well regarded for their traditional beliefs and handicrafts. The village can be visited as a part of an organised trip from Candi Dasa, or, if you have your own transport, you can drive up there yourself.
Lastly, while much of the beach in town has washed away, there is an exceptional strip of sand a twenty minute drive north of Cansi Dasa. White Sand Beach (Pantai Putih) really does have close to white sand and makes for a great half or full day trip. While no accommodation is available, there are a bunch of seafood eateries to choose from along with deck chairs and umbrellas.
Shifting sands aside, Candi Dasa is a pleasant place to visit for a few days, whether you plan to simply relax or explore sites further afield.
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