Candidasa, Bali – A Coastal Paradise

By Josephine Brierley

Candidasa isn’t a renowned destination in Bali, but to those who do know, it’s a popular seaside village located about an hour’s drive north of Sanur.

The main road, which can be quite busy, runs parallel to the shoreline and is populated with places to stay, restaurants, and some stores selling produce, clothing, and homewares.

Amongst all of this you’ll find villas for long- and short-term rental. It’s a great place base to yourself and explore some of Bali’s historical sites and famous dive spots.

The district of the Karangasem regency contains volcanoes, verdant mountains, rice fields, sweeping bays, and crashing waves, with amazing scenery. The Balinese tradition runs strong in the area, with temples and water palaces which date back hundreds of years, it’s why so many say you can still find the “real Bali” here. In fact, the historically preserved village of Tenganan is nearby, home to the ethnic group Bali Aga who are thought to be the original inhabitants of Bali.

Retire in Candidasa

Candidasa pier
©iStock/TPopova

Candidasa is a small town, and delivers the relaxed lifestyle vibe many crave when retiring to a tropical island. The town is known for its small expat community, but you’re never far from the larger populated areas of Bali if you need a city-fix.

As far as supplies go, most of your supermarket shopping can be done in Candidasa, but you won’t find the big-name stores located here. You can buy most of what you need within town, but a trip to nearby Sanur or Ubud may be needed for anything special and bulk buys.

There are quite a few local markets for fresh fish, fruit, vegetables, and local produce.

Just past Sanur, Lotte Grocer is only an hour’s drive away and is great for bulk shopping at bargain prices.

Restaurants line the main street and all the hotels lining the ocean have their own restaurants, too. A favorite is Le Zat, a restaurant located directly on the shoreline with views to the islands off-shore.

Known as an institution in Candidasa, Vincent’s is a major drawcard in the area with its monthly jazz nights and international menu. Local warungs are plentiful, with budget tasty meals, and most places have live music at night.

There’s the Hungry Crocodile with tables out front and lounging areas out the back, where you can get local and Indonesian favorites and Saturday night features live music. You’ll find local expats often meet here. Another place to find expats is the renowned Hot Dog Shop.

From nearby Padang Bai, travel by fast boat to Lembongan Island, or just over two-hours away is Lombok and the Gili Islands.

Lifestyle in Candidasa

Candidasa food

Candidasa is a laidback town, so, if you’re looking for nightlife, this is not the place for you. It’s said it was first established as a fishing town in the 12th century, and before its modern name was known as Teluk Kehen (Bay of Fire) and Cilidasa (ten children).

There is a temple which still stands near the lotus-filled lagoon, featuring a statue of the fertility goddess Hariti, and many Balinese who want to have children make the journey here in the hope of being blessed.

The town grew in popularity with tourists and expats in the 1970s, when snorkeling and diving in the area became prominent.

Sadly, there aren’t many beaches remaining in the area, due to a construction boom between the ‘70s and ‘80s. To fuel the construction of beach bungalows and other buildings, the offshore reef was mined for lime to make cement and other construction materials.

This in turn removed the coastal barrier which had protected the beach…now washed away. Local hotel owners then built large brick walls to protect their land. Now, you’ll see concrete breakwaters run parallel to most of the shoreline, but the turquoise waters are still picturesque.

The Pasir Putih (White Sand Beach or Virgin Beach), is one of the best beaches in Candidasa and well worth the 30-minute trip north. It’s a charming location, relax on sun-lounges and enjoy local food and even a foot massage from the locals on the beach.

Candidasa offers some great diving sites, with three rocky islands, Gili Tepekong, Gili Mimpang, and to the north, Gili Biaha, seen from the shoreline of the town. The currents can be strong, so it’s best to go diving with a reputable company.

An hour away in the town of Amed is the shipwreck USAT Liberty, where you can view Oceanic Sunfish when in season. Amed is ringed by black-sand beaches and the towering Mt Agung. Head to Sunset Point for afternoon drinks and the most amazing views in the whole island.

Take a journey to Jasri beach where the large swing allows you to release your inner child, and the Chocolate Factory allows for temptations. Ride in a local jukung, a Balinese boat, for a trip around the waters off the shore—this area offers fantastic views of Mt. Agung on a clear day.

The local lagoon in the middle of town is spectacular with the right timing. When the lotus flowers are all open, it’s a colorful pictorial scene. The main temple is directly opposite on the main road and dates back to the 11th century. You’ll often see important ceremonies held here.

Cost of Living in Candidasa

Candidasa beach

As a potential retirement location, Candidasa offers an easy lifestyle. Villas with views to the ocean or of the rice paddies to the west can be found here. A two or three-bedroom traditional home without a pool, can be had for around $700 a month.

You’ll find many options to choose from, it just comes down to what you prefer.

While the nightlife might not seem big in Candidasa, with the many restaurants lining the beach front, you’re bound to meet people.

Here’s a sample budget for a couple living in Candidasa:

Furnished two-bedroom villa$700
Maid/Housekeeper (two hours, three days a week)$110
Groceries$200-$400
Dinner at a warung$15-$25
A restaurant dinner with alcohol$50-$80
Electricity$80
Mobile Phone$15
Internet$20
Total$1,190 – $1,430

Things to do in Candidasa, Bali

things to do in Candidasa
©iStock/venemama

The Lempuyang Temple is one of Bali’s oldest and most highly regarded temples, alongside Besakih Temple. It’s also thought to be the first temple on the island. A definite highlight but not for the faint-hearted, the temple sits at 1,175 meters above sea-level and has about 1,700 steps to master before rewarding you with the amazing views of Mount Agung at the top.

If that’s not for you, there is also the Pentaran Agung temple at the foot of the mountain. The locals believe those with a heavy heart will never make it to the top, hence the spiritual aspect of the climb. Once you reach the top, there are prayers and holy water from the local priest to soothe the body, soul, and mind. A donation is the entry fee, and you can hire a sarong and sash for around $5.

The Candidasa Lotus Lagoon is iconic to the area. Filled with blooming pink and fuchsia lotuses, the lagoon has a small garden island with statues as its centerpiece. Across the road is the 12th century Puri Candidasa temple, featuring two shrines. Dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva and Hariti, the Goddess of fertility, many young locals will come here praying to start a family. Look for festive ceremonies and temple anniversaries when locals travel to celebrate.

Pasa Putih Beach, also known as Virgin Beach or Whitesand Beach, is one of the island’s hidden beaches. This secluded part of the coastline stretches between two hills and is located in the Karangasem regency about three miles from Candidasa. It really is a pristine stretch of sand, but the waters can have strong currents. You’ll find local warungs with beer, local seafood, and grills, and you can hire a sunbed to sit back and relax.

Built in the 1950s, Tirta Gangga Royal Water Gardens is about an hour’s drive from the main hub of Candidasa. Tirta means blessed water and Gangga comes from the Ganges, the holy river of India. The complex consists of pools, ponds, and fountains surrounded by lawns adorned with stepping stones, statues, and tropical gardens. The springs are located at the higher end of the grounds under a large Banyan tree. The water is considered holy by the locals and is used in religious ceremonies. The area also has a hotel and restaurant, making it a popular stopover. Entrance fee is $3.

If you’re brave, go and explore the Goa Lawah Temple. An important temple to the Balinese, it is a complex built around a cave opening, which houses hordes of bats, and the name translates to bat cave. Located to the south of Candidasa, it is a stopover for many locals traveling past with offerings and prayers before continuing on their journey. Two large Banyan trees stand tall at the main entrance, and upon entering the main courtyard, you can see the main pavilions. The centerpiece are old shrines that have withstood the many nectar bats over time. According to folklore, the cave leads to three different locations—Mount Agung, Talibeng, and Tangkid Bangbang. The best time to visit is early morning when the locals from nearby villages come for their daily prayers. A donation is the entrance fee.

Candidasa offers great diving sites, with three areas just off the coast. Gili Tepekong, Gili Mimpang, and to the north, Gili Biaha, are three small islands seen from the shoreline of town. The currents can be strong so it’s best to go diving with a reputable company. An hour away is the shipwreck USAT Liberty, where you can view Oceanic Sunfish when in season.

One of the most incredible spots for both diving and snorkeling is Amed Beach. Only a one-hour drive north, the terrain features dry landscape and pebbled coast, and under the water hides unexpected beauty you need to discover. Once a quiet fisherman’s village, Amed’s Jemeluk Bay has become a popular destination for divers. Fishing boats line the shore, locally known as Jukung, as well as small friendly restaurants, dive shops, and cute accommodation.

The first glimpse of the beautiful Jemeluk Bay has to be from Sunset Point, or for the eager beavers, for sunrise. From this elevated viewpoint, you see the whole bay spread before you, while in the background, Bali’s holy mountain, Mt Agung, shimmers in the morning light.

Last but not least it Jasri Beach, where you’ll find a large swing that allows you to release your inner child, and the chocolate factory where you can indulge your sweet tooth. Take a local Jukung, a Balinese boat, for a trip around the waters of the shore—the area offers fantastic views of Mount Agung on a clear day.

Is it Safe to Live in Candidasa?

safety in candidasa
©iStock/dislentev

While Candidasa has a very relaxed mood, it’s still best to be aware of your surroundings.

It’s not recommended to walk alone at night and the main road can be quite busy, so be wary when crossing. In fact, the most dangerous aspect of the area is this road, as many trucks use it as a thoroughfare to reach the port of Gilmanuk or back to the port of Padang Bai. Drive or ride your scooter with caution in these parts, the trucks are known to speed.