Updated: Sep 5, 2021
Do you love snorkelling/scuba diving in crystal clear waters? Exploring waterfalls, trekking along coastal paths and cliffs to catch the sunset, or experience the local culture by visiting temples? - Then Nusa Penida is right up your street!
Only a 40-minute boat ride from mainland Bali, Nusa Penida is the largest of the Nusa Islands, yet it is still a tranquil island, that should be on every traveller’s bucket list!
After visiting Nusa Penida in 2019 to complete a PADI Divemaster course with Indo Ocean Project, I spent my days off exploring the island and fell in love so much that I ended up staying there for a while longer after completing the course.
How to Get There?
The fastest way is via a fast boat (40-minutes). The fast boats leave from Sanur Harbour throughout the day and arrive in Toyapakeh in Nusa Penida. There are many ticket booths at the harbour where you can decide what boat operator you wish to take and the time that fits best in your schedule.
If you want to bring your bike over to save money renting one, you will need to head to Padang Bai Harbour in Bali and get on the public ferry to Sampalan in Nusa Penida. This takes around 1 ½ hours, but sometimes delays happen so don’t book anything until you get to the island if you do decide to get the ferry.
NOTE: Nusa Penida has limited ATMs, sometimes you cannot get cash out for days. Most restaurants and the supermarkets only take cash too - always bring as much cash as you can!
Transport On the Island
As the roads are not great, if you are not an experienced motorbike/scooter driver then hiring a private driver is the way forward.
There are many tour guides/drivers which can sometimes get a little overwhelming when you arrive on the island port. I highly recommend alitpenidatour - Alit is super lovely and grew up on the island so he knows the best spots to visit! He can also arrange snorkelling and accommodation if needed and will be waiting for you at the port with your name on paper to avoid the crowds of locals trying to go with their taxi service.
If you are an experienced scooter driver, then daily hire can be made at the harbour. Expect to pay a little more than hiring in Bali, scooter hire is 70,000-100,000IDR per day depending on what bike you hire. If you have already organised accommodation, speak to them upon booking as they usually do the best deals if you are staying with them.
Where to Stay?
Nusa Penida is very different to Bali, in that it is much more undeveloped than the mainland. There are no large resorts or hotels apart from a few luxurious stays. Accommodation on the island consists mainly of homestays, hostels and a few villas.
Note that some homestays and hostels may not have hot water - always check if you require that ‘luxury’ - I lived without hot water the whole time I was in Penida and actually it was rather refreshing as the island can get very humid!
Below are my recommendations from budget stays to pricier stays!
Private Villas & Pricier Stays
10 Things You Must Do/Visit When Visiting Nusa Penida
In no particular order, I have listed 10 awesome things that are a must when visiting Nusa Penida!
1. Snorkelling & Scuba Diving
Snorkelling and diving is great fun in Penida! With so many dive sites, you can see a wide variety of marine life cruising around the island. People travel from all over the world to see the majestic mantas and the curious-looking mola-mola in Nusa Penida’s waters!
If you are extremely lucky you can encounter dolphins, hammerheads and even the odd whale shark!
Nua Penida diving is known for currents, some sites on the island are for the more experienced (Cennigan Wall, Blue Corner and Mangrove), however, there are still so many sites including Manta Point, SD and Crystal Bay that are great for novice divers and even first-timers to take the plunge.
If scuba diving is not your forte, then why not try out snorkelling. Thanks to the crystal-clear waters, Nusa Penida makes a great snorkelling destination with daily trips to Gamat Bay and Toyapakeh Wall to see turtles and Manta Point and Manta Bay to see manta rays.
2. Kelingking Beach & Viewpoint
Known as “T-Rex Beach”, Kelingking has become extremely popular thanks to almost every Bali magazine and Instagram influencer sharing the famous photo overlooking the cliff.
If you are up for a challenge, you can climb down the steps onto the beach. Be prepared with the right shoes and bring plenty of water for the climb back up. It is recommended you do not swim in the ocean at Kelingking as the waves are powerful and very unpredictable - there have been many rescues over the years!
Around the area, there is a beautiful temple and lots of vendors that sell food and refreshments.
Be careful with valuables and plastic bottles as the local residents (wild macaques) like to take them off of you!
3. Crystal Bay Beach
Crystal Bay gets its name from crystal-clear water, which makes it one of the most popular dive and snorkelling sites on the island. The bay has a large island in the middle which is surrounded by a coral reef making it popular for snorkelling.
BEWARE - never swim between the right side of the island and the right side of the beach as the water is dangerous - stick to the left side of the bay where the small boats are moored up - plus you are more likely to see lots of fish and even sea turtles there!
As the sun sets this side of the island, Crystal Bay is a good spot to watch the sunset and grab a Bintang beer or fresh coconut before heading back to your accommodation!
4. Atuh Beach & Diamond Beach
These go together as they are right next to each other. They both have steep steps down to a beach, but Atuh has much bigger steps that really gets your sweat on!
For swimming and relaxing Atuh is more prepared with sun loungers and warungs (local restaurants) to spend the day. But if you prefer Diamond Beach, you can bring a picnic - ensuring you take any litter home with you.
5. Thousand Island (Pulau Seribu) Viewpoint & Nusa Penida Treehouse (Rumah Pohon)
Thousand Island Viewpoint & Treehouse is close to Atuh & Diamond Beach, so you can fit them in the same day.
The parking is at the top and the walk is not too difficult to get to the viewpoint. As you walk to the viewpoint you will come past little treehouses and one big one overlooking the blue ocean - a great place to stop for a photo.
This spot is also one of the best on the island to see the sunrise if you are an early-bird!
6. Visiting Temples: Goa Giri Temple & Pura Dalem Ped
During my time in Nusa Penida, I made many local friends that took me to some temples.
Goa Giri is a fascinating underground temple in a cave. I thought they were joking when they said I had to enter through a gap in the rocks, but they were not...Once you enter the cave it is massive!
The cave is a holy site dedicated to Shiva, the 3rd god in the Hindu Triumvirate. Along with Brahma and Vishnu, the gods are responsible for the creation, upkeep and destruction of the world. Inside the cave, there is also a shrine for Guanyin, the Chinese Buddhist goddess of compassion.
If you drive from Toyapakeh to Sampalan, you would have driven past Pura Dalem Ped. The Balinese consider it the holiest temple in Bali, with people travelling from the mainland to visit the temples inside. I was super lucky to go to a ceremony here and watch the traditional Balinese dances.
Pura Ped consists of 5 temples, and is the most important temple on the island, as it hosts the ‘demon king’ Macaling.
The 5 temples of Pura Ped and their meanings:
Pura Segara: Palace of Batara Baruna, god of the ocean
Pura Taman: The temple garden
Penataran Ratu Gede Macaling: Hosts the island’s magical power and Macaling spirit
Pelebaan Ratu Mas: The temple for the majesty or greatness of God
Bale Agung: This is the place for “Prelina” the biggest ceremony
7. Peguyangan Waterfall
If you have ever seen pictures of people walking down blue steps on a cliff edge when visiting Nusa Penida, they were heading down to Peguyangan Waterfall and temple.
If you have a fear of heights, it is best to avoid this one, but if you can brave the blue railings and 765 steps, it is worth it to see the spectacular waterfall, temple, and natural pool overlooking the dramatic ocean views.
8. Angel’s Billabong & Broken Beach
These go together as the trip includes both of them. Angel’s Billabong is known for the ocean pool that fills up as the waves crash over the cliff - avoid going in there if the swell is big as you are likely to be dragged into the ocean. If the ocean conditions are not too rough, Angel’s Billabong is where you can often see manta rays from the cliff edge and the occasional turtle popping up for air.
Broken Beach is an arched cliff with a bay inside. When ocean conditions are perfect, some dive boats will drive under the arch into the bay - this is very rare as there is usually a large swell inside the bay.
There are lots of restaurants and local warungs dotted around that sells both local and western meals and drinks.
9. Banah Cliff
Banah Cliff is one of the best viewpoints on the southwest part of the island - making it great for sunset. The drive is down a very bumpy track so if you are not an experienced driver, it may be best you ask someone to drive for you, or park at the top and walk down!
The amazing coastal cliff viewpoint is overlooking the “doughnut” - a rock formation in the ocean. If you are lucky sometimes manta rays can be seen swimming past!
10. Tembeling Beach, Natural Pool and Forest
This hidden gem is found within the forest down a crazy bike ride, but it is totally with the stealthy drive and jungle walk down to Tembeling Beach and Tembeling natural pool.
Once down the steps, you will be faced with a natural pool and beach that is covered in stacks of rocks/pebbles. The statues and fountains are used for water rituals by the Balinese people.
When swimming, I recommend sticking to the pools as the waves on the beach can sometimes get a little crazy!
Tembeling is my favourite place on the island to explore, with lots of nooks and crannies to check out! If you head through the cave to the “secret beach” (not so secret anymore) be sure not to knock any of the rock formations over.
I spent a few hours here and then headed up to Banah Cliff for sunset after - it was a perfect day. If you head out early for Tembeling, you can even fit in Peguyungan Waterfall in too - making it a super ‘jam-packed’ day of adventures and fun!
*When visiting any temples, including Peguyungan Waterfall, ensure you wear long trousers/skirt or a sarong to show respect and for the ladies, if you are on your period, it is disrespectful to visit during this time.
These are only 10 things you can do in Nusa Penida, there is so much more to this amazing island that I haven’t done yet - so more exploring is needed!
Other Things to See & Do In Nusa Penida
Here are some other things to do/visit in Nusa Penida:
Teletubbie Hill Viewpoint
Puncak Mundi - the highest point on the island
Saren Cliff Viewpoint
Abangan Hills Viewpoint
If you have a few days after visiting Nusa Penida before you need to head back to mainland Bali, you can get the local ferry boat from Toyapakeh to Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Chennigan where you will find the famous Yellow Bridge and can surf some awesome waves in Lembongan - also the nightlife in Lembongan is much better than Nusa Penida which is slowly developing, but I am sure it will soon catch up with its neighbouring islands!
Written by Darby Bonner