Unlike the neighboring islands of Nusa Lembongan and Bali, the spectacularly beautiful Nusa Penida Island is a tricky place to travel to independently without doing a little planning in advance.
For a start, there is little public transport available; even taxis are hard to come by. Lots of tourists rent motorbikes when they get to Nusa Penida, because it’s truly the easiest way to get around.
However, I must mention a forewarning – it’s not like scooting around Bali or Nusa Lembongan. The roads are WILD; extremely windy, narrow, at times rocky and full of potholes. I wouldn’t feel comfortable scooting around the majority of the island other than just in a small area near where I stayed.
Most people see the main sights of the island on a guided tour. This way, you’re guaranteed to get around the island safely without having to worry about petrol, directions, or any other potential bumps in the road – no pun intended.
Before arriving to the island, you can either choose to:
Get to Nusa Penida yourself, organize a fast boat to take you roundtrip from Sanur to the island, spend a few nights on the island, and book your tour while you’re there.
Take a one day trip to Nusa Penida from Bali, squeezing everything into about 10 hours, depending on traffic. (You can also do a 2-day tour from Bali that includes Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan. This tour includes an overnight stay on Lembongan, plus snorkeling on both Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida.)
I opted to do my own research and find a driver on my own after looking through reviews on TripAdvisor. You can also ask your hotel to book a tour for you once you get to the island.
How to Get There
The only way to get to the surrounding islands of Nusa Lembongan, Penida, and the famous Gili Islands are to depart from the ferry port in Sanur. Many people only know the town of Sanur to be the port of access to and from their next destination, but Sanur is a gem; once a quiet fisherman village, you can find healthy cafes, yoga, massages, and white sand beaches with fewer crowds.
You can research fast boats and ferry boats ahead of time to go from Sanur to Nusa Penida, or you can simply show up to the harbor and jump on the next available boat. There are an overwhelming number of fast boat crew soliciting their boats from the moment you step out of your taxi.
The average cost of the fastboats roundtrip from Sanur to Nusa Penida is about $25 roundtrip. The ride takes approximately 45 minutes one way to get to the island. You can pay slightly more to have the company take you to and from your hotel, otherwise you can arrange with your hotel from the port on the island if you don’t want to hassle with bargaining with the local taxis.
Once you’re on the island, you can either rent a scooter at the port (approx. 5 USD/day – see below in the blog for safety tips) or you can find a taxi to take you to your accommodation. I would advise saving a drivers card so you can contact them later, because it’s near impossible to call a taxi anywhere on the island. You can also arrange beforehand to be picked up if your hotel offers a pick-up service.
What To Do
The best thing to do on Nusa Penida (and one of the only things) is to take a tour of the most popular destinations on the island. Usually I’m not into tours, but on a fairly undeveloped island, getting around can be difficult and it’s much easier having a guide with you.
Your hotel can also easily arrange a tour of the island for you once you check in, unless you arranged the tour ahead of time as I suggested above.
There are two main tours to choose between: Nusa Penida West and Nusa Penida East.
What You’ll See on Nusa Penida West Tour:
Angel’s Billabong: A natural tidal pool, swimmable at low tide at your own risk.
Broken Beach: An inaccessible, yet stunning beach with an impressive stone archway to walk across and panoramic views.
Kelingking Beach: The most beautiful “secret” beach I’ve ever seen with a natural rock formation resembling a T-Rex.
Crystal Bay: A great beach for swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, and hanging out in the small waves.
Broken Beach, Nusa Penida
Broken Beach Nusa Penida is one of many amazing locations on the island and it is not to be missed! The natural bridge stretches over turquoise waters that flow in and out of the natural archway, hence the name Broken Beach.
Although you can’t go swimming at Broken Beach Nusa Penida it is such an unreal setting in itself. The ocean water flows into a natural bowl that is surrounded by towering cliffs. You can take a panoramic walk all the way around Broken Beach to several different viewpoints offering incredible views of this hole in the cliff.
Perched on the cliff side you can find small warungs for a nasi goreng, morning coffee or a refreshing coconut!
Kelingking Beach, Nusa Penida
Gazing over the edge at the incredible rock formation, it’s unfathomable to think you’d be able to access the beach way down below; but you can! There is a trail, if it can be called that.
It dips down off the plateau and onto the ridge that juts out into the sea. At the beginning, it is fairly steep and precarious, with low fences made of branches lining each side.
Crystal Bay, Nusa Penida
Diving into the crystal blue water and washing off the accumulated sunscreen and sweat from the day touring Nusa Penida was the most rewarding plunge in the world. Crystal Bay made the perfect end to a tour which was, without a doubt, well worth the time and money.
Tip: Book your tour to start as early as you can. We managed to get to the destinations just ahead of most other people. For me, getting to Kelingking first was the best place to start. There’s no way I’d walk down those steps if there were a ton of people clambering in front of and behind me.
This particular Nusa Penida West tour cost us 700K IDR (60 USD) for a car and driver for a full day. I arranged the tour a few days before I wanted to go to ensure availability. This tour did not include entrance fees.
What You’ll See on Nusa Penida East Tour:
Atuh Beach: A simply gorgeous white sand beach; iconic to Nusa Penida. On the sandy shores of Atuh Beach are a number of small vendors who sell coconuts, nasi goreng and other snacks and beers. Other spectacular locations are Thousand Islands Viewpoint and Rumah Pohon Tree House.
Raja Lima: A small shrine at the edge of the island wit a breathtaking view overlooking Atuh Beach and surrounding islands.
Gili Putri Cave: A Balinese Hindu cave temple. You enter through a narrow passage that will take you into a huge cave. The complete course of purification involves a dozen stations in the cave and lasts about 2h30. But you will probably decide to go faster!
Teletubbies Hills: Green rolling hills named for their resemblance to the Teletubbies’ home.
Tip: The Nusa Penida East tour is a better (however slightly more expensive) option for those who can’t stand crowds, as the West tour is the more popular option between the two.
WHAT IS INCLUDED ON A TOUR?
The most basic tour for $60 USD includes:
- Car, tour guide, and driver for a full day
- Transportation to Angel’s Billabong, Broken Beach, Kelingking Beach, Crystal Bay
- All entry fees and parking fees
There are more expensive options for tours which may include lunch, a towel, and a bigger car if necessary for larger groups, costing around 80 USD for the day.
WHAT SHOULD YOU BRING ON A NUSA PENIDA TOUR?
- Bathing suit & towel – you can swim at Kelingking and Crystal Bay
- Suncreen – most of the day you’ll be in direct sunlight
- Lots of water – it’s easy to get dehydrated in the sun, especially with all the walking around
- Walking shoes other than flip-flops – the Kelingking climb is much easier in proper shoes
- Camera – to capture some of the best views in the world!
- A small backpack – don’t bring a big beach bag or purse, as you’ll need your hands free for hiking up and down the steps at Kelingking.
Tips For Visiting Nusa Penida Island
- You might want to re-consider renting a scooter:
- Unlike Nusa Lembongan and Bali, I would reconsider renting a scooter unless you’re extremely comfortable with driving in dangerous conditions. When you first get to Nusa Penida, you might be fooled by the perfectly paved beach road into thinking that driving a scooter there will be easy. However, once you get inland the roads transform into pot-holed messes, with sandy rocks, huge potholes, steep hills, and little or no asphalt.
- Everything is farther than it looks on the map:
- Even though the sights look close together on Google Maps, don’t rely on those distances. It takes about an hour to get between each stop when you’re on the tour. You’ll spend most of the day in the car, bumping and rattling your way from one destination to the next. Not to mention the number of traffic jams that incur on the typical one-car roads.
- Do some research about your accommodation before booking:
- After getting to the island, we were informed that most tourists stay on the southern part of the island. I didn’t see the area, but I would imagine there may be more restaurants and/or taxis.
- From where we stayed, there were NO taxis. For example, Semabu Hills, although a wonderful hotel, was slightly far from anything walkable. The hotel itself offered a ride in their golf cart for a fee ($10 USD for drop-off & pick-up), which means you’re almost forced to eat dinner at the hotel unless you have a scooter.
My Favorite Places on Nusa Penida
Many spots on the west coast will offer amazing sunset experience. One of the best places on the island to have a drink around the pool or have dinner in a treehouse while enjoying the sunset is Amok Sunset Bar & Restaurant.
This restaurant is definitely off the beaten path. You have to drive or take a scooter about 30 minutes down a very rocky road through the rainforest to arrive. It makes the experience even more unique, but take caution when returning back in the dark, especially if you’ve had a few to drink!
Semabu Hills Resort & Restaurant
Currently, Semabu Hills is rated the most luxurious hotel on the island. This is likely to change in the future though, seen as Nusa Penida is an upcoming tourism destination.
The Semabu Hills Hotel was actually one of the best value hotels I’ve ever stayed at for the quality. I only paid $75 per night for a massive suite including a amazingly delicious breakfast every morning, even drinks and dinner were very reasonably priced.
The hotel is located only a very short drive (under five minutes) from the boat pier of the fast boats to Bali. On the map it looks like an easy stroll of about half an hour, but it’s uphill all the way and there’s no footpath besides the road. Your best option is to contact the hotel as soon as you know the rough arrival time of your boat, and they’ll come and pick you up for free.
Singabu Bungalows Bar & Grill
Singabu serves as a lively bar & grille located right off the Main Street on the northern part of the island. You would have no idea that there are peaceful bungalows and a pool located in the garden behind the property!
The food and drinks in the restaurant were very reasonably priced, and there seemed to be live music playing every night during our stay. This was definitely one of the most popular places to be in the village.
Other essential information:
There is a cash economy on Nusa Penida so be sure to carry ample funds with you at all times. There are only a few ATMs on the island.
Pharmacies as we know them are not available on Nusa Penida.
Know where you want to go, and make sure you plan for transportation accordingly to take you to and from the port in Nusa Penida as sometimes (more often than not) there will be NO taxis.
The Traveling Yogi