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A Travel Guide to Canggu, Bali's Coolest Beach Town

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You only have to blink your eyes on Bali and a new rustic-but-refined boutique, beach bar, or clean-eating café pops up, its Instagram-ready wares art-directed to perfection. Canggu (pronounced Chang-goo), a town on the southwestern coast that’s known for its surf breaks, is the island’s current crucible of cool. Here, the openings are so frequent that kombucha cocktails and ocean-fresh ceviche can feel almost de rigueur.

Canggu’s transformation started just over a decade ago, when the cult Australian motorcycle brand Deus Ex Machina kicked off a migration from the kinetic resort town of Seminyak, a few miles away. Deus’s Temple of Enthusiasm, a café and concept store selling everything from craft beer to gas, went on to inspire numerous spots— most launched by the Australian, American, and European entrepreneurs who make up Canggu’s expat community.

After several years in development, the 119-room COMO Uma Canggu (rooms from $250) just opened at Echo Beach—the western end of the town’s mile-long stretch of waterfront. It’s the big news in Canggu: the first luxury resort to upstage its traditional low-slung guesthouses, with facilities that include a stylish kids’ club and, in line with COMO’s other properties, an outstanding spa and yoga studio. The pod-shaped, three-bedroom penthouses look out at the sea and have sleek, subdued interiors, while the more Balinese-style garden rooms come with outdoor daybeds and showers.

The beach town’s other new property, the 12-room boutique hotel the Slow (rooms from $185), has a much more urban vibe. With custom-made modernist-style furniture, a perfectly curated playlist, and a restaurant offering small plates piled with fresh Indonesian flavors, it feels more like something you’d find in Williamsburg or Shoreditch. As you might expect from owner George Gorrow, who together with Gareth Moody founded the streetwear label Ksubi, there’s also a clothing store that carries their new menswear line, Non-Type.

Hotel Tugu Bali (rooms from $290) was one of the first boutique properties to open in Canggu—in fact, when this quirky, artifact-filled retreat launched in 1997, its only neighbors were grazing cattle. Nowadays, it sits alongside the beer garden Old Man’s, where surfers go in search of DJ sets and Bintang beer. Tugu has adapted to the new tempo nobly, creating the island’s most charming rooftop bar. At Ji, inventive drinks are like tiny art installations (served in a coconut shell emerging from dry ice, say, or surrounded by a miniature garden of flowers and herbs) that match the curio-rich, more-is-more interiors.

If you’re looking for accommodations with Ibiza-style swagger, British ex-banker Ben Jones’s five-suite holiday home, the Mandala House (suites from $990 per night; four-night minimum), may be more your speed. At this fully staffed property overlooking the rice fields, guests can perch on swim-up barstools in one pool while looking up at their housemates splashing around in the glass-bottomed pool overhead.

A common misconception about Bali is that it’s all about the beach. The truth is that the island’s allure stems more from its spirit than the usual clichés of sand and sea. Watching Balinese sunsets, however, is an island-wide ritual—and they don’t get much better than when seen from La Brisa. This multilevel bar and restaurant was built from hundreds of old fishing boats, creating a charming shipwreck of decks and cozy corners that make the ideal perch for enjoying a daiquiri as the sun goes down.

When thoughts turn to dinner, try the Lawn, where Balinese dishes are given a European twist—the babi guling–style pork belly with chorizo crumbs and cauliflower purée is a must—and the open-air lounge is filled with pretty young things posing for selfies under twinkling lights and parasols. Canggu is also known for its array of trendy cafés and charming lunch spots that offer a break from the beach. One standout is Shady Shack, a clapboard hut selling vitamin-rich bowls brimming with the usual superfood suspects—but served with such imagination you could eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner here for an entire week and never get bored.

And if all the perfect weather demands new beachwear, there are many boutiques to browse. Serious shoppers should head to the Offering, where highlights include swimwear from cool Aussie labels Aloé and Sheeka and local botanical beauty products. Nearby, the romantic, boho-inspired pieces (gauzy tunics and linen caftans) from Paris-born Bali-based designer Magali Pascal will become warm-weather staples when you get back home. If you need a respite from all the shops, head to one of Canggu’s luxurious day spas. At Glo Spa, the cream bath, a traditional Indonesian hair-conditioning and massage treatment, is a lavish way to partake in a local ritual.

Yoga is a big draw on Bali, of course, and there are plenty of places to practice in Canggu. Desa Seni is an enchanting, flower-filled enclave of thatched cabins and Javanese-style wooden villas known as joglos. Holistic retreats are held here, but the wide range of yoga classes—from bhakti flow to Kundalini—is also open to non-guests. You may want to stay for lunch, too: The organic gardens on the property supply most of the ingredients for the kitchen, which serves Indonesian fusion cuisine with a health-food boost.

For a total reboot, the Practice offers lessons and life-coaching for yogis of all levels. It’s hard to beat the restorative effect of practicing your asanas in a breezy bamboo studio on the Balinese coast, surrounded by people from around the world—all infused with Canggu’s uniquely inspiring energy.


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