Candidasa: A Lesson for All

Asia, Indonesia

Candidasa’s Sandless Beach

Palm trees fill both sides of Bali’s eastern coast road, with small puras – Balinese Hindu temples – occasionally popping out amid modest houses, a scenic setting for a juxtaposition of bucolic scenes and modern twists. It bears little resemblance to the raunchy atmosphere of the infamous Kuta, or the glitzy upscale restaurants and fashion boutiques of Seminyak, or the well-manicured and posh Nusa Dua resorts. Despite having experienced the tourism boom on the island during the 1980s, Candidasa today is a sleepy beach town often overlooked by its more alluring eastern Bali counterparts of Amed and Tulamben, two increasingly popular spots frequented by divers.

During its heyday Candidasa saw a period of rapid tourism industry growth, marked by the construction of hotels and restaurants along the coastline. Its scenic lagoon served as a focal point of the development and a landmark for Candidasa’s fledgling industry, and today it still is one of the most photographed sites in the area. Unfortunately what was once an unspoiled blue lagoon has now turned into a big pond bordered by concrete and brick-and-mortar walls, an apparent victim of the haphazard development that damaged Candidasa’s environment forever.

Local people mined the coral reef off the coast to provide construction materials much needed to fuel the economic boom. Little did they know that it would create an irreversible damage to their own beaches. The lack of information on sustainable development practices and the importance of reef for local people’s livelihoods was to blame, but Candidasa’s sandy beach has long gone, replaced by stretches of pebble-littered coastlines.

Today the hotels and restaurants are still open for business, but this corner of Bali no longer experiences construction boom as it did decades ago. Instead, today not only does it provide a nice and more peaceful escape for those who wish to find respite far enough from the tourists-flocked parts of the island – although not entirely remote and secluded – but also it shows people what could happen if we don’t put environment on top of our minds.

We walk down the main road of Candidasa, pass by the iconic lagoon, and stroll around the sandless beach. The waves are calm, boats are berthed, the sun is setting, a shaded pavilion stands on a rock jetty jutting out into the Lombok Strait. A lone man under a decorated roof of the small pavilion is silhouetted against the afternoon sky, a beautiful canvas of melancholic colors slowly turning vermilion as the sun sets.

Despite the past environmental damage, beauty still envelops Candidasa, giving hope for those who wish to bring this tranquil part of Bali back to its former glory.


An Outrigger Boat Near the Beach


A Lonesome Sunset Watcher


Shades of Purple and Orange over the Lagoon


The Clouds Resemble the Island of Timor, where We Went One Week Earlier

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Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

34 thoughts on “Candidasa: A Lesson for All”

  1. Robin McKenna says:

    I love your blog! And Bali looks absolutely amazing. I’d love to go there someday!


    • Hi Robin. Thank you for dropping by and I’m really glad you enjoyed my blog. Bali will always be there to welcome you — hopefully you’ll get to visit the island sooner than later!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you do. 🙂 Sometimes we have to make mistakes first before learning our lessons, but some other times all we have to do is learn from others’ mistakes to prevent us from doing the same. And that’s what I hope for other coastal communities to learn from Candidasa.


  2. Ah, how I miss those Bali sunsets! Candidasa was a lovely escape from the busy south – and the perfect base for exploring the island’s east. I really enjoyed the gentle, mellow feel of the area. 🙂


    • I remember how quiet it was after sunset, such a perfect place to unwind and enjoy nice dinner with subtle Balinese gamelan playing in the background. That was also where you saw tokek for the first time, I believe. 🙂


    • Thank you, Alison. I really enjoyed the ambiance of Candidasa the time I went. It was such a peaceful coastal village with a beautiful view of the sea. However it would have been more picturesque if the beaches and coral reefs had not been damaged. Hopefully no other place has to exeperience the same environmental tragedy.


  3. Beautiful series of photos yet again Bama, and a very sad and unfortunately common story of poorly thought-out development. The area still has beauty, however, as you have shown and with that hope as well.


    • Hi Randall. Thanks! The locals paid the price for the damage they made, yet they learned their mistakes and they have been rebuilding their village in more sustainable ways since. Nevertheless Candidasa remains a lovely place to visit.


  4. hi Bama, tud drett?( how are you?).
    Good article you wrote. we need more this kind of report…. i probably would write more sharply about the bad side of tourist boom. unfortunately i am not a writer at all. ;). I plan to go back to Indonesia but definitively not to Bali.
    fka drett!


    • Hi Prem. I’m doing great! How are you? Is that Cape Verdean Creole? It sounds a very unique language.

      Well, to share your ideas doesn’t mean you have to become a writer. If it’s worth sharing, it’s worth writing. So give it a go! 🙂

      As for Bali, actually there are still pockets on the island not overrun by mass tourism. If you do come to Bali you might want to check those places out.


  5. Bama, that the local people have learnt from their mistakes and are making efforts to rebuild, if not reverse the damage is heartening. Your atmospheric photos capture Candidasa’s enduring beauty.


    • And everyone else should learn from such mistakes, instead of repeating the same pattern. That’s why history is important, because it brings wisdom if used properly. Thank you Madhu, I like the fact that it was a clear day when I went so I could watch the skies slowly changing colors.


    • Hi Jennifer. It’s my pleasure, really. I hope we all learn that natural beauty is not something we should take for granted. Instead, we have to continuously ensure its well being, not only ours.


  6. Bama it sounds like a peaceful respite from the hordes of tourists in some parts of Bali. Terrible to hear of the environmental damage though, especially the mining of the coral reef. Your photos are like magic potion as i watch the snow fall outside my window as I type. The palm tree photo in particular warms me right though the computer screen. Thank you!


    • I do recommend Candidasa for those who want to stay away from the hordes of tourists in southern Bali, plus it’s not that far from some of Bali’s best diving spots, although I myself haven’t had any diving experience yet.

      Ahh the snow. It’s funny how I, on the other side of the world, actually wish to see snow fall. The first time I saw snow flakes was quite magical, hence the longing to see it again.

      Thank you too, Sue!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh Bama this is the way. The grass is always greener on the other side of the world. 🙂 Well in my case your grass is definitely greener. Often the snow is very pretty but when the temperature is s could that one can not even enjoy being outside it becomes less appealing.
        I hope one day you can experience a bit more of the white stuff. 🙂


      • I guess it is. 🙂 When I was little I always looked forward to Christmas because there were great cartoon movies on TV, and the idea of a snow-themed vacation in a small village has been a dream for me since. My cousin who has been living in Europe for more than a decade said otherwise: snow means misery. 🙂 Thanks Sue! Wish you were somewhere in the tropics right now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I can see your attraction to the look of it as really it can be very beautiful. Perhaps you will get to see it sometime soon. Thank you for the warm wishes. 🙂


  7. Hi Bama,
    So sad to hear about the environmental damage at Candidasa, especially the mining of the coral reef. I hope the people of Bali have learned a lot from Candidisa’s environmental and ecological dilemna. It’s good to hear though that tourism in the area didn’t complete die as a result.


    • I surely hope so, Marisol. We just can’t afford to keep losing coral reef. With education hopefully more and more communities realize the importance of preserving coral reef not only for their own livelihood, but also for a greater good.


  8. Excellent writing about an all too common story. Developers with only their bank accounts in mind seem to be lurking around every corner. Hopefully the type of tourism in Candidasa now can still help the local economy without destroying why people want to be there in the first place. Your photos are stunning!


    • Thank you, Marilyn. It is indeed all too common to see developers who only think of numbers rather than sustainability. But on the other hand it is encouraging to see people becoming more and more aware of the importance to put sustainability above anything else, because in the end it’s the people who will safeguard the developments at their areas for their own long-term benefit.


  9. I spent time in Candidasa about 3 yrs ago – my entry point to Bali. I too was disappointed about the condition of the beaches there. My hotel had tall walls set into the water to prevent total beach erosion – not very attractive. Compared to Ubud (where I went next), I really enjoyed the laid back pace of Candidasa and being able to hire quick motor scooter rides into nearby rice terraces and other attractions. By the way, did you know that there is an ashram behind the lagoon?. Anyone can stay there inexpensively, their food is wonderful. If you are interested in my Bali experiences, you can find them on my blog under the category Travel: Three Weeks in Bali.


    • Hi Annette. I agree with you that Candidasa has a more relaxing ambiance in general, compared to Ubud. Although the latter is still much a more tranquil place compared to Kuta! I can imagine having those tall walls makes the hotel you stayed at not that attractive, but that’s the price the locals have to pay — for the time being — until Candidasa’s marine life has gone back to how it used to be. I remember seeing an ashram sign, but didn’t inspect it any further. Maybe the next time I go. Thanks for the recommendation!

      I just took a quick look at your blog post on Bali. Will be back for more! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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