Although a fairly new contender, Nusa Penida is quickly creeping its way up the top of the list of Bali’s most popular tourist destinations. The jaw dropping coast lines, unusual landscape and milky blue waters are drawing daily visitors in by the hundreds. Although it’s easy enough to jump on a pre-organised (and very expensive) day tour, the best way to explore this undiscovered and stunning island is without a doubt by doing it yourself. Ditch the tour guides, find some cheap accommodation, grab a scooter and the island is yours for the taking.
Travelling to Nusa Penida from Bali is very easy. Most tour operators or hotels in any Balinese spot will be able to organise transport for you, which normally consists of a hotel pick up and transfer to the harbour, a boat ride across from Sanur to Penida and another taxi transfer to your Penida accommodation. We travelled from Lullaby Bungalows in Ulu Watu (south of Bukit Peninsula) and a return trip cost two of us 500,000 IDR, which gives you a rough idea of what prices to expect. There are a few boat trips that go out each day, I personally always prefer the early ones as there’s less traffic about, plus you get the travelling out of the way which means more time left in the day for the juicy fun stuff.
The main strip of Nusa Penida is in the North, starting at the boat harbour and running parallel to the sea, along the full width of the top of the island. The majority of accommodation and dining options lie here, and if you like convenience this is a good place to head. We were after something a little more remote and we discovered exactly that at the beautiful Ananta Bungalows. Made up of just 3 little bungalows and surrounded by dense rows of coconut trees which spill on to the gorgeous Crystal Bay, this place was my kind of heaven on earth. Putu the owner is lovely and will go out of her way to ensure you have a wonderful stay. The location is second to none, only a 5 minute walk to the beach which boasts the best sunsets on the island. You have to travel a little further for food options, our favourite was Warung Jungle (15 minute scooter ride away) which had the most delicious fresh seafood BBQ’s.
What to do…
Where to begin! First thing you need to know is that Nusa Penida is ENORMOUS! What looks like a tiny island on the map (from my point of view anyway) is actually a very substantial land mass with very few roads, all of which are in pretty bad condition. This means exploring takes a little longer than normal so you need to plan ahead and try to visit spots that are all situated near to each other, to minimise travelling time. You can get taxis to take you around but you’ll have a much more private, unique and exciting adventure if you take a scooter and go off by yourself. (However I’d also recommend bringing a towel to sit on to ease the discomfort of hours of riding across bumpy roads!)
Overall I’d recommend at least four days to really make the most of this amazing island. A day to explore each of the Eastern, Southern and Western sides of the island, plus another day for scuba diving because the currents around these parts bring some pretty epic sea-life in, like mola-molas, mantas, dolphins and sharks. We could’ve happily spent at least another week here, as once you’ve finished exploring it’s the perfect place to slow down, kick back and take it all in.
Here are a few of my favourite spots in Nusa Penida…
Crystal Bay – a beautiful beach lined with hundreds of palm trees means that you’ll have more fresh coconuts to drink than you can shake a stick at. If you get sick of coconuts there are plenty of bintangs on offer too, which go down pretty well at sunset. This is also an epic spot for snorkelling and scuba diving, just be a little wary of the currents.
Angel’s Billabong – this is an absolute gem of a rock pool and is best experienced first thing in the morning, before the hordes of crowds arrive. Watch out for your tootsies as there are lots of urchins about.
Atuh Beach – don’t let the cliff scaling put you off, this beach is so stunning once you get down to it and it’s easy to see how days would melt into weeks at a place like this. There’s a couple of rustic beach huts to keep you fed and watered too, so you have no reason to leave.
Peguyangan Waterfall – not so much a waterfall, I’d call it more of a natural spring with a small bathing pool located at the bottom of a very steep cliff. The views were absolutely incredible all the way down but it’s not a trek for the faint hearted, as the rusty stairs are broken in places and it’s a reeeeally long climb, but it is gorgeous once you get down there.
Kelingking Beach – also known as ‘t-rex rock’ this amazing landscape is a super popular one for tourists to visit, and you can see why as the views are stunning. You can walk all the way down to the beach (about a 40 minute climb) but the stairs are very broken and it’s pretty hairy in places, so I chose to admire the unbelievably turquoise waters from above.
Broken Beach – just a 5 minute walk up from Angel’s Billabong, Broken Beach is a beautiful natural bridge that runs over bright blue waters. If you’re lucky you can spot Mantas from here so keep your eye out!
The Treehouses near Atuh Beach – although extremely difficult to find, these awesome treehouses are definitely worth a visit – especially at sunset. We were lucky enough to meet the man that built them and share a bintang with him at the top of the cliff near his home. He’s a very chatty guy and loves to get to know the tourists that are fascinated with his little treehouses, so try and find him to say hello when you visit.