Destination: Nusa Penida, Bali, Indonesia
When we visited: May
For how long: 4 nights
Getting to Nusa Penida:
- Flight: We flew Air Asia to get to Bali from Chennai, India but you can check out Skyscanner and Makemytrip to see what options you have.
- Time of arrival in Bali: 1200 Hrs
- Getting to the port: We hired a taxi from the airport to get to the Sanur Port , which cost us $18 and took about 30-35 minutes.
- Ferry: There are multiple companies ferrying people (with and without vehicles) from Bali to Nusa Penida. We booked our return tickets via Maruti Fast boat services for approximately $45 per person (this price included a free pick-up from the airport too- but we faced a bit of confusion and couldn’t avail of it. They also offer a free drop to your hotel/airport when you return to Bali).
- Departure from Sanur, Bali: 1600 Hrs (Immigration took forever at Denpasar airport, luckily we had some buffer time).
- Arrival in Toyapakeh, Nusa Penida: 1645 Hrs
Stay in Nusa Penida:
- Hotel: The Umah Prahu
Batununggul, Nusapenida, Klungkung Regency, Bali 80771, Indonesia
Phone: +62 813-5335-5211
- Cost: $135 (approximately) for 4 nights with breakfast included.
- Review: The Umah Prahu has adorable boat-shaped rooms s that are well-maintained and extremely clean. We chose to stay in the sea view room. The sea was right in front of us but this part of the island has rocky beaches, so the water wasn’t accessible from the Hotel. The husband-wife duo who run this cute hotel, was ever so warm and welcoming, leaving us with a very homely feel. The hotel comes under the super-affordable category (as you can see by the cost), which means it didn’t have the added fluffs of amenities like a kettle in the room but we didn’t really miss that at all, since we could ask for a cup of the fabulous Bali coffee from the kitchen at Umah Prahu (and also because we weren’t in the room for most of the day).
- Booked via Booking.com.
- In case The Umah Prahu is booked out for your dates or you wish for a more lavish stay, you could check out these places instead: Pandawa Beach resort and spa, Semabu hills hotel, and Coco resort.
Transport in Nusa Penida:
The cost of a cab ride from the port to our hotel (The Umah Prahu) was approximately $18 but we decided to rent a scooter from the port and ride ourselves to the hotel.
We got our bike/scooter for 4 days at around $5 per day and it came with a full tank of gas, which is not enough to explore the very large Nusa Penida but we lucked out with a fuel station right next door to The Umah Prahu.
A journey made of hidden adventures and picturesque dreams; of the ocean and the greens; of cliffs, tide pools and waterfalls – an odyssey through the enchanting Nusa Penida.
Part of 3 islands- Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Ceningan, Penida is the largest. It is also one that is visited the least between the 3. Not as commercial or touristy as Bali (the mainland) or Nusa Lembongan, this almost lost wonderland is perfect for those who want to get away from a busy life and those who wish to get their hike on by delving deep into the exploration of a natural masterpiece.
The ferry/fast boat from Sanur (Bali) got us to Nusa Penida in 45 minutes. The port (if you could call it that) where we docked, was close to the main port of Toyapakeh. We were greeted by locals who were offering taxis to us and other passengers.
Yay, Penida! We have arrived!
I am the designated navigator on our explorations (all thanks to the offline feature on Google maps) while my beau, Capt.Aspect rides. We made our way to “The Umah Prahu”, which was to be our abode for the next 4 nights.
After a 20 minute ride that took us 2 hours (we got lost! some navigator I was), we finally reached The Umah Prahu, where Kadek (the owner) and his wife greeted us warmly. We hit the sack at 2100 hours, shortly after a delicious meal at Art Rolling (just 5 minutes away on our bike) and a warm shower.
Our first morning in Nusa Penida began at 0630 hours. Our breakfast was included in the price of the room and we were offered our choice of Eggs and/or Banana Pancakes. We sipped on some strong and ever so delicious Bali coffee in our verandah as we charted our POA.
We make it a point to assign the first day of any destination as the unwinding day, (Much needed to get over the 20 some hours of travel) and so we decided to have a lazy (and hazy) morning at the hotel. A trip (just 50 meters away) to the grocery store to stock up on some water and a shower later, we soaked in the gentle sight of the waves crashing beneath our hotel ledge with a few chilled Bintang’s. By noon we were sunscreen-ed up and ready to leave for the beach- oooh yeaaaah!
Nusa Penida is quite large, roughly about 202 square kilometers, with hilly terrain and winding roads (some of which are not too great). Having heard a lot about Crystal Bay, we knew we wanted to use this “unwinding day” to lounge around some bright blue sparkly water. It took us 45 minutes to reach Crystal Bay. This time, neither the navigator (me :-P) nor did offline GMaps disappoint- we made our way smoothly through canopied greens that lead us straight to Crystal Bay.
This is quite a popular spot on the island, needless to say, it was quite crowded (not our usual jam, but since it was one of the few “swimmable” beaches on the island, we thought why not). On the beach, you’ll find bean bags with umbrellas that you can lease out for an unlimited time at IDR 25000 (per bag). A kind local asked us if we wanted the bean bag for the day, took the money for it and even took orders for our beers (unwinding day for the win). We sank into the very comfortable seating and stared out in the ocean. We then understood why it was called Crystal Bay- the water really sparkled, like really really sparkled. Enveloped between two cliffs/hills, it was like a cove that made for a glistening turquoise painting with the mountains of Bali completing the frame at the far end.
Crystal Bay is also favourite diving/snorkeling spot, and we could see boats with divers and snorkelers come and go, whilst we swam. The locals have built up shacks that sell food (local cuisine), snacks, water and other beverages (all self-service). We had a plate of fried rice with satay for lunch, which deliciously tasted like burnt garlic rice.
On our far left, we spotted a tiny staircase that had been carved into the hill. Both, Capt.Aspect and I, instantly knew that we were going to give up those bean bags and follow that stairway to….umm at that point we had no idea.
Up we went, looking down at Crystal Bay, which seemed to be becoming more and more like a postcard from heaven.
The sun shining high, a hundred shades of green around us and the lustrous water below- we could stand and stare for days. We continued walking up for about 20 minutes before our trails started leading us downwards- down? to another beach?
Oh my gosh, yes! we spotted a deep, almost magical blue between the gaps in the bushes and were elated. Our steps became faster and excitement crept in- we knew there wouldn’t be too many people down there since fairly enough, some people don’t like to work towards getting to places on their vacations.
And right we were!
No one, not a soul, on a beach the size of (maybe slightly smaller) Crystal bay, with bluer waters lay ahead of us. Our hearts screamed with joy, Nusa Penida you have given us an overly awesome start.
Out came our beach towels as we sprawled on our “private beach”, inspecting which part we could swim around (this should be a habit for anyone on the island since you would find jagged rocks at several places in the shallow waters). We started swimming on the rightmost corner with our water shoes on (just in case). It was splendrous!!!
If anyone plans on going to Crystal Bay, pleaaaase do clamber up that hill, or you’ll be missing out on pure magic.
We figured that we should hike back down to Crystal bay before the sun sets, so we inhaled that gorgeous spot for a few moments more and off we went, looking back at it every few seconds (how could we not!).
On the way to our hotel, we came across Sanctum beach restaurant & bar, where we decided to stop for dinner. Two (more) beers and two wholesome sandwiches later we were back at our hotel- showered and in bed by 2130 hours- zealously waiting to see what this paradisiacal island had in store for us the next day.
Awake, breakfasted-up and on our bikes at 0830 hours, we decided to fill our bike tank with fuel since every place we intended to go to today was at least 45 minutes away from the other. Kadek had thoughtfully given us a map of the island (which always helps even if you have google maps since you can plan your course visually on it).
Our first stop for Puncak Mundi (pronounced pun-CHak), which was a temple on the highest point of Nusa Penida. We reached here at about 0930 hours
This is where we had accidentally landed up on the way to our hotel on the first day (when I got us lost), HAHA right? but actually, I see it as a way for the universe to have taken us there to get blessed by sun and all the positive energies that the atoll had to offer (and boy, blessed were we).
Man and woman alike, need to wear a sarong to enter the temple, we hadn’t bought any so we rented out two for IDR 15000 a piece.
Intricate carvings, elaborately designed doors and a sense of peace is what you will find here. There at 3 parts to the temple and the third was the most beautiful to me. A cool air washing over the warmth of the sun- it was quite remarkable. Also, we were there quite early I suppose since we were the only ones there. We took our time observing the brilliant art around us alone with no one else around except for the very pleasant temple priest.
Up and awayyy, next stop-
Tembeling Beach and Forest
The route from Puncak Mundi to Tembeling is one that neither of us will ever forget (and I have to say, please only rent a bike if you’re an experienced rider- things can get dangerous). Gmaps showed us the route perfectly well, 30 minutes of a journey it said. But, we didn’t know that 20 minutes into the route, the tarred road would end and we would have to start off-roading. It was a sight for sore-eyes though, giant trees the sound of crickets and a distant roar of water- it was the epitome of peace (thrilling peace- if that makes sense to you).
We crossed a small cave/rock, which seemed to be a place of prayers and as we stared inside it created the illusion of continuously moving inwards (maybe it was just us, but we both saw it).
The road had many slopes covered with loose rocks that caused the bike to slip quite a few times. I was walking next to the bike, as Capt. Aspect exhibited serious control over the bike. Finally, we saw a couple more bikes parked and figured that we could hike down the rest.
A short walk forward and we found large concrete steps leading us to Tembeling. We had heard that there is a natural spring there, perfect for a cool swim but when we reached it, we decided to skip it since there were a couple local kids splashing around and we didn’t want to spoil their party.
It was really cute though, sunlight filtering in from the spaces between the tall trees, the powerful sound of crashing waves somewhere close to us and local kids jumping into the natural pool. We stopped there just for a moment, before making our way forward.
Tembeling beach isn’t one you can swim at, but it is one that you cannot miss if you wish to witness the raw power of water (you’ll hear me say this A LOT in this blog). As our hike completed we saw a cave to our right, which led to another side of the beach, this cavity had oh so many balancing rocks (made by explorers and locals) silhouetting against the bright waters. We decided to go left first and found a spot on one of the rocks. We just sat there, taking in what nature had to offer- feeling the mist from the waves make our skins salty.
Back on our scooter (I had to do a fair bit of walking beside the bike on our way back as well), we slowly made our way back to the main road and onward to Banah Cliff.
After a super easy and much enjoyable ride (after the ride to Tembeling I think any ride would be :-p), we reached Banah Cliff. This is pretty easy to find even without Google maps because the road was quite direct and it’s fairly close to Tembeling Beach.
We parked our bike, on what seemed like a plateau and walked ahead to find the edge of it. It seemed like we had reached the edge of the world, we could spot the deep ocean at a distance and as we neared the edge, the whole picture dawned upon us- a cliff with a steep drop into the magical waters that crashed vigourously on the rocks below. It was a hot day but the vehement wind did help a bit.
We spotted a sweet girl selling gigantic coconuts (for IDR 20,000) and took the liberty of beating the heat by sharing one (we couldn’t even finish that one- they are huge and I mean HUGE). We sipped on this ambrosial nectar, gawking out at the wide expanse of blue that was bordered with shadowy green cliffs in line with us.
As we finished most of the coconut water, we spotted a couple of people coming up to the spot and decided to move onto to Angel’s Billabong and Broken beach.
A moderately smooth, 45-50 minute ride got us to a parking lot that was common for both the sights.
Both these spots are probably the most famous in Nusa Penida (after Kelingking Beach), but irrespective of the number of people who were present when we reached- both these sights took our breath away.
We first turned right towards Angel’s Billabong. On our way there, we passed a couple signboards that were warnings about the waves coming in really big. It isn’t advisable to swim during high-tide since the powerful waves have previously dragged people back into the mighty ocean.
Luckily, we reached when the tide was low. Angel’s Billabong is quite a large tide-pool created by larger than life waves, with some patches of it having chest high crystal-clear water. There were a number of people in the tide-pool, some chilling and some clicking seriously insta-worthy pictures.
We scrambled down, kept our bag on one of the rocks and carefully made our way into the pool. Oh boy, wasn’t that delightful, it was soft, still, water that had a way of calming the soul- well, until we witnessed the first wave crash into the billabong. It wasn’t huge (owing to the low-tide) but man, was it ferocious. I can totally imagine why the high-tide could get quite dangerous. As we lounged there, we noticed periodic waves coming in from the deep blue and contributing to this magnificent tide pool.
After a while of being there, we noticed the waves getting bigger and decided to step out. That’s when we actually witnessed the magnificence of Angel’s Billabong. Gargantuan waves separated themselves from the deep (almost mysterious) waters to form momentary walls of pure white mist, it almost looked like snow- those walls then enveloped the tide-pool causing the reflecting waters to move in rhapsody and then go back to a wonderfully placid stillness.
We were moved by the sheer contrast that nature had to offer- it was stunning.
After a super short walk from Angel’s Billabong, we came to another popular tourist spot- The Broken Beach.
The name says it all, it is very much a Broken beach.
What is a Broken beach?
Well, it’s when the entire roof of a cliff, caves in, and falls to the bottom of the ocean creating a small (inaccessible) beach right in the center of what used to be a hill. What you see is a hollow circular expanse of terrain with a doorway into the deep blue plethora. Waves come in and gush out of this doorway, but not before saying hello to the rocks inside Broken Beach. Yes, yet another fabulous work of art by Mother Nature. Walk around over it, sit above and feel the breeze, sip a beer from the shacks there- do what you may, but somehow soak in the sheer craftsmanship that Earth has displayed here.
We were quite hungry by now (we had skipped lunch) but unfortunately the shack at Broken Beach didn’t have any food (other than chips) that day- so we temporarily drowned our hunger with some chips, a candy bar, and a Bintang each- Cheering to a fabulous day spent at Nusa Penida.
Tired, dusty, hungry but oh so elated- we started our 1-hour journey back to Umah Prahu, stopping at SD Point for a quick (and early) dinner overlooking a sandy beach.
Bathed, satisfied and supremely excited for the next day, we fell into deep slumber.
The next morning we thought of skipping our hotel breakfast to try out this cute looking cafe called Papila’s Coffeehouse, that we had crossed several times. We are so glad that we did- fabulous service, exquisite coffee, and a delicious breakfast- t’was a great start to the new day. Today, we decided to pack some lunch (just in case there wasn’t anything around like yesterday) and off we went onward to the much awaited and very well-known Kelingking Beach.
We were prepared with lunch for once, only to find the top of Kelingking Beach was one with at least 5 or 6 shacks selling food, water, beer, and the works.
Basically, a lot of tour agencies bring groups of people from Bali to Nusa Penida on day trips and Kelingking Beach, Broken Beach, Angel’s Billabong, Crystal Bay and Puncak Mundi are always on their schedule. While we had been extremely lucky in terms of avoiding the crowds having had started our days early and found the secret beach next to Crystal Bay, they seemed to have caught up with us at Kelingking. Don’t get me wrong, it was gorgeous, just as the hundreds of pictures on Google and Instagram will show you- it really is exactly the same.
Once we parked the bikes, we headed towards the crowd to come upon the “T-rex”, I kid you not- the rock really does look like a T-rex, with the tiny hands and everything.
It was a spectacular view of this huge dinosaur shaped rock forming a cove that let the brilliant azure waters enter, creating what seemed like a white sand beach all the way below. We had read that we could hike down to the beach to experience a far more private affair at Kelingking, which was perfectly on point. If there were 300 people on top, viewing the T-rex and the Indian Ocean, then only the tiniest percentage of those, say about 20 had climbed down to enjoy the REAL Kelingking beach.
This was simply because, when I say climb down, it’s not a stroll in the park (in fact some say it’s not for everyone- but we would encourage you to try!), and to be honest it was quite scary at certain points. Man-made wooden steps, tied together was the only thing to support us while we went down those REALLY steep elevations.
Those wooden steps were incredible though, we wondered, who these God-sent daredevils were, who had hung down 90 degrees and stuck logs of wood into the rocks just so that we could go and see probably the most beautiful beach in the world.
Yes, the MOST BEAUTIFUL beach in the world! (or that we have seen yet). That semi-treacherous hike was forgotten the moment we climbed down the last ladder and landed on the ultimately soft sand.
A crescent moon shaped beach, sided by giants cliffs on each side. A shallow cave to it’s right and one more to it’s left- pure, silky smooth, velvety sand and shades of water unlike we had ever seen before.
This should have been called Fantasy beach because that’s what it was- a dream come true.
Right in the center of the beach, you have one local selling drinks from what seemed like an ice-cooler- so we indulged (the beer here was expensive, obviously, whoever had to carry so much down that hill should be crowned Superhuman). The beach looked deceptively small from the top and once we had laid out our towels on the right end of the beach, it seemed like we were the only two people there.
Like it was our secret paradise. The 20 odd people who had climbed down before us seemed to disappear into the sheer magic of this wonderland.
The waves were quite strong, so naturally Capt. Aspect and I ran into them and got thrown around plenty of times before we came back to lounge under our natural canopy.
We spent close to 4 hours there, we could have done more (or probably lived there forever) but we needed to get a move on and visit the Peguyangan Waterfalls (a.k.a The Blue Stairs) today.
So one last jump into a huge wave and off we went, climbing the T-rex to get on our bikes. The hike back to the top is way less scary and takes only 20-30 minutes but was super tiring because of the extreme heat and naturally since climbing back up is always more exhausting.
P.s: We thank our stars that we wearing our water shoes for this, going up and down without them would have been quite a task (even though we saw one person do it barefoot, I don’t think either of us could have).
After 15 minutes of catching our breaths, drinking 2 whole bottles of CHILLED water and letting the wind dry our sweaty bodies, we were on our bikes and on the road to Peguyangan Waterfalls.
With our destination loaded on Gmaps, we went on to come to a fork in the road, with a rickety small wooden board saying “Ceginan or Seganing Falls”, umm hey, we didn’t know about this.
Following our instinct, we took the road to Ceganin, and we reached what seemed like a plateau (similar to Banah Cliffs) and an arrow pointing right to a viewpoint and left towards waterfalls. With not a soul in sight and the entire plateau to us (barring one shack that sold water and other beverages), we went left (naturally!).
We were greeted by a stone staircase, more climbing? Why not, we thought- we had already hiked Kelingking, what can be tougher right?
We were wrong, this was tougher, and wayyyyy scarier (maybe also because it was just the both of us, and if we were to fall not a soul other would know where we were), it was a lot steeper than Kelingking with some parts where we had to step on wooden blocks with gaps that showed us how far we would crash down into if we fell. It took us about 35-40 minutes to reach the end of the very steep hike (because I was quite cautious- read slow- but everyone should be). Again, Kudos to the people who made these wooden trails, how did they do it? how? how? But I have to thank the universe that they did.
This is where we learned that if we go far enough, or if we work hard enough we will SEE MAGIC.
A few small worships “Stupas” or carved rocks greeted us before we saw a natural spring, just waiting for us to plunge into. Freshwater from the hill formed a tiny waterfall, which led into a pool overlooking the ocean. What a sight it was.
I sank into our PRIVATE pool at the base of a hill and gazed into the deep blue, while Capt.Aspect sat inside the waterfall getting a massaged by the gentle force of the falling water (I did that too a little later because he had called dibs).
P.s: We drank some water from the waterfall and I need to add that I have seldom tasted water that sweet.
Filled with gratitude, we sat in silence, listening to the melody of the wind and the sea, letting our bodies soak in every minuscule moment of nirvana.
As sunset neared, we decided to start making our way back up, since neither of us wanted to miss a step in the dark. All dried up and forcing ourselves to leave, we filled our bottles with some spring water and began our climb.
As we reached the stable stone steps almost at the top of the hill, we decided to stop and watch the sunset.
I honestly don’t have words to describe the sheer beauty that we witnessed in those 20 minutes. It was like the sky had opened a window to let the aureate dust fall upon the water, turning it into a golden jewel- that was adding magic to the end of a perfect day.
It was like our soul’s had been served what they were craving for so long. Experiences that took our minds into a place of excited peace.
We felt a calm ecstasy as we rode back towards our hotel. A quick dinner at Coco Leaf, a much-needed shower and an hour of soulful banter later, we drifted into a slumberous trance, only to wake up with the largest smile the next day.
Our last day (oh nooooooooo) was supposed to be light to take off the fatigue from the previous 2 days but we hadn’t got our eyes on Peguyangan Waterfalls yet and so we took off early again, grabbing breakfast at Art rolling and getting a lunch packed from them.
Peguyangan Falls/ Blue Stairway
We reached Peguyangan in about 50 minutes from Art Rolling and were welcomed by a local gentleman who informed us that since there was a temple at the end of the Blue stairway we would need to wear sarongs and climb down, so we rented a couple from him, wore them in ways most comfortable to us and set afoot.
A long (long would be an understatement) bright blue staircase led the winding way down to the temple and waterfall.
We thought Peguyangan would also be a hectic hike down, but we were pleasantly surprised by how easy it was. It was still quite steep but the infamous Blue Stairs made our descent much easier than those of our previous day.
It was quite interesting to be on those stairs- a continuously twisting pop of blue between the stone cliff and the greenery made for a grand walkway we think. After we reached sort of a narrow platform (still a part of the stairway) with no trees or bushes around, we could actually view the grandeur of the Java sea that formed a wondrous palette of cerulean, turquoise and cobalt blue. But wait, what were those darkish objects moving in the water? MANTA’S
Yes, at first we spotted 1, then 3 and then 10.
10 Manta rays played below us in waters that were clear as dew, what a sight that was. Yet another moment in Nusa Penida had overwhelmed us. Before this, we have always seen these gloriously graceful beings underwater while diving- viewing them from above (especially, in this pristine postcard-like framework) made us fall in love with them some more.
We continued our walk down the Blue stairway and reached a few ornate carvings that were adorned with sacred pieces of colourful cloth- the temple at the base of the stairway had arrived. After crossing the sacred zone, we took off the sarongs- ready to use them as towels (this was suggested by the kind fellow who leased them to us).
The waterfalls were not the kinds you find in Iceland (you know, the giant white ones that come crashing to the ground), but were more gentle streams crawling through the rocks trying to find a way into the ocean. There was a natural spring that was fenced off, since it was considered a sacred offering to their Gods but a pipe built from there, led the fresh water down into a shallow cave-like structure- creating a good sized natural pool, with crystal clear water.
On one side was the vivaciously dynamic sea who’s waves came crashing onto the rocks below- the impact made the most enormous splashes we had ever seen! And on the other was the tranquil spring just perfect for a lazy dip. We got into the pool (we had this also to ourselves by the way- try getting here by 10 am to avoid a crowd), and lounged around, waiting for the salty splashes to cover our faces with mist. What a life.
We spent a lavish 40 minutes here before we started our hike back up the Blue Stairway- turning back into the blue to witness bliss every chance we got.
Back at our hotel, we decided to enjoy a quiet evening of watching the sun sink into the horizon with a bottle of Guinness One Edition, thinking back on the thoroughly mesmerizing experiences that we’d had.
Nusa Penida is Nirvana, and we couldn’t explore it to the fullest (no one will in 4 days), but we will be back with more time and more energy to get lost in its mysterious beauty.
**** We couldn’t witness the magnificence at Atuh Beach and the Treehouse, but we hear they are as splendid as the rest of the island was- be sure to try and fit that in your itinerary.
Points to remember:
- Not all beaches are swimmable, not all hotels have access to swimmable areas.
- Riding can be dangerous if you’re not a well-experienced rider. You can always hire a taxi to take you around.
- We will advise you to wear thick-soled water shoes or carry running shoes in your day backpack if you wear flip-flops (just in case you encounter some terrain that you wish to get across).
- To really explore the sights you’re going to have to hike to them or around them.
- We didn’t find any cops on Nusa Penida, but it is advisable to have an IDP if you wish to ride/rent a bike.
- A day trip from Bali is NOT enough to get completely acquainted with the raw beauty of this island.
- $1 equates to about 13500 Indonesian Rupiya (or that was the average exchange rate that we got during our visit)
This is our take on the island, what we learned during our stay and how we went about exploring it. You could do it/think differently, as long as you do it though- Nusa Penida is one place that should not be missed.