The largest of the three Nusa Islands, Penida has a rugged coastline largely untouched by tourism. Sheer cliffs lead down to stunning beaches, and the scenery is breath-taking. Driving along winding coastal roads with many twists and turns, it looks very rural and under developed. At times you feel you are experiencing a secret paradise.
Nusa Penida is on the cusp of exploding into a massive tourist hotspot, and with many instagrammable stops such as Kelingking Beach viewpoint, Angel’s Billabong and Rumah Pohon Tree House, it won’t be long before this off-the-beaten track is discovered by the masses.
To whet your appetite, let Feet Do Travel show you all the awesome things to do in Nusa Penida.
Nusa Penida, Indonesia is a 30-45 minute fast boat away from Bali’s south coast. There are three Nusa islands; Nusa Lembongan is the most popular, Nusa Ceningan the smallest, and Nusa Penida – the largest and most up-and-coming of the three. You can take a day trip from Bali but it will be very rushed, and you won’t even scratch the surface of what this beautiful island has to offer.
A visit to Nusa Penida will make you wish you booked an extra couple of days, my advice is just book the extra days from the beginning so you don’t rush the island.
Due to the under developed roads, it can take an hour to travel short distances, and there are many awesome places to see. If you are scuba diver, you will definitely need longer to enable you to explore the island, as well as diving for Mola Mola and Manta Rays.
As Nusa Penida is still a developing island, infrastructure is in its infancy. There is no public transport, no Grab/Uber, no Go JEK. The most convenient way of getting around is by scooter, the cost per day is around 75,000 IDR, higher than on Bali, with little haggle-room.
However be warned; although the Government have spent money developing roads in the last couple of years and the main roads around the outside are new, inland roads are very bad, and at times treacherous. Not all roads have been tarmacked, some roads are made of dirt, gravel, broken concrete, a lot of the roads have very steep hills and inclines. If you have never ridden a scooter or are not confident, you may find the journey scary and extremely challenging. It can be tough on your forearms going down gripping the brakes, then driving up you need to build speed to get the scooter up a hill whilst navigating the path of least pot-hole resistance. If you plan to visit Angels Billabong, this is the worst road on the island. If you have scootered to Pink Beach, Lombok, you should be fine!
Nusa Penida’s rugged, untouched beauty and lack of tourists are the main reasons people choose to visit. Stunning landscapes, sheer limestone cliffs leading to clean white sand beaches, you can drive for miles and only see lush rolling green valleys and tall trees – isn’t that what every adventurous nature lover seeks in a destination?
We chose to visit Nusa Penida at the end of August for my birthday, as July – September is prime Mola Mola season, and we are scuba divers. There are only a few destinations worldwide where you can see the world’s largest bony fish, Nusa Penida is one of them. We dived with Scuba Junkie who are a 10 minute walk from Toyapakeh harbour.
Parking: 5,000 IDR per scooter plus 2,000 IDR per person
Without a doubt the most instagrammable spot on Nusa Penida is Kelingking Viewpoint, it truly is spectacular. A trip to Kelingking Beach is definitely the best thing to do and the highlight of my birthday. This dinosaur shaped headland is also known as the “T-Rex” due to its resemblance to the prehistoric creature … you guessed it … the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The views are phenomenal, and I don’t say that lightly as we have been to Raja Ampat and Komodo. From the top of the steep limestone cliff, you look out at turquoise waters and lush green headland then 100 metres down, is a beautiful secluded bay known as Secret Beach.
Definitely take a moment to simply stand still, soak up this natural wonder, and the amazing beauty all around you.
Entrance fee: 5,000 IDR per person (you will need to wear a sarong)
A few minutes from Kelingking Beach in the village of Karang Dawa, is this bizarre little Hindu Temple. It’s not much to look at really, but it appeals to my quirky nature so we stopped by for 10 minutes.
Tip: Between Kelingking Beach and Peguyangan Waterfalls, there is a wonderful lunch spot called Warung Bella. It’s a colourful place on a hill overlooking a valley serving cheap, simple Indonesian food in a quiet area. Perfect place for a pitstop and you will probably be the only people there.
Parking: 5,000 IDR
So this is how I started my birthday. I’m scared of steps and heights, so why did I think it was a good idea to walk down 700 steps on a sheer 500 metre cliff? Surely it couldn’t be as bad as the Trip Advisor reviews made out? Believe me when I tell you … it was!
Some steps are concrete, but 120 are made up from four sets of “blue steps” which are basically vertical ladders. Jutting out from the sheer cliff face, these 3 inch wide steps have 10 inch gaps between them, often overhanging a 500 metre drop straight into the ocean. It makes for a fabulous view if you can stomach it.
Although the staircase is bolted to the cliff, we could see evidence where a previous staircase had collapsed. The handrail faces out towards the ocean with gaps between the steps so if you are watching your step, you have no-where else to look but the cliff face below. There is no handrail on the other side, just a set of thick electricity cables heavily encased.
- You must wear a sarong, you will not be allowed to start the walk without one, if you don’t have one they can be hired.
- Women menstruating are prohibited (yep, that’s what the sign says!)
- Wear trainers/walking sandals, not flip flops!
- Take a bottle of water, it’s hot, thirsty, sweaty work!
- Time required: I recommend allowing a couple of hours for the experience. Factor in the walk down, climb back up, rest breaks, photograph spots, temple and waterfalls at the bottom. Some people walk down in 20 minutes, it took us over and hour for many different reasons; fear/build up courage for the next set/assessing how to place each step/OMG can I do this??/allow people to pass on the way up or down/taking photos of the stunning views.
Parking: 5,000 IDR per scooter
Another popular Instagram location, Angels Billabong is a rock formation and tidal pool. At low tide on a sunny day, you can see the different colours reflecting, you can even go for a dip in the natural infinity pool. Mother Nature at her best.
Your experience here will depend entirely on the tides, so I recommend downloading the app Magic Seaweed. Aim for low tide when you will be able to see the tidal pool. It’s also one of the most popular tourist attractions on Nusa Penida, and on the itinerary for all day trips. If low tide is in the middle of the day, it will feel very over crowded.
Parking: 2,000 IDR per scooter
This is a lovely stretch of beach, but it’s definitely no secret. We found it busier than expected, maybe it’s because we were here in high season, or maybe because people were travelling here instead of the northern Gili islands due to the recent Lombok earthquake.
Tip: This is an excellent sunset spot!
Sightseeing –East Coast
One of Nusa Penida’s major cultural attractions, Goa Giri Putri Cave is both a Buddhist and Hindu Temple inside a cave easily reached on the east coast. You crawl through a small entrance into a huge cave where you will find some bats and a temple where ceremonies and prayers are held daily. You are asked to keep your thoughts clear to keep the temple space clean.
Visit with an open mind and don’t just view it as another temple, and you may receive more out your trip than you initially think.
Tip: Take a sarong as it’s an active Temple
Entrance: 10,000 IDR per person
Rumah Pohon Tree House shot to fame thanks to Instagram, however there are actually four stunning view points you need to see. The first is at the top of the hill looking down the steep cliff towards the tree houses below.
Tip: If you visit around lunchtime or need refreshments, there is a warung at the top of the hill.
Entrance: 10,000 IDR
If you are visiting Rumah Pohon, Atuh Beach is nearby and one of the most beautiful beaches in Nusa Penida. We parked at the top of the hill for stunning cliff views, but if you want to soak up some sunshine walk down a set of steep steps. It seems that all of Nusa Penida’s natural beauty spots have a set of steep steps. Stairway to heaven it is sometimes referred to, but the rewards are worth it.
There is nothing here but peace, tranquillity and miles of natural picturesque beauty, it’s a great place if you enjoy trekking.
Scuba Diving and/or Snorkelling
There are many organisations running trips to snorkel with Manta Rays and there are two places to view them, Manta Bay and Manta Point.
As Scuba Divers, we chose a few days of diving with Scuba Junkie who took us to Manta Point. Did we see mantas? Absolutely!
We also visited Crystal Bay in the hope of seeing Mola Mola. This is considered THE site to spot the world’s largest bony fish, however they can be seen at many of the 20 dive sites around Nusa Penida, my friend saw 19 on one dawn dive at Blue Corner Dive site! Did we see Mola Mola? Sy did as it rose from the depths, jumped out of the water then dived back down and out of site.
However this was my biggest diving regret to date; I found the water too cold after Manta Point and opted out of this dive believing I would have another chance. I didn’t, the swells were too high making it too dangerous to take a boat here. Let this be a harsh lesson to myself, you have to be in the water to see special marine life.
If you have visited the underwater statues on Gili Meno, you will appreciate these sculptures. In 2005 a 2.4 metre Buddha, some smaller Buddha statues and stupas were the result of a community conservation project which created an underwater temple garden. The design is based on the Buddhist Temple Borobudur, and is an artificial reef for coral and fish in the Ceningan Channel near Pemuteran Reef. The underwater Buddha and stupas are sometimes known as the Pemuteran Temple Garden.
The currents around here can be quite strong, and there is a lot of boat traffic. Scuba divers and snorkelling trips regularly head along the channel to nearby Crystal Bay for Mola Mola, and Manta Point/Manta Bay for Manta Rays therefore a trip combining all sites is recommended.
Dinner and drinks
If you haven’t guessed already, I love sundowners and often seek out the best sunset spots, especially when we lived on GIli Air. For dinner on my birthday, we head to Semabu Hills Hotel and Villa which happened to have happy hour cocktails from 5pm for 50,000 IDR. It was a wonderful chilled evening, ambient music, soft comfortable sofas and delicious food. We would recommend the Bruschetta with Feta appetizer when you order your next round of drinks.
We loved it here so much we visited twice!
The Beach Corner and The Ogix Warung next door are both on the coast road towards Atuh Beach, and have fabulous seaviews for lunch. We grabbed a table overlooking the cliffs, unobstructed ocean, and watched the waves as they crashed into the rocks beneath us, Lombok could be seen to our right and Bali to the left – it was beautiful and so relaxing.
This is an excellent place for dinner! It’s a small restaurant in Toyapakeh with about 10 tables so it can become quite busy. If you are a scuba diver, the ex-pat community often hang out here because the food is simply delicious, and reasonably priced at around 50,000 IDR. The burger and pizzas come highly recommended, but they also serve local food and pasta. I ordered chicken and bacon with mash – oh my days it was out of this world!!
Penida Colada on the beach front at Kep has rave reviews. Their cocktails are meant to be the best on the island, however they can take their time serving food because they do get quite busy. We visited Nu Bistro next door and unfortunately cannot recommend it, although the setting is nice and is also a great sunset spot. We didn’t rate their cocktails or their food, and didn’t appreciate the “care less” attitude of the owner.
If you fancy watching the sunset on the fly, just drive or walk along the coast and find a spot. One night we watched from our scooter, another night we just sat on the beach. There are a couple of bars in the harbour, and the large and open-air Rock Bar has just opened up. As the islands’ popularity grows, I can see this will be the place for party people.
- Language – Balinese is the official language, however English is understood and spoken. Bahasa Indonesian is also generally understood.
- Currency – Indonesian Rupiah, £1 = 18,000 IDR
- Driving – Left side of the road
- Wi-Fi – Available in most places; scuba diving centres, hotels, bars and restaurants
- Climate – Tropical with two seasons; Wet/Monsoon is October to April, Dry is April to October
- ATM’s – There are two ATM's that accept Western cards. One is near Toya Pakeh Harbour, the other is at Sampalan Harbour which also along the north coast.
- Visa - A 30 day visa is given at the time of arrival in Indonesia (not for all countries, check with your embassy).
- Airport – Nusa Penida's nearest airport is in Bali, Ngurah Rai International Airport.
- Religion – Predominantly Hindu, but also Muslim.
How to get to Nusa Penida
Bali, Sanur port: There are many fast boats which run several times daily from the port of Sanur in south Bali, arriving into Toyapakeh in Penida, on the north coast.
Do note there is no jetty at Sanur and you will need to wade into the water to board the boat. Make sure you wear flip flops which can be removed easily, and either a pair of shorts or walking trousers that you don't mind getting wet. There is a set of steps near the check in desks so look out for them, otherwise you will have to climb over rocky boulders to reach the beach and your boat (whichever company you choose).
Bali, Padang Bai port: Fast boats also run from here, and the slow ferries which stop in Sampalan on the north east coast of Penida.
From Lembongan: Grab a local boat from “the yellow bridge” for 60,000 IDR per person.
From Gili Islands: There are no direct boats from the Gilis, however you can get the Eka Jaya fast boat from Gili Air or Gili Trawangan to Padang Bai, then onto Nusa Penida.
Our accommodation on Nusa Penida
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If you are travelling around Asia, we recommend you check bus, boat and train schedules ahead of time with 12Go Asia website. You can also book your tickets in advance online (as we did) to save time and hassle.
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