A GUIDE TO ONE DAY IN NUSA PENIDA
Where to even start with Nusa Penida?
Pictures sure don’t do this island off the coast of Bali, but still considered to be a part of Bali, justice. It doesn’t take long from stepping off a speedboat in the island’s harbour to feel like you’re in another world.
The crystal clear water, ocean views that seem to stretch for infinity, and sweeping cliffs topped with swaying palm trees are guaranteed to leave you nothing short of breathless.
Why Visit Nusa Penida?
A few years ago, Nusa Penida was pretty much untouched by the outside world.
But, of course, Instagram changed all that. Made famous initially for the massive cliff that looks like a T-Rex, otherwise known as Kelingking Beach, visitors to the island soon found there’s a lot more natural beauty to behold.
The best part about visiting places, that as recent as 3-5 years ago weren’t even visited by outsiders is, of course, feeling like you’re discovering something new. When I visited Nusa Penida in July 2019, it was evident the island was beginning to thrive off tourism. A few guesthouses and hotels are under construction, as are cafes and restaurants to appeal to visitors. There’s no doubt it’s a place that’ll just get busier and busier over the next few years.
If you’re visiting Bali and have the time, I’d set aside a few days to visit all of the Nusa islands off the coast- Nusa Penida, Nusa Cenigan and Nusa Lembongan. Fear not if you’re short on time, it’s also possible to visit Nusa Penida on a day trip from Bali and still leave feeling stunned by the beauty of nature.
When I visited, it was on a day trip from Ubud. Needing to be back on the island early evening to work, a 7 am – 6 pm day trip sounded like a long day, but also the perfect option for maximizing my time. And, if you choose to do a tour guided by locals as I did, then you’ll really have nothing to do all day but sit back, relax, and occasionally hike a cliffside.
How Do You Get to Nusa Penida from Bali?
Leaving Ubud at 7 am, we set off for a fast boat from Sanur harbor. We arrived at the harbour around 7:45, got tickets for an 8:30 boat and then waited for departure.
The tour I booked, more on that below, included a driver both ways to the harbor. If you’re doing your trip independently, you can arrange your own driver, go by scooter, or hail a taxi, although I’d imagine that’d be more expensive with traffic than arranging a driver to drop you off and pick you up at designated times.
If you arrive early like we did, which is better than arriving late and realizing tickets for the time you’d like to depart are sold out, there are a few warungs (local cafes) and stalls nearby if you’d like breakfast or coffee.
Fast boat is the best way to reach Nusa Penida if you’re short on time- it only takes about 45-60 minutes, and there are multiple departures daily both ways.
I wish someone had told me that Sanur is a wade in harbour- there are no piers. I’d experienced this before, usually traveling around the Thai islands, but never with deep water like in Sanur.
In the morning, the water reached over my knees (I’m 5’9″), and in the evening, it was waist deep.
Definitely something to keep in mind on two fronts: What you wear (it’ll get soaking wet) and what you bring (you’ll need to hold bags overhead). If you’re unable to lift your bag, your guide may help you, but don’t expect it- especially if you’re visiting on a day trip and don’t have particularly cumbersome luggage.
It’s nothing to worry about too much, but I found myself wishing I had a change of clothes and had worn something different for the boat trips.
You’ll also have to climb over rocks to get down on the beach in Sanur, so I’d recommend bringing trainers or planning to take your time in flip-flops, some of the rocks are quite big and jagged.
Once you reach Nusa Penida, you’ll walk in on a swaying platform, which makes boarding a lot easier.
Returning to Bali from Penida, make sure you’re at the ticket office well before your departure time- I’d allow 30-45 minutes. You’ll need to get tickets sorted, and although that sounds like a simple thing, pretty much everyone tries to come back on the last few boats of the day, so they can be quite crowded.
I’ve heard tales of boats booking up, and people being forced to wait for a new boat to come from Bali to get them, significantly delaying their return journey.
How do I Get Around Nusa Penida?
On the island itself, I’d recommend renting a driver if you’re not a very experienced motorbike rider. Even with several months of scooter experience, there’s no way I’d be comfortable driving the roads on Penida- if you can even call them that.
Many of them are dirt tracks with massive potholes, filled with rocks, uneven and steep. It’s an uncomfortable journey at times in a car, I can’t imagine what it’d be like on a scooter.
During our day of driving the island, we saw many scooter accidents. If it were me, on a story stay holiday, I wouldn’t risk it.
The other thing to consider: Not all of Penida is covered by cell reception. You will lose service at multiple times throughout the day, and many places don’t have wifi. I enjoyed this aspect of getting a bit off the grid, but largely because I had someone to take care of navigating for me.
If you plan your route ahead of time and download a map to use offline, account for more time than you think you need to get between places. Google Maps doesn’t know how bad the road conditions are on Penida, so the estimates are quite off what it actually takes to reach places.
The tour I booked included a driver for Penida, and I’d recommend booking one in advance if you decide to go the same route I did. Otherwise, you’ll be left to haggle in the harbor, hoping to find someone with availability.
What Will a Day on Nusa Penida Look Like? A Guide to One Day in Nusa Penida.
For my day trip, I’d looked at several tour options after I decided I didn’t want to drive myself around the island.
With one day, I really wanted to see a few of the island’s most beautiful sights, namely: Kelingking Beach, Ruman Pohon ‘Tree House’, Atuh King Five and Diamond Beach.
The issue I kept running into?
Most tours, even private ones, only visit one side of the island- east or west. Penida is deceptively large, and with the roads being in such poor condition, it can take quite long to get from one sight to the next- let alone one side of the island to the other.
I looked at tours in town, online via Google, and through Airbnb Experiences. Just as I was giving up hope of finding someone willing to try and see a few sights on both sides of the island, I found an Airbnb tour that fit exactly what I wanted to do.
It’s more expensive than the tour options I saw in town, and some of the other Airbnb tours, but that’s because it’s a bit longer and traverses the island.
The tour I took doesn’t appear to be listed at time of posting, but no doubt, alternatives will pop up. Make sure you read any tour description carefully- some will show pictures of locations on the east and west sides, but actually only visit one side.
What Does a Tour Cover Cost Wise?
Usually all travel: Transport to the harbor, the speedboat, and transport around Penida. Often, they’ll also offer a bottle of water. Your guide will make a recommendation on where to have lunch, but won’t that’s not included in your cost.
The cost of your tour also covers your guide hanging out with you all day- telling you about the island, and helping get some great shots of you and your travel companions. I noticed most guides had no issue scaling trees or hanging off cliff sides to get the perfect shot.
If you’re a solo traveler, you’ll likely be charged an additional fee to supplement cost of staff time and time for the driver that would normally be split between 2+ people. Most tours charge 500-600k+ extra to cover these costs.
I don’t quite agree with this approach, and believe tours should be built to accommodate any number of travelers, even if it increases the base price slightly, but I don’t run the tourism industry in Bali. This kind of practice is standard behaviour here- you’ll even find it in some hotels, which makes zero sense to me. There’s not much you can do about it, but ask for specific details to understand what you’re being charged an incremental fee for traveling alone.
In this order, my tour visited: Kelingking Beach, Ruman Pohon ‘Tree House’, Atuh King Five and Diamond Beach.
Most tours to the east will visit Kelingking Beach, Broken Beach, Crystal Beach and Angel’s Billabong. Those sites are no less beautiful than what I saw on the west, so it’s really a matter of personal preference as to what kind of tour you take.
You won’t be able to fit all of the below into a single day trip, but to help inspire a trip, the best things to see and do on Nusa Penida:
Shaped like a T-Rex, chances are you’ve seen this cliff in an Insta post if you follow any travel bloggers who’ve been to Bali.
The view from the top is absolutely breathtaking. When I visited, we had about an hour here, so I hiked part of the way down the cliff. It’s steep and uneven, and can be hard to pass people coming the opposite direction. I wore flip flops, but made sure to take my time.
Adjacent to the viewpoint, be sure to walk along the cliff in the opposite direction for more stunning vistas. Watch your belongings in this area- there are a bunch of monkeys living in the trees on this slide of the cliffs.
As with monkeys elsewhere in Bali, they’ve become accustomed to tourists and know they can snatch keys, sunglasses, hats, etc. in exchange for food. I’d also be careful with any food you’ve purchased from the warungs on the cliff- I saw a few monkeys go after corn people were eating quite aggressively.
Angel’s Billabong & Broken Beach
Near each other, only about a 5-7 minute walk apart, these viewpoints are said to be unreal. I didn’t get a chance to visit them myself, but have seen enough photos to know they’re spectacular.
Broken Beach features an archway with the waves crashing into it. The archway was created over time by waves crashing into the side of the cliff, quite beautiful to see.
And, Angel’s Billabong is a clear tide pool where you can swim during low tide. Beware of the edge, as waves can crash over and pull you out to sea.
A snorkelling stop on the west side, I didn’t stop here either. Although I love snorkelling, I snorkelled a lot in Thailand, and planned on doing so in other parts of Indonesia (the Gilis, Flores), so I didn’t feel like it was quite needed on this trip.
Nearby Crystal Beach, you may also stop at Manta Bay. People come from around the world to complete their PADI certification in this part of Bali for the chance to learn how to dive among Manta Rays.
There’s never a guarantee you’ll see them, but visiting Crystal Beach should be enough of a treat. I’ve heard the corals are quite healthy, and it’s typical to see bunches of rainbow fish, unicorn fish, trumpet fish, and schools of small fish.
Ruman Pohon ‘Tree House’
When I first saw this treehouse, nestled high in the sturdy branches of a tree on a remote cliff on an island off the coast of Bali, I couldn’t believe it was a real place.
Of course, I needed to see it for myself.
If you visit the tree house on your trip to Penida, you should know there are actually three tree houses.
Situated 130+ steps down from the top of a cliff, people stop venture here throughout the day to see the rustic accommodation firsthand.
You’ll always need to be respectful of anyone actually staying in the treehouse when you visit, but I’ve never heard of anyone being denied a quick photo.
You can rent the treehouses on Booking.com, but I’ve heard mixed reviews. They’re basic, which is a lovely way to disconnect, but also poses challenges a lot of travellers aren’t prepared for- reaching them independently by scooter, bringing food or climbing up the cliff every time you want something to eat, climbing down the tree to use the toilet, limited cell service. It’s the kind of thing that’s perfect for some travellers, but better suited to a photo opportunity for others.
Atuh King Five
Atuh and Diamond Beach are both nearby the tree house, so chances are, you’ll visit all three if you’re on a tour of eastern Pendia.
You’ll need to hike down to reach Atuh, but trust me- it’s worth it. The views down are incredible, and at the bottom, white sand and warm water await.
Next to Atuh, this can be another nice beach to visit during high tide.
At low tide, it becomes a giant stretch of sand.
Billed as one of the most commercial beaches on the island, you’ll be able to rent a daybed here, or have lunch and drinks brought to you on the beach. Not quite as secluded and quiet as some of the other beaches on Penida.
What About the Other Islands?
Reaching Nusa Ceningan by fast boat from Penida is easy. I’ve heard good reviews about places to stay on Ceningan, as well as it’s beaches.
Although I’ve never been, it sounds a bit more developed than Penida, but still nothing in comparison to the main bits of Bali.
From Ceningan, you can walk to Lemborgan via a Yellow Bridge that connects the two.
No cars are allowed on Lemborgan, so if you want to head over to check it out, you’ll have to walk or scooter.
Generally, I’ve heard all of the Nusa islands are beautiful, Pendia is famed for its breathtaking vistas.
What Should I Bring For One Day in Nusa Penida?
Regardless of the kind of day trip you take, I’d bring a swimsuit, snorkel mask (if you’ve got one and your tour doesn’t provide one), change of clothes, trainers, flip flops, water, a scarf, hat to protect from the sun, sunscreen and cash (many places aren’t upmarket enough to take cash).
Have you ever visited Nusa Penida from Bali? Do you have any other advice for first time visitors, or people who only have time for one day in Nusa Penida?
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