Bali’s lesser-known destination is a tropical trio of remote karst islands floating in the Badung Strait just 15-miles away from Indonesia’s most congested tourist island. The idyllic Nusa Lembongan, Ceningan, and Penida make up the archipelago and offer an abundance of untouched nature, dramatic landscapes, and vivacious marine life. If you only have a few days in Bali escape the crowded beach areas of Kuta and Seminyak and hop on a fast boat to discover the breathtaking beauty of the Nusa islands. Receiving only about 200,000 travelers a year visiting the Nusa trio is said to be like stepping back in time to what Bali was like before western tourists infiltrated the island. Here are 15 unique things you can do in Bali’s Nusa Islands.
For more pictures from the Nusa Islands visit my photo journal of 20 pictures that will inspire you to visit the island trio.
GET TO KNOW THE NUSA ISLANDS
Nusa Penida is the most rugged of the sister islands, and also the largest. The island hasn’t developed infrastructure so prepare yourself for a rocky ride down the road less traveled. Road is a generous term. Most of the sites can take over an hour to reach on dusty gravel roads, something you shouldn’t attempt on a motorbike unless you’re experienced. The hectic drive is worth what awaits as Nusa Penida is home to mesmerizing natural features of steep cliffs, rock formations, and lagoons.
Nusa Ceningan is the smallest of the islands but is also the most off-the-beaten-path as many day trippers from Bali only visit either Nusa Penida or Nusa Lembongan. Here you’ll find epic sunset spots, slow local lifestyle, and an infamous marigold bridge. Nusa Ceningan is connected to Nusa Lembongan and can easily be explored on foot.
Nusa Lembongan is the best island to base yourself during your exploration of the islands due to many fantastic accommodation options for all budgets, stunning seascapes, delicious local eats, and picturesque beaches flanked by dazzling rock formations. It’s also the island that most fast boats stop at when heading to the Nusa islands from Sanur ferry port in Bali.
Before visiting the Nusa Islands be sure to obtain a travel insurance policy with World Nomads and check their various adventure packages to make sure you’ll be covered for activities such as motorbike accidents, snorkeling, surfing, and hiking.
If you don’t have time to explore all the Nusa Islands have to offer over a few days then consider booking a day trip from Bali!
SWIM WITH MANTA RAYS AT NUSA PENIDA
Have the rare opportunity to swim with one of the most majestic creatures of the ocean, reef Manta Rays! The best place to see these fascinating fish is at Manta Point off of Nusa Penida. To swim with these massive fish is an incredible underwater experience. Manta Rays are very intelligent, they actually have the largest recorded brains of any fish. They’re not dangerous at all so don’t fret if they swim close by, they’re just as curious about you as you are about them. Keep a respectful distance as to not disturb the Manta Rays and relish in the powerful presence of witnessing something so otherworldly. You’ll want to have a long selfie stick for your GoPro so you can capture the memories of this precious moment.
The reef Manta Rays move through the sea with an unparalleled grace as they search the waters for plankton. My captain told me that some Manta Rays he’s seen have had a wingspan of 16.5 feet! Local boats take tourists on snorkeling trips that visit the point for about 30-minutes or you can try to hire a local fisherman who will take you to less popular spots where the Manta Rays won’t be crowded by hordes of tourists. Most locals have a deep respect for these massive fish and don’t allow feeding, touching, or chase and circle the Manta Rays. If you see any of this sort of behavior express why you think it’s dangerous to the well-being of the wild animals. Check out this snorkeling trip that goes to Manta Point and has great reviews.
RELAX IN A NATURAL INFINITY POOL ON NUSA PENIDA
While visiting Nusa Penida you’ll come across stunning feats of nature such as the natural infinity pool of Angel’s Billabong. A billabong is made from a stream of flowing water from a larger source, here the Balinese sea crashes into rocky cliffs which eroded over time to form a hanging tide pool. Depending on the time of day, and the tide, you can scurry down the carved edge of the formation to take a cool dip in the glass-like sheer water. I’d recommend wearing water sandals as it can be quite shallow at low tide, which is the only safe time to get in, and you could step on tiny sea urchins that live on the seabed of the pool. Tread carefully!
BEHOLD THE GLORY OF MOTHER NATURE AT NUSA PENIDA’S BROKEN BEACH
Just 150-meters from Angel’s Billabong is the amazing natural phenomenon of Broken Beach. You may notice the arch is intact and wonder what exactly is broken about this beach. Well, a local boy who sold me a coconut as large as my head explained that this area was actually once a cave. The constant crash of the powerful sea eventually eroded the roof which collapsed and created this incredible scenery.
SEARCH FOR T-REX AT NUSA PENIDA’S KELINGKING BEACH
Kelingking Beach is often referred to as the secret point beach of Nusa Penida which is laughable as you’ve likely seen this panoramic perspective from anyone who’s been to the Nusa island! Clearly, it’s not so secret anymore. This spot is popular for a reason, it’s truly awe-inspiring to witness massive cliffs jet from the aquamarine water. Don’t worry too much about the crowds though, due to a mudslide that basically wiped out what was once a risky-at-best pathway down the dinosaur’s spine to the beach you’ll have unobstructed views, and pictures.
GET UNDER THE SEA AT NUSA PENIDA’S CRYSTAL BAY
Perhaps you’ve caught on by now that places in the Nusa Islands are named quite literally. The waters at Crystal Bay are, as the name suggests, crystal clear and people flock here for ping as well as snorkeling. This is one of the most incredible places I’ve ever snorkeled due to the transparent water, vibrant coral, and abundance of tropical aquatic life. Don’t miss your chance to swim with rainbow-hued fish in the azure water at Crystal Bay which is centered in the Coral Triangle. You may even be lucky enough to see a starfish, but if you do have that unique experience, never touch it, or anything else you find under the sea.
FOLLOW THE YELLOW HANGING BRIDGE TO NUSA CENINGAN
There aren’t any yellow brick roads here. Instead, you can be dazzled by the marigold-hued hanging suspension bridge that connects Nusa Ceningan to Nusa Lembongan. The narrow bridge can be crossed by foot, or motorbike, but proceed with caution as locals usually whip by at high speeds. The golden gate bridge collapsed in 2016 so you can rest assured that the new structure is quite sturdy. This is also the spot where most boats depart to go to the Gili Islands or to Nusa Penida.
WATCH LOCALS FARM SEAWEED AT NUSA CENINGAN
One of the main industries in the Nusa Islands is seaweed farming. You can see the farmers at work each evening during low tide at the stretch of sea between Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan. Apparently, the seaweed from the Nusa Islands is a key ingredient for Asian cosmetics. In the late afternoon, the water is almost entirely pulled out to see making it possible for farmers to tend to their seaweed crop. You could literally walk across from Nusa Ceningan to Nusa Lembongan but this isn’t recommended as it would be difficult to avoid stepping on coral, sea life, and the seaweed crop. Swimming here is never encouraged as you’d disrupt the agriculture so just witness the unique farming method from any of the cafes on the shore.
TRANSPORT TO OUTER SPACE AT NUSA CENINGAN’S BLUE LAGOON
I was a bit disappointed by the Blue Lagoon. Yes, the water is a deep color of blue that’s quite mesmerizing, but as far as I could tell you can’t actually get down to the beach as it’s down a steep cliff. However, to the right of the lagoon is an area that appears to be volcanic rock. With all the craters on the rocks, it felt like I was walking on the moon (dream travel destination, by the way).
FIND NUSA CENINGAN SECRET BEACH
My timing on Nusa Ceningan was all wrong as I was exploring around the time of low tide. Be sure to make your way to this island during high tide so you can enjoy the beaches! The Secret Beach wasn’t actually hard to find but there is a hotel here that tries to charge visitors to go down to the public beach by requiring them to buy a drink. The tide was out at Secret Beach and many people were walking on the coral which was heartbreaking. I went as far out as the sand would take me and peaked into the tiny pools of water to see these little critters. I wouldn’t want that crab taking a pinch at my toe as punishment for walking on the precious coral reef!
ENJOY THE SUNSET FROM A HAMMOCK AT SEA BREEZE ON NUSA CENINGAN
Along the coast of Nusa Ceningan directly after crossing the bridge are many beach shacks. I chose to go to the less crowded Sea Breeze for a fresh squeezed juice and relaxing in a hammock as I watched the sun dip into the ocean. The setting is incredibly zen as the cool sea breeze mingles in the air with the soft tunes of other guests strumming guitars. Be sure to arrive early if you want to snag a prime spot in a beach swing or hammock. Most backpackers head to Le Pirate for a party environment but they do also have beach swings if that’s more your scene.
SNOOZE AWAY AT NUSA LEMBONGAN’S DREAM BEACH
Another aptly named location in the Nusa Islands, Dream Beach certainly lives up to its name. A picturesque row of bungalows lines the shore of ultra white sand and a playful splashing turquoise ocean. Swimming here should be done with caution due to the strong swell and large hidden rocks. But it is a nice place to dip into the water and cool off considering there aren’t any boats allowed here so you don’t have to worry about being nicked by an anchor like you would at Mushroom Beach. At the top of Dream Beach, where you can park your motorbike and walk down to the shore, is a beach swing overlooking the stunning panorama of seascapes.
RELISH IN THE DEVIL’S TEARS OF NUSA LEMBONGAN
To the right of Dream Beach, or to the left of Sandy Bay you’ll find a rocky outcrop that sheds the Devil’s Tears. The ocean has eroded the rocky shore to create little caves and lagoons that put on quite the show when a huge wave crashes inside. In the caves, the water is sucked inwards before fuming outwards in a spectacular spray of mist. At the lagoons, the waves dramatically crash and splash upwards in massive, powerful walls of water. Be sure not to stand too close to the edge! If the lighting is right you’ll be able to see little rainbows dancing in the mist, an angelic phenomenon for a place with such a devious name. The name comes from the imagery that the water droplets that explode from the splash are the tears of the devil. In the larger bay which has several outcrops that shed the devil’s tears, I saw a wild sea turtle who seemed completely unphased by the rough tide.
ENJOY ELECTRIC SUNSETS FROM NUSA LEMBONGAN
The main strip of beach where fast boats arrive from Bali is one of the best places in the Nusa Islands to witness an unobstructed sunset of electric colors reflecting on the still sea. Here you’ll be able to witness local life as it goes in these quiet islands, from fisherman bringing their catches of the day up to land, young boys playing sports in the sand, and women leaving offerings for the sun. Another great place to catch the sunset with some ambiance is Blue Corner which has colorful beanbags spread along the shore.
INDULGE IN FRESH LOCAL EATS AT NUSA LEMBONGAN
Nusa Lembongan has so many fantastic eateries with an abundance of healthy Indonesian dishes to choose from. My favorite local spot is Warung Bambu on the north side of the island. I kept coming back for meals here due to the lovely ambiance of low slung tables over the ocean, incredibly kind staff, ridiculously reasonable prices, and mouthwatering food. I frequented Bali Eco Deli often as I love their commitment to helping the Nusa Islands become plastic-free. Bali Eco Deli prepares all meals using organic produce from their farm and makes some of the best coffee I had in all of Indonesia, they also offer a discount for patrons who recycle their plastic water bottles there and offer free refills for those who bring in reusable water bottles. Make sure to try Balinese specialties for lunch at the beautiful Lemongrass. Spend an afternoon at Tigerlillys, after you’ve enjoyed fresh juices and guacamole you’re allowed to use the beautiful little dipping pool.
STAY IN A PRIVATE POOL VILLA
Staying in a private pool villa was high up on my Bali bucket list so I was thrilled when I was invited to experience the family-run Abian Villa. At just US$78 a night you don’t want to miss your chance to stay at the intimate Abian Villa private pool room. With breezy beautiful decor and an ultra cozy bed that looks out over the secluded pool, it was hard to leave this little oasis to explore all that the Nusa Islands have to offer. Be sure to take a swim on the wild side and enjoy the privacy of your own pool by taking a few laps in your birthday suit, I sure did!
Thank you Abian Villa for hosting me. All opinions and photos are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Please read the Miss Filatelista disclosure policy for more information.