The Nusa Islands off the coast of Bali are absolutely incredible! We spent a week exploring them and loved the beauty & adventure. If you’re planning a trip, here are a few must dos and some of our tips.
We recommend taking the fast boats from the mainland. I suppose they’re more expensive, but the water is rough so we were happy to get the trip done in 30 minutes. Our trip was 450,000 IPR per person and included our ground transportation to and from the ports, our fast boat from Sanur to Nusa Lembongan, and a fast boat from Nusa Penida back to Sanur. Marlin coordinated the trip for us, though the boat back to Sanur was technically with Crown. We had to get ourselves from Nusa Lembongan to Nusa Penida, but that was an easy trip using a local boat that our hotel helped us arrange.
Where to stay:
We can only comment on the places we actually stayed so here you go…
Nusa Lembongan is definitely more developed than Nusa Penida so there are many many options. Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, we stayed at Sunset Coin which we absolutely loved. It’s walking distance to Devil’s Tear and several good restaurants, but we rented a moto to see the rest of the island. The rooms are all romantic individual cottages with semi-outdoor bathrooms. There are two pools on the property which were lovely after a long day. Breakfast was also delicious.
In Nusa Penida, there are many options, but it seems that hot water is difficult to find. No big deal though, because the weather is hot so cooling off feels great! We stayed at Ari La Casa. Definitely get the banana pancakes at breakfast!
What to do / Nusa Lembongan:
This is a beautiful area to explore. We actually visited at sunset the first evening we were on the island since it was just a 5 minute walk from our hotel. It was stunning to watch the sunset and see how the light changes in the pools of water. At this time of day, the tide was getting higher so water was splashing in and out of the pools. A few tourists would walk out into the pools, which was a bit risky since the waves would get quite big and came down on them! Depending on the spot, this could have been really dangerous.
The next morning while having breakfast, we saw many mini buses with tourists passing by us and wondered – where are all these people going?! They were going to Devil’s Tear. So save yourself from a crowded experience, and go at sunset. We went twice 🙂
The Yellow Bridge seems to be an attraction all on it’s own. In the early morning and late evening it was empty and we could easily take our scooter across, but midday there were may tourists standing on the bridge taking photos, making squeezing through a little more difficult. To give you a sense of space, it’s not wide enough for a car. You’ll take this bridge to get to Nusa Ceningan and it’s also the point of departure for boats headed to Nusa Penida.
What to do / Nusa Ceningan:
Secret Beach truly feels like a secret! There weren’t many people there, there aren’t any umbrellas or lounge chairs, and it was a little tricky to find but well worth it if you’re looking to lounge and relax. We ended up getting there by walking through a hotel. They had a sign that said we needed to buy a drink for beach access, but no one was there when we arrived so we just walked through. It looked like there were other steps coming down to the beach if you want to avoid the hotel.
We have had a bit of trouble with our Maps apps and ended up on a very bumpy road on our way to Blue Lagoon. We weren’t alone which made us feel better, but on the way home we realized you can easily get there by staying on the paved road! You’ll pull into a small gravel parking lot and take in the amazing views! It’s gorgeous. You’ll also be able to see a cliff jumping point to the left. More on that below…
If you’re interested in cliff jumping, head towards Driftwood Bar and look for the signs for ziplining. If you’re coming from Blue Lagoon, take a right out of the parking lot and you’ll see the entrance on your right just a minute or two down the road. Head uphill and you’ll see a small path on your right. If you hit the resort, you’ve gone too far for the cliff jumping path (but definitely go back afterwards for a smoothie and a dip in their infinity pool!). Park your scooter at the path and make your way about 5 minute down and to the right. There will be a marker for 9 & 13 meter jumps. Kip was brave and did both! The hardest part was swimming out and getting back on the rocks. The current is strong so please be careful!
What to do / Nusa Penida:
This is a great spot to relax on a lounge chair under an umbrella, and there’s food & drink available too! The roads seem to be brand new (it’s amazing how grateful we’ve become for paved roads while driving a scooter) and the drive is gorgeous. We took a wrong turn at one point (thanks again Google Maps!) and ended up on one of the worst roads we’ve ever been on. Just know that to get to Atuh Beach you should be on paved roads the entire way! If you hit gravel, you’ve gone the wrong way so turn around before it’s too late! The parking area is of course gravel but you’ll know that when you see it. Take steps down for about 5 minutes and you’ll be there. The beach is a little bit rocky near the water, but still very beautiful and refreshing.
*we approached on the left side of the beach and didn’t have to pay for parking, but we were told that there is a small fee on the right side
This is another great beach for relaxing. Very easy to get to and beautiful. If you are beat up from hiking and can’t take any more steps – this is your place to hang on a bean bag lounger and enjoy a fresh coconut without any physical effort.
*there is a small parking fee here
Walking up the small hill towards Kelingking, a beautiful view will soon reveal itself! It’s a little scary standing on the edge and looking down but the water and rock formations are stunning. There are several small restaurants as you keep walking to the right and eventually you’ll find yourself at the top of a very steep and rugged staircase. I stopped a couple minutes down the steps, while Kip and a handful of others kept going all the way to the beach. The hike down is very steep, at times feeling vertical, and the water down below is too rough to swim in. I was happy enjoying my coconut at the top while Kip made the journey.
*there is a small parking fee here
This is a very exciting hike, as Kip would say. You’ll be making your way down to a temple, so you’ll be required to wear a sarong for the entire hike. Surprisingly I didn’t see anyone selling sarongs, so make sure to bring one before you head in this direction.
The hike itself is a little nerve wrecking but there are metal stairs (really just planks) to help you get down. Some are quite steep and my fear of heights started to kick in, but it’s totally doable. While you won’t reach the beach at the bottom (the hike ends before then), there is a small temple and several pools of water that are very beautiful to admire while you catch your breath and enjoy.
*there is a small parking fee here
**don’t forget to bring a sarong
Broken Beach & Angel’s Billabong
These beaches are not for lounging but for viewing. At Broken Beach there is an amazing land formation that arches over the water – and you can actually walk across it!
And Angel’s Billabong is reminiscent of Devil’s Tear. It’s a beautiful body of water, but you have to be careful about the time of day you visit because the tide and the waves can become quite dangerous.
We enjoyed viewing both of these natural beauties, however it’s a BUMPY drive and we heard a few other tourists complaining that it wasn’t worth it. We thought it was, but I guess that’s an individual decision!
There is great snorkeling to do in Nusa Penida & Nusa Lembongan. We did one trip in Nusa Lembongan with 3 stops where we got to see the underwater Buddha. Apparently the statues were put there 4 years ago which made it feel slightly less authentic, but still very cool.
We didn’t get to see the manta rays as part of that trip, so we scheduled another trip while on Nusa Penida. The tour operator (we found an office at the pier) said there’s no guarantee to see the mantas and wished us good luck! We set out at 8am into very rough waters and approached Manta Bay. There were two other boats there and they pointed out that there was one manta in the water! We quickly jumped out and got a great look! Sadly there was a lot of trash in the water as you can see in our photos, but it was really unbelievable to see this creature moving around.