Pangandaran is charming – an over-grown fishing village that has evolved into a popular beach resort for Indonesian’s. It remains mostly off the foreign tourist’s radar for a couple of reasons – it’s difficult to reach, and nearby Bali seems to offer much more.
But, more is not always better. For the foreign tourists who do make the effort, Pangandaran has one of Java’s best beaches, a chilled atmosphere, and waterfront café’s that offer a relatively quiet respite from the crowds of Bali, especially during the week. On weekends, it gets crowded as people from Jakarta and Bandung arrive. Public holidays are definitely a time to avoid visiting.
Pangandaran is on a Peninsula, so its beaches face East and West. The road along the west beach is lined with hotels and restaurants, and the beach itself is crowded with makeshift vendor tents offering everything from sandals to tattoos. There seems to be an endless parade of hawkers as well, which tend to take something away from the serenity of the beach. Then, of course, there are the obligatory banana boat and jets ski rentals that detract a bit more. Surfers enjoy the good swells that roll in from the southwest. The beach gets quieter at the north end, but swimming at the northern end is not safe.
The east beach is much quieter, but it’s mostly a fishing beach. It’s the place to be at dinner time when the numerous seafood restaurants are cooking up the catches of the day – crab, a variety of fish, shrimp, and squid. Some of the restaurants are market style where you chose your dinner while it’s swimming in an aquarium.The seafood and atmosphere is so good, I know people who drive all the way from jakarta on the weekend just for dinner.
Taman Nasional Pangandaran (Pangandaran National Park) covers the southern end of the Peninsula. The stone path around the recreation area is very easy to follow, and a very pleasant walk through the Pananjung forest. There is a variety of wildlife to see – monkeys, deer, lizards, Flying Lumur, Hornbill, and a variety of other birds are in abundance.
The monkeys are very aggressive, because of visitors being encouraged to buy peanuts to feed them. Be prepared to be challenged by a group of monkeys expecting a handout. If you don’t have anything, pick up a tree branch – that will disperse them. Keep a close watch on all your belongings – the monkeys take pleasure in snatching anything that is loose.
About 700 species of plants live in the Pananjung forest – Marong, Ki Segal, Laban, Teak, Mahogany, and Acacia. The real gem is the huge Rafflesia flower when it’s in bloom – June and July.
If you want to see more than the well defined recreation area, a guide can show you more remote areas of the recreation area, and may even venture into the jungle preserve, which is normally off limits to tourists. Guides will offer their services at the entrance – Rp.100,000 for a three hour tour.
Overall all, Pangandaran is a great place for a holiday for those wanting to escape the crowds. One could spend a chilled week there and go home refreshed. But, does it rival Bali, as some claim? It could, if relaxation is what you’re after. But, for diversity of choice, scenery, surf, beaches, shopping, and nightlife Bali scores far ahead.
Getting to Pangandaran
Alternatively, you can go the whole distance by bus – Pangandaran is well served by bus from all points in Java. The scheduled time from Bandung by bus is five hours, but that can easily stretch to 10, depending on road, and traffic conditions.
The easiest and most enjoyable way to get to Pangandaran from Jakarta or Bandung in on Susi Air – I’ve used their service, and it’s excellent. You may want to check out my post about my Susi Air experience.