Western tourism is booming in Batu Karas mostly due to the beginner surf break, noted as the best place to learn to surf in Indonesia by Lonely Planet. The break is, unfortunately, quite crowded and lacks the power that more experienced surfers will desire from Indonesian surf.
If you plan on surfing here in Indonesia's cooler months, consider bringing a springsuit or light wetsuit as the water may be chilly. Moreso, it can serve as protection against jellyfish and bluebottles, both of which occasionally swarm the beach. Reef booties are not necessary for the reef break, but they do sell them in one of the surf shops in town.
Ladies, please note that this place is a little different than Bali and lounging around in bikinis is not really common practice yet. Just keep in mind that this is a Muslim area, albeit a very laid back one, and dress accordingly.
Ojeks in Pangandaran charge around 100,000 rupiah for the 1-hour drive to Batu Karas. Alternatively, you can rent a motorbike in Pangandaran for 50,000 per day, offsetting the transportation cost and having freedom to access the local beaches and attractions on your own. Be very careful for potholes, especially on the first half of the road after leaving Pangandaran.
By car, the trip from Pangandaran to Batu Karas usually takes about 1 hour, via Cijulang. Parts of the road are quite bumpy, as trucks and heavy rain have their effects on the road conditions. As there are also frequent road construction and improvement works, the road conditions change frequently.
Batu Karas is approximately 1.5 hours from Pangandaran by using local public transport. From Pangandaran, you will first need to take a blue-coloured angkot (public minivan) to Cijulang (1 hour, about Rp10,000). From there, you can hire an ojek (motorcycle taxi) to Batu Karas. You will need to negotiate the price with the ojek rider, but commonly this is about Rp10,000-20,000. The shortest way from Cijulang to Batu Karas (about 20 minutes) is via a bamboo bridge, but nowadays there is also a paved road, using a detour.
An alternative option from Jakarta is to fly from Halim Airport in East Jakarta directly to Cijulang Nusawiru Airport (CJN IATA), also known as Pangadaran Airport. This airport is actually closer to Batu Karas than to Pangandaran. The airport, and several of the hotels in Batu Karas, offer a shuttle between the airport and the village.
Ojek (motorcycle taxis) are the only public transport option in Batu Karas. You can also hire a motorbike by yourself for about Rp40,000-60,000 per day. The village itself is small and you can easily go around by foot, so there is no pressing need for a scooter unless you want to explore the surrounding surf breaks or the countryside.
The main things to see in Batu Karas are the beaches, the surf break, and local village life. The beaches in Batu Karas are surprisingly clean by Indonesian standards. If you go out of the village, in eastern/southeastern direction from the main beach, you can find some nice secluded black sand beaches. Be mindful of jellyfish in calmer waters. At night, you can check for glowing blue phosphorescence on the beach. Tours to nearby sights, such as the Green Canyon, can be arranged at the local warungs.
- 1 Green Canyon (Cukang Taneuh), Jalan Raya Cijulang-Green Canyon (6 km from Batu Karas, on the way to Cijulang). Sat-Thu 7:30-16:00, Fri 13:00-16:00. Go by boat through beautiful jungle on a river of green-coloured brackish water. At the end of the navigable section of the river, there are beautiful waterfalls and rocks to jump off. In case of heavy rain, the water of the river turns brown for one or two days and the experience is not as nice. Entrance Rp12,500 per person; chartering a small boat (5 persons) about Rp100,000 per hour.
- Citumang (Green Valley) http://citumang.com - jln. Raya sukamanah Desa bojong kec. parigi no 102 (About 45 minutes northeast of Batu Karas.) 6am-5pm. Float ("body raft") down a clear freshwater river through a lush valley. You can jump off several waterfalls ranging from 1-10m high into 6m deep water, rope swing, relax behind a waterfall, and venture into a cave. Entry is Rp 19,000 (or 24,000 if taking photos). A guide (Rp75k) and life vest (Rp20k) are not required but a life vest is recommended for all but the strongest swimmers (remember staying afloat in freshwater is much more difficult than saltwater). Food and life vests are available by Parking 1; follow the walkway upriver to the entrance by Parking 2. You will walk about 15 minutes until you reach a picnic area to begin your journey. You can walk further to a cement staircase which leads to a few more waterfalls, including one deadly but impressive fall into a cave (be VERY careful to not go over this one!).
Learning to surf is the main attraction in Batu Karas. The beach has a 1 soft right-hand surf break that is perfect for learning, aside from the ever-growing crowds. There are two main areas for surfing: one sandy area at the south end of the cove, and a more intermediate reef on the north part of the beach. There are a few other more advanced breaks in the area though swell consistency is not as strong as in other parts of Indonesia. There is a beach about 30 minutes away with a left-hand break that surfers some opt to visit as well, ask a local for directions.
Surfboards can be rented on the main beach for Rp50,000-75,000 per day, with cheaper rates for longer rental periods. Rental board quality is quite standard, but the softness of the wave means most rentals are longboards.
Fishing trips can be organised as well.
There is a 24-hour ATM (BNI) in Batu Karas, at the intersection where Jl. Batu Karas intersects with the beach road.
The ubiquitous Alfamart and Indomaret convenience stores have not descended upon Batu Karas yet. This means you will need to bargain with the local warungs for basic supplies. A large bottle of mineral water should be no more than Rp5,000, a bottle of cola should cost no more than Rp5,000, and a Bintang beer should be no more than Rp30,000. Cigarettes can be purchased at the local warungs at the end of the beach, directly across the street from the surf break. You'll also find some clothing shops in this parking lot area. There is also a pharmacy with limited supplies in the area, ask for directions from a local.
There are a couple of surf shops selling new boards, board shorts, wax, sunscreen and other basic surf necessities.
There are several options along the main beach strip, most of them serving a similar menu. BK Homestay serves the a good oatmeal for breakfast, thought you might want to just head up to the counter to place your order as the service is really awful. Shelter has real coffee with real milk at 10,000 rupiyah per cup. Popeye's is a good option, serving both local and western dishes. It is located in the parking area for the main beach, across from Teratai Bungalows. On weekends, head to Bayview over the hill for excellent (but a bit pricey) seafood. And if you're on a budget, walk all the way to the end of the beach, directly across the surf break, for a row of small family owned warungs serving mie goreng, soto ayam or baso for under 15,000 rupiyah per plate. Wooden House has a fantastic buffet style lunch where you can load up your plate for 15,000 (with 1 piece of chicken or fish) or 20,000 (with 2 pieces of chicken or fish).
Nights out in Batu Karas usually end by 10pm and are essentially limited to bonfires on the beach accompanied by Bintangs from the local warungs. Most places sell cold Bintang beer bottles for Rp25,000 (small) or Rp40,000 (large).
There is an ever-growing list of options for accommodation in Batu Karas and the friendly locals assure that there is always a place to sleep, even if it is on a local's floor.
- 1 Penginapan Bintang Labuan, Jl. Pantai Indah, ☎ . A small homestay run by very friendly locals who do not speak English but do their best to communicate in Indonesian. The rooms are small but comfortable and clean and each has a nice porch. Cold water showers but no sinks. TV and fan in each room, but only one plug in the rooms means you have to chose between the two. From Rp100,000.
- 2 Bonsai Bungalows, Jl. Batu Karas (along the main beach), ☎ . Small bungalows, some with AC and hot water. All rooms have western toilets. On-site kitchen, Wi-Fi in the reception area. Double rooms from Rp150,000.
- 3 Wooden House, Jalan Pantai Indah (on the main beach). 3 rooms upstairs, each with queen bed, private bathroom and seating area on balcony. 1 room downstairs that sleeps 3, with private bathroom. From Rp150,000.
- Hammocking or camping is a viable option here due to the abundance of palm trees and relatively cool coastal temperatures at night, and you may likely see some locals doing just that. Just be prepared for a possible overnight rain shower.
- 4 Sunrise Resort Batukaras, Jl. Pantai Indah Batu Karas (at the three-way junction of the main road and the beach road), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Spacious rooms with AC and hot water. All rooms have western toilets. On-site kitchen, Wi-Fi throughout. VIP suites available. Most centrally located accommodations in Batukaras right by the beach. From Rp450,000.
- 5 Hotel Teratai Batu Karas, Jl. Pantai Batu Karas No. 8 (opposite the main beach), ☎ . Large rooms scattered around a courtyard. The rooms are a bit moldy and oversized, especially for the price. Cold water showers and AC in all rooms. From Rp250,000.
- 6 Villa Monyet, Jl. Batu Karas (about 300 m north of the three-way junction), ☎ . Traditional, stand-alone bungalows surrounded by lush gardens. Villa Monyet is a little far from the main break but has direct access to a secluded portion of the black sand beach. From Rp350,000.
- Lazeeday, on the hill of Batu Karas (Follow the tsunami evacuation route Batu Karas), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Located on the hill of Batu Karas beach with endless view to the sea and peaceful surroundings, as the location is secluded.
- 7 JavaCove Beach Hotel, ☎ . Luxury resort with modern rooms directly across from the main beach. Standard rooms from Rp699,000 per night, budget rooms without air conditioning from Rp399,000.
Wi-Fi is limited in Batu Karas though more and more locations offer it. For those who require reliable internet, the best option is to go into Cijulang where wireline ADSL access more or less guarantees fast throughput and the other choice is to purchase a SIM card; LTE service is relatively strong throughout town, at least for SIMPati/Telkomsel. BK Homestay, Java Cove are among many spots in the main beach area of Legok Pari that offer Wi-Fi, but service is unreliable in some of these locations and there are frequent password changes to prevent abuse.
A popular option for tourists, who go overland across Java from west to east, is to continue to Yogyakarta. In the local warungs in Batu Karas, transport is offered to Yogya (often involving a car with driver to Banjar and a train ticket from Banjar to Yogyakarta). The prices charged for this are often much higher than what you would pay if you would go by yourself (Rp 350k for the transfer and economy train). Pickup is at 7am for the transfer to the economy train and 9am for the business-class train. Going by yourself involves taking an ojek to Cijulang, an angkot to Pangandaran, a bus to Banjar, and another angkot or ojek from Banjar bus terminal to the railway station, before boarding the train to Yogya.