SOUTHWESTERN JAVA

PELABUHAN RATU BEACH

Pelabuhan Ratu Beach (three hour drive from both Jakarta and Bandung) is one of the most beautiful places in Indonesia. Stretches of tropical rain forest and mountains run right up to the white sandy beaches that extend for 16 kilometers. There is horseshoe shaped bay there which is lit up at night with hundreds of lanterns from fishing boats. This area which is a is quickly being developed so go soon.

Pelabuhan Ratu, a coastal fishing town by the southwest cape of West Java, is known as the Abode of the Queen of the South Seas — Nyi Roro Kidul. On the drive there from Jakarta you pass villages, rubber plantations, meandering rivers and terraced rice fields. As you get closer you will see rows of sea food restaurants and stalls on the main road selling fish. Maybe checkout the fish market by the harbor and keep going to the next village called Cisolok, where accommodations ranges from modest inns to luxurious hotels. One of the most prominent hotels — and the first major one built here — is the Samudera Beach Hotel, where Nyi Roro Kidul has been assigned a room exclusively dedicated to the Queen of the South Seas.

Pelabuhan Ratu has a long coast with beautiful panorama but many of the visitors that come here are surfers.. But, do not swim in any of the beaches unless you are an experienced surfer or strong swimmer. Many have met their doom by disregarding the signs that discourage people from swimming. There are strong currents, big waves and an undertow that may pull you down.

Cimaja Beach, Palabuhanratu: the Best Surf Spot Accessible to Jakarta

The Palabuhanratu area (3 hours south of Jakarta by road) is a favorite weekend surfing destination for expatriates and a growing number of Indonesian surfers based in Jakarta. It is the most crowded of West Java's surfing grounds due to its accessibility. Most of the surf pounded beaches in the Palabuhanratu resort area — also called Samudra Beach — are just that: pure beachpound, featuring vicious riptides and big walls of water with nowhere to go. Most surfers skip this non-directional stuff and head a few kilometers due west to the sleepy fishing and rice-growing village known as Cimaja, or Cimaja Beach.

The Cimaja break, a right that rises off a rocky reef, is reached by walking about 300 meters from the main road through beachfront sawah (rice paddies). This spot is consistently surfable because it has a solid and angular rock bottom perfectly attuned to south and southwest swells rising out of the Indian Ocean. Its rights peel off in front of a cobble-stone and boulder strewn beach that clatters like a series of giant castanets every time a wave set rolls in. In addition to surfing, people here enjoy taking in the sunset, walking on the beach, taking surfing lessons, and visiting Nyai Roro Kiduls room (room 308) at the Samudra Beach Hotel. About nine kilometers. West of Palabuhanratu there is a hot springs and volcanic area called Cipanas (Hot River).

Information for surfing at Cimaja.
Spot information for surfing at Cimaja (globalsurfer.com)
Type of break: pointbreak
Type of wave: occasionally barreling wave
Direction: right hand
Bottom: rock
Average lenght of ride: 100-200 meter lenght
Suitable for: intermediate level
Detailed information:Surfing at Cimaja Beach, Palabuhanratu-West Java
Crowd level: normal crowd
Best tide: mid
Ideal board size: 6'2-6'4 Thruster
Ideal wind direction: east
Wavesize & wetsuit:
Spring - Summer - Autumn - Winter
Good: 4' - 6' - Overhead: 6'- 8' - Ok : 2'- 4' - Ok : 2'- 4'

Tips: 1) For swimmers, beware of strong currents all along this stretch of coastline. 2) Always be wary of tide conditions and how they affect the lineup. There's a large and exposed rock that is both conveniently and precariously located in front of the take-off point. 3) Like much of Java's rugged south coast this is prime sea urchin and rock-dance country at low tides. Beach rocks here are also very smoothing, slippery and (unfortunately) sometimes covered by sharp, skin-tearing barnacles. Proceed out and back in with caution to avoid being chopped up in the shore pound. 4) If you’re a beginner, take some surfing lessons at Cimaja. Ask the staff at your lodging for more details. Experienced surfers in the water can help to keep you out of harm's way. 5) There are some surf shops & board repairing facilities in the Cimaja area, but these are limited. You will get leg ropes & wax, but not "fin keys" or "ding repair kits", sunscreens are all imported, so most shops can not now afford to carry them, so bring sufficient for you holiday. 6) Don’t forget to bring a small first aid kit.

7)The on shore wind normally starts about 11 am. & drops of most afternoons 4pm So both morning & afternoon surfing sessions are possible. 8) The dry season is the main surfing season & is approximately from April through to October while the wet season is from November through to March, while the surf is less reliable, there are still waves to be had. 8) Heading west for a few hundred yards, across the river, you can check out the lefts at Karang Papak, which can be working when Cimaja is a mess. Generally the temptation doesn't pay off however. 9) The color of "green" is said to be the very color of the Javanese Spirit-queen. To the traditional and local custom this color is forbidden to wear.

Accommodation: After turning left at the intersection onto Jl Siliwangi to go into town, there are some inexpensive losmen on the right-hand side, such as Laut Kidul and Karang Naya. Most hotels in Palabuhanratu charge more on the weekends and holidays. Restaurants are abundant and the seafood is good. Many hawkers in Palabuhanratu sell tasty fish balls.

Cimaja village and its surrounds are easily reached from Jakarta in about two and a half hours by car, just taking the highway south to Bogor, then towards Sukabumi and Palabuhanratu . Once in Cimaja fishing village, it's a hike through the rice paddies, and a cautious hop across the cobblestone beach. There is no rail or air service to Palabuhanratu, so if you are budget conscious and cant afford private car services your safari will have to opt for travel on buses or minibuses that regularly commute from Jakarta to Palabuhanratu via either Bogor or Sukabumi.

Pangandaran

Pangandaran (200 kilometers from Bandung and 400 kilometers from Jakarta) is a beach resort similar to Pelabuhan except that it is more inaccessible than Pelabuhan, Even so it has evolved into Java’s answer to Kuta Beach. A strip of budget hotels, resorts, restaurant, bars and shops stretch from a about to three kilometers from the bus terminal to the boundaries of the national park.

Located about 91 kilometers from the town of Ciamis halfway between Bandung and Yogyakarta, Pangandaran is situated on a peninsula on the south coast of West Java, facing the Indian Ocean. It features uniquely black and white sand, calm waved beaches and spectacular sunsets. The peninsula is still an active fishing place with fishermen setting sail in the morning and returning in the afternoon with their catch. Traditionally, when the fishermen returned, all the locals would meet them on the beach and help them pull the nets heavy with fish to shore. This activity can still be seen today; and visitors are encouraged to pitch in and help.

Pangandaran also hosts many annual events. One in particular is the International Kite Festival which is held in July every year. This festival is a gathering of kite enthusiasts from all over the world and a place where all different kinds of kites are flown together under the Blue Pangandaran skies. Pangandaran also offers snorkeling and fishing. For more information check these sites: ngarumatpangandaran.org, mypangandaran.com, pangandaran.org.

Sights and Activities at Pangandaran

For the most part Pangandaran is a beach destination. It offers all kinds of beach and marine activities such as sunbathing, swimming, surfboarding, fishing, jet skiing. You can also enjoy hiking and cycling. There are some pleasant bike rides along which can observe the activities of fishermen and villagers. There is also a dirt track with a “Semi Pro Cyclist Uphill and Downhill.” ride. The nature reserve at Pangandaran is located on an isthmus and is covered with rain forest and rimmed with black sand beaches and clear blue water on both sides. Wildlife in the forest includes monkeys, hornbills, barking deer and Javanese gibbons The park is divided into a recreation area that tourist can wander around in and a jungle that is off limits. Unfortunately most of the animals are in the jungle. The best walk are along the trail that skirt the jungle.

There are number of beachy, surfing and swimming spots arround Pangarndaran. Two well known landmarks are found near by. One is called Batu Hiu, which means shark rock as the rock is shaped like a shark, and the other is Karang Nini, another rock formation that juts out from the sandy beach. Pananjung beach, located at the western end of the peninsula, is an ideal place for family activities. Here, the waves are relatively calm so you and your family can swim around safely. Next to the beach is a forested hill which is also a natural reserve. It is the dwelling place for many monkeys, deer, buffaloes and other exotic animals. There are also a number of natural caves and some man-made caves built as bunkers by the Japanese during World War II. Plummeting off the hill is a beautiful waterfall which drops directly into the ocean. To reach it requires a short hike, with beautiful views of the sea and maybe glimpses of wild animals. From this the highest view on the hill you can see the entire coastal area of the peninsula.

The eastern coast of peninsula is a paradise for fresh sea food lovers. Here, you can take your pick of restaurants and food stalls, offering freshly caught fish, squids, crabs, prawns and other seafood, which are displayed on their front verandas. At the south end of this restaurant line-up, is the fresh fish market where you can buy fresh caught fish and other sea food, and have them grilled or barbequed to your own liking at nearby restaurants. The East Coast is also a place for jet skiing and banana boat rides.

Coral reefs in Pangandaran are of the fringing reef type, which is dominated by Acropora along the Western Beach and Monticora at the Eastern Beach. Corals at both places are dominated by the branching, encrusting, and massive types; which indicate that there are strong currents in this marine area. It makes a great place for snorkeling, or just simply enjoying these from aboard a wooden boat. Sadly, observations in 2008 showed that some reefs have been damaged, and there is now an effort to save them. You can join in the reef rehabilitation mission by taking part in the “Adopt a Baby Coral” program.

Tips: Swim only along designated areas, Some beaches are relatively dangerous and are not suited for swimming Please obey safety rules at all time and pay attention to the announcements from the life guards or Balawista who came in bright orange and red uniform. They are posted in many areas of the beaches and ready to help, should you need any assistance.

Batu Hiu Shark’s Rock

Batu Hiu Shark’s Rock (about 14 kilometers south of Pangandaran) is shark-shaped rock formation situated near hill overlooking a beautiful beach strewn with many natural wave-carved rocks. Among these rocks, Legend has it that in the 11th century, exiled troops from the Mataram Kingdom in Central Java, led by Aki Gede and Nini Gede arrived at this location. When they came to the coast, they decided to rest and camp near the hill. Aki and Nini Gede then ordered the troops to look for food. One of the soldiers called Ki Braja Lintang, decided to fish on the shore and caught a shark. When Aki and Nini Gede found out about this, they told him to release the fish back to the ocean. As they released it, the shark magically turned into a big black rock, distinguishable by its sharp fin shape, and which has given the place its popular name: Batu Hiu or Shark’s Rock.

Located at the Ciliang Village, in the Parigi District, Batu Hiu offers a spectacular view of the blue Indian Ocean. Above the dramatic hill you can watch great waves rolling down and crashing on the rocks. The place is adorned with beautiful Pandan Wong (a kind of palm) trees and some wonderful places to watch the sun set. The main entrance to the area is a cave in the shape of a huge Shark’s head, so, that as one walks in, it almost seems like entering a shark’s jaws with its many sharp teeth. As you come out the other end, you will find a beach. There are also a number of caves in the area. Locals believe that one of these caves is connected to the town of Cirebon on Java’s north coast.

Although there is a beach, Batu Hiu is not a place for swimming as the seas can be rough and waves crash down on jagged rocks, Batu Hiu is still considered sacred for the locals. To respect this, you must be respectful and avoid using swear words. From Pangandaran it is about a 20 minute drive to Batu Hiu heading west toward Cijulang. It is not a difficult to find. If you take public transportations, you should take one that is headed to Parigi area. From there it’s about 10 minutes ride using an ojek. There are many “warung” or food stalls on your way to and around Batu Hiu that sell various kinds of seafood and Sundanese traditional food and drinks.

Accommodation, Shopping and Restaurants at Pangandaran

There are many hotels and guest houses in Pangandaran fit for families and backpackers alike. During weekend or Holliday seasons, hotels and other accommodation are usually fully booked, so it is best to make your reservations prior to arrival. Here is a list of some of them.

1) Pantai Indah Resort Hotel, Address: Jl. Kidang Pananjung No. 151,159 & 192, Tel. +62 (0265) 639004, fax: +62 (0265) 639328; 2) Bamboo House, Address:Jl. Pamugaran, Tel. +62 (0265) 639419; 3) Pondok Pelangi, Address: Jl. Pasanggrahan No. 7 - 13, Tel. +62 (0265) 639023, fax: +62 (0265) 630157; 4) Hotel Grand Mutiara, Address: Jl. Pamugaran No. 14, Tel. +62 (0265) 630693: 5) Nyiur Indah, Address: Pantai Barat Pananjung No. 46, Tel. +62 (0265) 639053, fax: +62 (0265) 639304; 6) Nyiur Indah II, Address: Jl. Bulak Laut No. 53, Tel. +62 (0265) 328372; 7) Laut Biru Resort Hotel, Address: Jl. E. Jaga Lautan No. 17 - 18, Tel. +62 (0265) 639360, fax: +62 (0265) 639017; 8) Holiday Beach, Address: Jl. Bulak Laut No. 50, Tel. +62 (0265) 639285; 9) Mini Tiga, Address: Jl. Pamugaran, Tel. +62 (0265) 639436; 10) Mini Dua, Address: Jl. Kalenbuaya No. 14, Tel. +62 (0265) 639298; 11) Adam's Homestay Address: Jl. Pamugaran, Tel. +62 (0265) 639164; 12) Hotel Malabar, Address: Jl. Pamugaran No. 128, Tel. +62 (0265) 639969; 13) Susan's Guesthouse, Address: Jl. Kalenbuaya No. 20, Tel. +62 (0265) 639290; 14) Fortuna Hotel, Address: Jl. Kalen Buaya No. 17A, Tel. +62 (0265) 630360, fax: +62 (0265) 630307; 15) Pacific Beach Hotel, Address: Jl. Pramuka 13 - 15, Tel. +62 (0265) 639510; Pondok Wulan Guesthouse, Address: Jl. Bulak Laut - Pamugaran, Tel. +62 8157 3064415, E mail: pangandaran-pondokwulan@hotmail.com

Restaurants: There’s nothing like freshly caught seafood covered in a fine mixture of herbs and ingredients, accompanied by a glass of iced coconut milk, and eating it on to top it all, which you can enjoy it on the shore with the sound of waves breaking on the rocks. Seafood is obviously the specialty of Pangandaran. Here are some of the restaurants you can visit: 1) Restaurant Relax, Address: Jl. Bulak Laut No. 74, Tel. +62 (0265) 630377; 2) Holiday Resto, Address:Jl. Bulak Laut No. 50, Tel. +62 (0265) 639285; 3) Chez Mama Cilacap, Address:Jl. Kidang Pananjung No. 197, Tel. +62 (0265) 639098; 4) Eka Bamboo Café, Address: Jl. Pamugaran, Tel. +62 (0265) 639419.

There are a lot of souvenir shops near the beach that sell T-shirts, short pants, swim wear, hats and all kind of beachwear. They also provide various sea handicrafts, such as bracelets and necklaces made from sea shells amd miniature surf boards. There are also shops that sell dried salted fishes (ikan asin). Try the “Jambal Roti” salted fish for which Pangandaran is famous in Indonesia.

Getting Around and Getting to Pangandaran

The best way to get around Pangandaran is on foot. If you want to explore the area around Pangandaran rent a bike. There are a lot of bike rental services that offer various kinds of bicycles for rent: BMXs, standard bike and tandem bike that can take two or three people, persons. If you get tired of walking, you can usually find a becak a three-wheeled cart that can take you back to your hotel.

Susi Air provides scheduled flights from Jakarta to Pangandaran. It's the fastest and most comfortable way to reach Pangandaran. There are daily flights from the Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Jakarta to the Nusawiru Airport in Pangandaran. You can see the prices and booking information on the schedule from Susi Air (PDF)

A common way for reach Pangandaran is by bus. When you take the direct bus from Jakarta, the trip takes around seven hours. The fee depends on the bus company. Buses leave nearly every hour from Jakarta’s Kampung Rambutan bus station towards Pangandaran. But not all busses drive direct to Pangandaran. With some buses you have to change the bus in Ciamis, Tasikmalaya or Banjar. It's also possible to rent a car with a driver in Jakarta.

From Bandung: Susi Air also provides scheduled flights from Bandung to Pangandaran. There are daily flights from the Husein Sastranegara Airport. Buses to reach Pangandaran leave from from Bandung’s Cicaheum bus station Some buses go directly to Pangandaran; others go to Ciamis or Banjar, where you take another bus or other transportation to Pangandaran.

Batu Karas Beach: Little Bali to Surfers

Batu Karas Beach (40 kilometers or an hour’s drive from Pangandaran) is a blend between Pangandaran Beach and the Batu Hiu Beach since it not only offers calm waters but also challenging waves. Thus, it is fit for both swimming and surfing. It boasts a uniquely black sandy beach and is less crowded than the beaches in Pangandaran or Bali. Some even dubbed Batu Karas little Bali, since it offers similar experience with less hastles.

Batu Karas is popular among surfers, nationally and internationally. Aside from the relatively flat beach, Batu Karas also has a small bay, so surfers do not have to paddle too far to the starting point of the incoming waves. For beginners there are a lot of surfing equipment rentals that offer complete surfing necessities, along with experienced instructors who can teach you everything one needs to know about surfing. So, it doesn’t matter whether you are a professional surfer or have never surfed at all to catch waves of Batu Karas.

There are three main surfing spots commonly known to surfers: Karang, Legok Pari and Bulak Bendak. Karang, literally means “coral rocks”, which probably gets its name from the many rocks lying underneath the surface, and can only be surfed at high tide. Legok Pari is favorite surfing spot among the three, and the perfect beach for beginners since the beach here is relatively safe and waves are not too high. For the more advanced and professional surfers, Bulak Bendak is the spot of choice. Here, waves can create a long wall of water or even barrels which are the perfect rides for surfers. To get to Bulak Bendak surfers must take a boat ride that cost about Rp 200.000, to jump into the incoming point break.

Batu Karas is not all about surfing. Buggies, jet skis and banana boats are used. If you like the outdoors, Batu Karas offers several camping and hiking spots. If you want to get away from it all ask the locals to take you to Karang Nunggal, an isolated beach with a spectacular view from a huge and high rock on its shore. People also like to strollon the beach during sunset, have an afternoon coffee at the local “warung” or take a relaxing swim in the area’s calmer waters.

Tips: 1) November to April (Rainy Season) provides the favored time of the year for waves. 2) Works best with offshore winds from the south southwest. 2) When not surfing, take a chance to visit the nearby Green Canyon, as it is not too far from Batu Karas. 4) There are a lot of places to eat. Some are within hotels. There are also lot of food stalls (warings), cafés and seafood restaurants.

Accommodation: There are plenty of hotels and inns you can find at Batu Karas. Some of these hotels offer bungalows and cottages, while other offers the standard rooms. if you wish to know and get close to the local people, you may want to try to stay at the local’s houses. Here are some accommodations in the Batu Karas area: 1) Java Cove Beach Hotel, Jl. Pantai Indah Legok Pari, Tel. +62 265 708 2020 Web :javacovebeachhotel.com; 2) Bonsai Bungalows Hotel, Jl. Pantai Indah Legok Pari, Tel. 02657093199/0815464177; 3) Teratai Hotel, Jl. Pantai Indah Legok Pari, Tel. 02657082024/0816623372; 4) Hotel Hi & LOW, Jl. Tanjakan Heras, Batukaras, Tel. 081312932663; 5) Hotel Pondok Putri, Jl. Pantai Indah Batukaras, Tel. 081323085284

Getting There: By car Batu Karas is about an hour’s drive from Pangandaran in the direction of Cijulang. It will not be difficult to find Batu Karas since there are a lot of signs and directions pointed to it. area. If you want to use public transportation, you must first go to the main terminal of Pangandaran then take a minibus to Cijulang. From Cijulang the only transportation that can take you to Batu Karas are ojek motorbike taxies. Just ask the ojek driver to take you to Batu Karas. The cost is roughly about IDR15.000.

Citumang River

The Citumang River (15 kilometers west of Pangandaran) has clear blue water and runs through thick greem forests in the Cijulang area along the south coast of West Java. Along its banks are with beautiful boulders, trees and bushes. At one point water flows into a cave and disappears, emerging from the cave downstream.

The Citumang River is located at the Bojong Village, in the Ciamis Region. The name Citumang was given to it by locals who believed that a certain crocodile with a broken leg once lived in this river. The crocodile’s name was “Si Tumang”. By attaching “Ci” to the beginning of the name you end up with Citumang.

The rivers passes through cliffs and has clear blue water pools that are ideal for swimming. When you walk upstream, you will find a waterfall with a huge tree that has dangling roots like ropes that you can hang on to. Here it is possible to pretend you are Tarzan and swing from the roots into the river. Further upstream is the place where the water from the river drops down and disappears into the earth, reappearing downstream. The place is located at the tip of a cave called Taringgul cave, and the flow of the river down into the earth is called “Sanghyang Tikoro”, which means “the God of the Throat”.

The river’s relatively fast current makes it a perfect place to enjoy body rafting and watertubing. With body rafting, instead of using inflatable boats or kayak, you use the body (wearing safety equipment such as helmet and life vest) to navigate through the river. The best time to visit the Citumang River is during the dry season between June to September. During the rainy season, the sky is overcast and the road is a bit slippery and sometimes the water is dangerously high.

Getting There: Citumang is located half way between Pangandaran and Green Canyon. The only means public transportation that can take you there is an ojek motorbike taxi. You can also rent a bike and follow the road that leads to Citumang. If you take your own ride, the best way to get to the Citumang River is from Cibenda, the local Market, through Panyingkiran’s narrow road and green rice fields until you reach the parking lot. From there it’s a 25 minutes’ walk to the river.

Green Canyon

Green Canyon (about 31 kilometers or 45 minutes’ drive from Pangandaran Beach) is a scenic wonder on the southern coast of West Java that is worth a look. Originally called “Cukang Taneuh” — a local Sundanese meaning Soil Bridge — Green Canyon has a three meter wide bridge made up of soil above the twin cliffs on both river banks. It is located at Kertayasa Village, in the Ciamis Regency, West Java Province. Green Canyon opens everyday at 7.00am, except Friday, when it opens at roughly 1:00pm after Friday prayers.

The name Green Canyon is believed to have been dubbed by a French tourist who came to the location in 1993. It is said that the clear green water of the river and the abundant green moss on the cliff was the inspiration for the popular name. As you arrive at the main entrance, which has the parking, you will see a row of wooden boats popularly called “Ketinting” lining up by the river. These boats will take you to Green Canyon for about IDR75.000 per person. After you pay the fee you will receive a number. You will then get into your boat once your number is called.

The ketinting will then take you on a ride down the river. From the boat, you will see green forest trees along the banks. Sometimes snakes or lizards jumping into the river, or come up to surface. As the boat slows down and makes its last turn, an astonishing view jumps right in front of your eyes. Twin cliffs standing tall on each side of the river, with stalactites and stalagmites overhead, and crystal clear water below. Water pours down from each side of the cliffs. At low tide, you can walk under this once great cave and marvel at the sight between the two high cliffs. By this your clothes will surely be soaking wet so you might as well dive into the inviting waters and swim against the current, between the giant cliffs and under the canopies of rain forest trees.

Tips: 1) Don’t forget to bring change of clothes, because one way or another you will surely get wet 2) Don’t forget to bring a Dry bag to protect your valuables such as cellular phone, cameras, etc. 3) It is best to wear a strong grip, non-slip footwear, since you will be walking on slippery rocks. 4) Don’t forget to bring some food and drinks. The only place to get them is at the main entrance.

From the Pangandaran Terminal you can take a minibus headed to Cijulang Terminal. From the Cijulang terminal, take an “ojek” motorcycle taxi to the entrance. At the parking Lot and main entrance are a number of restaurants that mainly serve traditional Sundanese foods and seafoods. There are also some food carts that sell bakso, chicken porridge and other common carry-away foods.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Indonesia Tourism website ( indonesia.travel ), Indonesia government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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