Nusa Penida: Indonesia’s Best Kept Secret
It’s 6am in Ubud at the Elephant Sanctuary and I’m wide awake at the sound of birds, crickets and elephants. and the sound of the wind as it whisks its way through the rice field located only a stone throw away from my cabin. I was up quite early and patiently waiting for the receptionist to ring once my driver was on the premise. At the crack of dawn and a religious holiday too, I was full of excitement and on my way to Port Sanur. During my two hour ride, I tried to converse with my driver who barely spoke english, and my neck would often turn in curiosity from left to right at the sight of locals either bringing their offerings to the altar, or burning garbage before the city hustle.
At Sanur I boarded a fast boat to Nusa Penida. The boat ride was 30-45 minutes long and the ticket price was probably about $30 U.S dollars. Now you’re probably wondering where is Nusa Penida. Well, it’s a tiny island off the coast of Bali and holds true to its island vibe as evidenced in the up and coming infrastructure development all over the island. This is the island where water and electricity will shut off at certain times during the day and I don’t mind because there is something so peaceful, still pure and so true about island life. There is something so serene about the Nusa Penida's crystal clear and calm waters, paths unpaved and unchartered, untouched and natural. Needless to say, I had the absolute best three days on the island, so I figured I’d let you in on some of its (not so) secret hideaways.
Pro-tip 1: Note that in order to get on the boat you will have to walk a short distance in the water before you get on. There will be a boat crew ready and available to help get you and your luggage on board, but be mindful to wear flip flops or shoes that can get wet, and pack light.
Pro-tip 2: If you’re doing a tour with a company, you’ll have the option to tour the West or east side. I do not recommend touring both sides in 1 day (a few hours really) because it’s not feasible and your visit will be rushed. In fact I do not recommend visiting the island for a day trip.
Day 1: West Side
Crystal Bay Beach - This is a really lovely and clean beach. If time is on your side, there is a hiking path just above the beach. I’m not sure where the path will take you, but the trail is marked off for you. If you’re lucky you’ll also find pigs on the beach, they can be seen roaming around with their other piggy friends. Of course, you did not visit a beach to see pigs, so enjoy the pristine water and blue sky, go diving/snorkeling to see some Mantas or if you’re like me and cannot swim, take photo on the coconut tree and live your best life!
Broken Bay - The official name Pasih Uug has become a tourist attraction on the island because of it’s unique rock formation. What is dubbed a bay, is really rock formation surrounded by the ocean, trees and grass on the edge of the ocean. Very picturesque.
Angel's Billabong - This natural infinity pool is situated really close to broken bay. Truthfully, Angel Billabong was a bit underwhelming. I expected to see the high tide ocean merge into the natural pool of water and there was barely any water in the pool and the rocks were green. Talk about disappointment. Nonetheless, the view alone was good enough for me, I’m my best when I’m surrounded by the ocean and nature.
Pro-tip 3: Visit the island if you really likely nature, beaches, snorkeling, sightseeing, biking, photography
Kelingking Beach - Just WOW! This beautiful Tyrannosarus Rex looking rock formation is just beyond spectacular. Once you’re here, pause and take a deep breath and behold God’s creation before you. Then take all the photos and send it as a postcard to your family. Afterwards, take a walk down the rock to the tip of the cliff or down to the beach. Now, hear me when I say do this at your own risk. The hill is very steep, hard to climb down and hard to climb up. Also note that when the area is crowded with tourist, which is all the time, it can be scary as you try to hold on to rocks or other people’s arm to get past them. Needless to say this area is so beautiful and certainly worth a visit.
Pro-tip 4: Do not visit late in the evening or during sunset. This is when most tour buses stop by and the area is most crowded.
Accommodation: Baton Sabo Cottage - I loved my stay at Batan Sabo - A beautiful triangle-shaped cottage, friendly staff, a pool on site and a sunset view. Go head, live your Bali dreams on a budget, book your stay here and get up to $55 off using my Airbnb voucher
Well, that concludes day one. As you can see a lot of ground was covered and that was just a fraction of the island.
Day 2: East Side
Peguyangan Waterfall - Getting to this waterfall is an adventure. I hired a scooter for the day and the ride was about 45 minutes from Baton Sabo Cottage. Once I arrived at the entrance I paid a small fee for a sarong because the area has a small temple. I was the first visitor to arrive at the waterfall and I was very thankful to get ahead of the crowd. My guide / scooter driver accompanied me down the stairs and I was so nervous about going down the steepest stairs I’ve ever had to walk down. The famous steep blue stairs border-lined the ocean’s cliff and it takes about twenty-five minutes to get down. When you get to the bottom, you’ll find beautiful rock formations and springs of water coming from the rock, not necessarily what you imagine a waterfall to be, but the experience was worth it. Having the area to myself was the most peaceful, beautiful experience.
Saren and Banah Cliff Point - Be sure to stop at Saren and Banah Cliff where you can watch the sunset or just relax and enjoy the view. Both viewpoints overlook the ocean. At Saren Cliff you can ride the swings and at Banah you just enjoy the view.
Pro-tip 5: The best way to get to this location is by scooter because the roads are not paved and also we can all agree that riding a scooter is way more fun.
Day 3: South East
At eight o’clock in morning my tour guide was prompt and ready for a long drive to the south west of Nusa Penida. Our first stop is one of the largest underground cave temple on the island - Pura Goa Giri
Pura Goa Giri - visiting this temple cave was such an amazing cultural experience. I had no idea what to expect visiting and I had no idea what the temple looked like prior to my visit. There are many temples all over the country and they’re very visible, but you’ll find smaller caves that are also commonly used as worship temples. When I arrived at the entrance, I had to pay 5,000 IDR and was greeted with water and a sarong, but to my amazement I did not see a temple and I was confused and a little worried. I was led down a tiny hole in a rock and WOW the grandeur of this place blew me away. The tiny hole I crawled through led me to a huge open space and I wondered what on earth this was and where why is no one else there. I was there alone. It was really dark inside the cave except the walking path and the altars were lit up. I could hear the echo of water dripping and if I look closely I could see clusters of bats in an insanely high ceiling. I thought to myself, what on earth did I get myself into and why didn’t my guide come in the cave with me. A few minutes later, I quiet my soul and I kept walking on the lit path to the other side of the cave. I was greeted by locals and they were all so surprised that I was traveling alone. They offered to take a photo of me sitting with them outside the temple. It was a very unique experience and I highly recommend visiting. I think I had an unusual experience being by myself because it’s usually filled with tourists and worshippers.
Pro-tip 6: Visit the cave early in the morning you might be lucky to find musicians and worshippers in the cave and you’ll also avoid the tourists.
Atuh beach - This beach is also know as “hidden beach” because it’s situated between limestone rocks and lush greenry. The beach is beautiful from afar, the colorful umbrellas on the beach raise its beauty to another level, however it’s even more beautiful if you can hike down the staircase to enjoy a swim or just to relax on the sand.
Diamond Beach - I’m not exaggerating when I say to get to any great beach on the island you’ll need to hike, but what I really mean is risk your life!! You really need to ensure that your travel insurance will cover any kind of slip and fall and I wish I was kidding. Unlike Atuh, to get to Diamond beach you will be walking / crawling down a narrow dirt cliff where the edges are blocked off by loose rope. This beach is stunning from afar, but if you’re up for the adventure, take a risk, take a hike and live your best life on Diamond Beach.
Accomodation: Rumah Pohon Atuh - I learned quickly that Rumah Pohon means tree house, but this specific house in Atuh overlooking Diamond Beach is extra-ordinary and unique. I stayed here for one night and this experience will forever be etched in recesses of my memory. You can learn more about my time in the tree house and how to book your stay here.
Thanks so much for reading. I hope this post inspired you to go off the beaten path and visit Nusa Penida during your trip to Indonesia. Bon Voyage!