If you enjoy jaw-dropping coastal cliff views, beaches, or snorkeling, then you need to visit Nusa Penida in Indonesia. Nusa Penida is the largest island of the 3 islands neighboring Bali. Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan are the other two islands. Most people go to Nusa Lembongan for snorkeling and the beaches since it’s the closest and most developed out of the three.
On the other hand, Nusa Penida is a little off the beaten path although it’s starting to get more and more tourists now. It’s a little more rugged and rustic, and definitely not quite as developed as Bali. People often say Nusa Penida is what Bali used to be like 20-30 years ago.
The island is so big that in order to properly explore and see most of the amazing sights, you need at least 2 days. One day to explore the east side and one for the west. If you enjoy snorkeling, then you need to add another day or two for that.
Nusa Penida definitely has some of the most breathtaking landscapes I have ever seen in my life, and not gonna lie, that’s a really high bar. There are stunning cliff views, which also require steep hikes down and back up (aka many many stairs) so you can get a good workout in at the same time. You can also see fifty million shades of blue in the ocean water views. Here are 10 places to inspire you to visit Nusa Penida.
1. Kelingking Beach
Kelingking Beach is probably the most Instagram famous place of all the destinations on the island. Many people call Nusa Penida the T-Rex Island since the cliff formation does look like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. These are incredibly steep cliffs but you can hike down to the beach, which is not recommended for those with a fear of heights.
Pro tip: To avoid the inevitable crowds of people due to the popularity of this spot, walk right along the cliffs on a slightly worn path. There is no railing so be careful but it’s amazing how you can get away from the crowds just by walking a few feet away. Rather than hiking down to the beach, this viewpoint gives you a different angle of the beach and T-Rex cliffs.
2. Broken Beach
Broken Beach is a pretty large cove you can walk around the top while looking down into the ocean. The cove is so big and deep that it was hard to capture its scale on camera. It’s named Broken Beach because of the archway that allows the ocean to flow in and out of the cove. The water looked so blue that I almost felt like I was in the Mediterranean or Australia.
3. Angel’s Billabong
A short walk from Broken Beach takes you to Angel’s Billabong. It is a crystal clear tide pool that flows out into the ocean. You can swim or snorkel in it during low tide but you have to be really careful. When it’s high tide, the waves can be really dangerous and potentially take you with them as they sweep you out into the ocean. I was there during high tide so it was quite a sight to see as the enormous waves crashed onto the rocks.
4. Thousand Island Viewpoint
Seeing the sunrise from here was stunning and one of the highlights of my trip. The Thousand Island viewpoint also known as Pulau Seribu (literal translation: Thousand Islands) or Raja Lima overlooks a bay with a few islands (rather than a thousand). The cliffs and islands during the sunrise golden hour was absolutely magical. You can hike down to the Instagram famous Nusa Penida treehouse and a shrine that marks the most Eastern point of the island.
5. Rumah Pohon Molenteng (Treehouse)
When you trek down from the Thousand Island viewpoint, you will find a couple of treehouses that can be rented through Airbnb. Out of the three, only one is famous due to its photogenic position with Thousand Island in the background. I can’t imagine doing this steep hike every time you wanted to get in and out from the treehouse though, especially at night in the dark.
6. Diamond Beach
Before hiking down to Atuh Beach, there’s a set of unfinished stairs that will eventually take you down to Diamond Beach. For now, it’s still a stunning viewpoint of the other side of Thousand Island.
7. Atuh Beach
After a steep hike down, you’re rewarded with a tranquil setting at Atuh Beach with giant bean bags and lounge chairs under umbrellas for you to relax in. Perfect spot to enjoy a nice refreshing cold Bintang beer especially if you want to get away from the crowds!
8. Bukit Teletubbies (Teletubbies Hill)
Bukit Teletubbies are lush rollings hills named so due to their similarity to the Teletubbies’ home on TV. These green mounds are completely natural (from Mother Nature not man-made) where the domes are made of limestone with a thin layer of soil and grass covering them. Locals used to plant gamal trees on these hills to feed cattle.
9. Pura Goa Giri Putri (Cave Temple)
Originally, I thought I might skip this given all the temples I had already seen on Bali but I’m really glad I didn’t. It turned out to be more impressive than I expected. I was really surprised by the size of the cave. This is literally a temple inside a giant limestone cave. To enter, you have crawl on your hands and knees down a hole through a tiny opening which then opens up into a huge space. Note you have to wear a sarong and make a donation in order to enter the temple.
Ceremonies and prayers take place within these enormous cave chambers. If you’re lucky, you may be able to witness one in person. The last chamber is a mix of Chinese and Balinese Hindu Buddhism with a Guan Yin statue. A holy man was also conducting a blessing ceremony here. To learn more about this process, check out my blogpost about holy rituals at Tirta Empul.
Only a few chambers are in use because the locals haven’t fully explored more of the cave. My guide told me a passageway or chamber could easily lead someone unknowingly to an opening outside off the side of the cliff.
10. Crystal Bay
Crystal Bay is a popular place to view sunset so it can get a bit crowded. Note pickpocketing happens often here so take caution while you are swimming and don’t leave your things unattended. Otherwise, the beach is a fantastic place to relax after a long day.
Snorkeling and Diving
I don’t snorkel or dive but my guide told me that the best places for diving are in the bay between Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan (the neighboring island). At Manta Point, you’re guaranteed to see giant manta rays. Manta rays can also be spotted near Kelingking Beach. Many people were snorkeling at Crystal Bay where one could see the rocks and coral at the bottom of the water. As mentioned before, Angel’s Billabong during low tide is also pretty popular for snorkeling. There’s also an underwater Buddhist temple you can visit too. Some tour companies will also offer sailing tours around the island to visit all the top snorkeling and diving spots.
How to Visit Nusa Penida
The easiest way to reach Nusa Penida is by speedboat from Sanur in Bali. You can go direct, which is only a 30 min ride. Another option is to go to Nusa Lembongan first, and then take another ferry from Nusa Lembongan to Nusa Penida. Note these boats may be making shore landfalls so expect to get wet since you have to wade in the water to get on or off the boat. Wear flip-flops or shoes that you can take off easily. The workers there will help carry any suitcases but I advise traveling lightly. The port at Sanur is pure chaos. It’s unclear what the ticketing process is but probably not too hard to figure out by asking around.
My tickets were pre-arranged by my tour guide, Wayan. I had booked a 2-day tour with Wandering Nusa Penida Tours. Wayan is from Nusa Penida and he runs the tour company on his own. I would definitely recommend using him. He was very responsive and quick to reply on messages, whether via email or Whatsapp when I was asking for information on the tour options. Throughout the trip, Wayan was informational and cared about safety the whole time. As a local, he also knew all the good spots for photos where there were fewer people and better views. Wayan also helped take a ton of photos for me.
Motorbike or Car?
Once you get to Nusa Penida, you’ll be able to rent a motorbike or car. I only recommend renting your own scooter if you are extremely comfortable motorbiking. Roads are not clearly marked and often unpaved or full of potholes. It’s also quite dark at night since there are very few streetlights. I saw lots of tourists struggling with their bikes going up gravel dirt roads or with scrapes from prior accidents. That said, a car may be a slightly more comfortable ride on these roads and have AC while the motorbike would have the wind or breeze instead.
However, I think a motorbike is a lot more convenient since the roads can be quite narrow so you would be able to navigate around the cars more easily rather than be stuck in traffic. There is a ton of traffic to get in and out of Kelingking Beach and Broken Bay/Angel’s Billabong. These are the most popular tourist spots and a lot of the day tours visit these places. So expect a traffic jam with cars backed up for the whole length of the road at these places.
Since I was traveling by myself and I don’t know how to ride a motorbike (nor would I trust myself on the roads there if I did), I decided to book a tour. I also knew I wanted to go by motorbike because it would be easier to get around and I didn’t want it to be just me and the driver in a large car or van. So that’s why I booked a private tour by motorbike.
East or West?
Island tours are usually split between the east side or the west side of the island. The west side is definitely way more touristy with Kelingking Beach, Broken Bay/Angel’s Billabong, and Crystal Bay. The east side is much less touristy with more to see and do including Thousand Island/Rumah Pohon, Atuh Beach/Diamond Beach, Teletubbies Hill, and the Cave Temple. Since my tour was private, it was completely customizable to visit all the places I wanted to see. For example, we went to the Teletubbies Hill which Wayan said he doesn’t often take tourists to.
Most people who visit Nusa Penida do a day trip from Bali and often choose to do the West Island tour to see Kelingking Beach, Broken Bay/Angel’s Billabong, and Crystal Bay before catching the last ferry back at 4:30pm. If you’re catching the last ferry of the day, make sure you arrive early since all the day-trippers will be trying to get on the same boat.
That’s why I said you definitely at least 2 days to explore the highlights of both the east and west sides like I did. There are a few more places I could have visited like waterfalls and other beaches and lookout points if I had more time. I also knew I wanted to do a 2-day tour so I could avoid the crowds in the early morning and late afternoon in order to have more time to explore on the island.
Since I did a 2-day tour, I had 1 overnight stay on the island. I could have found my own overnight accommodation on Nusa Penida but I let Wayan organize it. I figured it would be easier for him to decide which place made more sense given the itinerary. I had done a quick scan and price-wise it would have been similar whether he booked it (then charged me for it) or whether I booked it myself. If you’re picky with where you sleep, you can choose to book it on your own.
Note there’s only 1 ATM on the island so make sure you bring enough cash for your entire visit.
It was amazing to drive around pre-dawn when it was still dark out. Since Nusa Penida doesn’t have that much light pollution, you could really see a ton of stars on a clear night. I spent most of the ride to Thousand Island before sunrise literally looking up at the night sky. I definitely would not have been able to drive myself in the dark because of the road conditions and I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy looking up at the sky as much. I absolutely loved the time I spent on Nusa Penida! It is such a beautiful island with all the stunning landscapes. It was actually a lot of fun albeit bumpy scootering around on the back of the motorbike with the wind in your hair and the smell of salt in the air from the ocean breeze.