THE NUSA ISLANDS NEAR BALI, INDONESIA
The Nusa islands of Lembongan, Ceningan, and Penida has to be our favorite collection of islands. They’re located off the southeast coast of Bali and are a perfect way to explore a little bit more of Indonesia, away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland.
Exploring the Nusa islands is a satisfying mix of nature, relaxation and adventure travel. We always prefer and recommend DIY travel, but you can also visit these islands on a group tour or day trip. However, to get the full experience it’s best to spend some more time exploring them. People visit for the beaches, surfing, stand up paddleboarding, snorkeling, scuba diving, cliff jumping, and of course the breathtaking scenery.
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HOW TO GET TO THE NUSA ISLANDS
- Boats depart Bali for the Nusa islands from Sanur or Padang Bai.
- We took the local boat from Sanur, (the cheapest and slowest option) straight to Nusa Lembongan. It left at 10:30am and cost us 100k IDR per person. It took us around 90 minutes (we weren’t in any hurry).
- The most common way to arrive is by speedboat, there are several trips per day. Tickets cost around 270k IDR each. Just arrive and buy your tickets.
- Please consider the weather ahead of your trip as the seas can get dangerous at times.
- Check these out for more information on getting to Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Penida directly.
- Remember to wear shorts and sandals, there’s no pier so you’ll wade in the water to get on the boats.
WHEN TO GO
The busiest times are outside of the monsoon season, usually July and August, and December into the first week of January. You can still visit during the rainy season and expect some sunny days, but the boats stop running if the weather is bad, and the marine winds tend to blow in more garbage during this time. We recommend visiting during the shoulder seasons in April, May, June, or September to beat the crowds at peak times and still have nice weather overall.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
We recommend spending at least 4-5 days exploring the Nusa Islands, but depending on how much time you have you could easily stay a week or more. You should spend a minimum of 2-3 days enjoying both Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan.
We recommend 3-4 days for Nusa Penida, it’s a large island and the distances can be farther than you think from place to place. Most of the accommodation is on the northern or eastern side of the island, while the attractions tend to be on the western side.
By far the best and easiest way to get around these islands is by renting a motorbike. Prices range from 70k-100k IDR per day and are up for negotiation. Google Maps will come in handy, but there are also plenty of signs. If you’re not sure, just pull over and ask a local and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.
It’s relatively safe to ride around Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan as they are small and most of the roads are smooth enough. But Nusa Penida’s roads are notoriously bad in certain areas and crashes are common. If you’re traveling in a group or you can afford it, you should probably hire a van/private driver. Just expect to pay more for it.
Read next: How to Spend A Perfect Day in Canggu
Nusa Lembongan is a chill little island that you can drive all the way around in about 30-40 minutes. We found things to be slightly more expensive here than in Bali, but it’s a great place to hang for a few days.
One of the highlights of any trip to Nusa Lembongan is to watch the giant waves crash into the island’s rocky coastline. There are several places to watch this impressive sight unfold! We have them listed for you below, along with some of the best beaches the island has to offer…
The most popular place to watch the waves, this is where you can truly feel the raw power of the ocean! Listen to the thunderous waves boom against the rocks and enjoy the cool mist on your skin.
Just be mindful of your camera as the waves can come up higher than expected and drench you in an instant! For a quieter spot with fewer people, follow the coast towards Dream Beach for a private show.
There are significantly fewer tourists here, go earlier in the morning and you’ll likely be alone. The sunsets are amazing too but expect more people. It’s located on the west side of the island near Cliff Park Villas, you can find it on Google Maps. Check the tide chart to see when the tide is high for the best wave watching.
Located on the north side of the island this is a nice place to visit at sunrise! On clear days you can see across the Badung Strait to Mt. Agung on Bali and even down to Mt. Rinjani on Lombok! When we visited you could also climb up onto the boat pictured above…
Jungut Batu Beach
You’ll most likely be dropped off at Jungutbatu beach. We didn’t spend much time at this beach because we stayed on the opposite side of the island, but it’s supposed to have killer sunsets. Jungutbatu also gives you the best access to the main surf spots on the island if you’re visiting to catch waves. Being only beginner surfers though, we figured surf spots with names like “Lacerations” and “Shipwreck” were a little too intense for us!
A nice beach that has become pretty crowded as of late, especially in the afternoon. Still, a chill spot in the morning or if you don’t mind the crowd, head here before dusk. It’s a logical stop before you visit Devil’s Tear.
Sandy Bay aka Sunset Beach
We didn’t actually make it here, but we saw it from Devil’s Tear and it looks like a charming area to catch some rays. We overheard some other travelers saying they enjoyed this beach. Check it out if you have time!
We found Mushroom Bay to be too full of boats and people for our liking. You might have better luck if you arrive earlier in the morning or closer to sunset once the day-trippers leave. We wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to visit, but if you’re staying nearby it’s a convenient place to book dive and snorkel trips or to grab a bite to eat.
Where to stay on Nusa Lembongan
It’s easy to find a clean comfortable room on the island for $10-25 per night. There are nicer more expensive options as well.
Budget option: We stayed at BBS Homestay near Mushroom Bay. We also rented a motorbike there for 70k IDR per day.
Mid-range: Check current prices at Sunday Huts Lembongan
Luxury: Check current prices at Secret Outlook Lembongan
Nusa Ceningan is the smallest of the three islands and connected to Nusa Lembongan by a yellow suspension bridge. We found ourselves spending more time on Ceningan than on Lembongan overall. It’s just a short scooter ride over and has excellent vibes!
In our opinion, this was the best beach between both Ceningan and Lembongan. Soak up the sun, sip a beer, and enjoy a nap on a relatively secluded beach. As is the case in most of Bali, beware of the currents, don’t venture too far out into the water.
We’ve seen plenty of lagoons in Asia and this is likely the best of them all. The water is soo blue! The cliff jump has been officially closed after several jumpers were seriously injured. Some people say you can still do it, but it’s not recommended. There is no longer a ladder either, so you’d have to swim back to scramble up some pretty sharp rocks afterward.
Despite not jumping, the place is still really impressive. It’s a fun spot to wander around, take photos, and admire the turquoise waters. Please be responsible and pack out what you bring in!
What a fantastic location for a bar! When we went, no one was jumping, which was disappointing. We were hoping to jump and have a few celebratory beers afterward, but the swell was too big. It was not to be! The guys working here will only let you jump when it’s deemed safe.
The cost is 25k IDR for the little jump of 5m and 50k IDR for the big one 10m. Sure it’s just a few dollars, but it seems a little expensive just to jump, but these are the rules. Hopefully, the conditions are right on your visit!
Secret Point Beach
Often overlooked this beach is located across the Blue Lagoon parking lot, behind Secret Point Huts. Just walk through the resort, grab a beer and enjoy the sunset on this quiet isolated stretch of sand. You can also see it from Mahana Point, but it’s not accessible there.
Drive up a steep, bumpy hill through the jungle to this quiet, sleepy resort. There’s a swing set overlooking Nusa Penida with views of Gamut Bay (an excellent snorkeling spot). From here, you can really see the current between the two islands. Nice spot for a morning coffee or juice!
Last Stop Bar & Cafe Ceningan
One of several bars offering views of the seaweed farms and paddleboard rentals (100k IDR per hour). Hang in a bean bag, sip drinks, and get some sun! If you’re not already staying there, Le Pirate Beach Club is another option nearby for tasty happy hour drinks.
Where to stay on Nusa Ceningan
Budget option: Look at the current prices at W Guest House
Mid-range: Look at the current prices at Le Pirate Beach Club, book in advance because it’s popular!
Luxury: Look at the current prices at Blue Lagoon Avia Villas
The largest and least visited of the three islands, a paradise rich in underwater life and natural wonders. It’s still pretty underdeveloped, with several broken or bumpy dirt roads. To get there we booked a short boat ride a day in advance from Nusa Lembongan (near the yellow bridge there is a ticket office) for 60k IDR each.
We enjoyed staying on this island the most! We ended up staying for ten days. Although it wasn’t exactly for the reasons we planned on. Long story short, it involved stitches and many visits to the clinic. As we mentioned before, please be careful on the motorbikes! This leads us to our next section…
Motorbike safety tips
If you’re not comfortable on a bike, don’t ride one on Nusa Penida! Trust us, it’s not worth it. If you do decide to ride be sure to wear a helmet, shoes, and clothes that cover your arms and legs. If you’re riding as a pair on a bike it’s a good idea to have the person on the back jump off on the steeper hills and walk down.
Try to use the back brake, not the front brake. If you grab the front brake on a dirt hill you’ll crash for sure. In general, just take more safety precautions when riding here.
Kelingking Beach – The Dinosaur Head
You’ve probably seen it on Instagram by now, but seeing it in person is a completely different feeling. The sheer size of the drop will make your heart sink. Honestly, this is one of the most ASTOUNDING things we’ve seen anywhere in the world! We went twice while we were on the island. Walk down the steep dirt path along the bamboo railing to the white sand beach below…
Angel’s Billabong & Broken Beach
Ever swim in a natural infinity pool? Now’s your chance! Afterward walk a short distance over to Broken Beach, which is actually not a beach at all. It’s a large sinkhole that used to be a cave until the roof collapsed. Expect a rough ride on a rocky dirt road to get here but it’s well worth it in the end to see some of mother nature’s most unique creations.
One of the best things we did on the island! When we arrived and parked our bike, the guys at the top made it sound like it was a quick, easy hike down to the bottom. Not true! You’re literally walking down a thin dirt trail hanging onto the side of a cliff.
The only thing saving you from certain death is a short handmade fence made from tree branches and twine. It’s rather terrifying and dangerous, so if you’re scared of heights you might wanna skip this.
The waterfall at the bottom is pretty underwhelming, but the views of the ocean and the adventure of getting there did not disappoint!
Unless you have trail shoes, (which we didn’t) we’d recommend going back up barefoot to avoid your feet from sliding around in your flip flops. Just be sure you head back up before dusk!
The roads to and from here are hilly and full of loose gravel, so be extra careful if you’re riding on them. We crashed our motorbike leaving here, so we’re speaking from personal experience. Not fun, but looking back we still talk about this day with fond memories.
Steep rough roads lead to this stunning beach, which could cause serious problems if you’re an inexperienced biker. We were extra paranoid after our crash so we parked our scooter at the top of the last hill, and walked the rest of the way just in case. It’s just a short hike down a staircase to the beach!
You can rent a lounge chair for 50k IDR and there are several warungs around if you get hungry or want a beer. What’s not to love about a relaxing beach with a natural stone archway?
Crystal Bay, Gamut Bay, and Manta Bay
It’s possible to snorkel here on day trips from both Nusa Lembongan and Bali, but if you’re staying on Nusa Penida it’s easy to book a trip locally yourself right on Crystal Bay beach. We found a boatman ourselves that agreed to visit Manta Bay, Crystal Bay, and Gamut Bay for about 250k IDR ($18) each.
Snorkeling with the manta rays is a big attraction on Nusa Penida. If you’re lucky you’ll get to swim with a group of them in clean waters and it just might be one of the best experiences of your life! If you’re unlucky or visiting at the wrong time of year (monsoon season), you might not see many or be surrounded by trash that comes in from Java. On the day we went we caught a glimpse of a few mantas in the distance but sadly didn’t have any close encounters.
Crystal Bay is a popular snorkeling and diving spot on Nusa Penida, which means there are loads of boats on day trips. The coral is not in the best shape and the currents can be strong. Not the best recipe for snorkeling in our opinion.
We thought Gamut Bay was the best snorkeling spot. We highly recommend it! Especially early in the morning before more people arrive. The water is shallow, and there is a very healthy reef lurking below. One of the best we’ve seen in Asia!
Sleep in a treehouse
Remember being a kid and wanting to live in a treehouse? Well, there are lots of opportunities to do that on this island! Rumah Pohon Tree House is the one most popularly seen on Instagram, located on the same mountain as the Thousand Island viewpoint. It can also be booked on Airbnb. Keep in mind that this place has become super popular so it tends to be booked months in advance.
In case that’s full on your dates and you still want to stay in a treehouse, we also recommend Nyuh Bengkok. It has spacious tree houses located up on a hill on the northern side of the island and you get incredible views of Mt. Agung from your deck! There is a really helpful guy named Nyoman there. He lived in NYC for a few years and speaks decent English. Breakfast is included, typically coffee and pisang goreng (fried bananas).
Another insanely beautiful spot with crazy cliff views! We came here twice and saw less than ten people on both visits (unless you include monkeys). You can also easily spot manta rays from here. We had more luck seeing them here than at Manta Point itself. Here’s your view from Banah Cliff back towards the arch.
Hike down the steep blue staircase for (you guessed it) more staggering views! Again the waterfall is nothing spectacular, but you can take a dip if you’re feeling hot and sweaty. We also spotted a pod of mantas in the water from here midday!
Where to stay on Nusa Penida
Budget option: See what the current prices are at Dungkap Mount View
Mid-range: See what the current prices are at Asoka Bungalows
Luxury: See what the current prices are at Ogix Cliff Paradise
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE NUSA ISLANDS
The Nusa Islands offer everything you could ever want from a tropical destination, big waves, palm trees for days, long stretches of white sand, spectacular sunsets, volcano views, hammocks to swing in and tree houses to sleep in. But like the rest of Bali, the Nusa Islands are only going to continue to grow in popularity, so get there soon!
Have you ever visited these islands? If not, would you go? Hit us up in the comments…
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