Updated: Apr 11, 2019
The answer is, YES! Visiting Nusa Penida has always been a dream of mine. Before meeting Jose, I planned on living in SE Asia for a year and exploring the islands of Indonesia. Crazy to think we finally made it here! There’s multiple ways to get to the island depending on where you are, but they’re all by boat. We had been snorkeling and taking in the views of Mt. Agung from Amed, which is an eastern coastal town, and the closest port to us was Padang Bai. From there, you have the option to go by a fast boat or a car-ferry. From everything we read, the ferry was the safest and cheapest option if you had the extra hour to spare due to the slower ride. Being long term travelers means saving wherever you can, so we opted for the car-ferry.
If you do decide to go this route, be wary of the timetables and the fact that they sometimes decide to leave earlier than usual if there’s enough people on it. The ferry leaves daily at 12:00pm from Padang Bai to Sampalan (port in Nusa Penida) and returns at 11:00am. It takes under 2 hours from port to port. The other ports are Sanur and Kusamba, which have fast boats heading to the island. While on the subject of fast boats, don't let the hoard of salesmen intimidate you into paying for a fast boat. The moment our taxi dropped us off at the port, we were surrounded by a huge group of yelling that there was no ferry for the next 3 hours, which was basically a lie.
Once you arrive in Nusa Penida you have multiple options on where to stay. The way we saw it, you have the west coast attractions and the east coast ones. Since we arrived early in the afternoon, we decided to head to the west side to catch sunset over there. We used the app Agoda and booked 2 nights at Butterfly Bungalow near Crystal Bay which was perfect for what we were looking for. I'll never forget the kindness of the staff.
Tip: By far the best way to get around this island is by scooter. You can rent them once you get off the boat or at your hostel and keep it during your stay. We had never ridden a scooter before, and when we asked to get one we were encouraged not to do so haha. The roads in Nusa Penida are getting better, but there’s still plenty of sections that are very rocky and winding, and can be pretty treacherous for the beginner driver.
The owner of the bungalow we were staying in told us a guest had crashed a scooter leaving the driveway the day before! If budget allows, hire scooter drivers. the majority we found provided their WhatsApp number in case you needed future rides. Everything is negotiable, so don’t be afraid of going with your gut and asking for the price you think is fair.
The infamous T-Rex shaped cliff. This was our destination for our first sunset in the island and it did not dissapoint! Before heading to the stairs leading down to the beach, we decided to head towards the right side for a different view. By following a small foot path, you end up at two lookouts where you get the whole panorama. It was beautiful and we started taking photos right away.
While we expected big crowds and a line up and down the staircase, we noticed that people started to leave before sunset. It definitely wasn’t empty, but a lot of people come with day tours from Bali and leave earlier in the day. We were able to take photos wherever we wanted to without having to wait for our turn.
While we didn’t walk all the way down to the beach, you can definitely do so. We arrived a little later than planned, so we didn’t have time to enjoy it before dark. However, it’s beautiful and would recommend it. Just be prepared for an arduous climb back up! The suffering in people’s faces was real.
This is a popular spot for sunsets, and we decided to head there for our second day. We were able to walk there from our bungalow which took us 25 minutes. There's a nice small beach where you can rent snorkeling gear or take a boat to snorkel or go diving further in, and a bunch of warungs (little shops with food and drinks). Here we found more people, as it was a great place to relax and catch that sunset.
NOTABLE MENTIONS ON THE WEST SIDE
Broken Beach: The highlight is an arch on the land that lets the ocean water flow in. When you see it from above it looks like a land-locked sea! However, from eye-level it’s still a beautiful sight with photo-worthy angles.
Angel’s Billabong: This area has some unique rock formations as well as some awesome tide-pools. However, to get the most out of it, make sure you go when the tide is low. That way you’ll be able to enjoy the landscape and get in the water. During high tide it can be dangerous to get in and not recommended.
After a day and a half on this part of the island, we ventured over to the other side. Since we didn’t have our own scooter, we opted to stay close to the places we wanted to see and found a bungalow near Rumah Pohon, which is the tree house perched on the Thousand Island lookout. We knew we wanted to go here for sunrise, so instead we ventured elsewhere during the day.
From where we stayed everything was within walking distance, which was very convenient. On the map there was a foot trail between the Thousand Island lookout and Diamond Beach. We followed it through thorny bushes only to be greeted by a rusty metal fence blocking us from crossing. In any other circumstance, I would've turned back and scouted out a different path, but the locals told us to go that way, so we climbed a tree and made our way over the fence. We later found the actual road that easily led from point A to point B (facepalm). The skies were clear and sunny, so we headed to Diamond Beach. After paying an entrance fee of RP10,000 each, we began descending the newly built staircase to the beach. The scenery is beautiful from the first step, being able to admire the diamond-shaped rock formations against the clear waters and beach. Once you get to the bottom of the “stairs” (some areas you practically have to scale down or climb up) you’ll be greeted by a little shop with refreshments, a giant swing, and a nest-looking thing perched on a tree. The swing costs RP100,000 and the egg nest RP50,0000. We decided against doing these and walked around finding other angles for us to photograph instead.
RUMAN POHON (The Tree House)
Fun fact: you can rent this tree house on AirBnB (Use this link for $40 off your first booking of $75 or more or $15 off an experience $50 or more: https://www.airbnb.com/c/brose11?currency=USD)! There’s actually three of them treehouses, but there's the particular one with the famous view. Don’t expect a calm, relaxing time with nothing between you and the surroundings. There will be people taking photos on the staircase all day long. And if you’re interested, plan ahead. It gets booked months in advance!
Since we were on the east coast of the island, we decided sunrise here would be great; it was. Luckily we only had a 15 minute walk from our bungalow, so we sleepily set off at 6:00am and were there enjoying the sunrise right where we wanted to. Unsurprisingly, we weren’t the only ones! However, there were only a few people so we were still able to take our photos and enjoy the scenery; the beauty of visiting Nusa Penida during off-season!
NOTABLE MENTION ON THE WEST SIDE
Atuh Beach: This beach is located next to Diamond Beach. It’s small, picture-worthy, and there will be plenty of vendors to cover your soda or snack needs. At this point we had already gotten our sun/beach fix (it was ridiculously hot the entire time we were on the island), so we decided to skip it. To get to it you can park on either side of the beach and descend the cliffside down a staircase.
All in all, we loved our three days in Nusa Penida. The weather was great throughout, we got to experience the sights we had hoped to see, and the people were always kind. We could have easily spent a few more days here covering the rest of the scenic spots, but we had plans in Bali and had to leave.
Have you been there? How was your experience? Let me know!