What do you picture when you think of Bali? For me it was an exotic island filled with jungles, waterfalls, and beaches. Bali villa rentals, cheeky monkeys, friendly locals, and a touch of magic. A tropical escape with affordable luxury.
It was all of the above, but as I wandered the stylish streets of Seminyak and the rice terraces surrounding Ubud, splashed through the Tibumana waterfall, and dove the incredible Liberty Wreck, I felt like something was missing. Sure, Bali was beautiful. But, for me, it was missing the off the beaten track adventure that I craved.
Thankfully, I found a fix. My friend Chantae and I planned on travelling together and doing some diving. We heard about a small island just off the coast of Bali called Nusa Penida. Not only was it away from the tourists, but if offered tons of adventure, and some great dive sites. We spent two days on the island and although it didn’t quite go as planned, the day we spent motorbiking around the island was one of my all-time favourites travel days.
So if you too find yourself in need of a more adventurous break away from the main island of Bali, head over to Nusa Penida and add the following to your must-do list.
Rent a Motorbike
The only way to get around this island is by motorbike. If you’ve done it before, great! If you haven’t… well nor did I, and I survived. The ride is beautiful and the roads are pretty quiet. What you do need to watch out for are the pot holes, sandy bits, and gravel piles. Those got both Chantae and I leaving us with matching scars on our legs. Trust me when I tell you to consider wearing long pants not shorts, because picking rocks out of your skin with a needle (no doc on the island!) was an adventure in itself.
*Motorbikes can be rented by your accommodation- make sure to get a helmet as well!
Take a Swim at Crystal Bay
Crystal Bay is a must when in Nusa Penida. White, sandy beaches surrounded by jungle and grassy fields with grazing cows. There are very few people actually on the beach, however you may notice quite a few boats with snorkelers out in the bay. That’s because there’s a pretty coral reef in the area so if you have a mask and snorkel, or the opportunity to rent one at your accommodation- bring it!
* There is no fee for going to the beach, however you will probably be charged a minimal amount to park your motorbike.
Getting to Tembelin was the most adventurous part of our journey. The roads on Nusa Penida can be a bit confusing, so we stopped at one point to ask for help. A friendly local pointed us in the right direction but warned us to be very careful along the path.
The path was insane. On one side was a big rock wall, the other; a cliff edge dropping into a deep canyon below. Oh, and the path itself is about as wide a sidewalk.
I was slightly terrified yet somehow we made it (both up and down) without any incidents.
At the end of the slippery path of death are a couple dozen stairs down to a fresh water pool, perfect for swimming, and a hidden Hindu temple. According to local myth, the area is believed to be inhabited by demons.
* There is a small entrance fee to visit Tembelin
Manta Point is the name of the dive site that Nusa Penida is famous for. But, while it’s a great spot for divers, the cliffs around it provide an awesome viewing area for those exploring the island. Expect beautiful coastal views and, if you are lucky, a glimpse at some mantas in the waves below.
*If you do plan on diving, do your diving from Nusa Lembongan which is just a couple minute boat ride away. Chantae and I actually left Nusa Penida Dive Centre because of the poor treatment of equipment and unprofessional dive staff.
Now, I will be completely honest and tell you that it was at this point that, literally one after the other, Chantae and I both crashed our bikes. No major damage was done, however we were both left with shredded knees, hands, and arms. Between the blood, rocks, and dirt we looked like extras for a zombie film. So, understandably so, we decided to call it a day and head back to our lodging. However, if you are lucky enough not to have crashed by this point, there’s still more to see. So keep on going.
You will probably recognize Atuh Beach from the photos if you have done any Nusa Penida research ahead of time. The view from the top of the cliffs makes it look like sandy crescent moon against the turquoise waves and while I sadly can’t speak from experience, those that have been say it is stunning. Based off of their photos, I can’t help but agree.
Broken Beach and Billabong
Broken Beach is a rock formation (not a beach). The natural bridge spanning the blue waters below is one of the highlights of Nusa Penida. Right by Broken Beach is one of the island’s biggest draws: Billabong. Billabong is a natural pool that can be reached down a path from Broken Beach. The little lagoon is set in craggy volcanic rock that is filled by the crashing waves. *It is a stunning photo opportunity, but be careful; people have been swept out by the waves.
Nusa Penida is an amazing island and if you are looking for adventurous off the beaten track adventures in Bali, this is where to find it. However, keep in mind that it is big, and the roads are pretty rough. So, be careful driving, take your time, and keep an eye on the clock. If you find yourself staying awhile in some of these spots, consider staying an extra day to explore more. You won’t be disappointed.