Canggu refers to a five-mile coastal stretch north of Seminyak and south of Tanah Lot, but the heart of Canggu is at Batu Bolong and Echo Beach. Though it is largely rural just a few blocks from the shoreline, the area is being quickly developed by expats who couldn’t part with island life.
For now, though, Canggu is basking in its tourism sweet spot: visitors surrender to the rhythm of local Balinese life, while still being able to enjoy the occasional almond croissant or chia seed smoothie—the sort of indulgences you might crave if you, like most people who come to Canggu, end up staying awhile. The typical morning begins by the water with a freshly hacked coconut to hydrate you before the South Pacific sun comes down in full force. Surfers are bobbing in the water by sunrise, waiting to catch the day’s first waves, and—depending on the current that day—you can watch locals teach their children to surf before school. By 6 p.m., the entire town convenes by the water to watch the sunset; savor it with a cob of sweet-chili-dipped corn and a bottle of Bintang (the local beer).
A few steps off the sand, this mod beach bar is the go-to spot to kick up your feet and people watch. Surfers come straight from the water, boards in hand, to rinse off at the outdoor shower; young expat families let their children roam here in the afternoon; and 20-something travelers flock for happy hour—every day from 5 to 6 p.m.—when you can get two beers for the price of one. Reliable Wi-Fi, laidback live music, and plush Jonathan Adler-inspired furnishings make it a popular spot for roving workers to settle in for an island-style workday. Though Old Man’s serves an extensive list of bar food, stick to fries and beer here; there are better and cheaper eats elsewhere (more on that next).
Tourists and locals alike line up at this no-frills eatery to stack their plates with warung, the traditional Indonesian meal. Nasi Goreng Campur—a mixed plate of chicken, shrimp and bacon, and a side of white or brown rice—is the perfect way to get your post-surf fill for less than a round-trip metro ride (typical meals cost 25,000 IDR, or $1.90 USD). Be sure to try the crunchy tempeh; though most people associate this fermented soy dish with New Age vegetarian restaurants, tempeh originated in Indonesia and remains a local speciality. It’s best served with peanut sauce or, if you like heat, the housemade spicy sambal sauce on the side.
Despite the rapid Westernization of Bali, religion is still a major, visible part of Balinese culture, and those coming to Canggu will get a rare, intimate view of the role it plays in the lives of locals. Every Sunday, you’ll be woken up by a parade marching down Jayan Batu Bolong. The women and men dress in white clothing with dramatic headpieces and beat rhythmic drums while singing Hindu chants as they make their way to the water. Take a seat in front of the ancient pagoda-like Pura Batu Mejan temple, which overlooks the ocean, and watch them send channa (Hindu offerings of purple flowers, seashells, and incense) out to sea.
Though it’s technically just north of the Canggu border, Tana Lot—one of Bali’s most picturesque temples—is a must during your trip. Fight your way through a sea of bracelet-dangling vendors to the ancient stone temple on a rock offshore. For a great photo opp, follow the footpath south onto the raised cliff that sits parallel to Tana Lot; from there, you can catch the shifting colors of the sunset through the temple’s arches.
Deus Ex Machina
There are plenty of reasons to come to Deus during the day: the contemporary art studio; the handmade surfboards, skateboards, and mini skate ramp; and the buzzworthy coffee, to name a few. But Deus is most popular at night, specifically Sunday night, when the surf-shop-cum-cafe is flooded with what feels like everyone from the Southern part of the island for an epic dance party. This is the one occasion when Canggu slightly resembles Kuta (the party does attract a lot of travelers), but—once you push your way through the crowded bar—you end up in a backyard oasis amid miles of rice paddies, dancing alongside travelers, expats and locals to live funk music under the stars.
This eclectic two-story eatery on the far side of Canggu overlooking the rice paddies focuses on light organic cuisine, including raw and vegan breakfast bowls, shakes, juices and desserts. Standouts are the Naga Bomb—a colorful bowl of passion fruit, cashews, goji berries, coconut and acai neatly arranged in a circle—and the fruit-filled quinoa porridge (all dishes from 55,000 IDR, or $4 USD). The crowd is made up of mostly expats and travelers. Wi-Fi seekers basking in the salty breeze as it passes through the open walls dominate the long communal table on the top floor.
Rent a Surfboard
A trip to Bali isn’t complete without a catching a wave. The southwest coast of Bali’s Bukit peninsula is known for its surf, and while many beaches offer waves too rough for low- and mid-level surfers, Canggu’s waves are suited for surfers of all levels, depending on the day. There are a handful of stands set up in the lot by the beach. Go to the second stand from the street entrance, and ask for Paris. He is the mayor of the Canggu surf world, and he befriends almost all of his customers. Explain to him your skill level and the type of board you want, and he will tell you which day is best for you to get on the water. A two-hour lesson with a private instructor will run you about 300,000 IDR, or $23 USD.
For those seeking a more in-depth surf experience, Baruna Surf Culture. At $55 USD per day, Baruna is more expensive but in addition to the surf lesson, includes lessons on the history of surfing and the role it plays in Balinese culture, how to read the waves and different techniques to use on the water; all outings also include a group lunch. Three- and five-day packages ($165 USD and $250 USD, respectively) are also available.
Having traveled through various Indonesian islands with his guitar at his side, Java-born Yude Andiko designed the yudelele—a cross between a ukulele and a guitar—to be a less cumbersome alternative for guitarists on the go. Sized similarly to a ukulele, the instrument is easier to tote, but has six strings, so it plays like a guitar. Each one is a work of art, carved by hand from Balinese wood, with an ebony fretboard and maple wood inlay; even the cases are made with carefully laid pandan leaves and batik. Even if you aren’t planning to shop, the Canggu workshop is worth a visit. The sunny, open-walled space looks out over the rice fields, and tours of the facility where you can see the craftsmen at work are available with Yude upon request.
From the outside, Warung Dandelion looks more like someone’s home than it does a restaurant. It’s difficult to spot from the road—the fleet of scooters parked outside is your tipoff—but get past the trees, and the bamboo walls open to polished antique furnishings, wood beamed ceilings, and walls covered in artwork and bookcases. Make your way out back to what feels like a barbecue in Eden, with a cool breeze, fish grilling over an open fire and children cackling as they chase bunnies between your feet. The owner, Gani, walks around and mingles with people at every table (he will likely greet you by name by your second visit). The food is a slightly modern take on authentic Indonesian fare, made with fresh produce the chefs bring from the market every day. Standouts include the grilled Octopus, steamed banana, and coconut rice pudding.
Surf followed with a Barbeque on the beach
The quiet black-sand beach adjacent to Batu Bolong (it’s a five-minute walk, on the other side of a ghostly stone temple), has more challenging surf breaks than its neighbor, making it a good stop for advanced surfers or those just looking to get away from the convivial atmosphere outside Old Man’s.
Snag a bean bag chair on the sand to watch the last wave of surfers as the sun sets, then climb up the rocks to Sate for shareable platters of barbecue prawns, chicken and calamari (275,000 IDR, or $21). Stay after dark to watch the tide come up and the waves crash against the rocks. On Sunday evenings, after the dance party at Deus ends, people often congregate next door at Sand Bar, continuing the party with electronic dance music on the sand.