Paradise Found: Canggu, Bali Is Ubud’s Younger, Hipster Sibling That You Need To Discover
Bali. This Indonesian island has for many years drawn in those who are interested in yoga, spirituality and healing, as well as those who come to relax with a Bintang (local beer) and take in the beautiful green rice terraces and jungle vistas. The majority of visitors head straight for Ubud. Ubud has been well established for many years as a mecca for yoga and healthy, vegan food. But Canggu (pronounced ‘chan-goo’) is Ubud’s younger, cooler sibling. Canggu has sprung up quickly and is now quite developed and well equipped for tourists, but it is still quieter and less built up than Ubud. Think: beautiful green rice paddies between the shops and restaurants. Due to the close proximity to Australia, Canggu has been heavily influenced by Antipodean culture, and it shows: both in the laid back surfer vibes and the stylish, hipster shops and eateries. There are also plenty of ‘digital nomads’ (people who work online, remotely) who have settled here.
Why go to Canggu? If you’re into vegan food, you won’t go hungry—there are plenty of dedicated vegan and vegetarian restaurants (I think the selection is better than Ubud!). As it’s on the coast, Canggu is super popular with experienced and beginner surfers alike. It’s also becoming popular with fitness buffs—there are two CrossFit boxes, a Muay Thai centre, a climbing wall and a new gymnastic strength training and Olympic weightlifting centre that opened last year. You’ll also find a handful of eco, sustainable stores—from zero waste food shops to yoga clothes using recycled plastic.
When to go
November to March is rainy season—although it can be variable. Often the rain only lasts for an hour or so, although we had a week with no rain, and a few days where it rained all day (during mid-March). The plus side of coming in the off-season is less tourists and cheaper accommodation prices. But bring a rain jacket, rain happens quickly and can be torrential!
How to get around
If you stay centrally, you’ll be able to walk to many places within Canggu. However, the best way to get around is by scooter. This allows you to easily zip between breakfast, yoga, and time on the beach.
Plant Cartel: This all-vegan American diner-style restaurant shouldn’t be missed. Try the savory breakfast muffin or the chik’n bites, and don’t forget to save space for donut holes or ice cream sundaes for dessert.
The Shady Shack: This veggie/vegan restaurant is one of the most popular places in town. From breakfast to dinner, it’s packed – it has an extensive menu that had me coming back time and time again.
Give Café: Give café is a colourful, 100% plant based, not-for-profit. It offers delicious breakfasts (try the crepes and ice cream, the homemade snickers bar ice cream, or the breakfast sandwich), amazing veganised Indonesian-style lunches and dinners (including an incredible vegan egg made of tofu and potato that’s crazily realistic!). You can choose which of their 3 charities to donate to when you order.
Avocado Factory: The clue’s in the name with this centrally-located restaurant – everything contains avocado in some form. Try the nasi kampur, vegan style. With a little portion of everything (tofu, tempeh, greens, red rice, coconut yoghurt and of course, avocado) it’s the perfect post-yoga or workout meal. It closes before dinner, so get in early.
Café Organic: Boho chic style and a delicious veggie/vegan menu make this a great spot for breakfast and lunch. Thoughtful touch: Café Organic hands out paper slips with their coffees with messages on such as ‘There’s no Planet B’.
Peleton Supershop: This bike-store/plant-based eatery is a little out the way but worth the trip. The tropical blue smoothie bowl (complete with papaya palm trees and pink dragonfruit dolphins) is probably the most beautiful breakfast I’ve ever eaten. Whilst the portions are on the smaller side, it has a varied vegan menu you won’t want to miss.
The Loft: The Loft is a trendy street-side café which is the sister restaurant of its Sydney-based counterpart. The menu caters for omnivores, but they have some great vegan offerings, especially the big vegan savoury breakfast and the waffles. They also have a great raw Oreo cake. Their pink wall outside is a magnet for Instagrammers! 😉
I Am Vegan Babe: This new restaurant serves a variety of vegan delicacies, from burritos to waffles, and of course, smoothie bowls.
Nalu Bowls: Smoothie bowls are big in Bali. For one of the largest selections, including Acai, head to Nalu bowls – near the beach.
Fabbrica Pizza: This busy, rock-n-roll style pizza restaurant isn’t vegan, but has a decent vegan pizza selection, including vegan mozzarella.
Fortunata Coffee: This small, super friendly coffee stand is in a beautiful, quiet green setting, adjacent to a stunning traditional Balinese house that’s being restored into a guesthouse. It was the best coffee we had in Canggu, so if you’re a coffee aficionado, don’t miss it.
Shops & salons
Indigo Luna: Sells soft, colourful yoga wear, swimwear, comfy basics and cotton underwear. Indigo Luna makes its yoga leggings with recycled plastic, uses plant dyes, organic cotton, and ensures a fair wage for everyone involved in the supply chain.
Zero Waste Bali: There’s a few shops in Canggu where you can buy your goods in bulk, to reduce plastic waste. Zero Waste Bali is the first zero-waste store in Canggu (and Bali!) You can buy dry goods, vegan chocolate, protein powder and all kinds of reusable toiletries too!
Paperclip People: This eco-minded shop sells cute items such as a USB in a tiny glass bottle with a cork top, or a pencil that you can plant when its been used up. You can also find tshirts, accessories and home décor.
Maria Curau: The stunning beauty salon away from the hustle and bustle of Canggu town overlooks the rice fields and has beautiful, relaxing décor. It’s a totally vegan salon, using non-toxic products—the only one in Bali (to my knowledge!). What’s more is that the staff are incredible at nail art—after a lovely coconut milk foot bath and pedicure, I got some super cute mandalas painted on to my big toes which spruced up my neglected feet to no end! The staff are so lovely, and you are welcomed with a glass of kombucha. I had to go back for a manicure when I saw the amazing minimalist style nail art!
Be No Square Bali Tattoo Studio: This female-run tattoo studio uses all vegan products and biodegradable, earth-friendly packaging. The perfect place for my ‘Ahimsa’ (meaning non violence and compassion towards all beings) end-of-travels tattoo.
Samadhi: From early morning Mysore to relaxed yin, there’s yoga for everyone. For something different, try ecstatic dance, or take your usual practice to the air with the fly high class (similar to aerial yoga). Last but certainly not least, don’t miss the tantra yoga or monthly women’s circle for some deep diving into breathwork and personal development.
Bonus: Also has a tasty veggie/vegan restaurant on site, as well as a small store selling jewelry and sustainably made yoga clothes.
Want to maintain your fitness routine whilst you’re on holiday? No problem!
Nirvana Strength: Nirvana Strength is an Olympic weightlifting and Gymnastic strength training centre, which has quickly built up a portfolio of top level athletes and gymnasts visiting to guest-teach weekend workshops. We got an unlimited pass for the week, going to multiple classes a day (including handstands and gymnastic ring workouts), and used the ice bath, sauna and pool after. All classes are suitable for all levels.
Canggu Studio: This is a small but popular studio which offers a range of fun and active classes, from yoga and pilates to TRX and Muay Thai. Prepare to sweat!
CrossFit: There’s a dedicated community of Crossfitters, and there are two CrossFit boxes in Canggu. The largest one is Wanderlust, whilst smaller S2S Fitness offers Crossfit as well as fitness holidays.
Bali MMA: Across from CrossFit Wanderlust, you’ll find a studio teaching regular Muay Thai, Boxing and BJJ (Brazilian jiu-jitsu ) classes for beginners to advanced students.
Climbing: Canggu has a small climbing and bouldering gym (Bali Climbing), which is a fun and active way to spend a few hours. They also offer climbing trips if you want to test out your skills outdoors.
Surfing: Canggu’s coastline offers small to medium sized waves, and has a plethora of surf schools.
If you’re not so keen on surfing yourself, make your way down to the beach before sunset to grab a beer and watch the surfers catch the last of the waves whilst the sky turns impressive shades of red, orange and pink.
As Canggu is a new town, whilst Ubud is full of healers and shamans, Canggu doesn’t have the same history. However, healers are starting to pop up. Sakti Healing offers reiki, tarot card readings and crystal healing.
Drinks, bars and late night parties
If you’ve come to Bali to enjoy a few cocktails and shake it out until the early hours, Canggu has your back. All along the beach you’ll find numerous spots for sunset beers. Near the beach, Old Man’s is a hotspot for all-night Djs and dancing on the tables, whilst in town, Deus Ex Machina hosts live bands. For smarter hangouts, try The Slow, or beach clubs La Laguna or Finn’s Beach Club.
Side note: Whilst I totally recommend a few days trying out all the fun and food that Canggu has to offer, don’t forget that there’s so much more of Bali to explore. In fact, there’s so much more of Indonesia to explore—it’s the world’s largest island country, with over 17 thousand (yes, thousand!) islands. Don’t limit yourself to Canggu and Ubud, get out there and find your own untouched Indonesian haven.
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Photo: Dr. Kirstie Fleetwood