If you are a frequent Bali traveler, you probably have heard of Nusa Lembongan island. You might have even heard of the famous yellow bridge that collapsed between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. But until now few people know of the largest of the three islands off the southeastern coast of Bali, Nusa Penida. On the island, it almost feels like time has stopped. This is how I would imagine Bali’s mainland being 20 years ago before tourism flocked its shores. Here you can still witness some of nature’s most amazing wonders without having to queue in line to take a photo. Although I would love to keep this beautiful and rugged island a secret, I feel the need to honor the island by sharing the wonders of one of Bali’s last hidden gems.
Nusa Penida is known for its beautiful beaches, cliffs, and underwater caves, which make it a popular destination for diving and snorkeling. The island is also home to a number of temples and traditional villages, offering visitors a chance to learn about the local culture and history. Nusa Penida is relatively undeveloped compared to the nearby island of Bali, which adds to its appeal for travelers looking for a more rustic and natural experience.
If you are staying in the more touristy areas in South Bali, you should opt for departing from Sanur. If you want to make the journey in a more local style, you can catch a public slow boat from Sanur Harbor at around 8am for the cost of 60 000 IDR one way. The slow boat might take quite a while, so another alternative is to hop on a speedboat. Maruti departs at 8am, 10am and 4pm and costs 150 000 IDR one way. Kaspla departs at 11am, 2pm and 4.30pm and costs 200 000 IDR one way. You can find the ticketing offices for both in front of Ananda Beach Hotel at the harbor. The speedboat trip will take around 30 minutes. If you want the full monty, with pick-up from your accommodation, return speedboat tickets and drop-off on your way back to mainland, you can book it here for 500 000 IDR.
If you are staying on the eastern coast, around Tulamben, Amed or Candidasa, the closest port of departure is Padang Bai. There is a daily public boat service that carries around 20 people and will depart when it’s full. You should be at the beach side at the harbour at 6.30am to catch the speedboat. The cost is 40 000 IDR one way. The trip will take around 45 minutes. If you wish to bring your bike with you or don’t mind spending 2 hours on a boat, you can hop on the daily public ferry for only 16 000 IDR one way. Bear in mind that instead of the tourist harbor, the public ferry will dock at Toyapakeh, Nusa Penida.
As Nusa Penida is still fairly unknown, tourist accommodation options are not that plentiful. Most of the cheaper accommodation is located in the villages, and the sounds from the mosque (yes, there is one in Toyapakeh even though the island is mainly Hindu) can get a bit overwhelming at times. You can get a simple bungalow for around 150 000-250 000 IDR per night. For example Dragonfly Bed and Breakfast and The Mel Homestay have received good reviews. If you wish to find something mid-range with pool around the main area, Ring Sameton Resort Hotel fits the bill. A night in an air-conditioned room costs around 550 000 IDR per night.
For accommodation in the Crystal Bay area, your best bet would be Bintang Bungalow. A night in their air-conditioned double room sets you back around 650 000 IDR. For a really unique experience away from the hustle and bustle is Rumah Pohon Tree House. For around 550 000 IDR you can spend a night in a beautiful tree house. My favourite accommodation on the island has to be Agung View. It is run by a lovely local family and the views from the pool on the hill are magnificent. You can choose to stay in either a room, suite or villa, prices start from around 750 000 IDR per night.
If you are an experienced driver I recommend you to rent a motorbike (or take your own with you on the public ferry from Padang Bai). The roads can be bumpy, slippery and covered in loose rocks, which can make it quite dangerous to reach the more secluded spots. A motorbike sets you back around 60 000-80 000 IDR per day. If you are not comfortable with your driving skills or don’t want to sit on a bike for hours on end, hire a driver/guide who knows his way around the island and can take you to all the best spots. A car and driver can be rented for around 450 000-600 000 IDR for a full day.
Nusa Penida is home to crystal clear waters, some of the most beautiful reefs in Indonesia and an abundance of marine life. If you want to be able to witness manta rays, the majestic, friendly creatures of the sea, book yourself on a diving or snorkeling trip to Manta Point, Manta Bay and Crystal Bay. With good luck you can also spot the reclusive Oceanic Sunfish (Mola Mola). The season is generally considered to be from late July into November, but these creatures can be spotted sporadically throughout the year. The currents here can get really strong and divesites are challenging, so diving is only advised for more experienced divers.
Peguyangan Waterfall offers you an infinity pool with stunning ocean views. Instead of being a towering vertical torrent it’s a series of short, cascading spring fountains that eventually make their way down a steep ravine and into the ocean. The cascades make for the perfect natural spa. Reaching the waterfall’s natural pool requires a steep descent down narrow stairs some 460 steps, but it the exhilarating view is worth the effort. To find the waterfall, hiring a guide or a well-informed driver is recommended. Another natural infinity pool can be found at Angel’s Billabong. With its emerald hues and clear waters, Angel’s Billabong is a perfect secret getaway. This little lagoon, set in the middle of volcanic rock, has a bottom so perfect that it feels almost walking on carpet. The place is a selfie-queen’s heaven, but you must beware of the strong waves which have swept people into the sea. Located down the path from Pasih Uug (Broken Beach) and a half-kilometre walk from Manta Point, you might want to hire a guide just to make sure you get there safe. You can find natural pools also in the middle of the forest on the way to sacred Temeling Beach. There are separate pools for men and women.
Nestled deep within Bali’s largest know natural limestone cave lie more than five temples collectively known as Goa Giri Putri or Princess Cave Temple. This temple is of particular importance to Balinese Hindus and is visited regularly by local people from all over Bali. Uniquely, this cave hosts a temple dedicated to both Hindu and Buddhist religions. As this is a sacred and active temple, you’re required to wear a sarong and sash before beginning your climb to the cave entrance. To get in you have to squeeze through a tiny entrance and you must watch your step inside as it can be slippery, but you’ll be rewarded with a very unique experience. The temple is located past Sampalan towards Suana and clearly marked.
On Nusa Penida, you can find some hidden beaches that require some or a lot of effort to reach. Atuh Beach is probably the most famous one, due to its popularity on Instagram photos. The bumpy and slightly treacherous drive along the coast offers stunning views of the ocean, small villages, and windy mountain roads. You are required to descend down a steep, crude path to reach the beach, but on arrival, you’ll be greeted by turquoise sea lapping onto the white-sand beach. You’ll get to admire the unique rock formation right off the shore as the icing on the cake. Crystal Bay is a popular spot for tour boats shuttling tourists on snorkeling and diving trips. Apart from that, the beach is quite empty and offers great snorkeling opportunities. The roads there are pretty clearly marked and quite easy to drive.
Although it is called Pasih Uug (Broken Beach) it isn’t actually a proper beach, although you can get there by boat. The uniqueness of this place is due to a geological phenomenon. The place actually used to be a cave. The floor of the cave collapsed, creating the arch we see and admire today. The hole in the cliff allowed ocean waters to flow through – creating a gorgeous natural pool on the other side to gawk at. The spot can be found on Jl Batu Nunggul close to Angel’s Billabong. Close by you can find also another majestic natural phenomenon: Pasih Andur (Smoke beach) is a place on the top of a cliff where the rock breaks the wave and jets the water into the air. This is the perfect place for witnessing the power of the ocean, feeling the adrenaline pump in your veins, and taking a selfie or two with the huge waves behind you if you dare.
Nusa Penida is well-known for its birds, so many bird watchers flock to the island to visit the Bali Bird Sanctuary. The sanctuary’s primary wildlife focus is protecting and rebuilding wild populations of endangered Indonesian birds, including Bali Starling, Java Sparrow, Lesser Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, and Mitchell’s Lorikeet. During your trip, I recommend you pay a visit to the sanctuary to learn about and witness these winged beauties.