A complete Nusa Penida travel guide that will answer all your questions on how to travel, what to do, where to stay of course with focus on the underwater activities pointing out some awesome snorkeling places! Read our personal tips on visiting the best points of interest like Kelingking Beach and Angel’s Billabong, snorkeling in Crystal Bay, swimming with manta rays on Bali’s most Instagrammed island!
- 1 Nusa Penida travel guide basics: When? How long?
- 2 How to get to Nusa Penida?
- 3 Things to do in Nusa Penida
- 4 Snorkeling in Nusa Penida
- 5 Where to stay in Nusa Penida
- 6 Nusa Penida travel tips
Nusa Penida travel guide basics: When? How long?
People say if you want to know how Bali looked like 20 years ago when it was less touristy, book a trip to Nusa Penida! Over the past few years, while Bali most popular areas went through massive developments and became rather noisy than relaxed especially in high season, nature lovers started to seek peace in other regions: Northeast Bali quickly became a top escape spot which is famous for the view of the majestic Mt Agung and for Bali’s best diving and snorkeling in Amed; while adventurous travelers started to discover the nearby Nusa Islands. These 3 gorgeous islands southeast of Bali are available with a short boat ride. For a while, tourists visited the two smaller islands mainly, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan, but thanks to the diverse landscape, Angel’s Billabong and Kelingking Beach photos appearance in social media, Nusa Penida quickly became famous too. For this reason, our advice is to travel to Nusa Penida as soon as possible so that you can enjoy its pure beauty before it gets crowded. However the island might seem to be less developed if it comes to infrastructure, but this is the reason why it is still less busy compared to Bali most visited places.
Best time to visit Nusa Penida
Nusa Penida’s climate is very similar to mainland Bali’s weather so to answer the best time to visit Nusa Penida question just check out Bali’s climate chart. The Nusa Islands get less rain than Bali. You have the highest chance for sunny and dry weather from May through mid-November. Since we are talking about the tropics, the weather is never guaranteed therefore no long-term forecast is 100%. Cloudy periods are common throughout the year because of low-pressure systems in the area, but these don’t last long. Don’t forget taking care of UV protection! If you use sunscreen, bring reef safe mineral sunscreen with you! I rarely use sunscreen but always check the selection wherever I go and didn’t find any safe sunscreen in Nusa Penida.
How many days to stay in Nusa Penida?
Although Nusa Penida day tours are available from most South Bali areas, and the top points of interest like Kelingking Beach, Angel’s Billabong and Broken Beach can be visited with a day trip too, the island is worth more than a quick visit! We highly recommend spending at least 3-5 days which allows you an adventure packed yet convenient itinerary. Like this, you will have enough time to see all the attractions, leaving time for just chilling out on the best beaches and for snorkeling too which would be a shame to miss!
How to get to Nusa Penida?
Before it was more common to arrive through Nusa Lembongan with the small public boats leaving from the yellow bridge that connects Lembongan and Ceningan. But as Nusa Penida became popular among tourists, companies started to operate speedboats directly from Bali. The journey takes approx. 25-40 minutes depending on the boat and weather conditions.
Here is a list how you can reach Nusa Penida from Bali different areas:
Sanur to Nusa Penida speedboats
The best way of traveling to Nusa Penida taking a speedboat from Bali Sanur Harbour. There are several companies with several daily departures from Sanur to Nusa Penida. There are more boats going to Nusa Lembongan so double check you are buying the right ticket. Most Nusa Penida boats use Toyapakeh pier but some go to Buyuk Harbour the other side of the island. Always clarify this with your salesman! There are several departures from morning till the afternoon back and forth. Ticket prices vary by company, one-way ticket costs approx. 150-200.000 IDR (Indonesian Rupiah) while a return 400-500.000 IDR.
Recommended speedboats from Sanur to Nusa Penida:
- Dwi Manunggal fast boat
- Mola-Mola Express
- Angel Billabong fast cruise
Travel tip: Good to know that there is no pier in Sanur port meaning you need to board from the shore. Best is to arrive in flip-flops! Simply remove them and put into your backpack, otherwise, the staff will collect and you will get them back only after the trip. Try to hop on the boat when there is a little break between two waves so you can avoid being completely wet. The staff will take care of your big luggage (if you have any). Usually, they transport them on top of the boat. Strong currents and high seas are normal around Bali, therefore prepare for seasickness if you use to suffer from it. However, some boat companies provide tablets.
Benoa Harbor to Nusa Penida
Although the most common is to take a boat from Sanur, you can choose to leave from Benoa Harbor too. Quicksilver leaves from Benoa and arrives at the north-western shore of Nusa Penida. The ticket is more expensive than Sanur ferries but includes complimentary snacks and drinks as well as watersport activities.
Padang Bai Nusa Penida public ferry
Since we were heading to discover Amed snorkeling places from Penida, the best was traveling to Padang Bai directly. There is no speedboat service between Padang Bai and Nusa Penida only public ferry. We found some information online but nothing official, therefore we needed to figure out on the spot how this Nusa Penida Padang Bai public ferry works:
- it uses Port Ro-Ro not Toyapakeh Harbor
- there is no fix schedule and usually only 1 departure per day! We were told that the ferry leaves whenever they are ready, but nobody knows what ready means. This is normal in Indonesia if it comes to public boats. The best is to ask a day before at Ro-Ro port what the planned departure is and be there in time! Better to wait than miss it
- ticket costs around 31.000 IDR, it can happen that you need to pay a bit more as a tourist
- you can take scooter/car for extra cost
- the trip should take about 2 hours but calculate with longer time, especially if you decide to take this public ferry from Nusa Penida to Padang Bai like we did. We left Nusa Penida around 8 am but arrived in Padang Bai before noon only because the public ferry is the last that can go into the harbor. All other ferries and commercial boats enjoy priority, therefore, we ended up waiting 2 hours outside the harbor.
To cut this story short, if you are flexible and are not in a hurry, the Nusa Penida Padang Bai public ferry is a cheap way of traveling. But better to choose speedboat if you have a fixed schedule.
Kusamba to Nusa Penida
If you think the public ferry trip takes too long, you might choose Gangga Express speedboat that operates between Kusamba and Nusa Penida. Kusamba is a small traditional salt-making village 10 kilometers south of Padang Bai. This is a good option if you are coming from Ubud to Penida, or the other way around, you want to go to North Bali from the island. Ticket costs 100.000 IDR for tourists and the trip takes about 30 mins.
Things to do in Nusa Penida
Our best advice is to enjoy the island’s beauty as much as you can before it gets crowded and turns into a tourist factory. Our Nusa Penida travel guide includes just the best point of interests, but if your travel itinerary allows you to spend longer time on the island, you will find many other cool places just by driving around.
Visit Kelingking Beach
Probably the most famous point of interest in Nusa Penida is the breath-taking Kelingking Beach. I think there is no need to explain why this place became one of the most Instagrammed spots of Bali. The picturesque view from the hill with blue water, dramatic cliffs and vibrant sandy beach beneath you makes Kelingking Beach just perfect. Also known as T-Rex-Bay because of the dinosaurs shaped rock formation. If you feel the adventure, walk the steep path down and enjoy chilling at probably one of the most unique beaches you ever have seen! You might visit the Pura Paluang Car Temple which is just a few hundred meters away from Kelingking Beach.
Travel tip: be extremely careful while taking photos and videos from the hills, safety fences are not everywhere! Watch out the waves and currents if you decide to swim.
Take a dip in Angel’s Billabong
Spectacular natural pool on the west coast, a top attraction in every Nusa Penida travel guide! It looks like an infinity pool surrounded by cliffs and the powerful sea. Visiting Angel’s Billabong is a long yet rewarding trip. The road is probably the worst I’ve seen in Indonesia so far and the trip takes about 1.5-2 hours from Toyapakeh. If you are not confident riding a scooter, hire a driver. Day-trippers often start their Nusa Penida tour at Angel’s Billabong so the best is to arrive early morning or in the afternoon to avoid the crowd.
Safety advice: I know that it is tempting to take a perfect Insta photo standing at the edge of this natural infinity pool with crashing waves in the background, but don’t take the risk. Many accidents happened here and tourist died because they were pulled out by waves while taking photos. Therefore swimming in Angel’s Billabong is not recommended if the sea is not completely flat!
Tour around Broken Beach
If you were brave enough to drive the road to Angel’s Billabong, you can kill two birds with one stone and visit Broken Beach too. Just follow the signs and you will quickly find this incredible cove and cliff arch formed by nature. The location is kind of surreal and picturesque at the same time, makes you feel instantly like being in a movie scene. Take your time, walk around and enjoy nature’s beauty!
Dive into Tembeling Forest natural pools
Tembeling Forest freshwater natural pools are true hidden gems that are not often mentioned in a simple Nusa Penida travel guide! This trip is a perfect combination of trekking, exploring a tropical rainforest, discovering some spiritual tradition and chilling out. After walking through the forest you find two separate natural pools, one for women and one for men. Don’t miss out chilling out on the nearby beach too!
Swim with manta rays
Thanks to rich currents around Nusa Penida, these majestic filter feeder creatures are present all year round. Keep your eyes open while hiking too because they can be spotted from several viewpoints, therefore some of them are named Manta View Point. However, the best is signing up for a manta snorkeling trip to experience a special encounter.
Walk the Blue Stairs at Peguyangan Waterfall
Known as Nusa Penida Blue Stairs. A less visited but remarkable Nusa Penida travel guide attraction. Once you make it down on the blue stairs, you find a little temple and some amazing rock pools, and last but not least amazing view on the whole way down and up! You can have some snacks and refreshment in the Warung on the spot.
Watch sunset at Crystal Bay Beach
Nusa Penida most popular beach with scenic location surrounded by hills. A perfect palm-fringed spot to watch the sunset not to mention that snorkeling is also excellent here. Good news that newly built roads make Crystal Beach easily accessible! The water is the calmest in the morning, therefore, arrive early if you want to swim. Be careful because waves and currents might get strong during the day and the bay gets crowded with boats. As the name shows, the water is crystal clear meaning you can expect 30 m visibility! A dream for divers and underwater photographers!
Snorkeling in Nusa Penida
The Nusa Islands, as part of the Coral Triangle, feature pristine coral reefs and rich marine life. Most Nusa Penida snorkeling tours start from Toyapakeh or from Crystal Bay and take you to 2-4 Nusa Penida best snorkel spots depending on the trip duration. Usually, organizers provide snorkeling equipment, but we recommend to have your own travel size snorkel set due to hygienic reasons.
Swimming with manta rays is definitely a bucket list experience and Nusa Penida is the perfect place for this unique encounter! They usually gather in a shallow bay called Manta Bay where you can have a chance to snorkel with these peaceful creatures. Don’t leave your snorkeling camera in your room because this will be the adventure you want to have memories of, but please keep in mind do not touch them!
Secluded little beach with very few tourists due to difficult access. We tried to get there from land but didn’t manage… Although we found the road going down to Gamat Bay, the last part of it was a narrow, very steep path, so we gave up. But luckily our Nusa Penida snorkel trip included snorkeling at Gamat bay so we did not miss this top spot! The water was incredibly clear like in a filtered aquarium with thousands of fish playing hide and seek among the corals. A must visit place!
Snorkeling at Crystal Bay Nusa is recommended for snorkelers at all levels including first-timers thanks to the shallow water and easy shore access. Even if you stay short time only and don’t want to sign up for a Nusa Penida snorkeling tour, don’t miss outputting your head underwater at Crystal Bay. You will be amazed by the clear water and lively coral reef. Sometimes turtles can be spotted too! Snorkel in the left snorkel of the bay and arrive as early as possible when the sea is calm.
Toyapakeh Wall Point
The wide variety of fish, large coral colonies make Toyapakeh Wall diver’s favorite reef. Large pelagic species like Mola Mola sunfish are regular visitors here. This vibrant sloping reef is an excellent spot for snorkeling too! You will jump into the water from the boat at the corner close to Toyapakeh, slowly drifting down with the currents parallel with the wall while enjoying amazing underwater scenery.
An underwater temple that works as an artificial reef with Buddha statue and stupas in approx. 6-7 meters deep water. The Buddha Temple is next to Nusa Ceningan but often Nusa Penida or Nusa Lembongan snorkeling trips include this point in the itinerary thanks to its uniqueness.
Nusa Penida snorkeling tip: the Nusa Islands are in the area of the Indo Pacific Throughflow which means the currents are really strong around Nusa Penida. Keep this in mind and be very careful while snorkeling. The sea might seem calm from the shore but undercurrents can pull you out to the open water in seconds. For this reason, shore snorkeling is limited. We recommend snorkel from the shore at Crystal Bay, otherwise sign up for snorkel trip. The boat will take you around all the good places, and the staff will take care of your pick-up even if you get caught by a stronger current.
Where to stay in Nusa Penida
Accommodations are still limited compared to nearby Indonesian Islands but the selection is getting continuously wider with new developments every year. The prices generally a bit higher than in Bali or Nusa Lembongan. But don’t worry, it is still possible to find a decent place to stay for any budget.
Private rooms for 2 persons are available from around 10-12 USD per night at several home stays. You find nice bungalows from 20 USD per night usually with breakfast included. We stayed in Wabitaka Bungalows close to Toyapakeh and were really happy with it. The bungalows are new, spacious with huge bathroom. Staff is super sweet and the breakfast is delicious! If you don’t mind spending more check out luxury resorts like the recently opened Pandawa Beach Resort!
Tree House Nusa Penida – Rumah Pohon
Your childhood dreams can come true and you can live in a real tree house in Nusa Penida. Although Rumah Pohon Tree House is not a luxury hotel but definitely the most romantic experience spending a night in a house under the starry sky. This little cozy tree house on the Thousand Islands viewpoint area provides epic view looking around the beautiful coastline.
Travel tip: almost all accommodations and several places around the island offer scooter rental at very affordable prices! (40-60.000 IDR which is approx. 3-4 USD per day)
Nusa Penida travel tips
- bring cash in IDR Indonesian Rupiah. We googled that there should be some money changers on Nusa Penida but did not find any in 4 days. ATM we did, but don’t rely on them because sometimes they are out of money.
- drive carefully! Some roads are in very bad condition and sometimes there is only dirt track available. Slow down, safety first!
- plastic is a huge problem in Indonesia. While driving around, you will see that there is rubbish everywhere due to lack of waste management. Take refillable bottle, don’t leave trash behind, and try to leave the smallest footprint on this wonderful island.
- be cautious! This is not just a general take care advice but a serious Nusa Penida travel tip. Safety standards are very low on the island, there are no fences at the viewpoints (or at very few points). Several tourists died because ignoring this…
- don’t touch marine life! The marine life is truly beautiful with pristine reefs and rich marine life, look only and never touch anything!
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Anett fell in love with the ocean immediately when she put her head underwater in the Red Sea back in 2010. Discovering megacities is not her style but getting lost in tiny coastal villages, capturing the beauty of the sea while snorkeling. Wherever she goes, she takes her mask, fins and underwater camera with her. She has a big interest in exploring the world’s last hidden underwater paradises and marine conservation. She hopes to inspire people to protect our oceans by sharing her underwater stories. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!