Beyond Bali: Guide to Nusa Penida
Looking for a guide to Nusa Penida (AKA: Indonesia’s secret treasure)? Well look no further — we got you covered!
The dramatic coastal landscapes, off-the-beaten-track beaches and laid back atmosphere of the islands of Nusa Penida, Lembongan and Ceningan are a world away from the buzzing beach resorts of Bali.
From exploring the islands by scooter, to diving with Manta Rays and hiking down to the insta-famous Kelingking beach, those that make the short ferry ride from Bali won’t be disappointed.
First up, here are my top tips for what to see and do in Nusa Penida, the largest – and most popular – of the three islands. You can see most of the sights in a day, but a couple of days is best to make the most out of your trip.
The island is nowhere near as developed as Bali, which makes it all the more attractive to adventurers – especially when half the challenge is getting around the island and trying to find all the best sights.
Guide to Nusa Penida: How to get there
Nusa Penida is easy to get to from Bali and takes around half an hour by ferry from Sanur Harbour in southeast Bali, which is around 45 minutes’ drive from Seminyak and an hour from Canggu.
It’s best to organise your tickets in advance from a tour operator or through your hostel or hotel as this usually includes pick up and drop off each way. If you’re coming from Nusa Lembongan, there is a ferry that leaves every hour from the Yellow Bridge.
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Guide to Nusa Penida: How to get around
If you’re competent on a scooter, this is the best way to get around, but beware the roads are seriously sketchy and the bikes for hire are not exactly in the best condition.
Many people have accidents happen here and you are a long way from the nearest hospital, so wear a helmet!
You can rent a bike for around 65,000 to 70,000 Rupiah. You can also organise tours in a car that take you to all the main sights if you would prefer to take it easy.
Guide to Nusa Penida: Don’t Miss
To help organise your trip, here’ a couple of places you won’t want to miss in Nusa Penida:
It’s likely that you’ve seen Kelingking beach many times before on Instagram, having become quite the Insta hotspot in the last few years thanks to the headland’s T-Rex-like shape and idyllic crescent of pure white sand.
Most come for the iconic headland shot, but it is so worth the trek down to the absolutely blow-your-mind-beautiful beach below.
It’s not an easy descent to say the least – parts are more like abseiling down a sheer cliff. You’ll be dripping with sweat by the time your feet hit the sand, but the challenge to get here is what makes it so special.
It is definitely up there as one of my all-time favourite beaches!
Top tips: do not wear flip flops! If you slip and hurt yourself, you’re a long way from help.
Also, the beach is home to a pretty impressive shorebreak – so only venture near the waves if you’re a strong swimmer (timing is everything!) and when the waves aren’t too big.
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Another of the island’s now-famous spots is Angel’s Billabong – a natural rockpool at low tide.
When the water recedes, it reveals a beautiful formation of rocks and a kaleidoscopic pattern of blues and greens.
It’s forbidden to swim here, as the crashing waves at the edge of the rockpool are pretty deadly, but people still do when it is safe to do so. Just make sure to stay well away from the edge (several tourists have died over the years).
Top tips: Make sure to time your visit with the tide to ensure it’s not a wasted visit! You can check sites like magicseaweed to do so.
Try to avoid midday when crowds will be at their worst. Also, if you’re on a scooter, this is one of the toughest rides so go slow and be careful – the road is more like a dirt track covered with orange-sized rocks. Yep, it will definitely hurt if you fall off.
Diving Manta Point and Crystal Bay
Nusa Penida is heaven for divers, who come to see one gentle giant in particular: the manta ray.
The array of marine life that you can see is incredible and despite experiencing more crowds under the surface than I have experienced elsewhere in Indonesia.
To be fair it is a hard follow on from Sumatra – it still isn’t on the tourism radar and the water clarity was out of this world, but the moment when this regal creature floated by me will stay with me forever.
I hoped I could see a dugong, who are known to frequent the area, but I didn’t get lucky this time.
Pura Goa Giri Putri Cave
It’s fair to say that I have seen my fair share of temples, but never one quite like Pura Goa Giri Putri Cave, located on the northeastern tip of the island.
Yep, you’ve guessed it – it’s completely underground, in a colossal cavern that seems to go on for miles.
Like something that wouldn’t look out of place in Aladdin, you enter the cave via a small opening in the rock and then descend down a staircase.
The temple is has six praying spots and is beautifully-decorated with marble sculptures and the classic Balinese finery.
Broken Beach is a beautiful cove characterised by its towering cliffs and a perfect arch where the ocean flows through – hence the name.
A few minutes’ walk from Angel’s Billabong, this photogenic sight is one of the most popular in the island.
Although you can’t swim here, it’s a great spot to sit and take in the beauty of the turquoise ocean and crashing waves below.
These are just my five top highlights, but there is so much more to see, depending on how much time you have on your hands. I can’t wait to return and explore even more!
Have you been to Nusa Penida? What are your highlights? Comment below.