Guess what! This past weekend, I went to Bali… again. As you can see, this is far from being my first trip to the island of Gods. So when we decided to go back again I was itching to find a different side of Bali – I want to see beautiful nature, crystal clear beach and away from the horde of tourists. I found that side on an island called Nusa Penida.
Nusa Penida is a relatively undeveloped island south-east of mainland Bali. You won’t find all the snazzy beach clubs, organic cafes or trendy restaurants that has become synonymous to Bali here. However, it does house some of the most photogenic sights in Bali. If you only have a day, a day trip is very doable! You can get there via a boat from Sanur in the morning and come back in the afternoon. But if you want to see all of Nusa Penida and really enjoy your stay, you probably need 2-3 days on the island.
You can book a day tour to Nusa Penida which will take care of everything for you at a price. I have seen anywhere from Rp 650,000 to Rp 1,250,000 (US$45-85) per person. But if you want to save some money and DIY the trip without a tour like we did – then read on!
What to bring to Nusa Penida
- All the things you need to combat that strong sun in Bali – A hat, Sunscreen (at least SPF50!), and Sunglasses. If you are biking, wear a thin layer with sleeves that can be removed.
- A thin cotton scarf/sarong wrap – I love this because they are versatile! you can wear it around your neck and shoulder when it’s hot, but can also double up as something to sit on while you are at the beach.
- Sufficient Cash – there are hardly any ATM or places that take credit card here, so you need enough to last the entire time you’re on the island.
- Bathing Suit – once you see how clear the water is in this part of the world, you’d want to jump in. Trust me.
- Suitable Footwear – You need good walking shoes for the treks, but you’d probably want to wear flip-flops while at the beach. So bring both!
How to get to Nusa Penida
The easiest option is to hop on a speedboat from Sanur Beach. There are three operators that do speedboat transfers from Sanur Beach to Nusa Penida and back: Maruti Express, Angel’s Billabong Fast Cruise and Mola-Mola Express. It doesn’t matter which one you go with as long as the timing suits you.
Most operators have a speedboat going out from Sanur to Nusa Penida at limited timings in the morning and a few in the afternoon: 7 AM – 10 AM and 2 PM – 5 PM. They also have boats coming back in the morning and afternoon at around the same time. If you are doing a day trip, I recommend going to the island as early as you can, so try to catch the 7 or 7:30 AM boat!
Booking Speedboat Tickets
You can book boat tickets online, but it requires at least one day in advance. If you decided to wing it (which is what we did), all you have to do is show up to Sanur Beach early in the morning and buy tickets directly from the operators. I recommend being there 30 minutes before boat departure time to ensure enough time to get tickets.
Here’s the exact spot where you can find the speedboat ticket office. They are these open-air huts that lined up the Sanur Beach slightly to the north of it – you can see the marker for Maruti express, Mola-mola express, etc on google maps.
The tickets both cost the same whether you book online or not, but there is a difference of price depending on your nationality.
- Local / Indonesians pay Rp 200,000 for a roundtrip (US$14)
- Foreigners pay Rp 300,000 for a roundtrip (US$21)
I know that doesn’t sound fair, but I don’t recommend lying about your nationality because they do check and enforce the ticket price difference. And to be honest, in the grand scheme of things the difference is not THAT big.
We rocked up to Sanur slightly after 7 and chose Angel’s Billabong Fast Boat since they have the next available departure time at 7:30 AM. When we booked our ticket, they asked what time we would like to come back to Sanur. We chose the latest available time which was 4:30 PM, and I was advised to be back 30 minutes before the departure time to check in and ensure a spot on the boat going back to Sanur – I’ll elaborate more on that later.
Once you get your tickets, they’ll hand you a lanyard. Just wait nearby on the beach until they let you know that the boat has arrived. You then board the boat, and you have to do this by wading through a shallow bit of water, so it’s best to wear flip-flops or other shoes that can be easily removed. Also, take note to not trip on the boat ropes – they alternate between being slack and taut as the waves come pulling at the boat.
The speedboat seats layout were not the best. They really packed in the seats to maximize the number of passengers so there was barely any legroom between each row of seats. I’m only 160cm and I could barely fit in – my boyfriend, on the other hand, had to basically fold his legs in to be able to sit. Thankfully the ride only lasted about 30 minutes and we arrived on the island in no time!
How to get around Nusa Penida
You can rent a car or a motorbike right off the harbor, fuss-free.
By Rental Motorbike
We got a bike literally within minutes of getting off the boat! Renting a bike costs you Rp 75,000 (US$5.25) a day, the same cost as Bali mainland. You might also have to top up gas which is going to be very minimal, about Rp 10,000 – 20,000. I recommend doing this close to the harbor, I didn’t see many petrol sellers as we get deeper into the island.
However, if you decide to rent a bike, you have to be pretty comfortable and confident with riding it since parts of the road leading up to Kelingking Beach and Angel’s Billabong is broken and bumpy.
By Rental Car
The other option is to get a car rental for Rp 550,000 (US$38.50), which comes with a driver and can fit 4-5 people. The road would still be bumpy though so don’t expect a comfortable ride.
Things to see and do in Nusa Penida
After getting our bike, we immediately drove down to the southwest part of the island to find Kelingking Beach, a crowd’s favorite. From the harbor, it takes about an hour by bike to get to this beach thanks to the partially broken road. Kelingking Beach is relatively new, only “discovered” in 2003 by a few tourist divers who reached the beach by boat. Nowadays, Kelingking Beach is probably the most Instagrammed spot on Nusa Penida… and I’m sure you can see why from this photo.
A little trivia – Kelingking means “pinky” in Indonesian, as in your little finger! I’m not sure why it’s called that, because it looks more like a T-rex to me.
That secluded azure beach at the bottom? You can descend down to it provided you ignore the warning sign at the start of the path, which tells you not to go to the beach as the path is very broken and they will not be held liable in case of an accident.
So yes, you can go down to the beach, but the path will be very narrow, half broken and extremely steep on some parts. My boyfriend and I decided to go down anyway, both in sandals, because we’re crazy like that.
Well… it turns out lots of people are also crazy like us, but most of them stop at the halfway point before going back up after taking the famous Kelingking Beach photo, like this one I took below.
Not many people actually made it down to the beach itself, probably because you can already see how dangerous the path gets. You only have these thin railing made of tree branches to hold on to, and as you get lower, the path gets more and more steep with more sharp rocks.
My boyfriend and I got to the halfway point and we thought: “Well, we’re already here, we might as well go the entire way”. So down to the beach we go, wearing sandals but I reckon we’d be way more comfortable wearing proper shoes. It turns out as you get lower, not only the path gets more and more steep and sharp, it also gets more broken. It also gets so steep that you’re practically scaling a vertical rock wall while being cautious not to grab onto any broken railing.
After about 30 minutes of descending, we finally made it to the beach! Initially, there were less than 10 people on the beach when we got there at 11 AM but more people arrived when we left an hour later. The beach was super secluded, so we were able to have ample space to ourselves. We sat around under one of the trees and took a dip in the cool clear blue water.
But it wasn’t very clean – there were lots of trash and debris both on the beach and floating on the water, which kinda ruined the experience. Most of these seem to be debris from other parts of the island and brought here by the ocean current. I wonder if it ever gets cleaned?
After about an hour of sitting around the beach, we left. The climb back up was very difficult for me. If you go back up at noon, the entire path gets full sun with barely any shade… and you know how harsh the sun gets in Bali. Thanks to the steepness of the climb and being battered by the hot direct sun, I nearly passed out on the way up. Also because of this, I got a headache which lasted the entire day. If it’s raining I wouldn’t even think about going down!
So in short, I’m not sure if I can recommend going down to the beach. Yes, it’s secluded and beautiful but I’ve also seen other similar beaches with more things to do. And that climb back up was not really worth it.
We spent some time recovering at one of the warungs near the carpark area, replenishing all that fluid we lost while climbing back up. We had a coconut and a large water bottle and still did not need to pee! That’s how dehydrated we were.
Snorkeling at Crystal Bay or Gamat Bay
After the treacherous hike up from Kelingking Beach, I told my boyfriend that I want to just take it easy and swim at the beach. We started looking at our options – Crystal Bay or Gamat Bay. This is when I had a light bulb moment and realized that we’ve actually BEEN to Nusa Penida two years ago, but we took a boat from Sanur and was on the boat the entire time since we were there for diving. One of the dive spots at that time was called Crystal Bay and I remember having the best snorkeling of my life there during a surface interval.
So we got on our bike and went to Crystal Bay. Once there, the sun has gotten so strong that the sand actually hurts to walk on because it’s boiling hot. We immediately camped out under one of the vacant parasols and I rented a mask and pair of fins (Rp 50,000 – about US$3.50) and just jumped straight into the cool water.
What makes Crystal Bay so special is that the corals are very healthy and they are literally just meters away from the beach. I saw various fish – unicorn fish, trumpet fish, rainbow fish and a triggerfish which I quickly swam away from – just to name a few. There were also schools of small fishes among the colorful corals. It’s honestly as good as diving without the hassle of carrying heavy equipment!
I did not get a chance to go to Gamat Bay, but I heard this is also a good option for snorkeling! You can also check out Manta Point for a chance to swim with Manta Rays. I came here for diving before and we saw a few mantas.
Leaving Nusa Penida
After Crystal Bay, we did not have time to do anything else. It was already 3:50 PM we had to rush back to the harbor to make it on time for our 4:30 PM boat. I’ve mentioned before that I recommend to be at the harbor 30 minutes before departure time and check in at the ticket office. Here is why.
Leaving the island was slightly chaotic. As it turns out a lot of people were doing the same thing we did, and the boat was overbooked. After a 10-minute delay of crowding around the harbor not knowing what’s going on, they started calling us by name one-by-one in the order of check-in. If you get in and secure a seat, then you get to leave the island on that boat. If not, you have to wait for the second boat to come and pick up the leftover people. And that’s why it’s important to come early and check in!
Other photo spots at Nusa Penida
There are plenty of other picturesque photo spots at Nusa Penida I didn’t get to visit this time around. Here are my picks of what to do if I had more time. I also recommend looking at @visitnusapenida’s feed for some inspirations. They also do tours, which you can find on their Instagram.
Angel’s Billabong & Broken Beach
These two spots are right next to each other, so you can visit them at the same time. A word of caution: please be careful while visiting Angel’s Billabong and listen to local’s warning. The wave can get really huge here and there have been some fatal accidents where people got swept away and died.
This beach is on the other side of the island from the harbor, so it takes a bit of effort to reach. It would have taken us 2 hours on the road one way, so we had to skip this time. But it looks amazing!
Rumah Pohon Tree House
This is actually a simple accommodation, but it has become famous as photo spots as well. I wouldn’t recommend coming here if you aren’t staying though… it could get annoying for those who booked the accommodation. You can stay at Tree House for about $40 a night – book them here.