If you look up the top things to do in Bali, no doubt Nusa Penida will pop up. What you may not realize right away is that Nusa Penida is one of the islands next to Bali and not just a scooter ride away. Fear not fellow travelers, there are an abundant amount of ferry’s available to choose from. They are roughly all the same so the only piece of advice here is to book online. If you show up to buy tickets in person you will have to haggle and after you agree to price you will have to haggle again and somehow still feel like you are getting ripped off. As with Bali, you can either rent a scooter or hire a driver. Nusa Penida has one major road and only 20% of it is paved. Unless you are Travis Pastrana, hire a driver. I saw several people with road rash and more people on the side of the road regretting their decisions. The roads are comparable to the Oregon trail meets Mario cart.
Let’s start with where to stay. There are several places close to port along the water that are gorgeous and near some beautiful dive sites. If you don’t plan on diving and want to explore some of the more popular destinations you may want to stay further inland to cut down on drive time. Behold… Semabu Hills
Semabu Hills is about 30 minutes from port so get your supplies there before heading to the hotel. There are warungs everywhere that sell snack and bottled water, but you will be heavily limited on options. Warungs are small family owned businesses. They can be anything from convenience stores to restaurants to hostels. In my opinion these are a great way to try some local cooking. Semabu Hills hotel is located on the northeastern side of the island and on some of the last part of the fully paved one lane road. Aside from location being key the hotel also has a very good restaurant and bar. In fact, this is the first time I’ve had waffles in memory and they were covered in some sort of fruity deliciousness I wish I could have again.
Places to visit on this side of the island are:
- Broken Beach and Angels Billabong
- Crystal Bay
- Gamat Bay
- Amok Sunset
A few things to know before setting out for any destination on the island:
- 90% of these places charge per person including the driver. Usually $5,000 rupiah per person (approx $.36).
- Bring water and snacks. You’ll spend a while on the road so bring what you want rather than hoping you find what you’re craving.
- Dress appropriately. Most places are unpaved and if you want to explore trail shoes will be your best friend. Also, it’s sunny! I chose to wear spf 50 shirts and lightweight trail shorts. If you are that desperate for the gram then pack a cute outfit separately. More people do this than you think.
- Get there early. If you want to avoid crowds, if you want the photo, then this is your number one rule. I’m sorry I placed it at number 4, but I thought of it later.
How could I not want to go to a spot nicknamed Dinosaur beach?! Reflect back on rule #4 aka rule #1. This is an incredibly popular spot. Most of the instagram influencers stop at the top for their photos and do not go down the trail. The trail is the best part!! It’s also a great place to watch couples get into fights. Why? Because of rule #3. This trail is steep, each step is hand carved into the mountain and varies from 1′ to sheer rock face for stretches of 5′. So those super cute flip-flops with that tropical maxi is not the best choice. Wear those trail shoes!! And when you get to the bottom, take them off and soak up the beautiful beach with no one else there.
Broken Beach and Angels Billabong
These two are only a few hundred feet apart. If this makes your list there is one very important thing to research prior to your visit; the tide. Angels Billabong is only accessible during a negative tide (super low tide) the rest of the time it is closed due to the fact you might be dragged out to sea. Considering this is only a small window of time you may miss out on the billabong, but there is still more to see. Broken Beach is one of the few places you can wear your flips to but you can’t venture off trail if you do. The area is surround by cows and jagged rocks, both beautiful and slightly scary.
I wrote about this site in a previous post, but accessing it from the island instead of dive boat can be a little different. This is a beautiful place to snorkel, but stay close to the shore. There is a really strong current that will take you straight out to a deep and fast moving channel. Avoid this type of fun at all costs. There is also another beach you can access from Crystal Bay and there are far fewer people. Pandan Beach is 20 minute hike straight up and straight down. The hike isn’t very scenic but has a pretty cool welcome spot with a handmade sign AND these…
Purple lobsters!! EEEEEEEEEE! Not just one, but several are propped up on stone pillars lining the beach. If you are going to stay for sunset be sure to bring a flashlight, it’s a beautiful spot, but I have one better for you. We’ll circle back to that soon, I promise.
I’m not sure if I was lucky or this is how it always is, but I had Gamat Bay all to myself. I didn’t even see another soul on the trail to get there. Like Crystal Bay, this is another good place to go snorkeling. Different from Crystal Bay, this place has so many more treasures to discover. Vibrantly colored shells and corals cover the beach. One thing I try to tell myself is for every shell I pick up, to also pick up a piece of trash. Give this a try, you’ll feel good about yourself and what you find. Also, the tide pools are filled with life. Sea anemones, cone snails, eels, brittle sea stars and more.
Lastly, what I promised you earlier, a great spot for sunset. But let’s talk about what other things make this place great… food, drinks, and bamboo.
Bring your appetite because you will want to try everything on the menu and I suggest you do. Amok Sunset was my favorite restaurant to showcase local food on the whole trip. If you want to spend a day here eating there’s no shame in that. There’s a fully stocked bar, refreshing infinity pool and beautiful grounds. Remember how I mentioned bamboo? Every bit of this place is made out of it and beautifully done.
This brings my journey of Nusa Penida to an end.
Next, off to the land of corporal punishment and botanical gardens… any guesses?