Canggu: Exploring Bali, The Most Popular Island In Indonesia

canggu indonesia

Canggu: Exploring Bali, The Most Popular Island In Indonesia

Canggu—A Nebulous Neighborhood In Bali’s Sweet Spot

Offering an eclectic combination of modern lifestyle and traditional culture with visible vestiges of both is Canggu (pronounced CHAN-goo), an up-and-coming neighborhood on Indonesia’s most popular island—Bali.

A few decades ago, Canggu was nothing more than scattered villages, a few rice paddies, and long expanses of black-sand beach. All along those beaches, though, were surf-ready waves… These provided the impetus for the area’s transformation over the past 20-odd years.

Surfers, ever pioneering into undiscovered territory, were the first foreigners to arrive in Canggu. The swells at Batu Bolong, Echo Beach, and Pererenan enticed them to visit… the opportunity for peaceful, seaside living among the rice paddies compelled them to stay.

While Balinese communities have called Canggu home for generations, surfers paved the way for what would soon become a busy, ever-growing community of expats from around the world.

Villas began to spring up alongside traditional homes… Modern, innovative restaurants opened doors next door to Indonesian warungs (family-run restaurants run out of homes)… Surf bars, art galleries, yoga studios, co-working spaces, and public markets selling artisanal products filled the empty spaces in between…

The result is something unique: a Balinese neighborhood that’s been modernized, staying true to its village roots while making space for first-world amenities. Canggu exists in the sweet spot between old and new, local and international, traditional and trendy… Some have even dubbed it the Brooklyn of Bali for this unique combination.

Another factor that’s driven Canggu’s popularity up is overdevelopment of Bali’s south—the former epicenter of its tourism industry. Big-wig resorts, strip malls, and innumerable hawkers and trinket stands have made that part of the island tacky. Any vestiges of Balinese culture in places like Kuta have been erased, and so too has any of its charm. In short, it’s no longer a nice place to spend time…

Canggu is distinctly different, the main reason being that it’s not a tourist destination—it’s residential. The foreigners that spend time here are residents, meaning hawkers and avaricious vendors have no business here. What you do have is regular people, both local and expat, going about their lives…

Because of the tectonic activities that formed the Indonesian archipelago, the landscape that surrounds Canggu is richly diverse. It’s flanked by the Indian Ocean on one side and volcanoes, jagged cliffs, verdant rainforests, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, and more on the other.

Canggu is warm and tropical. Just eight degrees south of the equator, temperatures here hover around 85°F with relatively high levels of humidity year-round.

The international community here is diverse… On top of the local community, there are Australians, Kiwis, Koreans, Canadians, Americans, Japanese, Germans, Argentines, and so on…

The community is large, active, and vibrant… The best way to get the scoop on what’s going on is to visit one of the many expat web pages or online forums. Farmers’ markets, open-mic nights, dance classes, and other community events are part of daily life.

Concepts like green living have been introduced by expats and whole-heartedly incorporated into life in Canggu. It’s not uncommon to find a group of expats and locals doing beach cleanups, advocating for reduced plastic use, or volunteering any day of the week.

Many sub-cultures based on various interest areas exist here. For example, health and wellness is backed by a huge community of yogis and vegans. Deus Ex Machina is the hub for ocean-lovers and surfers. The many funky cafés and coworking spaces have made Canggu the stomping grounds for digital nomads.

There are many start-ups and initiatives too. Bye Bye Plastic Bags is a burgeoning community led by expats fighting against the rampant plastic pollution problem. Hash Harriers run three days a week through river valleys and rice fields…

Wherever your interests lie, there is a community for you to connect with and help push your passions further.

There are two costs of living in Canggu: the local one and the expat one. Minimum wage on Bali is approximately US$200 a month, so you can image how inexpensively it’s possible to live here. A Balinese meal costs under US$2, and local transportation is about the same per week.

If you embrace a local lifestyle, your savings could be enormous. Not many expats do this, though… The other cost of living—the expat one—comes to about 9,159,000 rupiah (US$635) a month for a couple, assuming you own your home, employ a maid, and eat out regularly.

Canggu is set up for expats and tourists to indulge, with cool eateries, trendy boutiques, and plenty of interesting opportunities for diversion. The bigger your budget, the more lavish your lifestyle could be…

Canggu Pros:

  • World-class surf and beaches;
  • Plenty of restaurants, cafés, bars, etc.;
  • Huge range of recreation options;
  • Big, vibrant expat community;
  • Proximity to schools and hospitals;
  • Inexpensive spa treatments.

Canggu Cons:

  • Distance from North America and Europe;
  • Traffic and congestion;
  • Infrastructure—poor quality roads, occasional power outages;
  • Pollution;
  • Encroachment of tourism industry.

Bali has seen its fair share of bumps in the road, including political shifts, terrorist attacks, and economic slumps… Even still, it’s one of the world’s most popular travel destinations. “Where is Bali?” is one of the most Googled travel questions of all time. The island’s popularity exists for a reason… Everything that’s special about Bali—from its beaches to its landscape to its ever-friendly locals—can be found in Canggu, plus a bit of expat culture. If you’re looking for a residential corner of Bali in the sweet spot of old and new cultures, with plenty of opportunity for recreation and diversion, look no further than Canggu.

Sophia Titley


Might Canggu be the new overseas home you’ve been looking for?

You’ll hear lots more about Bali and many more of our top Asia destinations at this week’s Live and Invest in Asia Virtual Conference…

Again, the fun starts in just two days, so if you’re interested, don’t let this event pass you by…

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Kat Kalashian
Editor, Live and Invest Overseas Confidential