Dramatically rising popularity over recent years, Nusa Penida has really become one of the most talked about islands lying off the coastline of Bali of late. Gaining lots of attention for it’s dramatic coastlines, insane beaches and palm tree lined beaches full of crystal clear water, it’s definitely on it’s way to becoming one of the most iconic places to visit in Bali.
However, Nusa Penida is still relatively new to tourism, with very little infrastructure, accommodation options or completed roads around the island. It’s still very much an off the beaten track destination, with much of the island still completely remote and unexplored by visitors.
While you can definitely visit the island on your own, the easiest and perhaps most popular way to check out the highlights is on a day trip to Nusa Penida. To experiences the best of what this unique little island has to offer, jump on a tour and let someone else work out all the fine details for you! Here’s our guide to planning your very own day trip to Nusa Penida.
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About Nusa Penida
One of the three islands that make up the Nusa Islands, Penida Island is the biggest and until recently, also the least developed. Overflowing with natural beauty, Nusa Penida is home to dramatic coastlines, with extremely tall limestone rocks looming over perfect lagoons filled with crystal clear water and crazy steep hikes down to some of the most beautiful beaches in Indonesia.
It’s neighbouring islands, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan have been the more popular choices for visitors, as they have more facilities and options for visitors. However, in recent years, tourists have been flocking to Nusa Penida, drawn by the infamous photos of the jaw-dropping Kelingking Beach, unique treehouse accommodation and incredible landscapes.
A Day trip to Nusa Penida
For our visit to Nusa Penida we decided to book a private day tour of the island, so that someone else could organise everything for us. And it was definitely worth it! The island is actually a lot bigger and more difficult to navigate than we expected, so it was great to have a guide with us taking care of all the driving and the directions!
We booked a private one day tour directly through Visit Nusa Penida who we had found on Instagram. They offered a very well-priced tour that included most of the places we wanted to see, as well as a guide for the whole day, tickets for the fast ferry and lunch as well!
We didn’t have the best weather for our visit to Nusa Penida. We had patches of sunshine, but also a lot of heavy showers and rain. We were pretty much soaked for most of the day, without even getting the chance to go for a swim. To avoid this kind of weather, make sure to visit Indonesia in the dry season between April and September when the weather is the best.
To help you plan your own visit to Nusa Penida, we’ve put together this guide with everything you need to know.
Getting to Nusa Penida
The easiest way to get to Nusa Penida is by speedboat from Sanur Beach. There are three different operators that run the boat transfers between Sanur Beach and Nusa Penida, they are all relatively the same except for their departure times, so choose whichever time suits you best. They are Angel’s Billabong Fast Cruise, Maruti Express or Mola-Mola Express.
If you decide not to visit on a tour and need to organise your boat transfer yourself, tickets are around the 300K IRP per person mark for a round trip. Speedboats generally depart from Sanur to Nusa Penida between 7am and 10am in the morning, then return between 2pm and 5pm in the afternoon. To make the most out of your day book yourself onto the earliest and latest ferry.
As part of our day tour we were booked onto the 8am ferry, so had a meeting time of 7am at Sanur Beach. We organised our own transfer down to the beach, which took about 45 minutes from our hotel in Legian.
For directions, search for Warung Mak Beng on Google Maps. If you’re coming down to buy your tickets on the day, just look for the operators names on the open air huts that line the beach. Alternatively, you can purchase your tickets via this website before you arrive to save yourself any issues. Tickets are the same price whether you buy them online or at the beach where you depart.
The speedboat took about half an hour to get from Sanur Beach to Nusa Penida, and before we knew it we were jumping off the boat into the warm water of the island beaches. There is no dock or pier on either side of the speedboat, so wear shoes that you can easily take off when you have to get in the water.
It’s also important to remember that there are no docks if you are staying on Nusa Penida overnight or for a little bit longer. Any luggage that you bring will need to be carried from the boat to the shore, so try to pack as light as possible.
Try and get yourself a window seat on the speedboat if you can. The trip can be a bit rough and the boats can be very stuffy, especially on hot days. Trust us, you’ll be thankful for the breeze.
If you’re coming to Nusa Penida from either Lembongan or Ceningan it take just 15 minutes. You can arrange a private boat ride for the journey from Mushroom Bay.
From the minute we arrived on Nusa Penida it was like we were in the wild wild west of Indonesia. From the beach we met our driver and guide for the day, and then we were ushered straight into a car to head to our first location.
Driving around Nusa Penida is actually insane. The roads are mostly unsealed, which means they are super bumpy the whole way around the island. If you’ve somehow landed yourself in the very back seat of the car, expect the drive to be even bumpier!
If you didn’t do your research before you arrived, you might be surprised to realise just how big Nusa Penida is. It certainly wasn’t a short drive to get anywhere, from the main beach it took us over an hour to get to our first location, Angels Billabong on the west side of the island.
Check out the best places to stay on Nusa Penida
Getting around Nusa Penida
We were super thankful to have a private driver on Nusa Penida, especially after seeing the conditions of the roads. It probably would have taken us twice as long to get around the island if we were driving ourselves, because we would have been so paranoid about damaging a rental car.
If you decide not to join a tour, renting a motorbike is really your best option to get around. Trying to navigate the road conditions on a motorbike is way easier then if you’ve chosen a rental car. You can pick up a motorbike right on the beach where the speedboats come in for as little as 75K IRP per day.
Highlights of Nusa Penida
Due to the road conditions on the island, it would be extremely difficult to visit both the east and west side of the island on the same day. You would spend most of your time in the car, with little time to explore anything at all.
Our tour focused on the west side Nusa Penida, so some of the highlights from our tour included:
A beautiful natural rock pool that opens up straight into the ocean, Angels Billabong is stunning but quite dangerous. This natural infinity pool offers some super clear and beautiful water, and you’re able to swim throughout the lagoon if you would like.
If you’re checking out the rock pool from the cliffs surrounding it, be very careful. The rocks are often slippery and waves can smash onto the rocks unexpectedly. Be aware of the people around you and listen to the advice of the guides in the area.
Sitting right next to Angels Billabong, Broken Beach is just stunning. This little circular walk is known for it’s views of the arched tunnels in the cliffs and the beautiful little pool that sits in the middle.
The walk around the beach is relatively flat and easy and definitely worth it if you’re visiting the area. There are lots of points along the way that offer stunning views of both the beach itself, as well as the rugged coastline of the island.
The most famous and popular place on Nusa Penida, you’ve definitely seen a photo of Kelingking Beach before. Affectionately referred to as the T-Rex Head, it’s easy to see how this iconic beach got it’s name. If you want to visit the beach itself it’s a SUPER steep climb town a very scary, rickety and half broken staircase that has been the cause of more than a few casualties.
In our opinion, the best experience is viewing this iconic place from the view points above. Heading down the stairs is risky and dangerous, with many reports of injuries, fainting and dehydration coming from tourists who have attempted to climb down. If you’re still going to make sure you do your research, take enough water and wear proper climbing shoes.
Our tour guide was able to show us a great little viewing spot of the T-Rex head, where we were able to get a minute away from the crowds, as well as stunning views over the beach.
Our last stop was Crystal Bay, the easiest place to enjoy some time on the beach and go for a swim in safe water. Unfortunately though, during our visit it starts absolutely pouring with rain for the whole time we were at Crystal Bay.
Even though we could see how beautiful this little beach might be when the sun is out, it was extremely difficult to take it in when the rain was so hard. We could barely see through it to be honest! So instead of relaxing on the sunbeds and taking a dip in the ocean, we huddled up under a flimsy tarp at one of the beach hut cafes on the sand and had a couple of beers and coconut waters until it was time to go.
If the weather is better for your visit though, Crystal Bay is meant to be an excellent place for snorkelling and you are able to rent a mask and pair of fins for about 50K IRP right on the beach. The coral reef in the bay is super healthy and you can often see all kinds of different fish and marine life just off the shore.
If snorkelling is your main reason for visiting, check out a dedicated Nusa Penida snorkelling tour, which will take you to some of the best snorkelling places around the island.
From Crystal Bay we made our way back to the main beach to catch the speedboat back to Sanur Beach. We were back in Bali by about 5pm, just in time to grab some dinner.
Nusa Penida East Coast Highlights
If we were to visit again, we would definitely have chosen to spend at least one night on Nusa Penida, to give us two full days to explore everything the island has to offer. We weren’t able to get over to the East side of the island at all, but some of the most beautiful spots on the island can be found over there.
If you have the time to spare, make sure you add these highlights to your can’t miss list:
Head to Manta Bay or Manta Point for the chance to snorkel with the local manta rays! While they can sometimes be found in other areas on the Nusa Islands, they are most often found here and are often swimming in the shallow water.
It’s not an easy spot to get to, but Peguyangan Waterfall is worth the hike up and down the blue stairs that lead you there. It offers stunning views of the surrounding cliffs, as well as being the cultural site of the sacred temple in the area.
Two of the prettiest beaches you’ll find on Nusa Penida can be found on the East side of the island – Diamond Beach and Atuh Beach. A little bit off the trails of the one day visitors, these beaches are likely to be a little quieter and both offer incredible views and photo opportunities.
For the most unique accommodation on the island Rumah Pohon Treehouse is not to be overlooked. Stay in your very own treehouse, overlooking some of the prettiest waters on the island. A stay here is relatively inexpensive, around $35 USD for the night. Although it might not be the most luxurious stay you’ll find in Indonesia, the views and photo opportunities can’t be beaten.
Nusa Penida on a tour vs. independently
By the time you add up all the costs associated with visiting Nusa Penida, there is really no difference between visiting on a tour or travelling across from Bali independently.
Once you’ve added up all the inclusions that you would need to pay for yourself, including lunch, the cost of transport on the island and the fast ferry tickets, there is really very little difference between the two options.
In fact, I’m pretty sure we came off better than if we had of travelled across by ourselves!
If you’re organising a private driver you can also negotiate a custom itinerary to include all the places you want to visit. That way you don’t have to miss out on anything you wanted to see!
Our tour with Visit Nusa Penida
This tour was not sponsored, we just wanted to share the details of our tour because the company was really great to deal with. They were quick to get back to us, kept up with an ever-changing booking, organised everything for us and offered us a great day out to Nusa Penida.
We booked the one day trip option, which gave us the time to visit Angels Billabong, Broken Beach, Kelingking Beach and Crystal Bay. If you have the time, definitely look into their overnight tours for one or two nights, to give you the chance to explore more of the east side of the island as well.
The tour cost 600K IRP per person and required a minimum of two people to book the experience. We were travelling with our friends in Bali, so were actually a group of 5, but still had plenty of room in the car!
The easiest way to contact Visit Nusa Penida was definitely through their WhatsApp account. You can contact them on +62 856 379 6870 or find them on Instagram HERE.
There are so many beautiful places to explore on Nusa Penida, we definitely just scratched the surface. If we have the opportunity to visit again we would definitely look at staying a little bit longer, spending just one day here wasn’t enough to see everything.
Giving yourself more time to visit the island also allows you to visit spots early in the morning or later at night to avoid the crowds, or come back to a spot you might have fallen in love with. Or in our case, it would have given us the chance to return to spots that we couldn’t explore due to the rain!
What’s your favourite spot on Nusa Penida?
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