You’ve probably heard of the popular Island of the Gods in Indonesia. Bali is a hotspot for backpackers, holidaymakers, yogis, surfers, scuba divers and everyone in between. There are so many things to do and places to visit and there really is something for everyone here.
During our previous trips to Bali, we spent time in Canggu, Sanur, Lovina, Seminyak, Ubud, Kintamani, and more, but this time around, we found ourselves on the east coast in the seaside town of Candidasa — a place that spans less than a kilometer long.
We based ourselves at Lotus Bungalows which is overlooking the water and used it as our base to explore in and around Candidasa. Read on to see if this quieter part of Bali is the place for you,
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Don’t miss our travel video of Candidasa at the bottom of this post!
First of all, it’s pronounced “Chandidasa”!
If you’re looking to escape the busy southern beaches, make your way further northeast to Candidasa where you’ll find rice paddies surrounded by palm trees, and Mount Agung looming in the distance. Intricate Hindu temples, friendly locals, relaxed beaches and epic dive sites are all nearby.
The east coast is a great place to base yourself if you’re interested in culture, natural beauty, and scuba diving. For hikers, Mount Agung is still active these days, but when she’s calmed down, trekking the volcano will resume. With many things to see and do in Candidasa, you’ll never be bored here.
This is a slower-paced, less-developed Bali, and while there’s still a lot of traffic, it’s far less hectic than in the south.
Where to Stay in Candidasa, Bali
Candidasa has a road running directly through the town. In order to avoid the traffic noise, I recommend choosing a seaside accommodation and enjoy the sound of crashing waves (and an amazing view).
After a very long travel day from Raja Ampat, we arrived late and were greeted by the friendly property managers at Lotus Bungalows. Sensing how tired we were, Henriette gave us a very brief overview of the property and town of Candidasa.
With the moon illuminating the way and tree frogs, crickets and geckos as the accompanying sound, we made our way through the property and arrived at our bungalow.
Completely exhausted, we pushed our luggage aside and plopped down on the bed — after a much-needed shower in the outdoor bathroom. We were looking forward to seeing what the property looked like in the light of day.
As with our previous trip to Gangga Island (North Sulawesi) and Birie Island (Raja Ampat), we were invited by Lotus Hotels to experience Lotus Bungalows here in Candidasa. Having not really seen the property the previous night, we were pleasantly surprised when we woke up and saw the view!
Twenty bungalows dotted the garden, with ours pointing directly to the infinity pool and the Lombok Strait beyond. The architecture was in traditional Balinese style, with an outdoor bathroom, tiled roof and private verandah. Surrounded by towering palm trees and frangipanis, this would be our tropical home for 3 nights.
The room itself had tile flooring, a comfy bed, air-conditioning and lots of natural lighting. As a bonus, we were given a reusable shopping bag for the duration of our stay — helping to reduce the use of single-use plastics in Bali.
On our verandah, we had a clothing rack to dry our swimsuits and towels, plus two chairs and a table. Just steps away was the stunning open-air restaurant — an incredible bamboo structure with mosaic tiles flooring and tasteful wooden decor throughout.
Breakfast was included in the (very affordable) room rate, and we could choose between a la carte, or buffet.
If we wanted, other restaurants were just minutes down the road, but with a perfect view of the sunset, a wood-fired pizza oven, and tasty Indonesian dishes, we ended up eating our meals here at the property.
Apart from the friendly staff members, the onsite dive center, and our cozy bungalow, the large pool was a highlight of Lotus Bungalows. As in most parts of Bali, the sea can be rough depending on the time of year. There are cement barriers along the coast to break up the waves before they reach the shoreline (to help prevent erosion), but waves can still be strong.
Thankfully, we were able to enjoy swimming in the infinity pool while gazing out at the sea. Sunbeds were set up on the grassy area, while chairs and tables for dining and comfy day beds were placed around the pool. It was the perfect place for me to relax while Nick was out scuba diving.
As Candidasa is still quite busy, wherever you choose to stay you should try to find a place that has a respite from the traffic.
To learn more about Lotus Bungalows and the accommodation they offer, click here.
Scuba Diving East Coast Bali
There are numerous dive sites on the east coast of Bali, many of which aren’t all that far offshore. The 4 Gilis are popular for shark sightings, Amed (a town about an hour from Candidasa) is known for its macro and muck dives, while Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan are the places to spot manta rays.
Prior to our visit to Candidasa, we didn’t realize that Bali had awesome scuba diving sites. Of course, Indonesia is known for its underwater world, but we had always thought of Bali as more of a surfing destination.
Wow, were we wrong!
Nick chatted with Jan, the manager at the onsite Gangga Divers shop and after an inspiring and exciting discussion about the creatures they could potentially spot, he checked out the gear and had it put aside for the dives the following morning.
With water temperatures around 17-22 °C in early October, rather than dive in his usual shorts and t-shirt, Nick had to wear a wetsuit this time around.
After about a 20 minute drive, the crew, Nick and the two other divers from Switzerland and Austria arrived at the Padangbai Port. The dive sites were Sental and SD, both of which were around Nusa Penida, and as soon as Nick entered the water, he couldn’t believe he had never been diving in Bali in the past!
Because of its currents, this area is known for manta rays, mola mola (sunfish), reef sharks and turtles, which come to feed on the plankton that is brought to the area with the tides and fast-moving water.
While no mantas or mola mola made an appearance during Nick’s dives, he did see turtles, eels, bump head parrotfish, and lots of healthy coral. After a fun day under the water, he returned with a smile on his face and together with new dive friends, we all enjoyed Bintang beers poolside at Lotus Bungalows.
As with our previous experiences with Gangga Divers on Gangga Island and in Raja Ampat, the 5 star PADI company were professional, and safety was a high priority. Again, Nick had a divemaster to himself while underwater and there are never more than 4 divers for every divemaster.
The dive shop is run by a couple from Denmark, while the divemasters and boat captain are Indonesian. We always like to see locals being employed when possible and Nick had a great experience diving here in Candidasa.
☞ SEE ALSO: 15 Best Things To Do in Lombok
Things To Do In and Around Candidasa
Although the east coast is a great base for scuba divers, there are numerous other things to do here to keep you busy.
About a 20-minute walk from Lotus Bungalows, you’ll find the Lotus Lagoon, which is filled with (you guessed it), lotus flowers.
This 1000 square meter pond stretches from the road all the way to the sand and is best visited during the morning when the lotus flowers are open (they close during the heat of the day). Another great time is during sunset.
Directly across the road from the Lotus Lagoon, you’ll find this Hindu temple. When wanting to be blessed with fertility and children, this is where Balinese will come to pray to the Goddess Hariti.
We, however, were there to enjoy the beauty of the temple and hike up the numerous steps to enjoy a view of the Lotus Lagoon, and the sea beyond.
As is customary in all Balinese temples, you must wrap a sarong around your waist (over top of your pants or shorts). Both men and women need to do this. If you don’t have your own, you can usually rent them from stands just outside the temple.
There are many temples in this area. Just a 30 minute to 1-hour drive from Candidasa will bring you to some magical spots. It’s a good idea to visit a few in one day — either by motorbike/car or with a hired driver.
The Pura Luhur Lempuyang is probably the most famous at the moment — Instagram famous. People line up to get a photo between the two gates of the temple, with a view of Mount Agung in the distance.
Although not as Insta-famous, Pura Luhur Besakih is the holiest and most important temple in Bali. Located on the slopes of Mount Agung, this isn’t actually just one temple, but rather a complex of numerous temples. Ceremonies take place here and it’s a popular spot with tour buses.
About a 30-minute drive from Candidasa will bring you to Taman Tirta Gangga. This 1.2 hectare, aptly named water temple is a sight you don’t want to miss. Here you’ll find fountains, springs, and ponds filled with koi fish, all of which are surrounded by lovely gardens.
The Village of Tenganan
After just a 10 minute drive from Lotus Bungalows, we arrived at this 11th century Bali Aga village (meaning, it’s pre-Hindu). Here, residents live as they have for many years (with the addition of smartphones and TV!). After paying a donation, we were allowed into the village and were showed around by our guide and resident, Wayan.
Walking around with Wayan, we learned about how the villagers here are farmers, have a unique style of weaving (double Ikat) and the men make unique palm calendars. If you visit during the Pandan War, you’ll see traditional combat between the men of the village — using pandan leaves, which have sharp spikes.
This bloody battle is to honour the God of war and is held every June. The Pandan War is a huge event with many people coming from all over Bali to witness it.
Once we were finished with our “tour”, we wandered around aimlessly and saw offerings being delivered for a wedding, children running around, numerous homes climbing up the hillside (with small lanes for exploration), and were offered palm wine by a group of men who were sitting around.
Sure, this is a tourist spot, but it was interesting to see this type of traditional village life.
Note: there’s actually a walk you can do from Lotus Bungalows through the rice paddies to reach Tenganan. If you’d prefer to walk, ask the staff for directions and a guide.
While the east coast may not be known for its beaches, there are actually a few beautiful stretches of sand worth checking out. Enjoy a relaxing day at the beach, minus the crowds.
Note: as with all beaches in Bali, be mindful of currents and strong tides. It’s best to ask a local’s advice before swimming.
Pasir Putih is a gorgeous white sand beach with clear blue water. It’s about a 15-minute ride north from Candidasa. There are sunbeds for rent and a couple of small vendors selling food. Don’t expect an empty beach, but it’s still a beautiful spot, and will be quieter than any beach in the south.
Blue Lagoon near the Padangbai Port is another good option. The beach here is rocky, so it’s a good place to do some snorkelling. Bring your water shoes, or fins.
To the south of Padangbai Port, you’ll find Bias Tugel which is quieter than the Blue Lagoon. Here you’ll find some small vendors, a sandy beach and little rocky pools that you can sit in. It’s also a great spot to watch ships coming and going.
☞ SEE ALSO: Diving in Komodo – Dragons, Dolphins and Mantas
How to Get to Candidasa
Getting to Candidasa is easy. There are numerous international flights that arrive in Bali at the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar. If you’re coming from Asia or Australia, have a look at Air Asia. If you’re coming from North America or Europe, there are many different airlines and flight options.
We personally flew from New York to Bali via a 5-hour layover in Taiwan. Have a look at your preferred booking engine to compare flights and routes.
Once you’re in Bali, it’s about a 1.5-hour drive from the airport to Candidasa. The traffic in Bali can be horrendous in the south, so the duration of the trip to the east coast can vary. Rush hour runs from around 8-10am and 3-6pm. However, it’s pretty busy throughout the day as well!
If you’re staying at Lotus Bungalows, they will send a driver in an air-conditioned vehicle to pick you up at the airport (for a fee).
Taking a taxi is another option. Fixed rates are posted at the airport, so make sure you go to the official counter and receive your piece of paper with the rate, and the taxi driver number. At the time of our visit in 2019, it was 425,000 IDR. Click here to learn more about taking a taxi from the airport to Candidasa.
If you’d rather utilize rideshare to Candidasa, you’ll need to download either Grab or GoJek on your phone with an Indonesian number. At the airport, after you’ve picked up your baggage and are about to exit, there are a couple of booths selling SIM cards. You’ll need a valid phone number to receive a text and verify your account on these apps.
It’s 260,000 – 350,000 IDR for Grab Car, and GoJek Car is 240,000 – 270,000 IDR. Uber doesn’t operate in Indonesia.
Having seen so many other areas of Indonesia, we really enjoyed visiting the east coast. Rather than malls, shops and a lack of nature, this area was relatively undeveloped — there were still some rice paddies on the side of the road!
Not only did we enjoy seeing Mount Agung each day and the surrounding palm trees, but this was such a great base for scuba diving. Within a few minutes, Nick was at the harbour and heading out on a dive. Since all the dive sites are located on the east coast, Candidasa is the perfect base.
As a non-diver, I loved staying back at Lotus Bungalows and relaxing poolside, and on the non-diving days, we both enjoyed village visits and temple hopping. As with all trips, there are many things we weren’t able to see during our stay in Candidasa and we’re looking forward to returning.
A special thank-you to Lotus Hotels for hosting our stay at Lotus Bungalows. As with all promotional campaigns on Goats On The Road, all thoughts and opinions remain our own, regardless of any complimentary services received.
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