Friday 31 August 2018

My Guide to Canggu, Bali

There was only ever one contender for where we would stay in Bali, and that was Canggu. My sister Helen has been living there for over two years and her stories of beach bars, cool cafes, and relaxed vibes instantly sold the town to me. Bali was never a huge wish list destination for me, the tales of drunk teenagers and raging beach parties isn't really the holiday vibe I go for, but Helen assured me that Canggu is not like this, and she's absolutely right. Once a secluded surfing spot, the town is now a busy haven of local businesses, whilst still retaining that relaxed and easy-going energy that makes SE Asia such a wonderful part of the world to visit.

Canggu, pronounced Chan-gu, is most definitely Bali's current slice of cool. It lacks the overrun resorts of Kuta and the hecticness of Seminyak, whilst boasting excellent surfing conditions, beautifully secluded accommodation, and some of the best food on the island. If I ever return to Bali I'll be back to Canggu in a blink of an eye.

Here's my guide for everything you need to know about this great, little town.

Where to sleep

There's just something about Bali that makes you want to stay in a private villa and fortunately Canggu has plenty of lovely, affordable options. We headed straight to Airbnb and found this beautiful two-bedroom villa for less than £100 a night. With our own private pool, and daily cleaning schedule, we had all the perks of a hotel whilst enjoying a huge amount of space and privacy. Our pool was just the right temperature and made for a refreshing dip after a day in the heat. The beds were a dream plus the mosquito net canopies made us feel like royalty. Washing in an open air shower was a beautiful experience and one I wish I could recreate on all my future holidays, and don't worry, you have complete privacy whilst doing this. And the lounge area, with it's sliding glass doors, was the perfect space for evening relaxation and enjoying takeaway from a local warung.

The villa's location was perfect too, being only a stone's throw away from the main street and a short walk to the beach. People don't really walk in Indonesia. It's very much a scooter dominated country, and Canggu is no exception. The roads aren't built for pedestrians i.e. there are no pavements, and due to the heat, walking isn't a pleasant experience anyway. However, the location of our villa meant we could quickly and easily walk to the local cafes and bars without too much of a worry, or turning into a puddle of sweat.

Get £25 off Airbnb using this link

Where to eat

There is an enormous amount of choice for eating in Canggu, whether you're after Aussie run all-day cafe vibes, or local cuisine. I knew I wanted to indulge in the western style brunches during the day and Indonesian food come the evening and Canggu was the perfect place to make this happen. Canggu is also incredible for vegetarian and vegan food. Many cafes are strictly vegetarian, and those that aren't serve a huge amounts of meat-free options. Even Indonesia food is a very vegetarian affair. Non-dairy milk is available everywhere which makes Canggu extremely accessible for most diets.

Nalu Bowls

Smoothie bowls are synonymous across Bali for their fresh taste and photogenic appearance, and it is all thanks to Nalu Bowls. Originally sold as pre and/or post surf fuel in Hawaii, Nalu opened the very first smoothie bowl shack in Bali and still remains one of the best on the island. The Canggu cafe is charming with it's beach shack style appearance and quiet roadside location. The menu offers a ton of different options with the Uluwatu being a firm fan favourite. The dragoon fruit, banana, papaya, raspberry, and apple juice smoothie is topped with homemade granola, banana, dragon fruit, strawberries, mango, coconut flakes, and honey. All the bowls are named after famous surfing waves.

Jl. Batu Mejan No.88A, Canggu
Open 7:30am - 6pm daily

The Shady Shack

Shady Shack is an all-day vegetarian cafe situated next to a picturesque rice paddy in a quiet part of Canggu. The cafe is is an assortment of little canopies and even though you're technically outside, the canopies provide ample shade, hence the name. The menu is extensive with options ranging from classic style brunches to veggie burgers and more substantial meals. I thoroughly enjoyed our meal here and would recommend getting down early for breakfast as it's a popular spot.

Jl. Tanah Barak No.57, Canggu
Open 8:30am - 11pm daily

Crate Cafe

Crate is top of the list for hipster hang out spots in Canggu. It was probably the cafe I was looking forward to visiting the most, before turning out to be my least favourite breakfast spot in town. With an exceedingly cool industrial vibe and a menu offering 'grammable smoothies and big plates of tasty food, things are going to get busy. And that was my problem with Crate, it was hectic as hell. It took us two attempts to visit as the first time we tried there wasn't a free table in sight. I did enjoy our meal but I found the place a little too busy. I think the key to enjoying your time at Crate is to get there very early or very late as brunch time is when the cafe is at it's busiest.

Jl. Padang Linjong, Canggu
Open 6am - 5pm daily

Betelnut Cafe

Betelnut was situated right around the corner from our villa and was the very first place we visited for brunch. We grabbed a table on the upper floor so we could look out across the main road and watch the world go by. The menu is full of delicious, traditional brunch options with a Bali twist. I loved the avocado on toast and tropical smoothie bowl, although this was the moment I realised I'm allergic to almond milk. The cafe is the perfect spot to chill out and people watch, it feels positively tranquil compared to other brunch locations in town.

Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong No.60, Canggu
Open 8am - 10pm daily

Poke Poke and Roti Canai

Poke Poke is a cute little cafe and takeaway spot that sells wonderful poke bowls. They share a space with Roti Canai who, you've guessed it, serve roti wraps. We managed to grab poke bowls just before we left Bali for Lombok and I'm glad we did because they taste great. With a variety of toppings you can choose from a range of different recipes. The bowls are hearty, fresh, and make a perfect lunch in the heat. They also do the cutest looking poke donuts but were unfortunately out of stock the day we visited. We didn't try anything from Roti Canai but both my sisters assure me that the wraps are delicious.

Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong No.58, Canggu
Open 10am - 11pm daily


When it comes to Indonesian food, the best place to pick it up is from the local street food vendors, known as warungs. Each warung specialises in a dish, they're cheap and tasty, and the perfect thing to take back to your villa or eat on the go. We visited a great suckling pig warung in Canggu but it didn't really have a name, nor can I remember where it is. Suckling pig is a Bali delicacy, Indonesia is a predominately Muslim country, except Bali which is a Hindu island, meaning it's one of the few places in the country you can buy pork. If you're after a 'proper restaurant' to grab some local food then you must absolutely check out BarK. The restaurants sells everything from fried chicken (ayam goreng), sate, fried rice (nasi goreng), and tempe to name a few dishes. We ordered a bit of a feast to takeaway so we could relax in our villa that evening and it was a lovely experience. Tuck in with your hands, the Indonesian way, and enjoy. If you like your food spicy you're in for a treat as the sambal that comes with most Indonesian dishes will blow your head off if you're not careful.

Jl. Batu Mejan No.1, Canggu
Open 8am - 11pm daily

Pasta Grage

Found down an alleyway on the eastern side of Canggu, Pasta Grage is one of those places that only locals know about. It's one of Helen's favourite places for dinner so I knew we had to visit. Despite the first half of the menu covering Italian classics, you'll want to avoid anything Western and head straight for the beef rendang and/or grilled aubergine in the Indonesian section. Both are delicious, slightly spicy, and absolutely moreish. Even with the Italian decor, it was nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the main streets and find a spot that the locals enjoy.

Jl. Tegal Dukuh, Canggu
Open 4pm - 10pm daily (except Monday)

Mad Pops

In a town as trendy as Canggu of course you're going to find a vegan ice cream parlour. I've been a little hesitant about non dairy ice cream in the past (I had a bad soya experience) but once I tried the coconut milk ice cream from Mad Pops my previous bad memories quickly flew out the window. Not only does the parlour look the part with it's neon signage and pastel colour scheme, but the ice cream tastes fantastic. I'm not a huge fan of coconut, and I'm also pretty basic when it comes to ice cream flavours, but my scoop of multi coloured vanilla was honestly a dream. I'm gutted we saved Mad Pops for our last day in Bali as I would have loved to visit many more times.

Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong No.48, Canggu
Open 11am - 10pm daily

Things to do

Canggu is very much a chilled out town where's there's not too much to do other than eat, drink, and surf. And when it's 30 degrees plus you don't want to be doing much anyway.

Surfing at Batu Bolong

Bali is a surfer's paradise and Canggu is one of the best places on the island to learn. The beach, Batu Bolong, is a really active spot, whether it's people learning to surf, playing football, or having a stroll, there's lots going on with a real sense of community. If you want to learn to surf, or improve on your previous surfing knowledge then I cannot recommend Pineapple Surf School enough. Agus is one of the nicest people I know and his two-hour long surf lessons are fantastic.

Contact Agus here, or visit Warung Sila on Batu Bolong beach (look out for the surfing pineapple stickers)

Love Anchor Weekend Market

During the week Love Anchor is a nice place to grab a bite of food, or relax with a drink, but come Saturday and Sunday the site opens with a huge market full of souvenirs, clothing, jewellery, and other Bali made trinkets. It's a great place to do a bit of shopping, whether your after some bamboo straws, a Bintang vest, a rattan circle bag, or the latest Bali must-have. Compared to other markets, the stall owners leave you to it for the most part, so even though the market is busy, the experience is not super hectic.

Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong No.56, Canggu
Open 8am - midnight daily

Drinks at Old Man's

Bali is renowned for it's beach bars and whilst Seminyak might be famous for the likes of Potato Head, Canggu has several of it's own on offer. Old Man's is Canggu's favourite beach side bar, it's not fancy by any means, it is literally a massive bar next to the beach, but it's where everyone hangs out come the evening. The drinks are cheap and the music is loud, but Old Man's somehow manages to skirt away from 'raging beach party full of teenagers'. Be thankful that Canggu seems to attract a slightly older crowd because Old Man's really is a fun place to come together with locals, expats, and tourists alike.

Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong No.117X, Canggu
Open 7am - 1am daily

Sunset at La Brissa

Sunset is a big event across Indonesia and thanks to Canggu's westerly location, it's the perfect spot to watch the sun go down. There are so many beach bars lining the west coast of Bali, perfectly poised for sunset, but La Brissa in Canggu might just be my favourite. Situated on Echo Beach, which is slightly north of Batu Bolong, this huge beach club is the most picturesque of spots. As you enter from the road, canopies, twinkling lights, and hammocks galore unfolds before your eyes. It's a dream. Spend the evening, or a full day, watching the waves from the sea below and enjoying a slice of chilled Bali life. If you're visiting for sunset make sure you get there early to grab a prime location by the beach, or book in advance.

Jl. Pantai Batu Mejan, Canggu
Open 7am - midnight daily

Day Trips

There are a ton of day trip options to do from Canggu making it the perfect base to explore more of Bali. Whether it's the Ubud rice terraces in the north, the tranquil beaches of the Bukit Peninsula in the south, or the quiet islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Cennigan just off the south-east coast. Rent a scooter, or hire a driver, and explore as much of the island as possible. 

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