Bali’s surf town of Canggu is quickly becoming the trendiest city in all of Bali. While admittedly a far cry from what local Balinese life is like, Canggu serves a different purpose for holiday-goers. I love Bali and experiencing the traditional ways of life and the endless natural beauty that it has to offer.
However, Bali is a world-class holiday destination and some people just want to relax and enjoy life. Canggu is that type of vacation spot, showing off the versatility of Bali as a travel destination. Canggu is not overwhelmingly crowded like its neighboring Kuta or Seminyak. Neither is it completely devoid of like the more zen Ubud. Its more northerly location also gives it a slight edge over the other popular surf region of Uluwatu. Again, with Bali being such a versatile destination, each region of Bali offers something amazing and excels where others might lack. Except Kuta. Kuta just sucks.
Just a heads up, if you are looking for some local things to do, this ain’t it chief. Canggu is all Instagram all the time. Part of me hates it for that but sometimes you just have to learn to accept what you can’t change and indulge instead of resist. Without further ado, let’s take it to Canggu.
Watch the sunset and listen to live music at Batu Balong Beach
Canggu is a world-class beach town without any world-class beaches. There are no white sandy, crystal clear blue beaches here but you get the vibe of something like a Boracay or a Barcelona to a smaller extent. The beach is lined with its extravagant beach clubs but it is also heavily populated by local warungs (restaurants) offering some beachfront bean bags and the bintangs at a fraction of the price of what they’re asking at Finn’s.
At Batu Balong, right by the small temple on the rock, there’s usually a band playing right as you descend down the stairs from the road onto the beach. It makes for amazing sunset vibes as the ocean laps upon the sand endlessly and the surfers carves their way through the waves in the distance. Plop your booty down, grab a Bintang or two, and ride the rhythm into the vibrant night. Nothing beats it.
Go VIP At Finns Beach Club
Finns actually makes a pretty strong case at its self-proclaimed title of the best beach club in the world. Finns Beach Club is located right on Berawa Beach and is a behemoth of an establishment. It is luxury at its finest and if you want to treat yourself to the fullest, going VIP at Finns is the way to do it.
The DJs start spinning laid-back tropical house music as soon as Finns opens at 9 AM so get there early to get the most out of your day. I don’t usually opt for luxury while I travel but I couldn’t really resist here. The design and decor is extravagant and getting a taste of the high life here is well worth the money you spend. Grab one of the covered VIP day beds right on the beach and you could easily meet the minimum spend through their delicious food and exotic beverages.
Seriously, the sushi was unexpectedly some of the best sushi I had ever had in my life. You can alternate between the ocean and the beautiful infinity pool with a swim-up bar and laze the day away with your pals. The atmosphere and the vibes here really put you in full holiday mode. It is an experience everyone needs to treat themselves to at least once, although going once might leave you wanting to go back again and again.
Feast on some tacos at Two Fingers
As of my writing this, I have eaten at Two Fingers for five consecutive days and plan on going for a sixth straight. The last time I ate at a restaurant claiming to have California-style Mexican food, I jumped out of the Tube and threw up all over Old Street Station thanks to the worst food poisoning I’ve ever had. And that was in London. Imagine trusting South East Asia to do Cali-Mex food and expecting it to go well.
But go well, it has. Two Fingers not only had the best Mexican food I’ve had since leaving America, it had some of the best Mexican food I have ever had. And that’s no joke. I dated a Mexican girl for over six years so I’ve had my fair share of muy f*ckin bueno comida. Except Two Fingers won’t break your heart. And with $1 tacos every Monday starting at 5 PM, it won’t break the bank either.
Have a coconut mojito (or several) at The Lawn
I don’t usually go to beach clubs since I’m Bali’in on a budget most of the time but if I want to spoil myself, it’s all about The Lawn. With free entry and an infinity pool overlooking the ocean, there’s no reason not to go. Drinks are a bit pricy with their cheapest offerings being craft beer at about $5 USD per bottle. However, stay past the setting sun for Happy Hour and you get certain drinks half-off, including my personal favorite, the coconut mojito.
The Lawn has mastered the art of chill ambience. Sometimes there’s a live band playing hauntingly melodic tunes. Most of the time, the speakers just echo with music that feels to magically relax your muscles and take you to unheard of levels of chillaxing. Located right on Echo Beach, you can come and go from the ocean as you please.
Have a Chia Smoothie At Crate Cafe
Crate Cafe is one of Canggu’s most renowned establishments at this point. That says a lot considering businesses in Canggu only stay in business as fast as their Instagram relevance allows. Crate Cafe has maintained their chokehold on the smoothie bowl and brekkie market in Canggu for good reason.
First of all, despite their supernova of an explosion in popularity, their prices are still ridiculously cheap. We are talking about $5 maximum for any breakfast, with most of them being more in the $3-4 range. The servings are heaping plates as well. Make sure to order one of their Chias because that is presentation at its finest. Literally it might be the most Instagram-friendly smoothie I’ve ever seen.
Go Shopping at Love Anchor Bazaar
Canggu is an amazing shopping destination. Park across from Love Anchor Bazaar and start there as that market will usually have cheaper clothes than the rest of the boutiques on the street. Make sure to haggle as much as you can because you can definitely get most things for no more than 70% of their original asking price. I’m not a huge shopper but I always walk away with a new shirt or two when I go to Love Anchor.
They’ve got everything you can expect from a Bali souvenir market at similarly cheap prices but it also boasts a trendy and modern look. It doesn’t feel like your typical South East Asian market. It’s like a sexy South East Asian market.
Take in the sunset from Berawa Beach
The beach on the other side of Canggu is another great spot to catch the sunset. Aside from the Behemoth of Finn’s Beach Club, that stretch of beach is mostly local and mostly cheap. There are bean bags and beach chairs and umbrellas set up for you to lounge around all day or just for the sunset. Sunset beers are the name of the game in Canggu and there’s nothing wrong with a little change of scenery every once in a while.
Take it slow at Alternative Beach
Alternative Beach, as its name suggests, is not a beach. It’s just a really cool pool with great vibes and admittedly, extra-photogenic for maximum Instagrammability. The drinks here are class and the crowd was ridiculously beautiful. Actually most of Canggu is ridiculously beautiful, but here especially.
Despite it being very Instagrammable, it is easy to have a lot of fun here. They’ve got a sketchy slide that drops you in from the second floor balcony that makes for good drunken fun. If you get tired of sand, then consider this as an alternative to the beach.
Go for a sunset surf sesh
It should go without saying since Canggu is Balifornia surf vibes at its fullest but if you don’t surf, Canggu might get a bit boring. However, Canggu is the place to learn how to surf. I picked up a surfboard for the first time in Canggu over a year ago and was hooked. I had never loved doing something that I was so bad at. Even if the most you can do is cling on to the board for dear life, there is something soothing about being out on the ocean as the sun sets.
Drive up to Tanah Lot
This technically isn’t in Canggu but Canggu is the closest city to kick off a visit to Tanah Lot from. This is one of Bali’s most famous temples, if not the most famous. Nestled on a rock out in the sea, it is only accessible during low tide. It is a sight to behold. Despite the tourists, it is one of the most unique temples you will find in Bali.
If you’re lucky to be around during a traditional religious procession, it becomes even cooler. Seeing the Balinese people in their traditional garb wading through the water with offerings on their head and drums playing behind them is a very cool cultural event to witness. They climb up the rock to Tanah Lot temple and I can’t tell you what happens from there because I had to watch from a distance.
I though Tanah Lot would be overrated at first but I was definitely glad that I want. It is overwhelmingly filled with tourists but that doesn’t mean that you should avoid it or discourage other people from going. It truly is a must-see destination in Bali.
Get lost in the rice fields
I only say this because Google Maps forcibly made me do this on my scooter. There are stretches of Canggu that still feel very local and serene. If you’ve been to the shortcut road in Canggu, you can imagine that but without the hourly car accidents. There is something surreal about the tall rice plants moving to the slight breeze. Seeing infinite fields of rice moving in choreographed unison is pretty enchanting, not going to lie.
Canggu is not hard to navigate. There’s only a few main roads and you’ve probably scootered up and down each one of them multiple times. Stray from the course a little bit and take in the local Balinese life. What you’ll see in Canggu is only a glimpse but it is a pleasant and serene change from the scooter traffic and clusters of vegan cafes littered with the same long-haired surfer bros.
Get wild at Pretty Poison
Pretty Poison is my favorite spot for a proper night out in Canggu. By proper night out, I mean actually drinking and actually having fun. All those other places? You just drop $10 for a cocktail so you can flex your fruity drink in front of an infinity pool to all 0 of your Instagram followers that actually care. Sorry, that was a bit passive aggressive coming from someone who does that regularly.
Anyway, Pretty Poison is a nightclub that doubles as a skate bowl and a lot of weird things happen there. I wrote about them last year so you can read more about them here. However, some slight things have changed since then and Pretty Poison has become, for better or worse, even stranger. For example, I watched a guy get his leg tattooed on the dance floor. I don’t know if that makes me like Pretty Poison less or even more. Just go to Pretty Poison. It is unlike any club you’ve been to before.
Vibe to the rhythms of Old Man’s
My second favorite place to go out is Old Man’s right off of Batu Balong Beach. Its location makes it the perfect spot to transition to after sunset beers on the beach. Most people will grab a bite to eat at one of the cheap warungs nearby before arriving in hordes to this Canggu staple. The music here, while catering mostly to people with bad taste in music (like me), always gets the party pumping. They’ll play all of the pop and rap hits that get white sorority girls screaming their lungs out.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, because at heart I am easily one of those drunk sorority girls and the DJ is undeniably talented at getting a party going. The remixes are always on point. If you’re looking for a party that will cater to all crowds, Old Man’s is the spot.
There is an abundance of places that I have yet to mention or yet to visit in Canggu. This list will inevitably grow as I wrap up two more weeks in this surf city where the sun is sweltering hot and the people are even more so. Stay tuned. For more on Bali, check out my other blog posts.