I know I've connected with a place when I want to return to it after I've left. I feel it in my soul. Similarly, there are places you will go in your travels that you know you won't be returning to. Candidasa is one of those places...if not for Crystal Beach.
Crystal Beach Hotel was one of these chance encounters, a lucky draw, a diamond in the rough. I stumbled upon it when looking for inexpensive stays with beach property and good Wi-Fi. I was happy to find it surpassed my expectations.
Crystal beach is located in Candidasa—a location I had never heard of before—which only made it more intriguing. Going on the fact that I had never heard of Niue and my trip there turned out to top them all, I decided to take a chance on Candidasa.
And I am so glad I did because Crystal Beach was exactly the respite I needed. The town, on the other hand, I could have done without!
Mediocre Stays So Far in Bali
The prices were always amazing by Western standards—common in Southeast Asia. I look back now, however, and realize I got ripped off in the beginning. The quality got better and the prices cheaper with the more experience I had with the country's lodging.
On Nusa Lembongan, I had two big beds and a private bathroom to myself. The location was inland a bit, with no pool, no A/C, and barely a trickle of water under which to shower. On the plus side, I was only a 5 minute walk to the beach and nearby everything else I needed.
In Ubud, I was in a 4-bed dorm with a bathroom attached which I had to myself for 2 out of 4 nights. There were 2 pools overlooking gorgeous rice terraces and it was a 15 minute bicycle ride uphill to reach it from Ubud center. There was A/C (controlled by the staff), a comfortable shower, and a complimentary toast breakfast. Not too bad.
For my third and final stop in Bali, I stayed at Crystal Beach Hotel. The experience and price beat out them all, by far.
The Stay at Crystal Beach
At Crystal Beach, I had a bed in an 8-bed female dormitory which I only had to share with 1-2 other women for 2 out of my 4 nights there. Of course, there were standard rooms and suites available, but, as a solo traveler, I didn't need or want that!
Besides, the dorm had actual beds—not bunks. The beds were super comfortable and arranged in neat rows. This inevitably resulted in me pushing them all together when nobody was there and gleefully rolling across each one shouting, "They're mine! They're ALL MINE!"
Like the beds, there were lots of things to love about Crystal Beach, such as:
- Complimentary breakfast (plentiful, lots of variety)
- A/C control in the room
- Excellent Wi-Fi
- Private beach
- Snorkeling available
- Tons of lounge options (e.g., comfy day beds)
- Seclusion, located off a back road far from noise pollution
- Free shuttle service into central Candidasa (5 minutes)
- Mountain, ocean, and sunrise/sunset views
- Massages available
- Washer available
- Super friendly staff
The only downside to my stay was that the toilet and shower were shared and located a short walk across the property to the lobby (open all hours). They said the dorm price was calculated as such to make up for the short walk to the toilet.
So what was the price? I paid 230,000 IDR which is about $17 USD for 4 nights. That's $4 and change per night. $4!!!! Totally. Worth it.
I hardly cared about the short walk from the dorm to the toilet when I spent most of my time lounging around their gorgeous property anyway.
The relaxation and peaceful vibe at Crystal Beach felt like a true "get away" after the noise and busy atmosphere of Ubud. I especially loved the day beds set up all over. They had cushions and pillows thrown on them for a supremely comfy lounge experience.
I spent my first afternoon there dozing on the daybeds in between snorkel sessions directly off the stairs leading into the water.
I rented the mask, snorkel, and fins from the lobby for about 20,000 IDR.
Overall, Crystal Beach was excellent.
But it was even better with this fountain statue next to the pool:
And then this goat:
I don't know why, but I found the goat to be hilarious. Apparently, it had gotten loose from a neighbor's yard. I saw it wandering right outside the front gate during my whole stay and it would always give me exactly this look before it trotted off to hide behind some palm trees like an escaped convict! :D
The Somewhat Dull Town of Candidasa
Candidasa is mostly a resort town. Located in the Karagasem Regency, tourists go there to enjoy a quiet, coastal stay at one of the many resorts or they'll use the location as a base from which to explore the rest of Eastern Bali.
But I like to give every place a chance when I visit, so I went to check out the town anyway. Was it worth it? Well, maybe. The pros and cons probably cancel each other out.
The main part of town is a coastal road lined with lots of shops, spas, resorts and warung (restaurants). Otherwise, there are few notable features.
There is public access to the stone beaches most of which eroded away due to mining lime for construction during a tourism boom in the 70s and 80s. The town rests on a fresh water lagoon which is popular for its lotus flowers and other pretty features.
There are also hilltop views from the mountains behind the town. I found a 10 minute hike that went up behind GoGo Silvers shop.
Trees blocked part of the view, but I got a nice overall look at Candidasa and the coast from up there. The only obstacle was the muddy pigs and parading roosters found on the stone steps along the way.
Unfortunately, these few features were a bit polluted with litter (like many other parts of Bali). For me, litter can really take away from the beauty of a place. So I wasn't all that impressed, especially considering nothing stood out from the beauty I found at Crystal Beach.
One characteristic I absolutely loved, however, were the hand-carved and painted doors I saw around town. You'll find intricately designed wooden doors all over Bali, but I never really took note of them until I was in Candidasa.
These double doors were my favorite:
Out of curiosity, I pushed the doors open and was struck by the stunning scene I found on the other side: A pathway leading toward the sea through a bright garden.
This doorway and path was like an invitation into a alternate realm; a magical wonderland.
I wish I could tell you I stepped through and found a caterpillar smoking a hookah or was offered some Turkish delight on the other side. Alas, the path only led into another resort.
The resorts here really are like diamonds in the rough—the rough being Candidasa! During the rest of my walk around town, the locals were constantly calling out to me.
Servers tried to entice me into their warung. Shop owners said I'd have good luck for buying their wares. Men on motorbikes offered me everything from taxi rides to snorkel tours. They were clearly trying very hard to make a living off a tourism industry that was either in a low season or has simply been dead for a while.
The hip warung, New Queen, managed to lure me inside for dinner one evening. I had a tasty plate of capcay and pineapple juice in the company of very friendly staff who insisted on taking photos with me. Sometimes being one of the only foreigners around turns you into a celebrity of sorts—whether you like it or not!
Retreating to My Retreat
By the end of my little self-guided tour, I was feeling a bit exhausted and ready to get back to my secluded resort when another stranger accosted me. He pulled up on a motorbike and offered to take me on a tour of the entire Karangasem area.
I had already been considering finding a guide to do something similar, but I did not feel convinced he was the right one. Then he gave me a piece of paper on which there was a printed list of activities. He said he could take me around all day for only 200,000 IDR—a very good price. His name was Han and he included his contact information on the paper, so I told him "maybe tomorrow" and continued to wait for my shuttle back to Crystal Beach.
As I floated under a purple sky in the pool back at the resort, I thought about Han and his offer. Tomorrow would be my last full day in Bali before a series of flights that would take me back to the USA. I needed to make my last day count!
Ehhh, what the hell, I'll give it a shot. I went up to the lobby and had the receptionist call Han to book the trip. He would be picking me up at 8am the next morning.
Next week, I'll share all the details from my tour with Han and how he made my last day in Bali one of the best days of the entire trip! :)