Notes on Pangandaran, Indonesia – An alternative beach destination to Bali

Pangandaran Beach
[Pangandaran Beach, Java - Indonesia]

Up until a few days before I arrived I had never heard of Pangandaran. This fishing village on the south coast of West Java is a popular beach resort (if you can describe it as that) for domestic visitors, but like much of Indonesia beyond Bali, it is not on the international travel radar. I spotted a handful of foreigners when I was there, and during the week there are few visitors at all.

Fishermen beaching a boat
[Pangandaran is still a fishing village at heart]

Pangandaran fishing boats
[Pangandaran fishing boats]

The beach

Upon first sighting, the beach appears to be a mudflat and I was wondering what the fuss was about. Once on the beach though the sand is as soft and pleasant to walk an as any white sandy beach of your tropical dreams. After a long beach walk I began to like this coffee coloured shade of sand.

Deserted Pangandaran Beach
[Deserted Pangandaran Beach]

They say that Pangandaran is like Kuta beach from about 30 years ago. I was late to the Bali party so I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that you can walk from one end of the beach to the other and not encounter a single hawker or tailor shop. (Who buys suits on the beach anyway?) This beach hasn’t been developed (yet) so it is still lined with bamboo shacks selling reasonably priced coconuts.

Coconut on Pangandaran Beach
[Walks on the beach should always be punctuated with a coconut break]

What I loved about Pangandaran was that I had that feeling of being somewhere exotic. Having spent a lot of time on crowded Thai beaches I had long lost that feeling. An empty beach, coffee coloured sand, dense jungle and mountains in the background, on a tropical island formed of volcanic eruptions, this is what I imagined a tropical beach in Southeast Asia to look like. Sure, Java is the most populated island in the world with chaotic cities and clogged up roadways, but from this beach, modern Java is out of sight, out of mind.

Rainy season isn’t that bad

I was at Pangandaran at the tail end of rainy season where the days would start off sunny, cloud over in the afternoon and with it the rain. Maybe I have been living in Asia long enough now that this doesn’t bother me. Rainy season is part of tropical life, and it is not rainy all day.

Grey skies at Pangandaran
[Moody grey skies over Pangandaran]

Pangandaran for digital nomads

Like much of provincial Indonesia, the internet is not the most reliable, so if your work requires online heavy lifting you will go crazy here. If you only need email and general browsing capabilities you will get by. Pangandaran would be a good place to spend a month (a Cambodia Cash destination), where you can work 4-5 hours a day and spend the rest of the time on the beach or exploring the local area.

I could see myself coming here for a few weeks to work on a project without distractions. I felt like I was off the grid while still being connected. I did a month like this at Lake Toba in Sumatra, which at the time had no wifi at all. With only a few hours internet a day I got a lot done in that time.

For internet I used the wifi at my guesthouse and the some of the restaurant cafes on the beach. Bamboo Cafe has good food and coffee, and you can sit at a table by the beach with your feet in the sand while working under a shady thatched umbrella.

Accommodation

There are plenty of Losmen (budget guesthouses) in Pangandaran if you are looking for a cheap place to stay. The ones I visited didn’t have wifi, but I was eventually directed to Panorama A La Plage which has wifi on the property (though it doesn’t reach all the rooms).

I got a room with a bathroom attached for 70,000 IDR ($7.20 USD). Snoozing resident cats are no additional charge.

Panorama A La Plage
[Panorama A La Plage room and resident cats]

Around town there are some more upmarket digs and new hotels being built, such as this designer number which would not be out of place on Legian Beach in Bali. Maybe Pangandaran will be the new Bali one day?

Menara Laut Hotel
[Menara Laut Hotel]

Getting to Pangandaran

Getting here is hard work, which is why I don’t think it will be a boomtown beach resort anytime soon. I got the bus from Bandung which was advertised as a six hour trip. It took closer to eight after struggling through traffic out of Bandung.

It is possible to fly here from Jakarta with Susi Air on a small plane. Just remember that flying in Indonesia should be considered an adventure sport.

Maybe one day road and air infrastructure will be developed that will make Pangandaran more accessable. Until then you can enjoy Pangandaran while is still off the Banana Pancake Trail.





Comments

  1. Magic magic magic! Love that place. I agree that it has that exotic feel. It’s much like the rest of Indonesia that hasn’t been overly developed for tourism and that makes it feel nice.

  2. So adding this to our list! We are going on a 2+year RTW and planning on the entire month of May 2014 in Indonesia!!

  3. Nice to see places that are just as good as The Big Famous Place but comparatively unknown. There are empty castles all over Europe because everyone goes to the famous ones, for example.

  4. Nice! I’m going to Indonesia in a couple of weeks! I’ll bookmark this in my Indonesia folder!

  5. nice u gve info completely!!

  6. Happy to read good promo on other islands of Indonesia. Yes, Java has amazing places which are great to go to. Unfortunately, like you mentioned these places are hard to get to. Heavy traffic, lack of infracstructure and often the villages near these beaches do lack a bit of atmosphere. That is why Bali is different to many other Indonesian islands. It has the whole package you want for a one week holiday, easy access to culture, nature, different beaches, choice of restaurants, accommodation and many more. Luckily Indonesia has the potential however the government must invest in all the ingredients to create the perfect recipe. Now they are doing worldwide promotion of their country, but I don’t think that many would want to sit 6 hours in a bus for a beach only to sit another 6 hours to get to somewhere else interesting. But hopefully this will change, and articles like yours will at least show many people that Indonesia is definitely more then just Bali.

  7. This place really has it own beauty and charm. Arranging some fundamental facilities for this place can definitely improve the tourism rate to pangandaran.

  8. Nice shots ….Indonesia is one of the finest tourist spot . Love to go Indonesia there culture and food is awesome .

  9. alexander says:

    James,

    Thank you for sharing your info.
    I will travel trough Java with my family in september and will stay in Pagadaran for 2 nights.

    I hope I come across a Pagadaran like you’ve described Pagaadaran of 50 years.

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