When people from Yogyakarta need a break from the city they don’t head to the usual tourist destinations like Borobudur, Prambanan or Goa Jomblang. Instead they go to the coastal region of Gunung Kidul. This stretch of Javanese coastline, just a few hours from the city, has dozens of small beaches and hidden inlets. It’s the perfect place to spend a long weekend away from the bustle of the busy city.
To help you arrange a trip to the area we’ve written this guide to Gunung Kidul. We’ve tried to give you a quick summary of the area. We cover how to visit (and how long for), options for accommodation and most importantly the best places to visit. Let’s get started!
How to Get to Gunung Kidul
Gunung Kidul is 70 km south of Yogyakarta. It’s a 2,5 hour drive from Yogyakarta along new roads! A bit further along the coast is Pacitan, which is popular with surfers. As long as you have a GPS on your phone you can just drive there. Alternatively you can arrange a car rental with a driver from Yogyakarta and go on a day trip to the beaches.
You can visit the beaches of Gunung Kidul from Yogyakarta on a day trip. If you want to make a day of it you should leave Yogyakarta early in the morning (like 7 or 8) and head back to Yogyakarta around 4 pm. The problem with this itinerary is you arrive at the beaches in the heat of the day. It’s also quite tiring for the driver.
Where to Stay in Gunung Kidul
While you can visit Gunung Kidul on a day trip it’s a lot more fun to spend the weekend by the beach. Unfortunately options for accommodation here are quite limited. Most of the hotels are around the town of Wonosari, which is a 30 minute drive from the beach. The hotels are normally basic, but clean. Check out Griya Limasan on Booking to get an idea of what to expect.
You’ll find plenty of small hotels and guesthouses closer to the beaches. Most of the accommodation in the area varies from ok to uninhabitable (I almost spent a night in a hotel room with bats). The best of the bunch is Kampoeng Baron. The hotel rooms are in traditional Javanese style Joglo houses. The decor is beautiful.
Best Beaches of Gunung Kidul
If you’re visiting Gunung Kidul on a day trip there’s a good chance you’ll come to the Gondola at Timang Beach. The Gondola connects the mainland with a rocky outcrop 30 meters or so off the coast. It was built by lobster fishermen who wanted an easy way to get to the rocky outcrop to place their traps and is now a popular tourist destination. You can read more about the Gondola and the Beach in our Timang Beach Guide.
While Timang Beach is the most popular place with tourists, Ngrenehan Beach is my favourite. The beach is in a sheltered cove surrounded by steep cliffs. The ocean is calm and there’s almost no current, which makes it one of the only beaches in Gunung Kidul where it’s actually safe to swim (there’s a strong rip current along the whole coastline). It’s a great place to paddle and watch the fishermen head out to sea.
I always end my day at Ngrenehan with a meal of rice, spicy sauce and fresh fish. You can order the fish from the small hut restaurants next to the beach. The setup is simple and the food is delicious. It’s the perfect way to end your day, before the long drive back to Yogyakarta.
Sadranan is a popular spot with Indonesian tourists. The sandy beach is wide and stretches for a hundred meters or so. It’s in a small bay and the waves are small compared to other beaches in the area. Just offshore you’ll find a few coral reefs where you can go snorkelling (there’s not really much to see though). There are plenty of nice stalls nearby where you can by young coconut and freshly cooked BBQ seafood.
Baron Beach faces the south. It is in a bay flanked by tall karst cliffs overlooking an expanse of sand. Next to the cliff near the entrance to the beach an underground river emerges into the sea. You can swim in the fresh water. Dozens of fishing boats are dragged up on the sand. On the way to the beach from the car park you’ll pass a row of stalls selling trinkets, tropical fish and other bits and bobs.
Krakal is the first surfing beach on this list. There are reef breaks, which are perfect for experienced surfers. Keep in mind the coral is sharp. You’ll always find a few local and Australian surfers out on the waves. There are some simple cheap guesthouses and simple restaurants serving fresh seafood nearby. The best time to visit for surfing is over Christmas and New Year (December-February).
Sepanjang Beach means “Long Beach” in Indonesian. Translated the name evokes images of Los Angeles. While it’s a world away from LA it is the longest beach in Gunung Kidul. The ocean next to the shore is shallow with coral reefs just offshore. It’s a place to wallow in the water rather than swim. There are a few simple huts along the shore where people serve seafood and snacks.
Ngobaran Beach is close to the fishing village of Kanigoro. It’s a small beach surrounded by high stone cliffs. On top one of the cliffs there’s a small Hindu Temple facing out to sea. You’ll also find a Buddhist Temple and a Mosque around here. If you visit make sure to try the local delicacy; sea urchins.
Gunung Kidul is famous for its caves and beaches. I’s a great place to visit if you want to surround yourself with nature. Make sure to join a Goa Jomblang tour if you’re visiting for a day trip. It combines well with Timang Beach (make sure to pick up some fresh lobster from the local village if you visit). Should you have more time I’d recommend staying overnight at Kampoeng Baron and exploring the beaches of Gunung Kidul.
Have you ever visited Gunung Kidul? What was your favourite beach? Share your thoughts with other travellers in the comments below.