Banyuwangi, located at the most-eastern edge of Java can boast yet another world class surf spot next to the already well known G-land at Plengkung: this is Pulau Merah Beach.
Pulau Merah Beach is so called since just some 100 meters to the side of the beach is a picturesque little hilly island called Pulau Merah, that is reachable on foot. This is situation is similar to the location of the island of Tanah Lot to the main island of Bali. But unlike at G-land where are found sharp coral rocks by the beach, the beach at Pulau Merah – or the Red Island Beach – is open sand so that it is also safe for beginner surfers.’
Compared to Bali’s Kuta Beach, surf here is stronger, offering large four meters high barrels with a length of 400 meters, ideal for surfers to try out tubing techniques. But since surf here comes in at an average of two meters height, beginners and amateur surfers alike can enjoy this beach. Whereas, the beaches at Plengkung and G-land should be ventured by professionals only.
Pulau Merah beach was originally known as Ringin Pitu. There are two versions for its name change. One version has it that because the color of the soil and sand are reddish, this is where it got its name from, while another story says that at one time some bright red rays shone from the small hilly Pulau Merah island onto the beach, thus giving it the name Pulau Merah beach.
Another feature of the beach is the nearby fishing village called Pancer, where you can stay at villagers homes. Their hospitality to visitors in spite of their simple life is truly heartwarming.
There are plenty of hawkers selling food on the beach, since the beach is quite close to the village. Cleanliness of surroundings and food seem to be adequately guarded.
Of course, more is available at Banyuwangi. Try the Rujak Soto which is Banyuwangi’s specialty. Others are pecel rawon, pecel kare, and rujak bakso. Soto is a soup mixed with coconut milk, while rujak is a mixture of cut fruit and vegetables. Pecel on the other hand is a dish of mixed boiled vegetables, while Bakso means beef or chicken balls.
If you wish to stay longer on the island, there are a number of homestays with rates starting around Rp 100.000. Your alternative choice is to stay at Banyuwangi.
The beach of Pulau Merah draws primarily surfers from around the world, but it has also become a favorite haunt for family holidays. Paragliding enthusiasts use the island’s hills to take off and glide down gracefully onto the beach.
There are also opportunities for parasailing, while surfboards can be rented for between Rp 25.000 to Rp 50.000 for the day.
Children love to play with the sand while others are active in beach volley, and other sports, and others again prefer to stroll down the beach or read a book in the shade, while enjoying the fresh air from the Indian Ocean.
When you wish to explore Pulau Merah Beach, head to Pura Tawang Alun temple. This Hindu temple was built in 1980 and is frequented by Hindus from the East Java’s Bromo mountain area as well as from Bali. Unfortunately, the 1994 tsunami destroyed the outer walls of the temple but the inner sanctuary (palinggih padmasana) has remained intact. During the tsunami a 13 meter wave swept across the village destroying all including parts of this temple.
During your explorations you will see people wearing bright green uniforms. These are gold miners, at a mine found near the shore. Local villagers, however, are opposed to its existence here since the mine pollutes the sea.
Pulau Merah Beach is one of the many attractive beaches found along the southern coast of East Java. To reach Pulau Merah Beach, you must first fly to Banyuwangi or you can also come in through the airports of Malang or Surabaya, capital of the province of East Java. Closest airport, however, is Banyuwangi.
Located some 60 km from Banyuwangi, the beach can be reached by car or motorbike in three hours, near the village of Sumberagung, in the subdistrict of Pesanggaran. Since acess roads are smooth, it has become a favorite weekend destination for Banyuwangi residents. It is advisable to hire a car at the airport of Belimbingsari since there are few public buses heading to Pulau Merah from here.
From the town of Banyuwangi you can take a bus to Ujang Jaya in the direction of Pesanggaran village. Alight at the Pesanggaran market then continue by “ojek” or motorbike taxi to Pulau Merah. From Jember, alight at the Jajag terminal, and connect with the bus to Pesanggaran.
May through December are best months to visit Pulau Merah beach for its dry weather, and these are also best months for surfing. Even if you yourself do not surf, it is quite exciting just watching surfers challenge the waves. While January through April the weather and sea conditions are not ideal for surfers, it is yet still enchanting to just visit this beach to enjoy its fresh sea breeze and watch the sun slowly set behind the hills west of Pulau Merah Beach.