Batu Karas, Indonesia

Photo: Ridwanad / CC BY-SA (

The beach is empty. Early—around 6 am early— is the only time of day there’s a possibility of having it all to yourself. So you slipped out of bed when it was still dark, tiptoed across the quiet grounds of your hotel, and made your way toward the sand. The first surfers will start to arrive soon. There will be tons of them in the warm water by the time big waves roll in as high tide approaches later in the morning. That makes sunrise the most peaceful time of day in Batu Karas.

Batu Karas is an under-the-radar surfing destination in Indonesia. Though it’s on Java, the Southeast Asian country’s most populous island, it’s far (nearly nine hours) from Jakarta, the overflowing capital on the northwest coast. The south-coast village isn’t near much really. The closest airport with easy connections (Bali, Singapore) is in Bandung. That’s a seven-hour drive around terraced ricefields and imposing volcanoes. Pangandaran, the closest beach resort, is 20 miles away. That’s still a slow journey due to poorly maintained dirt roads. So Batu Karas is very remote.

But you quickly discovered that remote isn’t a bad thing. Batu Karas is a pretty beach town. It’s where the green jungle tumbles down to the turquoise sea. Thatched-roof warungs (small businesses) are just steps from two sandy beaches, which are separated by a wooded promontory. The larger one has lots of fishing boats. The smaller one is considered the main surfing beach with a long, right-hand point break. Both have black sand and gorgeous views. Together, they make Batu Karas a great spot to learn how to surf.

A beach town is only as cozy as the place in which you’re staying, though. Don’t worry, JavaCove Beach Hotel is effortlessly chic and laid-back at the same time. The small, eco-friendly hotel sits in a garden across the street from the beach. An ocean view is never far from sight. Thirteen simple rooms have yellow walls, daybeds, and large terraces or balconies. They all overlook the cliffside pool. So does Al Fresko, the fresh-air restaurant that’s open all day for French press coffee, strawberry-yogurt lassis, and buckets of Bintang. Massages can be arranged with a bit of notice. While dense forests, emerald river gorges, crystal-clear waterfalls, and those famous swells are right outside your door. You’ll make time for all of them—after you watch the sunrise.


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