Candidasa can be a good alternative if you’re looking for a pleasant place to stay a few days while you explore East Bali. This is a tourist area about three km long, located along the main road from Semarapura (Klungkung) to Amlapura. A large part of the business is owned by people from the Bali-Aga village Tenganan not far from here. The name Candidasa is probably derived from “Cilidasa” which means “three children”.
The tourist industry here probably began with the first visitors to a Hindu religious society; Ashram Candi Dasa, who came here to meditate in the middle of the 1970’s. The society still exists today, and people still come here to pray, meditate and study the philosophy of Gandhi. It is said to be the only society of it’s kind in Indonesia.
Like Kuta this area can offer a large number of accommodation in all price layers, but is a much more quiet place where the local people are more relaxed and pleasant.
The most negative aspect is the lack of a good beach, caused by a good example of human greed and lack of respect for nature. In the 70’s this was the beach everybody should be at on Bali, and the tourist industry flourished. To speed up the development the coral reef just outside the Candidasa beach were used as material to make cement for new buildings.
This should not come as a surprise, but without the protective reef the sand was washed away. Suddenly the beautiful beach had disappeared. Some ugly T-shaped concrete barriers were built to try to rescue what was left, but even if some of the sand has come back the beach is too small. The currents caused by the large barriers makes swimming almost impossible. Fortunately this experience has been taken into account during other developments on Bali.
On top of the hill overlooking the village is an old temple, and on the opposite side of the road a large freshwater lagoon full of lotus-plants. The temple is dedicated to Shiva and Hariti (se Goa Gajah), and serves both Hindus and Buddhists. The fertility goddess Hariti was always surrounded by children (after she converted to Buddhism and stopped eating them), and couples who want children come here to pray. A statue of Hariti stands by the road, a long stairway leads up to the temple.
Candidasa is not far from other main attractions on East Bali. You do not have to drive a car to explore the nearby area, you can rent a bike or just take a walk in the hills behind the village or to Tenganan, were old rituals in a traditional Bali Aga society is still being maintained. The walk to Tenganan is 5 km long and will take about 2.5 hours from Candidasa.
In Candidasa you can also enjoy the view towards Nusa Penida, or on a clear day all the way to Lombok. Other activities here can be shopping, and of course to enjoy a good dinner in one of the many restaurants. There is a large variety of seafood here. In the evenings there are regular dance performances.
Even if the beach is not much to look at there are many possibilities for water sport here. Not far away there are several good beaches where you can swim, and outside Candidasa there are some small islands with very clean water and good conditions for snorkeling and diving. You can get there in 30-40 minutes by boat, preferably with some locals who knows the ever-changing currents.