20 Helpful Nusa Penida Travel Tips to Know Before You Go

After three weeks in Bali, we found ourselves growing a bit tired of the massive crowds. We were searching for adventure, more beaches, and a rugged experience. We found that it was less than an hour away from Bali with Nusa Penida. Nusa Ceningan, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Penida make up the Nusa Island group, and exploring them is a great addition to any Bali trip.

Nusa Penida is the largest and most rugged of the three islands. However, it’s still a small and much less crowded version of Bali with dreamy turquoise water, rolling hills, epic cliffs, coves, and white-sand beaches. We spent ten days hopping between all three islands and found each to offer something different. Each is worth a few days of exploration, and all are worth the 45-minute speedboat trip over.  When you decide to make the trip over (because you won’t regret that decision), here’s all you need to know before traveling around Nusa Penida.

Nusa Penida Travel Tips

Opt for the Fast Ferry to Nusa Penida

A Local Ferry Loading Good On Nusa Lembongan
One of the local boats carrying goods onto the island

There are two options for ferries to Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan – a speedboat or a slow ferry. Every day, ferries leave from Sanur and Padang Bai in Bali. Sanur is the primary point for tourists traveling via boat to Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan. You may find the area a bit chaotic once you arrive at Sanur Beach/port. There are a lot of tourists, few signs, dodgy boat operators, and annoying touts, which creates a confusing and stressful environment.

The second option is the local ferry. We’ve been told the local ferry costs around 50,000 IDR and takes about two hours with questionable Indonesian safety regulations. What’s a life jacket? Even though the journey is short, the waters can still be treacherous, and people have died crossing on both the local boats and speedboats. However, the odds are better in the fast boats meant for tourists.

Regardless of money, I wouldn’t recommend the slow boat, as even speedboats can take up a large chunk of your day. Our speedboat took almost four hours, much longer than the advertised 45-minute boat ride. Most of the time was spent buying and haggling for tickets, waiting for the boat, loading the luggage, taking off, and taking the boat ride to Nusa Penida. Once we arrived in the Nusas, we once again loaded everyone off the larger boat into a lorry and got onto the Nusa Penida island.

Pay the Right Price to Nusa Penida

Diamond Beach On Nusa Penida

There are several “ferry” operators, and picking the right one seems impossible. El Rey, Arathmas, Mola Mola Express, and Maruti are a few notable ones. We had heard of El Rey, so we took the gamble and chose to go with them. The first price they quoted us to go from Sanur to Nusa Penida was 490,000 IDR one way.

We’re not sure if anyone paid this ludicrous price; at the time, haggling was the way to go through third-party brokers. We ended up paying around 100,000 which is slightly lower than the rates these days, inflation. Now it seems all of the companies have caught up to the time and run their own websites and compete for pricing with clear terms.

My advice would be to have a price you are willing to pay to get to the Nusas and stick to it. There will be numerous touts and companies trying to quote you for much more to see what they can get. If you don’t like the price, head to the next stand and see what they will quote you until you’ve exhausted your options.

Most companies are about the same in terms of service level and dodginess. If you end up booking with your hotel or a third party, you will most likely be paying more than you would at the ferry terminal, but you will enjoy the convenience and peace of mind by not dealing with the chaos of doing it yourself. This often includes a transfer from your hotel to the ferry point. (Side note – We returned to Bali from Nusa Lembongan for 175,000 a person).

Carry Your Shoes With You

Footprints Along The Beach In Nusa Penida

Most speedboats will collect your shoes before you get on board so you don’t risk getting wet. They will return your shoes when you arrive at the Nusas. Unwilling to part with my Rainbows Sandals, I carried on my sandals while Cameron surrendered his. He later admitted I made the better choice.  When we arrived at Nusa Penida, it was confusing to locate his shoes, and when we did find them, they were in a mess of shoes and a pile of mud.

Nusa Penida is more Expensive than Bali

A Dive Boat Of The Coast Of Nusa Pendia

Everything on the island arrives via ferry from Bali. This means everything comes with an added cost and less supply on the island. Expect prices to be higher than in Bali for just about everything. Motorbikes, food, accommodation, and activities will all cost a bit more on the Nusa Islands, often at a lower quality.

However, accommodation tends to be much cheaper on the island, and finding a deal is much easier. We’d say it all balances out. It might be more affordable in Nusa Penida as accommodation is often our largest travel expense.

Nusa Penida Island is Far Less Developed Than Bali

Sunset On The Beach In Nusa Penida

We were surprised by how undeveloped Nusa Penida was when we visited.  However, it’s all quickly developing from an influx of tourists. The Nusa Islands have seen rapid growth, mainly because of viral Instagram spots, but don’t worry—they are still rugged and raw and perfect for those wanting to get a little off the beaten path. Just be aware that Nusa Penida is unlike Bali, so don’t expect luxurious amenities. Finding a room with a hot shower is a bit of a struggle, and the roads can be exhausting on motorbikes.

The Island Is Far More Rustic Than Its Neighbors

Gamat Bay With Two Beach Bags At Low Tide

Those hip coffee shops and vegan cafes you can find in Bali? They are few and far between in Nusa Penida. The island is mostly full of local family-run warungs. However, we did find a few places to eat with epic viewpoints and some nice seaside cafes in the main part of the island. We’ll share our favorites at the bottom of this post.

Bring Items of Luxury with You to Nusa Penida

Sunset With Local Boats On The Beach In Nusa Penida

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Nusa Penida, so I packed everything we could need for a three-day trip. Anything you need for traveling should be brought to the Nusas as you may be unable to find it there. This includes specialty medicine, electronics, and beauty products. There is a main part of town near the ferry harbor and Toyapakeh where you may be able to score a few odds and ends, but I wouldn’t risk it for anything of importance.

Leave your Suitcase in Bali

A Table By The Edge Of Water On Nusa Penida At Sunset

If you are traveling with a suitcase, I recommend leaving it in Bali and traveling to Nusa Penida with a carry-on backpack or duffel bag. Trust me on this one. First, a suitcase is not ideal when dealing with boat transfers. Second, you’ll be able to move across dirt, sand, and gravel far faster and with less struggle with a backpack. Third – if you plan on renting a moped right when you get onto the island to get to your guesthouse, you can ride with the bag on your back.

We knew we didn’t want to drag our suitcases to Nusa Penida, so we packed our backpacks and left our suitcases back in Sanur with our hotel free of charge. We brought a few outfits, bathing suits, tennis shoes, sandals, electronics, and toiletries and left the rest in Bali.

Get a Motorbike to Travel Around Nusa Penida

A Local Boy Fills Up Motorbike With Petrol On Nusa Penida Village
Where you buy gas in Bali – not from gas stations, but from the local people.

You can explore Nusa Penida in two ways by either hiring a driver for the day or renting a motorbike. We opted for a motorbike to get where we wanted on our schedule. It was the best option since we spent multiple days on Nusa Penida Island. We paid 75,000 IDR for a one-day rental, which was the going rate on Nusa Penida.

Don’t sell yourself short on time with the moped, though. Distances between points may look close together, but given the roads and routes, it can take an hour to get between points right next to each other. If you only have one day in Nusa Penida, a driver may suit you better to see more. We’ve been told 600,000 is a good price for a driver for the day.

Know How to Ride a Motorbike

Natasha Cruising Along A Road On Nusa Penida Via Motorbike

Some competence in riding a motorbike is recommended as the roads here are not exactly roads, but more like stretches of moon-filled potholes and craters. You’ll spend a lot of time dodging speeding cars that don’t seem to value life itself. It’s treacherous when you get caught on the same schedule as day trippers on the same itinerary. The visitors and the drivers amount to dozens of vehicles speeding one after the other.

Plenty of hill climbs and descents are also on uneven gravel roads, so it’s very easy to lay the bike down. It’s probably the most common mishap for tourists in Southeast Asia, and I doubt it will change anytime soon. Wear a helmet! You should be prepared for an adventure on Nusa Penida as it’s a bumpy and adventurous ride. Just book a massage session. When you return to Bali, your back will need the reprieve.

Google Maps Works Well on Nusa Penida

Despite being slightly off the grid, we found that Google Maps works surprisingly well as a navigation tool around Nusa Island. Download an offline map of the island, and you should be set!

Time Your Stops Right

A Busy Beach At Atuh Beach On Nusa Penida With Sun Loungers

When plotting out where and what to do on Nusa Penida, ensure you time your stops well. Pay attention to high and low tides, affecting your beach-going experience. We showed up at Atuh Beach at low tide, and although it was still beautiful, we would have preferred to be there during high tide and dip our feet in the water. We also noticed at Crystal Bay that the day tours arrive around midday, becoming crowded and far less enjoyable. Generally, the earlier you arrive somewhere, the better.

Bring Cash With You to Nusa Penida

There are ATMs on Nusa Penida but they are often out of order. We never found a single place in Nusa Penida that accepts credit cards, so it’s advisable to bring all the cash you think you need from Bali.

Prepare for a Cold Shower

As mentioned, Nusa Penida is not developed. We listened to many people complain about cold or salt water showers here, and it should be expected with cheaper accommodation. If you love your hot fresh water showers make sure you ask your accommodation provider beforehand if they will be provided.

How many days should you spend on Nusa Penida?

We spent three days on Nusa Penida. We traveled slow and didn’t get to all the points of interest that we wanted to. I would recommend at least four days here if you can spare it. If you’re moving fast and don’t have a ton of time to spare I think three days is more than enough to have a good time.

Should You Go to Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Penida?

A Drone Photo Over Nusa Lembongan Main Beach
Nusa Lembongan

Many travelers are short on time and may wonder where to invest most of their precious time. We spent three days in Nusa Penida, one day in Nusa Cenginan, and five days in Nusa Lembongan because we took our open-water dive course there.

If it weren’t for our diving course on Nusa Lembongan, we’d spend more time on Nusa Penida than on Lembongan. Penida is more adventurous and has a lot more islands to explore, while Lembongan is great for bars, surf schools, dive operators, pools, and restaurants.

Where to Eat on Nusa Penida

Nusa Penida

Nusa Penida is not like Bali, which is, which is loaded with a wide variety of food options. For the most part, you will be limited to family-style Indonesian warungs dishing up local food. We still managed to have a few good meals while on the island.

Our favorite places to eat in Nusa Penida:

  • Vegan Soul Kitchen: Our favorite find in Nusa Penida. Located far away from the main road and you will definitely need a scooter to get there. Once you arrive you can indulge yourself with all the vegan food you want away from the hustle and bustle.
  • Ogix Warung: This is the number one rated restaurant on Trip Advisor so we figured we would give it try and we left more than satisfied. Ogix Warung specializes in grilled fish and Indonesian bites. Their restaurant is perched high up over the ocean and they have great tropical vibes going on in the evening, along with a stunning sunset.
  • Penida Colada: Stopped here for a quick cup of coffee and ended up staying because of the view. This is a small cafe that serves up international cuisine. It’s just steps away from the clear blue water.
  • Sunny cafe Penida: Nice mix of options that include local and international cuisine.
  • Mambo Beach Restaurant: This awesome spot has a lovely atmosphere, beach club, and restaurant and hosts lots of events.
  • Sushi island: Cameron was skeptical, but I love sushi and convinced him to give this restaurant a try. It was shockingly good sushi for the price, and we can definitely recommend it.

Things to do on Nusa Penida

Kelingking Beach and Lookout

Kelingking Beach is the spot that draws visitors to Nusa Penida. It’s been making the Instagram rounds for a few years due to its jaw-droppingly gorgeous ridge shaped like a T-Rex head. Once you arrive at Kelingkling Beach, you will find a small area to park. Once you arrive at the lookout, you’ll have two choices. Stay at the top, admire T Rex from above, or trek down to Kelingkling Beach.

The trek down is no joke. It used to be down a washed-out path with bamboo steps, but the local community has since improved the trail greatly with concrete and handrails. While the trail is improved, it has a steep descent and ascent that should not be taken lightly. The hike down and up takes about one hour roundtrip. If you trek down, we recommend bringing tennis shoes, not sandals, as they can lose traction. Also, pack a bottle of water for the hike back up. We saw many travelers struggling to ascend the stairs after visiting the beach.

If you decide to journey, the reward is spectacular views, an adrenaline rush, and a secluded beach at the bottom. It was the highlight of our trip to Nusa Penida, and we were happy to witness sunset while on the ridge. With as much as we’ve traveled, we’re pretty immune to tourist spots, but this one took our breaths away. Many places don’t live up to their photos, but the ridge and the path’s angle will leave you speechless.

Pura Goa Giri Putri Cave

Natasha Stands In Pura Goa Giri Putri Cave

The Pura Goa Giri Putri Cave may have once been a quiet stop-off in Nusa Penida, but with the new popularity of the island, the cat is out of the bag. We stopped here on our journey to Atuh Beach with no expectations and thought it was a different and unique thing to see on Nusa Penida instead of another beach or viewpoint.

Cameron Descends Into Pura Goa Giri Putri Cave

The entrance to the cave is located up a steep staircase. You won’t be allowed to enter without a sarong, so bring your own or rent one from the locals at the parking area for 5000 IDR. Once at the top of the staircase, you will be given a glass of water and asked to pay a donation of 20,000 IDR per person to enter. The entrance may make you feel slightly claustrophobic, but it’s only for a few meters.

The cave soon opens up to a massive 300-meter cave. If you’re lucky, you will arrive during a prayer and get a glimpse of religious life. There wasn’t much going on when we checked it out, but it was still a nice experience.

Atuh Beach

After the cave, we continued to Atuh Beach. Plenty of street signs will lead you here, and the road is well-paved. There are two ways to enter Atuh Beach, and both require taking the stairs down. We took the “Stairway to Heaven,” which was much easier and less dangerous than the Kelingkling Beach staircase.

Atuh Beach was a great stop for us as there weren’t many people there, and the views were amazing. We came during low tide and were able to walk out towards the impressive rock formation. I would have planned to arrive at high tide if I had known better. Keep in mind it’s on the island’s east side, so later in the day, it receives little sun. There are a few small warungs with beach lounges setting up shop here, making it the perfect place to chill out with a coconut.

Manta Point

A Manta Swims Over Head Diving In Nusa Penida

Giant manta rays call the waters around the Nusa Islands home, thanks to the deep waters around the islands. It’s common to see them from the cliffs above. The most reliable place to see them in the water is Manta Point.

Manta Point is only accessible via boat, so you will have to book a snorkeling or diving trip to reach the spot. As with all wildlife, spotting them is not guaranteed, but chances are super high you’ll get a glimpse of them. We got open-water dive certified with Dive Concepts on Nusa Lembongan and had one of our last dives here. During the dive, we saw three massive manta rays swimming through the water!

We’ve seen Manta Rays before in the Galapagos and Mozambique, but they were shy and fast and swam away from us. Here, they seemed habituated to the large number of snorkelers and divers floating around them. If it’s your first time, make sure to bring an underwater camera.

Crystal Bay

An Empty Crystal Bay Beach On A Sunny Morning

Crystal Bay is a small bay great for lounging and enjoying a dip in the clear blue waters around Nusa Penida. A few local stands are dishing up fruit juices, local Indonesian fare here, and some loungers and bean bags to relax. We were asked to pay 50,000 IDR for three hours, but I watched the family next to us get charged double so put your bartering pants on.

Crystal Bay is known for its waters and is a great snorkel and dive spot. It’s most famous for divers around the world to see the mola mola, the heaviest bony fish in the world. We found the reef here impressive, and we had a great experience. Crystal Bay was our first stop in Nusa Penida, and I was so happy we made it before noon. After lunch, it seemed all the day tours made their way here, and the bay quickly became overrun with what seemed like hundreds of people.

Palm Tree Lane

Natasha Drives A Motorbike Down A Road With Palm Trees On Nusa Penida

As the crowds came, we decided to leave Crystal Bay, but not before staying around Palm Tree Lane to grab some photos nearby. When exiting Crystal Bay you’ll notice that if you keep going straight instead of turning left a long paved road full of crazy high palm trees lay ahead. It is a fun place to take photos with hardly any traffic.

Angel’s Billabong

A Woman Floats In Angel's Billabong At High Tide

This is an amazing spot famous for the awesome effect created by the tide pool. We ran out of time to go to Angel’s Billabong on Nusa Penida, but you’ve probably seen the amazing natural effect on social media. We’ve heard that getting in and out of the tidal pool can be tricky due to sharp rocks. Mind your step and see if you can pick up some water shoes or Tevas.

Banah Cliffs

An Aerial Photo Of Banah Cliffs

Another great sunset spot on Nusa Penida is Banah Cliffs. The road is not suitable for cars, so you’ll need a motorbike to get there. Once you’re here, you’ll have breathtaking views over the cliff face. You can see the backside of Kelingkilng from here, and if you keep walking around, you’ll find more amazing viewpoints and an arch over the ocean. We were lucky enough to see tons of Manta Rays from above. Be careful around these cliff faces, one wrong step is game over.

Day Trip to Nusa Ceningan or Nusa Lembongan

A Beach On Nusa Lembongan

Both Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan are amazing islands to visit and are only a short way away from Nusa Penida. I highly recommend checking them out!

Plan Your Trip to Bali

  • Any trip to Bali will start and end at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar. We arrived late at night and had to depart early in the morning. We stayed at Grandmas Airport Hotel and enjoyed our stay.
  • The remainder of our time in Bali was spent in Airbnbs. The island has many Airbnb accommodation options for everyone. Get $35 here! 
  • Travel Insurance: We don’t travel without travel insurance, and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country, and it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo offers excellent short and long-term travel insurance policies.
  • Water: The tap water in Indonesia is not drinkable. Make sure to bring a travel water bottle and fill up from the large tanks, which can be found almost everywhere. Indonesia and Bali have a huge plastic waste problem, so try your hardest not to contribute to it. One of our favorites is the Grayl GeoPress.
  • Adapter: Indonesia uses the Europlug. Pick up a good universal travel adaptor before you arrive.
  • Packing: It can get real dusty riding around Bali on a motorbike. Wearing a buff will protect your face from all the dirt.
  • Read and Watch: Eat, Pray, Love.
About Natasha Alden

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years, across 7 continents, experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.

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