Tagged: Beach

Batu Karas

Batu Karas is a secret Indonesian surf spot, only known to those in the know, so implies one website that offers a tour to an unnamed, charming surf village offering sand barrels and shorty takeoffs on a 300 meter point break.

Batu Karas surf, indonesia surf
Batu Karas Point creates the famous Point Break surf wave in Batu Karas.
Batu Karas beach
Black sand beach at Batu Karas.
batu karas surf
Surfer challenges the reef break at Batu Karas.

In 2006, Tom Williams, owner of Bonsai Bungalows, came to Batu Karas on a holiday, fell in love with the village, and never left. A local surfer showed him the plot of land where Bonsai Bungalows now stands and he made a snap decision to buy it. He realized there would be pitfalls, but also knew they could be dealt with along the way, as they have.

Bonsai Bungalows, batu karas hotel
Bonsai Bungalows offers simple, clean accommodation from Rp.150,000. +62 26 5709 3199

So, what is it about Batu Karas that makes it so special?

Batu Karas is a sleepy village, possessing a rare charm and friendly vibe, despite recent growth in tourism to the area.

Batu Karas
Downtown Batu Karas

The locals are a large part of what makes Batu Karas special – always ready with a smile, eager to interact with visitors, and they seem to have a good understanding of what travelers want to experience.

It’s the best place in Java to learn to surf – lessons from talented local surfers are readily available. But, you don’t have to be a surfer to feel at home here – you may choose to simply relax on the beach, and enjoy the charm of this relaxed fishing village.

batu karas beach
Most of the locals are fishermen.

There is no one trying to sell you sunglasses, sarongs, or massages on the beach, your privacy is warmly respected, and yet, if you do need something – a bike to rent or a guide to a nearby place of interest – then they will easily accommodate your needs. Prices for things such as surf board, bike, and boat rental are fairly fixed in the village, which helps to avoid haggling, and any ill feelings or misunderstandings.

Although choices for places to eat are a little limited, the few restaurants that do exist are friendly and have a nice atmosphere. Jesfas restaurant in particular, is a warm, friendly, family run establishment and a popular meeting spot for locals and tourists alike. If it’s a delicious seafood meal with fresh local produce you seek, then Bay View restaurant has an impressive array of lobsters, tiger prawns and local fish, freshly caught on the day.

Night life is fairly non existent, but partying is not really what this place is about – its true asset is that it’s a relaxed friendly little village where the days can be passed eating, surfing, and simply lazing in a hammock and working on your sun tan. There are plenty of adventurous things to do in the surrounding areas, but for Batu Karas itself, there is just one rule – take it easy and soak up the serenity!

batu karas
Sunset on the reef.

Getting to Batu Karas

The easiest way to get to Batu Karas from Jakarta or Bandung is the 40 minute Susi Air flight. My experience on Susi Air was fantastic!

By bus: to Pangandaran, then to Cijulang, then an ojek to Batu Karas.

By Train: Banjar is the transit point on the Jakarta – Jogjakarta line. From Banjar it’s a two hour bus ride to Pangandaran, then on to Cijulang where you can get an ojek to Batu Karas.

batr karasWalking from Cijulang is also an option. From the bus station in Cijulang, go left about a half km, across a bridge. Turn left just after the bridge, walk through the sawmill, then onto a very easy to follow path that will take you through the jungle, across a bamboo bridge, then to the main road. Turn left at the “Y” intersection, and follow the road into Batu Karas. It’s about 4.5 km from Cijulang and takes about an hour.

The path from Cijulang to Batu Karas looks like this:

cijulang to batu karas

Top left: After you turn left after crossing the bridge on the main road.
Top right: At the top of the hill, turn right.
Bottom left: Walk straight to the top of the next hill.
Bottom right: Follow the nice tree-lined path through the jungle.

bamboo bridge
Cross the beautiful bridge.

cijulang to batu karas

Top left: After you cross the bridge, pay the Rp.1000 toll.
Top right: Turn right, and walk down this path for about 100 meters.
Bottom left: Turn left at this intersection.
Bottom right: Enjoy the walk through the villages.

cijulang to batu karas

Top left: Continue walking along the shady, tree-lined road.
Top right: Past children who seldom see a foreigner.
Bottom left: To the end of the road at Batu Karas.
Bottom right: Turn right, and walk about half km to the main village.

Pangandaran

After enjoying the calm of Batu Karas for a week, Pangandaran’s hawker, and warung lined beaches seemed a bit harsh. In reality though, Pangandaran is charming – an over-grown fishing village that has evolved into a popular beach resort for Indonesian’s. It remains mostly off the foreign tourist’s radar for a couple of reasons – it’s difficult to reach, and nearby Bali seems to offer much more.

But, more is not always better. For the foreign tourists who do make the effort, Pangandaran has one of Java’s best beaches, a chilled atmosphere, and waterfront café’s that offer a relatively quiet respite from the crowds of Bali, especially during the week. On weekends, it gets crowded as people from Jakarta and Bandung arrive. Public holidays are definitely a time to avoid visiting.

Pangandaran is on a Peninsula, so its beaches face East and West. The road along the west beach is lined with hotels and restaurants, and the beach itself is crowded with makeshift vendor tents offering everything from sandals to tattoos. There seems to be an endless parade of hawkers as well, which tend to take something away from the serenity of the beach. Then, of course, there are the obligatory banana boat and jets ski rentals that detract a bit more. Surfers enjoy the good swells that roll in from the southwest. The beach gets quieter at the north end, but swimming at the northern end is not safe.

pangandaran, pangandaran beach
West Beach - Pangandaran

The east beach is much quieter, but it’s mostly a fishing beach. It’s the place to be at dinner time when the numerous seafood restaurants are cooking up the catches of the day – crab, a variety of fish, shrimp, and squid. Some of the restaurants are market style where you chose your dinner while it’s swimming in an aquarium.The seafood and atmosphere is so good, I know people who drive all the way from jakarta on the weekend just for dinner.

Taman Nasional Pangandaran (Pangandaran National Park) covers the southern end of the Peninsula. The stone path around the recreation area is very easy to follow, and a very pleasant walk through the Pananjung forest. There is a variety of wildlife to see – monkeys, deer, lizards, Flying Lumur, Hornbill, and a variety of other birds are in abundance.

Taman Nasional Pangandaran, Pangandaran National Park,Pananjung forest
An easy to follow map of the trails in Pananjung forest.

The monkeys are very aggressive, because of visitors being encouraged to buy peanuts to feed them. Be prepared to be challenged by a group of monkeys expecting a handout. If you don’t have anything, pick up a tree branch – that will disperse them. Keep a close watch on all your belongings – the monkeys take pleasure in snatching anything that is loose.

About 700 species of plants live in the Pananjung forest – Marong, Ki Segal, Laban, Teak, Mahogany, and Acacia. The real gem is the huge Rafflesia flower when it’s in bloom – June and July.

If you want to see more than the well defined recreation area, a guide can show you more remote areas of the recreation area, and may even venture into the jungle preserve, which is normally off limits to tourists. Guides will offer their services at the entrance – Rp.100,000 for a three hour tour.

Overall all, Pangandaran is a great place for a holiday for those wanting to escape the crowds. One could spend a chilled week there and go home refreshed. But, does it rival Bali, as some claim? It could, if relaxation is what you’re after. But, for diversity of choice, scenery, surf, beaches, shopping, and nightlife Bali scores far ahead.

Getting to Pangandaran

From Jakarta, Bandung, or Jogjakarta, take the train to Banjar, then a bus to Pangandaran.

Alternatively, you can go the whole distance by bus – Pangandaran is well served by bus from all points in Java. The scheduled time from Bandung by bus is five hours, but that can easily stretch to 10, depending on road, and traffic conditions.

The easiest and most enjoyable way to get to Pangandaran from Jakarta or Bandung in on Susi Air – I’ve used their service, and it’s excellent. You may want to check out my post about my Susi Air experience.

Have you been to Pangandaran? What was your experience like? Please share with a comment.