I’m not going to lie, I am one of few people who didn’t love Bali. While the cheeky monkeys, magic men, and beautiful Bali villa rentals were interesting to see, it was too commercialized for me. I wanted off the beaten path adventure and I couldn’t seem to find it there. Thankfully, I met up with my friend Chantae who had heard good things about the nearby small island of Nusa Penida. According to her source, there were plenty of things to do in Nusa Penida, including scuba diving (the reason we both came to Indonesia to start with). Needless to say, we didn’t need much more convincing.
Chantae and I ended up spending two days on the island. I’ll be honest, it didn’t quite go as planned, but we both loved it. It was away from the crowds, it felt more local, and the day we spent motorbiking around Nusa Penida was one of my all-time favourites travel days. It was the Bali experience we had both been looking for.
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.
How to Get to Nusa Penida
If you are headed to Nusa Penida, you are probably coming from Bali or Nusa Lembongan. We came from Sanur, Bali and arrived by speed boat (took less than an hour). When we arrived to the port we purchased out tickets and were told to wait to for the boat. In typical SE Asian fashion, it ran later than expected (probably trying to fill it up). Please note that you do not board the boat from a dock. You have to walk (with your luggage) into the water and climb a ladder. The crew will help you with your bags but wear shorts so you don’t get soaked! There doesn’t seem to be a firm cost- like most things in Bali you can haggle. Because we took a speed boat it was a little more expensive, that being said we paid around $8USD each for the trip.
If you are coming from Nusa Lembongan it’s a much shorter trip (maybe abour 20 minutes). There are boats that will make the transfer or you can do what we did and barter with a local with a boat. We probably paid more than we should have (about $5USD each for a 20 minute ride) however we were in a hurry and got to go right away.
Best Things to do in Nusa Penida
Rent a Motorbike
The only way to get around Nusa Penida is by motorbike. If you’ve done it before, great! If you haven’t… well nor had 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 may want to consider wearing long pants not shorts, because picking rocks out of your skin with a needle (no doctors on the island!) was an adventure in itself.
*Check out this post for helpful tips on renting a motorbike in southeast asia.
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 with you!
* 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. Getting to Tembelin was probaby one of the scariest things to do in Nusa Penida. I was slightly terrified yet somehow we made it (both up and down) without any incidents, and it was worth it.
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. However the only mischief we found were a few local boys intent on cannonballing us.
* 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. There are lots of things to do in Nusa Penida, so trust me when I say you won’t be disappointed.
Need a Place to Stay?
Nusa Penida doesn’t have a ton of accommodations in comparison to Bali, but there are some great (and affordable!) guesthouses. Try one of the following:
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