Pangandaran is a seaside town on the south cost of West Java, and it has been dubbed the most popular beach resort on Java. However, throughout my time there it was fairly quiet, probably because it was Ramadan.
There’s a few things on offer in the area. Panagandaran is fronted by a wide stretch of dark beach, along here you can try out some watersports, or just relax in one of the bars. 32km to the west lies Batu Karas, it’s a great spot to try out some surfing. Both beaches tend to be overcrowded on the weekends, and as a foreigner you will probably get hassled by a lot of the locals. Just before you reach Batu Karas is the lush Green Canyon, a river that surges along the coast, there are many tours that will take you here with the option of watersports such as body rafting and kayaking. Taman Nasional Park is situated on the southern tip of Panagandaran. Personally, I found the park overpriced for what it offered (215,000 rupiah and more on a weekend). There is a handful of wildlife in the park, that was interesting to observe, but the beach was not as white or clean as promised.
East of Pangandaran there is a beach called Pantai Lembah Putri. The best way to get to the beach is by scooter, they are pretty cheap to rent 50-70,000 rupiah per day. Take Jalan Bulak Laut out of Pangandaran, when you get to the junction/roundabout go straight along Jalan Raya Pangandaran following the sign for Ciamis and Bandung. Travel along the road for about 10 minutes, you’ll cross the river and continue a bit further, if you get to the Lembah Putri Hotel you’ve gone too far.
There are two right turns before the hotel that will both lead you to he coast; one is a narrow, residential road and the other is a wider road that weaves into an abandoned waterpark.
The tide is high until around midday which makes it impossible to access the beach. In the afternoon, there is a wide stretch of clean sand where you probably won’t see anybody else for the rest of the day. The current and waves are very strong along this beach, so be careful if you choose to swim. If you walk east along the sand you will come across a cave where hundreds of thousands of bats migrate into the dusky sky as the sunsets.
Just off the east beach is the town’s fish market. Many large restaurants display their fish out the front for customers to choose from, you can pick how it’s cooked, what sauce you would like and any other sides. Sari Melati 1 offers spectacular food for affordable prices.
If you wish to travel to Pangandaran by train, the closest station is Sidareja (about 40km away), and from there you can get a bus to the town. Otherwise there are twice daily buses from Jakarta’s Kampung rambutan terminal (85,000 rupiah for economy, 9 hours).