I didn’t expect all the people. Or all the scooters. I spent my first hour in Bali staring wide eyed at the fact that there were more scooters than cars on the island. My van driver/hostel worker/surf instructor whisked me past malls, furniture shops, rice fields, and half constructed hotels while the scent of incense lingered in the air. He blasted surfy indie music while we headed towards my destination, Canggu. Away from the hustle and bustle of touristy Seminyak and Kuta, Canggu is a village 30 minutes south of the Denpasar Airport.
As Lonely Planet informed me before the trip, Canggu is “More a state of mind than a place”. This is 110% true. The vibe of Canggu is young, hip, and laid-back. I spent my first days in Canggu convincing myself that I was being a bad traveler. I didn't plan on traveling halfway around the world to lounge and watch Planet Earth while the rain fell for days. But that’s what you do in Bali (especially during the rainy season). You hang. You spend your days surfing, eating, and relaxing. Your days consist of deciding where to get breakfast and what card game to play. I used Canggu as my home base while exploring Bali and it's one of the best decision I've ever made.
Scooters are king on Bali and especially in Canggu. They are cheap, easy to rent from your accommodations, and give you the independence to go just about anywhere. It takes a few days to get use to operating a scooter. Go slow, wear your helmet, and don't let all the scooter accident horror stories get to you.
Arrange airport transportation- You will be exhausted when you arrive in Bali (hello, 20+ hours of air travel). Be kind to yourself and make sure you set up transportation from the airport to your accommodations BEFORE you arrive. Most hotels and hostel can arrange a pickup for you. Make sure you agree on a detailed meet-up point since wifi is spotty at the Denpasar Airport and there are hoards of taxi drivers vying for your ride.
Ask around for transportation options- Ask locals and other travelers for their recommendations on transportation. Don't assume that hiring a driver is the only way to get around the island.
Haggle for prices- Whether you need to take a boat to an island or a taxi to the airport, it's acceptable to haggle over the price of your journey. Agree on the price of your ride before getting in a taxi or boat.
Canggu is a vegetarian food mecca thanks to the huge influx of foreign owned eateries. Expect fresh, healthy, and trendy food at almost every cafe in town (and there are a LOT of cafes). Smoothie bowls and long blacks in the morning. Veggie burgers and juices is the afternoon. As a budget traveler, plan to spend all your meals eaten out. I know, that sounds insane but, I never once saw someone at my hostels cooking. Eating out in Canggu is cheap and a great way to get to know people from your hostel or guest house.
Warung Varuna- Hands down the best and cheapest place to eat in Canggu. Authentic Indonesian food with lots of veggie options. Expect huge portions, rice, tofu, and spiced veggies for the equivalent of a few dollars. Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong no. 89a, Canggu
The Shady Shack- My favorite vegetarian restaurant in the entire world, seriously. This Instagram worthy cafe has a menu filled with juices, raw deserts, and light filling veggie meals. Thanks to the multiple seating options, I felt 100% comfortable eating here alone or with friends. Jl.Tanah Barak No.53, Canggu
Gypsy- Can I live here? That was my first thought while eating avocado toast here one morning. This bohemian designed spot and is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and cocktails!) . It is one of the more pricy options in town but well worth every penny. Jl. Pura Batu Mejan, Gg. Munduk Catu No. 1, Canggu
Cafe Vida- A vegetarian/vegan friendly cafe that is seriously out of this world. Their menu is filled with kombucha, kefir, quinoa porridge, and breakfast bowls. A cozy atmosphere that is perfect for rainy days. Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong No.38a, Canggu
Crate Cafe- An edgy yet, laid-back coffee and breakfast spot on the main drag of town. Their smoothie bowls are insane. You can even order a whole coconut to drink alongside your breakfast. Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong No. 64, Canggu
Deus Temple of Enthusiasm- Part restaurant, part cafe, part bar, part hang out spot, this Australian import is one of the most popular spots in Canggu. They have events almost every night ranging from free movies to Ladies Night with free drinks (!!). You can also browse art and pickup some (Western-priced) Deus merchandise here too. Jl. Batu Mejan No. 8, Canggu
Pretty Poison- Imagine a crowded party at a skate bowl now add a bar, tons of tanned attractive people, live music, tattoo artists at work, anddddd you have Pretty Poison. A 'this only happens in Bali' type place that is the definition of cool. Jl. Subak Canggu
Old Man’s- The closest thing to a dive bar in Canggu except that it's next to the beach, open-aired, and filled with tons of foreigners who have all just become best friends over sweet mojitos. Come here for their Happy Hour (two for one drinks!) and a casual hang out setting. Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong, Kuta Utara, Canggu
Accommodations in Bali are dirt cheap and luxurious. In Canggu alone, there are hundreds of options from hostels, to guesthouses, to private villas. When traveling alone, I highly encourage you to stay at a hostel as it's the easiest way to make friends. It's quite common in Canggu to switch hostels or accommodations 'just because'.
The Farm Hostel- This hostel is the reason I came to Bali. When I saw the photos of the open aired hang out quarters, pool, and rice field surroundings, I was sold. For the price of a fancy espresso drink, you can stay the night at the most laid-back, friendly accommodations in Canggu. The crew at The Farm are more like local friends than staff. The shared bunk rooms are air conditioned and spacious. Plus, the small size of the hostel makes it super easy to meet and hang out with other travelers. Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong No.29, Canggu
Base Bali- Right up the road from The Farm, Base features a colorful pool, area (right outside the bedrooms), an outdoor kitchen, shared accommodations, and private rooms. They were able to fit me in straight away when I decided to extend my stay in Canggu for a few more nights. A great option if you are looking for a new, clean, and reasonably priced place to rest your head. Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong No.29E, Cangg
Bintang Bungalows- Located on Nusa Penida, these bungalows are picturesque and welcoming. Breakfast is provided at the onsite restaurant. Swim some laps in the pool or relax in your bungalow's huge open aired shower. Jl. Raya Sakti, Crystal Bay, Nusa Penida
Want to explore more of Bali than Canggu? Hop on a scooter, taxi, or boat to get to these destinations:
Waterfalls - The majority of waterfalls in Bali are located on the north side of the island and require a hired driver or some adventurous friends to scooter along with you. Many require a small entrance fee, so bring cash and a bathing suit!
Uluwatu- A day-long adventure from Canggu, Uluwatu is a huge surf destination filled with hillside shops and restaurants. It is the home of Uluwatu Temple which provides beautiful views from its cliff-top location.
Ubud- Surrounded by rice fields and a monkey forest, Ubud is a popular destination on Bali that deserves at least a day and night long visit. Oh yeah, and it's where the Bali scenes in Eat, Pray, Love are set.
Nusa Penida- When you think turquoise water and white sand beaches, don't think of Bali. Think of the islands off of Bali and most importantly, Nusa Penida. The rugged island requires several boat rides and at least a two-night long stay. I spent several days on the island while only seeing a handful of foreigners (unthinkable on Bali). Spend your days traveling by scooter down rocky trails to secluded beach fronts and through traditional remote mountain villages.
The Balinese are some of the most hospitable and friendly people that I have ever encountered. It's easy to run around Canggu without consideration of the locals. I encourage you to do the exact opposite. Have conversations, ask questions, respect their way of life. Here are my suggestions for when you have a free day to wander around town:
Tanah Lot Temple- A quick 30-minute scooter ride from Canggu, this Balinese Hindu temple is located on a rock just offshore. Avoid the surrounding commercialized markets and head straight towards the temple a few hours before sunset to miss the tour bus crowds.
Serenity Eco Guesthouse and Yoga- There are tons of yoga studios and retreat centers in Canggu. I was drawn to Serenity because good reviews from fellow travelers and their vegan/raw friendly cafe. With a variety of classes at all times during the day, Serenity is a welcoming and unpretentious spot for yoga classes. Jl. Batu Mejan, Echo Beach, Canggu
Therapy Canggu- Not a massage person? Yeah, me either until I had time to kill in Canggu. Therapy provides a professional, clean, and relaxing environment for all your spa needs. Their massages come with a bowl of flowers under your headrest to stare at while all your vacation worries are kneaded away. Did I mention that massages in Canggu are 1/5 of the price as in the US? Jl. Batu Mejan, Echo Beach, Canggu