About 45 minutes away but miles apart. Nusa Penida couldn’t be much more different to the chaotic environment of South Bali and especially the surroundings of Denpasar. To best describe Nusa Penida, look for words like tranquil, sleepy, authentic and relaxing.
Prior to arriving on the island, we had spent a few days in Ubud (a “disneyland” of inauthenticity in our opinion) and Sanur (actually not so bad considering what is right next to it). Needless to say we were well in need of some peace and quiet. Arriving at the dock kept us skeptical for a moment as minivans and motorbikes were lined up waiting for our boat to arrive. Luckily though the island is fairly large and within minutes the crowds had disappeared and we were almost alone on the coastal road heading to our villa set beneath banana plants and a lush green garden. Exit chaos, enter tranquility.
Diving for the more experienced
Nusa Penida is well-known for the excellent diving around the Island, however these waters can be described as unpredictable and often very strong currents are present. Currents bring in life though and can spot many large species of life here such as Oceanic Sunfish (Mola Mola), Manta Rays, Tuna, Grouper and Reef Sharks. However at the same time the strong currents make the waters a bit more challenging for divers. To get the most out of your dives here, being a slightly more experienced diver is recommended.
We spend a few days diving with Sanctum Nusa Penida. Their shop on the north coast of Nusa Penida is one of the newest on the Island and they have excellent gear, equipment and a great staff who care for the environment and their guests.
What else will I see and do?
Nusa Penida has plenty to offer above sea level too. The island is best explored by renting a motorbike for a few days. Make sure you pick one that has good brakes and tires though, as the roads on the island are extremely hilly and winding at best, and almost non-existent at worst. Take your time while riding to keep safe.
You can easily spend a day exploring the Eastern part of the Island and all the hidden beaches, cliff sides, hilltops and lookouts. Equally, you will spend a day checking out the Western part of the island with equally spectacular hidden coves, farms and hilltops. With no proper signs by the roads, make sure to bring a map (e.g. download the map of the Island on Google Maps beforehand) or study the route well to start with. It is not easy to get lost on the Island though as most roads lead back to the coast anyway.
Some of the bigger “attractions” on the island do tend to gather a little bit of a crowd, but even at these, you won’t feel too overwhelmed by the number of other travelers.
For a shortlist of places to check out head to Kelingking Beach, Angels Billabong, Broken Beach and Crystal bay for a Western Nusa Penida road trip and Atuh Beach for an Eastern trip. There are also a great number of temples you can visit along the way if those are of interest to you (and you are dressed appropriately).
Top 3 tips for Nusa Penida
- The Island has a surprisingly big variety of places for food and drinks. One of the best we found was Penida Espresso who offer fantastic smoothie bowls and freshly brewed coffees with reasonable prices. Also De-Ku Bistro offered great local foods with one of the best views on the island!
- Diving with Mola Molas and Manta Rays must be one of the highlights especially for anyone who loves the aquatic world. The Island is known for both of these and during peak season they can often be spotted along the shores of the Island. Ask a local dive shop (e.g. Sanctum Nusa Penida) for details.
- The best views of Mount Agung from all of Bali. Breakfast on the beach here gives you one of the best views of the spectacular volcano that rises above Eastern Bali. It is a majestic sight on a clear morning and even when clouds cover the hills around it, the peak is often high above with the rising sun coloring the top of the crater.
Environmental tips to consider: We could see plastic waste pollution getting worse and worse on Nusa Penida (We first visited a few years ago). Seems like there is no recycling at all, and many guest houses just dumb their waste to the closest forest. You can do your own part for example by bringing a refillable water bottle and download an app called Refill My Bottle (http://www.refillmybottle.com/) to your smartphone, and you can see Nusa Penida options where you can refill your bottles. Many places let you to refill the bottle for free or with small charge (max 5000 IDR for big bottle, which is also cheaper than buying a water bottle from the store).
Also consider if you really need to you plastic straw. Did you know that in the US only 500 million plastic straws are used EVERY DAY? Unfortunately most of those end up to oceans killing animals and polluting our beautiful waters. Do a favor to yourself and the planet and ask for no straw when ordering your drink. If you really need a straw (for example when drinking straight from a coconut), there are plenty of sustainable straws, for example ones made from bamboo. When traveling in Bali (and on nearby islands) check a local option yourstraw (https://yourstraw.com/) and #stopsucking.