The Nusa archipelago, located just 12km off of the Balinese mainland, is comprised of three islands: Lembongan, Cenigan and Penida. These islands are quickly becoming one of Bali’s popular travel destinations with their incredible blue water, untouched beaches, stunning coastal cliffs, and world-class snorkeling. The relaxed island vibe is worlds away from the blaring traffic and hectic pace of South Bali. This quick guide will help answer some of your questions about how to get to the Nusa Islands, and what to do once you get there.
How to Get to the Nusa Islands
Nusa Lembongan is located a 30 minute boat ride off of the southeast coast of Bali. The fastest way to get there is by the public speed boat, leaving Sanur beach; there are multiple boats leaving daily from Sanur to Jungut Batu or Mushroom Bay on Nusa Lembongan in the morning and afternoon. You can book tickets in advance, but from our experience, it’s cheaper if you buy it at the dock on the day of departure. Rates quoted usually vary and are subject to negotiation so do some research ahead of time, and stand firm. We paid Rp 150,000/person excluding hotel transfers. The boats are docked on the beach, making the boarding experience quite interesting. To get on, you’ll need to take off your shoes, leave it in a communal bin, then wade through shallow water to the nearby boat – make sure you wear flip flops. The porters helped carry our big bags and loaded them first so we only had to carry our backpacks, making it easier to maneuver. The crossing was short and uneventful, and before we knew it we were in Nusa Lembongan.
Getting between the islands is also easy. There are public boats that come and go between Nusa Lembongan and Penida, departing early morning daily by the yellow suspension bridge. There is no need to book ahead, but you’ll need to negotiate your fare with the boat captain. Just remember, the later you get there, the fewer options you’ll have. We were able to negotiate one way fare down to Rp 120,000 for the two of us, but we think we saw some locals pay as little as Rp 30,000. Once the fare are agreed upon, we were crammed onto a boat full of people with our luggage.
How Long to Visit the Nusa Islands
Nusa Lembongan and Ceningan are the two smaller islands to the northwest of Penida, and are connected via a yellow suspension bridge which is just wide enough to cross on foot or motorbike. We spent a day exploring both islands. Nusa Penida is the largest island of the trio and will require more time to explore. Most people visit Nusa Penida on a day-trip, but since there are so much to do, we opted to spend 2 days there. It was enough time for us to see the major sites, but not enough to go snorkeling or diving. If you want to explore at a slower pace, I suggest adding another day or two to the itinerary.
How to Get Around the Nusa Islands
Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan are fairly small and easy to get around. The best way to explore is by scooter, which you can rent for $5-$7 dollars a day from a number of vendors around town. If you’re not keen on the motorbike, then you can walk, ride a bicycle or hire a driver to take you around. When we had to transfer to Penida, we hired two guys on a motorbike to take us AND our luggage to the pier. It was a miracle we managed to fit everything.
Nusa Penida is a much bigger island, and harder to get around on a scooter, especially when you get off the main roads. The roads are uneven, full of the potholes and treacherous even if you’re an expert on a scooter. We’ve read about countless stories about people falling off their motor bikes, and after our own fall in Ubud, we didn’t want to take a chance. Once we got to Nusa Penida, we were able to find a local driver who agreed to take us around for a whole day for about $55 USD. Since we didn’t book ahead, our options were limited and we ended up with a person who didn’t speak a lot of English. His old Subaru van, however, was built like a tank and got us to where we needed to go.
Where to Stay
In Nusa Lembongan, we stayed in a cute airbnb apartment overlooking the beach. Little Aman is a cosy 2-story bungalow just a few steps away the beach and the some of the island’s best cafes and restaurants. The villa is located on the hill overlooking the village of Jungut Batu. From the upstairs bedroom, you have the best view of the ocean and Mt Agung. It was nice to sit out on our balcony at night and listen to the waves and wake up in the morning to this stunning view. I was sad that we were only there for a night.
In Nusa Penida, we opted to stay at a hotel instead of another airbnb. The Semabu Hills Hotel is one of the nicest on the island with views to-die-for. The spacious suites overlook the fabulous infinity pool with Mt Agung in the distance. The rooms came with a comfortable king size bed, a seating area and a terrace where you could relax after a long day exploring the island. There is also an on-site restaurant serving delicious food if you don’t want to venture too far.
Where to Eat on the Nusa Islands
There are plenty of bars and restaurant options on the Nusa islands. One of our favorites was the Driftwood bar on Nusa Ceningan. Their mi goreng was ok, but the view overlooking the cliff and sea was unparalleled. We spent a few hours at this bar cooling down from the hot afternoon sun with a cold beer while listening to the sound of the waves. For dinner, we walked over to Ware Ware overlooking the bay of Jungutbatu. We choose this restaurant because of its proximity to our airbnb apartment, but were pleasantly surprised by the delicious food. The grilled seafood platter was a nice change of pace from all the nasi goreng we’d been eating in Bali.
The Castaway Restaurant was our go-to on Nusa Penida. Their menu is a mix of authentic Balinese cuisine, eclectic Asian flavors, and western dishes using fresh island produce. The view of Mt Agung from the terrace is not bad either.
What to See on Nusa Lembongan
Nusa Lembongan is a small island with two main tourist areas – Jungutbatu on the northern side, and Mushroom Beach down south. Even though Nusa Lembongan has gotten more popular over the years, it still manages to keep its mellow vibe. It’s the perfect place for an island getaway. On Nusa Lembongan, you will find crystal clear water, coral beaches, hidden coves and lots of natural beauty.
Dream Beach is a popular beach on the south end of the island with lovely white sand and aqua blue waters. At the top, overlooking the little cove, you’ll find the Dream Beach Huts with its bar, restaurant, and infinity pools. It’s the perfect spot to hang out for the day with good access to food, drinks, and the beach You can also pay a few dollars to use the facilities.
You can not come to Nusa Lembongan without visiting Devil’s Tears, a sea cliff a few minutes walk from Dream Beach. It’s a rocky outcrop that sucks in large swells of water before shooting out misty sea sprays in a thunderous boom, showcasing the incredible force of nature. The turquoise water continuously battering the cliff is a spectacle to behold – but don’t get too close to the edge if you don’t want to get wet.
What to See on Nusa Ceningan
While in Nusa Lembongan, make sure you set aside some time to explore the neighboring island, Nusa Ceningan, where you will find gorgeous turquoise water and Secret Beach. Nusa Ceningan is easy to get to by motorbike, only a short 20 minutes bike ride away across the yellow bridge.
We came to this rocky cove to feast our eyes on the bright turquoise water, and that did not disappoint. Aside from the water, this place also attracts thrill seekers who come for the cliff diving. We didn’t see anyone when we were there, but it was enough to just enjoy the stunning view.
This isolated stretch of white sand was one of my favorite spots on the island. Aside from a few people, the beach was mostly empty – no hawkers, no beach bars, and no loud music, just the soothing sound of waves crashing into shore. This relaxed beach is hidden away in a small cove bordered by dark cliffs and fringed with swaying palm trees. Even though it was tempting, the water was too rough for me to jump in, but it was nice just to sit and stare at the massive waves. To get to secret beach, we had to walk through a hotel down towards the beach. There was a sign that said we should to buy a drink to get access but no one stopped us.
Things to do on Nusa Penida
Here is our round up of all the things to do on Nusa Penida.