This post was last updated on July 10th, 2020 at 09:18 am
Nusa Penida is a top tropical destination that we first visited in 2018. We got there after the rather disappointing stay on Gili Air. And how glad we were that we made that choice.
Because really, this is one of the most beautiful and special destinations we’ve been to date. Without exaggeration.
The island is close to Bali, but once you arrive you have the idea that you have entered a completely new world. You will find beautiful pieces of nature and can do all kinds of cool things. Sometimes the things that you see in front of you almost seem fake.
Nusa Penida is also referred to as the “Bali of the future”. Whether this will actually be the case is difficult to say. It is certain that this place is becoming increasingly popular to visit. Our advice is not to wait too long before you visit this gorgeous place.
In 2018 relatively few people came to Nusa Penida, but nowadays you often end up in real selfie parades. However, if you go at the right times and visit more than just the standard destinations, it’s not so bad.
In this article, we will share 10 highlights of Nusa Penida with you. We also give you some useful tips.
So, do you want to see something completely different and are you adventurous? Then read on.
1. Sleep in a treehouse and feel at one with nature
With more luck than wisdom, we were just in time to catch the boat from Sanur to Nusa Penida. During the ride, we ran into two Canadians who told us they had booked a night in a treehouse. This seemed like a good idea, so we decided to go with them to the place that they mentioned: Nyuh Bengkok Tree House. And we wouldn’t regret it.
In total, we stayed for seven nights in one of the many tree houses that can be found there. A super cool experience, something different than sleeping between four stone walls. Every time you climb up the wooden stairs, you feel like you’re stepping back in time. If you want to sleep in the middle of nature and like to escape the crowds you will love this place. It’s the ideal place to stay after, for example, the Gili Islands or the massively visited Bali.
We had a little laugh with the owner’s family who were busy every day to further shape the complex. It was quite impressive for us to see that they made everything themselves. And very pleasant: the mattresses are wonderful.
If we have to mention a disadvantage, it is the loudly crowing roosters in the early morning. For example, we were awakened at half-past five on our first night. In our opinion, taking (good) earplugs is a must. It is also very basic, there are only squat toilets and cold showers. The former can be a bit tricky.
By the way, Nyuh Bengkok Tree House is not the only treehouse accommodation on Nusa Penida. Another beautiful spot is Rumah Pohon Tree House. You will not get a better location than here. You are close to Atuh Beach and have a beautiful view of the ocean from your cabin. Our tip is to get up early and watch the magical sunrise from your balcony.
Please note that – because of that beautiful setting – many tourists come to Rumah Pohon Tree House, and are taking selfies for a long time. As a “resident” of such a treehouse, this can take away the real adventurer feeling. Timely online booking is advisable, as this accommodation is often full.
Other accommodations on Nusa Penida
You can also just stay in a hotel, of course, especially if you need more comfort. You can find them in Toyapakeh, the busiest village in Nusa Penida. Two accommodations with nice rooms are Hotel Arsa Santhi and the Saka Boutique Hotel.
2. Enjoy an overwhelming view of Kelingking Beach from the Karang Dawa Viewpoint
Kelingking Beach is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve ever seen. Quite a statement eh? Yet it really is.
It is a white-yellow strip of sand surrounded by giant cliffs and emerald green water. The view from the Karang Dawa Viewpoint literally made our mouths fall open. Really unrealistic just how beautiful this place is.
On arrival, it initially seems as if there is no path down, but it is indeed there. However, it is not that simple to traverse. You usually descend steeply via rocks and (smooth) dirt roads. Fortunately, there is a railing made of bamboo to hold onto. Just be careful, because it is not always as strong. We stopped halfway because we wanted to visit some other places that day. It takes about 40 minutes to get down.
Be aware that Kelingking Beach is just about the most crowded spot in Nusa Penida. Things were not too bad in 2018, but things are changing quickly. Chances are you will end up in a line to take the familiar photo or come down. Therefore, go early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
3. View the natural wonder Angel’s Billabong
After arriving at the parking lot via a bumpy road, we went on to Angel’s Billabong via a small road through the woods. A lagoon surrounded by a crater landscape, supplied with water by the rough adjacent sea. This is a well-known spot that will make photographers, Instagrammers, or anyone else quiet.
It is nothing short of impressive to see the power of the sea up close. The intensity with which the water ends up in this natural ‘bath’ is enormous. The waves are sometimes so huge that they even hit the highest boulders.
We really wonder how people were floating in the water so relaxed in photos of Wonderful Indonesia. It is not without reason that there is a sign on which something is written along the lines of “swimming prohibited”. And this seems like a wise decision, given the inexhaustible forces of nature that converge here.
Note: Sometimes you can seemingly swim there. Several Nusa Penida travelers we’ve spoken to recently have confirmed this. We simply got there at the wrong time when the sea was too rough. With that in mind, you also have to be a bit lucky.
4. Walk on to Broken Beach
If you continue walking along the bumpy road, you will arrive at Broken Beach a few minutes later, also known as Pasih Uug Beach. Contrary to the name, there is no beach to relax on.
Yeah okay, a strip of sand can indeed be seen from the cliff. However, getting there is impossible. Not this “beach” but the impressive rock formations demand attention. And in particular, the semi-circle bridge, formed by nature, through which the sea flows at a rapid pace.
When we got back to our scooter to drive the rather adventurous route back, we got the question from an Australian if one of us can take his sister on the back of our scooter. Their mother is also there, and the way there with three people on a scooter had not been too comfortable. Frankly, given the pitiful condition of the road and the considerable extra weight, we didn’t really feel like it. However, because we are so kind, we helped them anyway!
5. Admire Atuh Beach and Diamond Beach from an immense cliff
Atuh Beach, like Kelingking Beach, is a beautiful place on Nusa Penida. After you arrive, again via a bad road, at a gate that forms the entrance, you walk up to the top of the cliff. Before you get there, you can see a stunning beach below, with the boulders rising from the water. The name is Diamond Beach. The scenery is reminiscent of the Twelve Apostles in Victoria, Australia. We really didn’t know what we were witnessing, it is so enchantingly beautiful. It doesn’t resemble Indonesia at all, but it’s there.
If you walk a little further, you will arrive at the top of the cliff. There is an abandoned house, almost spooky. Or would someone secretly live there? 😉 If you are still looking for a place for the perfect panorama photo, this is the place to be. To your right is the aforementioned Lebah Ampoak, in front of you there are countless mega rocks coming out of the water, and on the other side is another beach: Atuh Beach. The water has different colors, which makes it very special.
You can reach Atuh Beach via a steep staircase along the hill. Incidentally, a relative breeze compared to the road to Kelingking Beach or the later to be called Guyangan. Once down, it’s great to order a coconut and retreat into a bean bag. Due to the many rocks and stones, it is unfortunately not the ideal place for swimming.
Previously, it was not possible to walk to Diamond Beach, but since 2019 there is a staircase that makes visiting this gem possible. And if you look at the photo below, you would be crazy not to go there right?
6. Attend an underground ceremony in Goa Giri Putri
Before driving to Atuh Beach we made a stop at Goa Giri Putri. A sacred place where locals gather for Hindu ceremonies. There is a cave here where “it all” happens.
We do what is expected of us and rent a sarong to cover the lower half of our bodies. Just as we walk down the long stairs, since we cannot find the cave, one of the employees calls to us. “Cave?” Indeed, we want to see it. We feel like typical tourists who disturb the locals. Anyway, we’re invited so we go there.
After being sprinkled with holy water, we end up in a mega cave, through a tiny and mysterious entrance that would fit well in a fantasy book. Something we didn’t expect at all after seeing the outside.
Inside are temples where large groups are praying and making sacrifices. It is also very hot. Again, our visit doesn’t feel entirely appropriate, but what a special experience.
If you are not into spiritualism, chances are you will have a change of heart after visiting this underground revelation.
7. Test your fear of heights on the way to Guyangan Waterfall
Do we still have to mention it? Again, the road to Guyangan (sometimes called Peguyangang) is simply super bad. The beauty of Nusa Penida, however, is that after almost every major effort you will be rewarded with unparalleled beauty. This is also the case at the waterfall in Guyangan.
We can tell you: some of us are quite afraid of heights. We noticed this already on the descent (well it was rather like climbing into an abyss) that leads to Kelingking Beach, only with Guyangan it might be even worse. Fortunately, it is several stairs that eventually take you to the temple, Pura Segara Kidul, instead of smooth dirt roads and rocks. It seems to be no less than 700 steps. Fine, we’re not averse to a little bit of effort.
In the beginning, it all seems to be easy, until we arrive at a blue staircase that could not have been built steeper. Next to us there’s a deep abyss and through the steps, we can see the frightening depth.
We do it anyway, and we seem to make mental steps as well as physical steps.
Eventually, we passed several of these steel stairs, which have to be descended to get to the endpoint. Unfortunately, there are some creaky wooden stairs in between that seem to have not been checked in years.
In the end, we had to deal with a (kind of) bridge with very fragile-looking steps. Between those steps, you look down tens of meters. This part made us decide to stop and not take the last hurdle to the temple and the waterfall, which incidentally turns out to be not very special after seeing it from a distance.
We take a good look where we are and prefer to enjoy the beautiful view and the sloshing sound of the waves crashing on the cliffs. On the way back we see numerous manta rays swimming in the water from a great height.
Fortunately, the path to the temple and the waterfall has improved, making it much easier to get there. Do this for sure, because swimming in the natural infinity pool under this waterfall with the additional view is the ultimate reward for the many drops of sweat that the scrambling trip has cost you. A sarong – which you can rent – or a pair of long trousers is required to go to the temple.
8. Fresh dip in the Tembeling Natural Pools
At first, we are somewhat disappointed when we arrive at the Tembeling Forest. It is certainly a beautiful piece of nature, even a little fairytale with the forest and the small temple, but we do not see the expected “natural pool”.
Just when we want to go back upstairs, we happily notice that there is another road that goes further down. It is the sound of the sea that makes us suspect that there is more. No other people, only a curious monkey witnessed our presence.
Eventually, we see the sea with a crystal clear stream in front of which fresh spring water flows. There is also a small waterfall. It is a peaceful place in the middle of the wilderness. The ideal destination to refresh yourself. There should be several pools, but they seem to be dry.
To be honest, the neighboring mini cave from which we see some kind of temples seems more special. As we get closer, it turns out that they are stacked on top of each other.
In the background, the sea is raging and the cliffs are again fascinating.
TIP – Stop en route to eat at the cozy Warung Nengah Mesin. Here, we had the best Gado-Gado ever!
9. Eat local food at the night market
The island’s better local food is without a doubt at the local night market. What is nice about these places is that it usually costs you little and you sit comfortably among the locals.
Definitely try the “martabak manis” or “martabak telor”. The first is a kind of thick pancake with a topping of your choice. We recommend grabbing some nuts and chocolate. Martabak telor is a mixture of dough, eggs (“telor” means egg), some vegetables, and chicken or another kind of meat. After it’s fried you get a delicious crispy snack, a kind of savory tart. The martabak manis (“manis means sweet”) is delicious when you need something sweet. Martabak manis is also called “terang bulan”.
You’ll find the night market in Sampalan, near Kutampi Beach and Mentigi Beach. You can go there every evening around 6 p.m.
10. Relax and enjoy a spectacular sunset at Amok Sunset
Amok Sunset is a wonderful place to end your day in style. Yeah okay, the menu is on the pricey side for local standards, but you get a lot in return.
There is an infinity pool with sun loungers for relaxing. From the pool – or your chair – you also have a fantastic view of the sea and Gunung Agung – the famous volcano in Bali. There are also so-called “treetop nests” where you can sit with four people.
Come during the sunset, because you will see the sun slowly disappear behind some hills, after which – with a bit of luck – a spectacle of colors will appear.
Amok Sunset is also quite remote and you will also have to drive over a not too easy stretch of land. But aren’t remote places often the prettiest? 😉
Crystal Bay: not very special
As far as we are concerned, Crystal Bay is a normal beach. Not nearly as beautiful as, for example, Kelingking Beach, Atuh Beach, or Lebah Ampoak. Very busy, no pearly white sand, and rather dark water. Now we know that some pictures on Google claim otherwise, only our own research never lies. However, it is an ideal destination to watch the sunset with a drink or to swim.
How are the roads on Nusa Penida?
The “problems” arise when you leave this road to divert to the hotspots. The roads to Kelingking Beach, the Guyangan Waterfall, Atuh Beach, Angel’s Billabong, and Broken Beach are particularly challenging.
Or actually we should say it “was a huge challenge”…
At the beginning of 2020, the roads have been properly overhauled and asphalt has been laid, for example the road to Angel’s Billabong and Broken Beach. But also the road that leads to Atuh Beach. The roads to get to these places were – as you can read in our report above – downright dramatic. Sand, stones, and boulders here and there; you know it. This is now a thing of the past and travel times to most places of interest have been reduced considerably.
Driving a scooter on Nusa Penida has become a bit easier, although there are still roads where you have to be extra careful. For the roads themselves, but also for reckless driving trucks.
However, even though the roads were still quite dramatic, we did not feel unsafe for a moment, and we say that as inexperienced scooter drivers. In addition, as said, the situation has improved. So don’t be put off by the ghost stories people often spread.
If we had been bothered by the stories we read at the time, we might have been stopped. “Just do it” is sometimes the best motto.
Note: Remember that these rules apply when you rent a scooter.
You really need a motorbike (75,000 IDR per day ~ US$5.30), otherwise, you are sentenced to (expensive) tours where you are also in a car all day. Every now and then we have seen people riding mountain bikes, but these turn out to be scarce.
TIP – Refuel at one of the gas stations. There you pay half compared to the bottles you get along the road.
Are the sights free to visit?
For some highlights, you will have to pay a small amount to park your scooter. This usually comes down to 5,000 IDR (~ US$0.35). In the case of Atuh Beach, in addition to the parking fee, you will also pay something similar for the entrance fee.
Can you use an ATM on Nusa Penida?
Yes, but watch out! Some of our cards were unable to withdraw money on the island. There are only two ATMs -BRI and BPD- available. Fortunately, there is still a credit card that can help you out. BNI and Maybank always work for us in Indonesia.
Is it worthwhile to go snorkeling around Nusa Penida?
You can swim between the manta rays at Manta Point, a special experience that you can experience in only a few places. Besides snorkeling, you can also dive well here.
It is also true that the chance of spotting these manta rays is very high. In fact, we’ve heard from other backpackers that you shouldn’t be surprised when five or more of those large fish come close to you. And that for tens of minutes. In any case, they are far from afraid of you.
We also recommend snorkeling at Gamat Bay. Here you can see the most beautiful corals and fish. In our opinion, it was even more impressive than the underwater life around Karimunjawa, one of the best spots we’ve ever snorkeled at.
In short: snorkeling at Nusa Penida is an absolute must.
Are there any good coffee shops on Nusa Penida?
In 2018 there wasn’t a single espresso available on Nusa Penida, but this is completely different in 2020. Lucky us!
We recommend going to Penida Espresso for a delicious breakfast. How about a strong coffee combined with a fresh smoothie bowl?
Another tip is the Secret Penida Cafe, where you can eat tasty and healthy food in addition to good coffee. For example, the salads taste really great here. If you want to do some work on your laptop, this is also a great place to sit.
How long should you stay on Nusa Penida?
At least three days. We have come across people who did a day trip from Nusa Lembongan but then regretted not staying longer.
We visited the sights in three days. Driving around requires energy and you also really get to know the island if you stay a little longer. In other words: take your time if possible.
We have the following route suggestion for you:
Day 1: Goa Giri Putri and Atuh Beach.
Day 2: Kelingking Beach, Angel’s Billabong, and Broken Beach – possibly close the day at Amok Sunset.
Day 3: Tembeling Natural Pools and Guyangan Waterfall.
However, given the improved roads, you can also visit several of these highlights per day. This is of course up to you, it depends on how long you want to stay on Nusa Penida and how full you want to schedule your days.
Where do most backpackers stay?
Without a doubt around the village of Toyapakeh. It is a lively place with a mix of locals and tourists. Every day there is a market where you can get vegetables, fruit and the like and you have cozy food stalls and local shops. Good to know is that there is also a mosque. If you’re not used to this, it can be an unpleasant surprise, especially in the middle of the night.
Toyapakeh is also the place where you arrive by boat. You can, therefore, walk there directly.
Nyuh Bengkok Tree House, our favorite accommodation we spoke about earlier, is about five kilometers away, in a much quieter environment. So it just depends on what you are looking for.
How to get to Nusa Penida
There are quite a few options to reach the island. Below we mention the most popular.
From Sanur, you can reach Nusa Penida in half an hour by speedboat. We traveled with tour operator Angel Billabong and bought a return ticket at the port for 350,000 IDR (~ US$24.50). You can negotiate, the normal price is 400,000 IDR (~ US$28). With luck, we just managed to take the last boat, which left at half-past five in the afternoon. We have seen (many) other tourists who paid 400,000 IDR (~ US$28) for a one-way ticket, this is way too expensive!
TIP – Are you coming from Ubud? Then, for example, you can buy a return ticket in Jalan Gautama for 400,000 IDR (~ US$28) including delivery to and collection from the port. A one-way ticket costs 200,000 IDR (~ US$24), and they also take you to the port.
Another option in Bali is Padang Bai. There you can catch the ferry (travel time an hour and a half) or a speedboat (45 minutes).
If you come from Nusa Lembongan, the ferry (takes one hour) is an option. Or you can charter a speedboat (takes 20 minutes). The latter is relatively pricey.
We came from Gili Air. There was no speedboat to Sanur, so we first had to head for Serangan (2 hours) via Bangsal (Lombok). Then a transfer to the port of Sanur (half an hour) where we got on the boat to Nusa Penida (see above). You could say that traveling through Nusa Lembongan makes more sense, but this is (unfortunately) a lot more expensive.