These notes have been assembled directly from travel diaries we kept from visits to Bali. We find that using two bases, one in the central hills (at Ubud) and one on the quiet eastern coast (at Candidasa), provides a good combined strategy for convenient exploring, cultural attractions and relaxation.
This is what we thought about CANDIDASA...
TRAVEL DIARY DETAILS - CANDIDASA AREA
I love Candi (chandi)dasa. No hawkers, just an old fishing village - one main street (the through road to Amlapura) with some shops, a couple of small supermarkets, a pharmacy, doctor and a few moneychangers. There are also a few tour companies and plenty of transport options for those looking to explore further afield. We found the cost of provisions in the shops and supermarkets here was usually much cheaper than anywhere else we had been on the island! The place is not overrun with tourist art, craft and textile shops, although there is enough to keep the devoted shopper happy for more than a few hours.
SPECIAL NOTE:Candidasa offers the best of both worlds. It's over two hours from the mayhem of Denpasar and the southern peninsula, so it attracts a more laid-back crowd. It's also handy to many outstanding cultural attractions in the east - Pura Kehen, Tengenan, Besakih, Tirtagangga and Klungkung to name a few. With a distinctly rural feel and "far from the madding crowds", Candidasa is worthy of consideration as a base for your trip. Oh, and it's also handy to the Lombok ferry from Padang Bai.
Seafood is fresh, abundant and cheap; mainly bream caught by the fishermen and sold to the local warungs. There are dozens of small, quaint and friendly warung to indulge your tastes, some of them sublimely located overlooking the ocean. The beach isn't much now - if it's a sand-based holiday you're after, don't bother, but there are still a few places to swim where the sand hasn't completely disappeared , especially on the western side of the village and around the lagoon area.
The Pandan Restaurant on the sea wall in the middle of the village is worth a mention - good food, friendly staff and a romantic, candlelit setting. They have a regular (amazing) smorgasboard for about $3 a person. Some of the larger restaurants also offer impromptu dance performances, just watch out for signs around the village. These are often informal, intimate productions involving a small stage and cast - definitely worth seeing. The cost is usually included with the meal, but you can arrive separately and pay a small fee.
Candidasa is a slow and friendly place, a world away from the Kuta crowds. Fishing or snorkelling expeditions to the nearby reefs can be easily organised in the village. I spent an afternoon out at the "Blue Lagoon" where the water is quite shallow (around 5 metres) and the variety of fish and coral was good. The trip was on a local catamaran and I had a ball. It cost around $3, including equipment.
There are dozens of accommodation options, most of them on the southern side of the road along the "beach". Prices are generally comparable to Lovina (on the black-sand north coast), with bottom end homestays at about $5, up to three and four star resort hotels and luxurious bungalows on the road east of the village towards Balina Beach, where you can pay more than $100 a night in the high season.
TIP:Don't stay too far out of town, you'll be relying on (expensive) hotel transport. Base yourself somewhere within a one to two kilometre radius of the village - there are some nice coastal places just to the west of the lagoon (west side of the village) and on the eastern approach.
We were finishing the holiday on a decadent note and Candidasa was going to be our last stop, so we tried the Rama Ocean View Resort on the seafront a kilometre east of the village.
The manager presented the customary (ridiculous) price list which said $75, so we explained that we were looking to stay about a week, that these prices were terlalu mahal (too expensive), that occupied rooms at 30% were better than nothing at all, and then walked out with our packs mumbling something about the Candidasa Beach Bungalows.
Good strategy - within five minutes we had an ocean view room for $25, including breakfast!
TIP:Even 3 and 4-star hotels will bargain, especially in low season and especially if you are staying more than a few days.
At that price the place was a bargain. Large airconditioned rooms with beautiful garden bathrooms, ocean front swimming pool (with bar), reasonably priced restaurant, tennis court, sauna and only about a dozen other guests. Hell, it even has an artificial beach! The staff were very friendly, probably because they had nothing else to do. From the Rama it's an easy fifteen-minute walk into the village and close to the perfect place to finish a holiday.