East Coast Adventures

Published 31 May 2017   

Set well away from the hustle and bustle of mainstream tourism, Bali’s eastern regency of Karangasem is an exotic, royal Balinese kingdom of forests and mighty mountains, emerald rice terraces, mystical water palaces, pretty beaches, and not-to-be-missed, spectacular diving and snorkelling experiences.  FRV Bali takes a closer look.

Written by: RACHEL LOVE

Mt Agung framed by Pura Agung Lempuyang Tara Penah

This dramatically scenic area is often dubbed the ‘Real Bali’, where life goes on as it has for generations. The quiet seaside village of Candidasa is an excellent base from which to explore this historic and beautiful region and its many highlights.

Six kilometres to the east of Candidasa, you will find the hidden beach of Pasir Putih, meaning ‘white sands.’ It is also known as Virgin Beach. Fringed by a coconut grove and flanked by green headlands with a sheer cliff behind, you will feel like you have stepped back in time. The tranquil ambience, complete with the simple grass roofed eateries, is reminiscent of the Bali of the 1970s. The most adventurous way to get there is by chartering a ‘jukung’ fishing boat, which will deliver you directly to your sunlounger: www.palengsbali.com

Another ‘secret’ beach is Pantai Kecil (Little Beach) aka Pantai Bias Tugel at Padang Bai. To find it, you must head up the steep hill above the car-ferry terminal and then scramble down a cliff path. This idyllic white-sand cove is a little patch of paradise, complete with a number of beachside warungs serving food and drinks. Unfortunately, it’s not really a secret anymore, and due to its small size it can get a bit crowded.

Pasir Putih or Virgin Beach

The hiking around Candidasa is superb, and very few tourists know about Bukit Asah near the village of Bug Bug, where a gentle two-kilometre-walk brings you to a hilltop outlook blessed with a beautiful panorama of the sea, the coastline and neighbouring islands. From here you can stroll down to Pasir Putih Beach. Longer hikes will take you through forested land and rice terraces. Along the way you will see many Balinese farmers working in their fields, and you can explore local villages, including the peaceful 700-year-old walled village of Tenganan, four kilometres from Candidasa. This is where the original inhabitants of Bali live and practice a well-preserved ancient pre-Majapahit Balinese culture based around ritual and ceremony. Many of their houses function as shops and workshops where expert craftsmen and women perform their centuries old skills. The villagers are also accomplished weavers, basket-makers and calligraphers; traditional ‘ata’ vine baskets are laid out in neat rows upon the ground, artists display their carved lontar palm books, and you may purchase the famous, highly-valued double ikat textiles. Be sure to visit Wayan, the wild honeybee-keeper at his home at the top end of the village.

Tenganan is as old as the hills

You may also wish to explore the picturesque water palace of Taman Ujung, south of Amlapura and built in 1919 by the last Raja of Karangasem. Resting in the vast pool is a series of intriguing, romantic pavilions linked by bridges, archways, and a shaded avenue of mango and frangipani trees. Also built by the water-loving Raja is Tirta Gangga (11km to the north of Taman Ujung), a fabled maze of spine-tingling, cold bathing pools and basins, spouts, tiered pagoda fountains, stone carvings and lush gardens showcasing a blend of Chinese and Balinese architecture.  At the village of Jasri (9km from Candidasa), you’ll find a little-known surf beach, as well as the Sorga Chocolate Factory, where you can observe the entire chocolate-making process from the cacao fruit to the delicious organic chocolate bars and truffles.  A tasting session is a must.

Candidasa: perfect for snorkelling

For a very different experience, visit Pura Lempuyang, a complex of seven temples, the most spectacular of which is Pura Agung Lempuyang Tara Penah, nestled on the hillside 11km from Tirta Gangga. Here, the dazzling white split gate perfectly frames Mt Agung, and the temple guardians – three pairs of colossal sea serpents – border a trio of towering staircases, but this is only the beginning. One kilometre further on, a stairway of 1700 steps winds through the forest up to the temple of Lempuyang Luhur, 768 metres above sea level on top of Belibis Hill. The climb takes about two hours. This is one of Bali’s oldest and most important temples and the intense spiritual energy of this place is almost tangible. In fact, in the 1960s, before electricity reached Bali, a space satellite reported the observation of a blue beam emanating from Earth; the precise location was plotted and the source was confirmed as Pura Lempuyang Luhur.

The bridge at Tirta Gangga

Back to Candidasa and you’ll find plenty of restaurants, with several of them offering a free pick-up and drop-off transport service, including the wonderful Vincent’s, where you can relish romantic dining in a beautiful garden, high quality international cuisine, superb service, cool and colourful artwork and laid back jazz music. La Rouge is another charming restaurant, which will surprise you with its visual texture. Tables spill out into a candlelit garden, while the menu presents Western, Balinese and Indian food, with lots of seafood, and a blackboard of daily specials.

Sorga Chocolate Factory

Accommodation in the Candidasa area ranges from the cheap and cheerful to the sumptuous. Alila Manggis is a secluded, stylish seaside resort. Set amidst a grasssed coconut grove, the resort is right next to the sea. All rooms and suites face the ocean with clear views across the straits to Nusa Penida. Traditional Balinese architecture is artfully combined with modern amenities to create a relaxed and comfortable environment.


At the four-bedroom family villa known as Tirta Nila Beach House, you can enjoy panoramic views and all the facilities you need, including a full team of staff, a 15-metre swimming pool and seafront terrace, a relaxation pavilion, and a private man-made beach elevated above the sea. Play volleyball in the soft golden sand; snorkel in the clear waters of the sheltered sea lagoon immediately in front of the property; or relax poolside, where you will be cooled by gentle sea breezes:


Beachfront Bali Villas, meanwhile,  is a group of four independent 3-&4-bedroom luxury villas –Villa Jukung, Villa Oceana, Villa Lucia and Villa Stella – each of which is located absolutely seafront and blessed with glorious ocean views complemented by elegant and comfortable bedrooms, ample living and dining spaces, and a full team of staff. Each has a large garden with a swimming pool, jacuzzi and relaxation pavilions. Villa Stella and Villa Lucia are situated adjacent to each other, linked by a connecting door, making them ideal for a large family or group of friends:


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