Nusa Penida: Bali’s Last Wild Territory

Nusa Penida is in my opinion a must-see of a trip to Bali : the views over the island cliff are stunning and the diving is the best you can find in Bali.

For decades Nusa Penida remained out of the tourist scene, hampered by its lack of water and the Balinese belief that it was the abode of demons. Tourism finally reached the island a few years ago and tremendous changes are ongoing.

Update July 19 : tourism has experienced a huge boom in Nusa Penida since I wrote this article. Local newspapers reports that visitors now queue for up to 1 hour to take pictures of themselves in front of Kelingking beach (article).

Since July 19, visitors to Nusa Penida, Ceningan and Lembongan are required to pay a 25’000Rp fee per person (paid one time and valid for all three islands, source).

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How to go from Bali to Nusa Penida

Practical tips

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Kelingking beach and West of Nusa Penida

The western tip of Nusa Penida is the most visited part of the island. I advise that you spent one day visiting the following spots.

The road to go there is in fairly good condition.

Pasir Uuh (Broken Beach)

A beautiful arch over an azure lagoon. You will see many boats pass by because it’s located just a few miles before the first of the 2 Manta Points.

Parking fee for motorbikes: 5,000Rp.

Billabong’s Angel

Don’t trust the beauty of this natural pool, it has claimed a heavy death toll. Waves can be high enough to crash into the place and then sweep you away. In March 17, 2 people died again.

It’s within walking distance of Pasir Uuh.

Kelingking beach

To my opinion (and given the beach popularity on Instagram, I don’t think I’m the only one), it’s the most stunning view of all Bali. There is a stairs to access the beach but it’s very steep.

Parking fee for motorbikes: 10,000Rp.

Crystal Bay

A nice bay famous to be one the best place to spot oceanic sun fishes (mola mola) while diving. The rock standing in the middle of the bay features a small hindu temple that is still used for ceremony from time to time.

Given I dived a few times there, I didn’t go there last time I was in Penida. I’ll try to make pictures another time.

Crystal is good for sunbathing but also for snorkelling

South-West of Nusa Penida

Another day is enough to cover the following attractions. Be ready to walk up and down to access the beach down the cliffs.

Atuh Beach

A nice beach for relaxing. There is one access by the North and one by the South.

The picture above has been taken while coming from the South. A few meters behind, you have a really nice view over the cliffs.

Parking fee for motorbikes: 10,000Rp.

Suwehan beach

This one was pretty much a disappointment. When I went there, the tide was high and I was barely possible to go the beach. It was even a bit dangerous.

If you take the road that passes through the hill inland (by opposition to the coastal road that will take you first to Pantai Atuh), be prepared for a bad road on the last kilometers. The slope is really steep.

Some nice temples and views can be seen on the way though.

The interior

The interior of Nusa Penida is rather empty and feels almost uninhabited. Few roads even crosses the island, prefering to follow the coast

Snorkeling and diving in Nusa Penida

In my opinion, Nusa Penida has the best snorkeling and diving of Bali. Actually, if you take a diving or a snorkeling trip from Lembongan you are very likely to spend most of your time around Penida.

I went to Lembongan twice for diving, so I never booked a snorkeling trip on top of it. I had a great experience in Una-Una with Sanctum Diving, which later opened a diveshop in Nusa Penida ; I fully recommend them.

Penida offers the opportunity to spot manta ray almost year round. From July to October, it is also the best place in Indonesia to spot oceanic sunfishes (mola mola). Otherwise, there is a good mix of “regular” dive spots : mostly fair reefs and a couple of good drifts.

If you plan to take an open water course in Bali, Penida/Lembongan is the best place to do it (I covered the topic here)

How to go from Bali to Nusa Penida ?

From Sanur, many speedboats operate all day long. I think that they are all more or less equivalent. In 2017, the cheapest option was offered by Mola Mola Express (one way locals : 75’000Rp / foreigners : 125’000Rp) from Sanur to Sampalan harbor.

From Padangbai, ASDP operates a ferry that costs around 25’000Rp one way. The ferry makes 2 round trip a day :

  • Sampalan 6:30AM – Padangbai 7:30AM. Returns 8:30AM-9:30AM.
  • Padangbai : 3:30PM – Sampalan 4:30PM. Returns 5:30PM-6:30PM.

There are also a couple of companies operating from other harbors :

From Pesinggahan beach (near Goa Lawah), Caspla Boat Bali makes 3 trips a day (from Pesinggahan beach departure at 7:30AM, 1:30PM, 4PM, from Buyuk departure at 7AM, 1PM, 3PM) fro 50’000Rp per person.

From Kusamba harbor (also called Tribuana harbor), Gangga Express makes a couple of trip each day for 50’000Rp (local) / 100’000Rp (foreigners) one way. A couple of traditional boats (sampan) also leave irregularly for about 25’000Rp per person.

Boats between Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan

Just go to Topayakeh pier and ask around. You can either wait for the “classic” boat to leave (basically any time there is enough passengers) or charter your own boat.

The “classic” boat will cost you 50,000Rp per person. Chartering a boat about 200,000Rp (large enough for 6 to 8 people). If you want to share a private boat with other people, form your party before going to the pier.

I went to the pier and asked a girl waiting in front of a restaurant if she wanted to share a boat with me. She told me she had already chartered one. I found her captain and he refused to take me even though I offered him to add some money on top of what she paid. The captain explained to me that they have an agreement with other operators to share the revenue of tourism. As a consequence he wouldn’t let me go with him because he wanted me to charter my own boat (so I waited for the normal one).

Boats will drop you between Ceningan and Lembongan next to the yellow bridge.

Practical tips

Accomodation and scooter rental

For sure, by the time you read this articles several new accomodations would have open in Nusa Penida. Last time I visited (early 2017), I slept in a cabin in the tree for 150,000Rp in Buyuk. The name of the place is treehouse.

They were renting motorbike for 70,000Rp/day. This seems to be the standard rate in Nusa Penida.

How long to stay in Nusa Penida ?

2 days seems a very minimum to explore Nusa Penida. You could spend one day cruising the island by motorbike, enjoying the different cliff views and another one on a snorkeling trip.

A few years ago, when accomodation and dive operators were almost all located in Nusa Lembongan, it was much more practical to stay there. With the growth of tourism in Penida, it now makes more sense to skip Lembongan/Ceningan and to focus on Nusa Penida instead.

Yet, if you are not in a rush, I think it’s well worth adding a couple of days exploring Nusa Lembongan and Ceningan

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