If you’re in the search for an exotic island escape that’s more secluded than Bali, a place much more off-the-grid, where it’s just you and the profound beauty of nature, try exploring the neighbouring island of Nusa Penida.
Nestled just off of mainland Bali, lies three small islands in the Klungkung Regency : Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan, and Nusa Penida. Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan are the two smaller and more commercial islands, while Nusa Penida is the largest island of the three. Even though Nusa Penida is the largest island of the three and has a plethora of stunning sites to visit, it is not as commercial as the other two.
• How to Get There
• Getting Around Nusa Penida
• Tour of the West (Kelingking Beach, Broken Beach, Angel’s Billabong and more)
• Tour of the East (Diamond Beach, Atuh Beach)
• Temples on Nusa Penida
• Nusa Penida Accommodation
• Where to eat on Nusa Penida
HOW TO GET THERE
From mainland Bali to Nusa Penida , you’ll have to cross the island from Sanur Harbour via fast boats to Toya Pakeh Harbour. There are a variety of fast boat options available including Maruti Express Fast Boat and Angel Billabong Fast Boat among many others. The earliest boat schedule starts from 7:30am onwards, with a boat available every hour with the latest boat ride back to Sanur at 5:30pm. Ticket prices for fast boats range from IDR 75,000 – IDR 160,000 for a one-way ride.
The question of what time is best to leave from Sanur really depends on the duration you plan on spending at Nusa Penida. If you’re only going on a day trip, we suggest getting on the earliest boat ride so that you’ll arrive early and will have a lot more time to explore the island. However, the early boat rides are the most jam-packed. Therefore, if you don’t want to be in a crowded boat (especially during this current pandemic) or if you’re staying on the island for a couple of days, why not take an afternoon boat ride with fewer passengers. Many visitors go for a day trip to Nusa Penida, which is why the earlier boat rides to Nusa Penida and the latest boat ride back to Sanur are the most crowded.
Taking the fast boat from Sanur to Nusa Penida will take approximately 40 minutes. Remember to wear proper attire for the boat ride. The boat docks on the shores of Sanur, but you’ll have to get your feet wet to get on the boat, so make sure you wear shorts and sandals for the boat ride. You don’t want to ruin your nice shoes for a boat ride, do you?
HOW TO GET AROUND
The infrastructure in Nusa Penida is still quite underdeveloped. While the main roads are nice and paved, keep in mind that once you venture deeper into the island, the roads get smaller and rockier, and paved roads in the more rural areas are mostly damaged and need maintenance. The best way to get around the island faster is with a motorbike, which you can rent once you get on the island.
If you prefer being in the comfort of an air-conditioned car then you can also rent a car with a local driver. Keep in mind that the roads around the island are small and hard to manoeuvre, therefore it is highly suggested that you rent a car with a driver who knows their way around the island.
A TOUR OF THE WEST
A journey to the west of the island will give you a plethora of photogenic and breathtakingly stunning sites to visit. Visitors must keep in mind that the places they’ll visit around Nusa Penida will require great physical stamina because it’ll be a lot of walking, hiking, climbing up and down hundreds of flights of stairs, etc. So, make sure you are fit and healthy when going to these places, be sure to always carry bottled water in your bag, wear a hat and sunglasses, and use sunscreen because it gets very hot during the day. Nusa Penida is a very dry island compared to Bali.
Kelingking Beach Nusa Penida
The most famous landmark in Nusa Penida, a destination that you’ve probably seen numerous times on travel blogs and travel influencer’s Instagram posts, is the magical Kelingking Beach. Located 30-45 minutes away from Toya Pakeh Harbour, this secluded, white sandy beach with azure blue waters is enclosed by a steep cliff and headland shaped like a pinkie finger. ‘Kelingking’ is Indonesian for pinkie, hence its name.
Getting to the beach itself is no small feat, you’ll have to climb down more than 300 flights of stairs so be extra cautious when going down the stairs and make sure to hold on to the bamboo railing. Climbing down is not the problem, it’s climbing back up that is the true test of your stamina.
It might look like such a jarring task when you look at the long way down, but the magical beach below is worth the effort… if you’re up for it that is. However, it is suggested that visitors don’t swim on this beach as the waves are big and the current is strong at Kelingking Beach.
Broken Beach & Angel’s Billabong
Next up on the list on your tour of the west are two destinations located adjacent to each other: Broken Beach and Angel’s Billabong.
Located around 20 minutes away from Kelingking Beach, getting to Broken Beach and Angel’s Billabong through Nusa Penida’s rocky unpaved roads is an adventure in itself… but what awaits you in the final destination is an absolutely vast seascape. Broken Beach is a picturesque coastal formation with an iconic landmark in the form of an arched tunnel in the cliffs. The scenic view of the waves flowing through the tunnel into a pool is a magnificent sight to see.
After you’re done admiring the uniqueness of Broken Beach, take a short walk over to Angel’s Billabong. This site is also one of the most popular places to visit on the island, a magical tide pool with crystal clear water that cascades into the ocean.
If you’re planning on visiting Angel’s Billabong, keep in mind that you’ll want to come during low-tide, when the tidal pool formation is at its most tranquil. During low-tide, the calm translucent water grants you a clear vision of the patterns and textures of the corals and rocks underneath the surface. You can even go on a little dip in some areas of this coastal formation, but don’t try to swim in here during high-tide because it gets very dangerous when the waves come in, with the risk of pulling you out of the pool section. If you’re lucky, the combination of the shining sun, the colour of the water, and the rocks beneath will give you quite an ethereal reflection of the pool, perfect for your Instagram content!
The next destination is for avid lovers of all aquatic activities such as snorkelling and diving. Located 20 minutes away from Toya Pakeh Harbour, Crystal Bay is one of the Nusa Penida’s most popular sites for diving and snorkelling.
It is graced with stunning aquatic life including gorgeous corals, exotic fishes and the Mola Mola fish. Crystal Bay is like your own private beach, a very secluded area with a white sand beach that extends over 200 metres and crystal-clear water. Imagine swaying palm trees and the cool breeze as you soak in the sun and the breath-taking view. Across the water, you’ll catch a glimpse of a tiny turtle-shaped island. If you’re planning on snorkelling, keep in mind that the currents can be strong, as it often is in the waters around Nusa Penida, so be extra cautious when doing so, especially if you’re not a strong swimmer.
Also located 20 minutes away from Toya Pakeh Harbour is Gamat Bay. This destination is a bit on the wilder site compared to Crystal Bay and not as easily accessed. To get there, you’ll have to reach the peak of the hill by road overlooking the beach, and then walk down a somewhat easy path down to the beach. Gamat Bay is very quiet and you probably won’t cross paths with other visitors there. Gamat Bay is another great diving and snorkelling spot on the island. The aquatic life is filled with beautiful and colourful fish and corals as well as turtles.
A TOUR OF THE EAST
Going through the rocky, unpaved roads and venturing up the hills of the eastern part of the island will grant you endless amazing hotspots to explore. Think of majestic cliffs that cascade down into heavenly beaches and vast turquoise waters.
That is what awaits you at Diamond Beach and Atuh Beach, two beaches located right next to each other. When you get to the parking lot of Diamond Beach, to your left is Atuh Beach and to your right is Diamond Beach.
Located one hour away from Toya Pakeh Harbour, Diamond Beach is an enchanting and picturesque sandy beach enclosed by dazzling, hilly limestone cliffs with a stone stairway. Once you arrive, there is a spacious parking lot to park your car or motorbike. Be sure to have bottled water with you for this journey because you’ll have to climb down a long flight of stairs down to the beach. Starting from the top of the beach, you can already appreciate the wondrous beauty of Diamond Beach. Walk down the paved stairs carefully as it might seem scary for some people but those with an adventurous heart will find it a piece of cake. The stairs are very narrow, with some parts having the cliffs hang over your head.
Once you get to the bottom of the stairs, you’ll find a small ‘warung’ (food stall) where you can purchase drinks and snacks. From there you still have to rappel down to a rocky boulder with a rope to finally step with on the beach. This beach is the perfect private haven, a true gem of Nusa Penida, with soft sand and the calming sound of the waves lapping. This icon of this beach is the diamond-shaped rock formation in the shallows. Swimming on this beach is not really recommended as the waves are big and the current is very strong. Take this time to sit back against the gigantic wall of rock and soak in the unparalleled view, but always stay alert because the water gets really strong at times and can even reach as far back as the rock walls.
To the left of Diamond Beach is Atuh Beach, a rustic, remote cove below a steep precipice, surrounded with a white sandy beach and offshore rock formations. To get to the beach, head to the left side of Diamond Beach’s parking lot and climb down the concrete stairs to the bottom. Climbing down the 166 steps of stairs is a breeze, but climbing back up might prove to be a challenge to some people. The beach is more open compared to Diamond Beach as there are no towering cliffs behind it. There you’ll find a row of sunshades and deckchairs to lounge all day long. There are also several ‘warungs’ selling fresh juices, grilled seafood and other food. This beach is great for those looking to spend a whole day under the sun and swimming in the ocean, though one must always swim with caution as the waves and currents can be strong.
Honourable mentions: Thousand Island Viewpoint and Teletubbies Hill
Besides touring the scenic landmarks and coastal destinations during your trip to Nusa Penida, you should also go on a religious tour of the many sacred temples throughout the island.
Goa Giri Putri
One of the most well-known temples is Pura Goa Giri Putri, located 30 minutes away from Toya Pakeh Harbour on the eastern part of the island. This temple has a unique location in which it’s not visible to the eyes on land because it is hidden inside a cave underground! The caves in Bali are usually utilised as a place of worship and religious rituals, as is Pura Goa Giri Putri. Goa Giri Putri itself is one of the largest caves you can find in Nusa Penida.
Getting to the temple, visitors must climb 110 steps until you reach the mouth of the cave, which only has an 80-centimetre opening. Then you must duck and crouch for 3 metres until you reach the expansive belly of the cave. From the outside, it looks super narrow, but once you get inside, the cave is spacious and can fit up to 5000 people. Stalactite and stalagmites adorn the cave ceiling while several lights are scattered throughout the cave. At the end of the cave, long stone chairs with statues of gods are placed as a place of worship, where the religious processions are usually held.
This temple is usually crowded with visitors, those who come to worship as well as tourists looking to find out more about the religious rituals and sacred atmosphere of the cave. Other than a place of worship, the Hindus believe that the water that flows from the spring in the cave contains natural powers that can heal diseases. Because of its sacredness, women who are menstruating are forbidden to enter the cave area, whilst visitors must wear a sarong and sash when entering the cave.
Pura Dalem Ped
One of the most significant temples in Nusa Penida is Pura Dalem Ped, a sprawling Hindu temple complex and pilgrimage destination that is known for its alleged healing properties. Located 10 minutes away from Toya Pakeh Harbour, you’ll find five different temples located within Pura Dalem Ped. The first temple is Pura Segara, located in the northern part of the complex where you can hear the thrashing sound of the waves. The second temple is Pura Taman, located on the southern part of the complex, utilised as a sanctuary adorned with a lotus pond. The main temple Pura Dalem Ped is located in the western part of the complex, called Penataran Ratu Gede Mecaling. Then at the eastern part is a temple called Pelabuhan Ratu Mas and a fifth temple located outside is Pura Bale Agung.
Pura Paluang (Car Temple)
Another place of worship for the Balinese Hindus and a feast for the eyes for the visitors to Nusa Penida is Pura Paluang. Known as the Car Temple, Paluang is unique with two shrines in the shape of a car. The two cars are believed to be vehicles of the spirit of Ratu Gede Sakti Hyang Mami along with her children and subjects.
And just like anything else holy and sacred, the two cars are wrapped in checkered poleng cloth with offerings flooding them. Pura Paluang is located in Bunga Mekar village.
Honourable mentions: Pura Segara Penida and Pura Puncak Mundi.
All of the ‘Nusa’ islands are great for diving too, we’ve made a separate article on Bali’s best diving spots that covers this separately.
NUSA PENIDA ACCOMMODATION
Adiwana Warnakali Resort
Adiwana Warnakali Resort is the first four-star boutique resort that just recently opened in Nusa Penida. This stunning resort welcomes guests to experience an unforgettable stay with exceptional beauty, utmost rejuvenation, and bountiful exploration of the stunning island. Located 15 minutes away from Toya Pakeh Harbour, this stunning clifftop Nusa Penida accommodation is equipped with 15 spacious suites, designed and decorated with nautical elements and balconies that open to the mesmerising view of the majestic Mount Agung and the neighbouring Nusa Ceningan.
Guests can enjoy sunny days at the swimming pool or lounge at the daybeds awaiting sunset, located adjacent to the semi-open restaurant. The restaurant serves an all-day menu along with thirst-quenching cocktails and beverages. For a rejuvenating experience after exploring all day, guests can retreat into the calming ambience of Tejas Spa, located at the foot of the resort.
The resort is also home to Warnakali Dive Centre, a certified 5-star Instructor Development Dive Resort by PADI. The dive centre offers PADI courses and Scuba Diving Safari as well as PADI Instructor Development courses. (www.adiwanawarnakali.com)
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Amok Sunset Bar & Restaurant
Undoubtedly one of the best sunset spots on the island is Amok Sunset Bar & Restaurant, located 20 minutes away from Toya Pakeh Harbour. This must-visit hotspot presents diners with a striking venue with unparalleled sunset views and that of Mount Agung. Perched on the hill of the nearby Gamat Bay, the bamboo-dominated venue also features 3-metre high VIP bamboo booths with thatched roofs, perfect for a romantic dinner.
The venue offers a wide range of international fusion dishes along with invigorating signature cocktails and mocktails, crafted using fresh and local ingredients. Guests can also enjoy the spacious swimming pool as they wait for the sunset. Capture new moments at the boat deck, exclusively built for picturesque moments overlooking the magical sunset. Open daily from 11am to 10pm.
Coco Penida Bar & Restaurant
A charming beachfront bar and restaurant, Coco Penida Bar & Restaurant is the idyllic hangout destination on the island for those looking to spend the day soaking in the beautiful ocean view and sea breeze. This venue is a great spot from day to night, whether you’re coming in for lunch, sunset cocktails or late-night dinner. Enjoy the scenic view as you’re serenaded by live music performances and take advantage of the all-day Happy Hour. Open daily from 9am – 10pm.
Penida Colada Beach Bar
Penida Colada Beach Bar is also one of the most popular dining destinations on the island. This chill-out beach bar is located 10 minutes away from Toya Pakeh Harbour. This eco-conscious beach bar serves breakfast, lunch and dinner featuring healthy and nutritious dishes that’ll give you the lots of energy for your adventure on the island. From toasted sandwiches, Indonesian favourites, fresh seafood, healthy smoothies, great coffee and tropical cocktails, you’ll leave this chic beach bar feeling happy and satisfied. Open daily from 8am – 9pm.
Papila’s Coffee House
If you’re looking for a homey spot for your daily coffee fix, we recommend going to the charming Papila’s Coffee House, a spacious dining and co-working space. This joint serves quality coffee with beans from Toraja, Sunda, Bali, Kintamani and many more, as well as a variety of delicious comfort food. Open daily from 8am – 10pm.