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 Balinese villas were interesting to see, Bali wasn’t what I wanted. It was too westernized and didn’t feel authentic. 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.
Now, to be completely transparent, it has been a few years since I’ve been and, based on the photos I’ve seen lately, Nusa Penida seems a lot more popular now than it was in 2016. However, it’s still a far cry from how built up Bali is. So if you are looking for some off the beaten track adventure, here’s how to plan your own Nusa Penida tour.
How to Get to Nusa Penida from Bali
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 without having to wait for anyone.
Plan Your Own Nusa Penida Tour: How to Get Around Nusa Penida
The best 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.
Motorbike injuries aside, I had so much fun exploring Nusa Penida by bike because there are plenty of cool spots to see as you explore the island.
*Check out this post for helpful tips on renting a motorbike in southeast asia.
If you really don’t like the idea of renting a motorbike and exploring on your own, you can join a small group tour from Bali that will take you to Nusa Penida for a day. Take a look at this tour.
Best Things to do in Nusa Penida: A DIY Nusa Penida Tour
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! I suggest making this the first stop on your Nusa Penida tour. Many day trips come here from Bali and end the day here before coming back, so by visiting in the morning you can escape the crowds.
Note: 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 definitely the most adventurous part of our Nusa Penida tour. 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 in the water.
Note: 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.
While I don’t have a photo to share (as I didn’t make it) chances are 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.
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.
Note: It is a stunning photo opportunity, but be careful; people have been swept out by the waves.
Final Tips for Your Nusa Penida Tour
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 in Nusa Penida?
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: