If you haven’t heard of Nusa Penida, that’s because it’s still a fringe destination for many travelers to Bali. Often described as Bali twenty or thirty years ago, we think Nusa Penida has its own identity that is unmistakably not Bali. We strongly recommend heading there as soon as you can pack before things change.
Visitors to Penida are still mostly backpackers and scuba divers; however, it is attracting more and more daytrippers arriving by the boatload from Nusa Lembongan. To really savor the Penida experience, you’ll need 3-4 days for the highlights, better yet a week to marinate in the islands’ intoxicating scenery.
The big draw for travelers to Penida is the island’s raw landscape. Dramatic sea cliffs plunge vertically into the aquamarine Bali Sea and the unusually shaped offshore sea stacks make for some spectacular eye candy.
Below the water line the scene is equally impressive. Divers have been coming for decades to enjoy the crystal clear visibility and wonderous sea life.
We’ve listed in order of most thrilling to the least, our top twelve destinations on Nusa Penida.
Penida is a divers’ paradise and the chance to jump in the water and snorkel with the graceful manta rays is without a doubt the number one thing to do on the island. We booked a half-day snorkel tour with Discover Penida and hit five different dive sites to round out the morning.
At Manta Bay, we instantly got our money’s worth as six colossal mantas glided by feeding on microscopic plankton. It can get a little freaky when a gigantic sea creature comes at you with its’ mouth wide open, but rest assured, the mantas are harmless.
The exhilarating buzz from swimming with the mantas lasted all day and we continued the tour snorkeling the vibrant coral gardens at Crystal Bay, Gamut Bay and Toyapakeh Wall.
We almost skipped the drift dive over Giant Trevally, the large species of jacks that frequent this site. GT is wedged between a floating restaurant and two permanently moored glass bottom submarines. Once we saw the incredible trevally darting about inches from our masks, we came back for a second and third drift.
Cost: We booked the snorkel tour with Discover Penida in Toyapakeh. We were a group of six and paid 250K rupiah ($18.73 USD) each, and as a bonus we scored our own private boat. Normally this tour runs 300K rupiah ($22.48 USD) and includes lunch.
Penida’s number one above water attraction and our favorite beach in all of Indonesia is Kelingking. Here’s why. The view is beyond amazing, it’s pure mind-blowing.
From above, Kelingking’s fingerlike peninsula resembles the upper torso and head of a Tyrannosaurus Rex (think Jurassic Park logo). Believe us when we say it’s hard to stop snapping photos here.
For adventure seekers, there is a thrilling trail down to the beach. The path follows the spine of the peninsula before making a shear drop down the open cliff face. This last 10-minute descent is a white-knuckle, rope clinging affair ending at the magnificent strip of sand below.
Few souls make the perilous descent to Kelingking’s alluring white sand beach. If you take this plunging descent, you’ll be sharing this paradise with only a handful of others. Washed by the pounding surf the sensation of the deep sand between your toes is pure perfection.
Swimming at Kelingking is possible but dangerous due to swift ocean currents and pounding surf. The back side of the beach has small scrub trees providing shade from the intense afternoon sun.
Cost: 5K rupiah ($0.37 USD) to park the motorbike
Atuh Beach is remote, requiring two hours by motorbike from Toyapakeh one-way. The entire coastal route is a scenic stretch of sandy beaches and innumerable seaweed farms. For most of the journey, the road is in good condition until the last kilometer or so, then it becomes hideous.
By chance, we chose the south entrance road (there are two entrances, a north and south). A few steps from the parking lot and we were greeted by the most stunning seascapes. Steep sea cliffs, barren offshore islets, and an untouched white sand beach filled our eyeballs…and camera lenses.
Literally we spent an hour relishing the magnetic scenery before descending the concrete stairs to Atuh. The beach is mostly white sprinkled with patches of salt and pepper and coral rubble.
The major attraction at Atuh is the landscape, steep sea cliffs punctuated by a green valley ending at the coconut palm fringed beach. Directly offshore is an island with a jagged sea arch casting an other-worldly appearance to the surroundings.
A good plan for the day is to pull into the shade of one the local warungs and order up a cold Bintang. The loungers are free with food or drink orders. We had one of our best meals on Penida here, grilled fish and rice for 50K rupiah ($3.75 USD).
There’s not much near Atuh Beach and it’s a long ride back to Toyapakeh or Ped. Our recommendation is to make a day of it, relax on one of the bean bag beach chairs with a cold ‘Binnie’ in hand, watch the waves crash off the cliffs and the tide roll off the beach.
Cost: 10K rupiah ($0.75 USD) to park motorbike
Penida is home to some of the most striking sea cliffs we’ve ever witnessed and we took full advantage of hiking down every single trail we could find to indulge in the amazing panoramas from every possible angle.
Guyangan waterfall hike is Nusa Penida’s answer to Stairway to Heaven, except in this case the prize is at the bottom of the stairs. Clinging to the near vertical cliff face, a set of navy blue metal stairs leads down to a small waterfall and Hindu shrine perched above the sparkling Bali Sea.
Except for anxiety-ridden acrophobes, the hike down to Guyangan is extremely safe. The stairs are in surprisingly good condition and with each step there is another commanding sea view. Looking closely and you may spot the occasional silhouette of a manta sailing gracefully under the sublime aquamarine sea below.
The stairs culminate at a small Hindu shrine and a spring fed pool. Called a waterfall, Guyangan is really a spring flowing over rocks (at least why we were there in dry season). But the views, the views here border insanity.
The Seganing Waterfall hike is not to be taken lightly, in fact, this is pure adrenaline junkie territory. If you’re afraid of heights or have difficulty pulling yourself up vertical cliffs with only your arms, then maybe give this hike a pass. However, if you want to experience Penida’s most thrilling and dangerous cliff hike, look no further.
The steep hike down is mostly clinging onto the well-worn handholds of the limestone cliffs. The trail, when there is one is maximum sixteen inches wide, sometimes it’s just a handhold carved from the limestone rock.
There is a barrier fence to stop you should you fall, good luck with that. This flimsy wooden fence is nothing short of a façade and in no way should you use it for support.
The burly hike is the attraction and if you go down, you must go back up. A small freshwater spring fills a miniature plunge pool near the ocean providing a refreshing respite from the midday heat. The sea views are unbelievable as they are everywhere in Penida.
Pack water and wear sunblock, there’s not a single drop of shade.
Cost: 5K rupiah ($0.37 USD) for motorbike parking
Angel’s Billabong is another one of Penida’s natural wonders turned social media frenzy. This hanging tidepool carved out of the cliffs resembles a natural infinity pool and extreme photo seekers find it irresistible to stand on the seaward edge for an epic capture.
Be warned, this place is a Darwin Award waiting to happen. Actually it already has, rogue waves have swept more than one unsuspecting tourist to their end here. So ask yourself if it’s worth risking your life to click a sensational Instagram moment.
Less than one hundred meters from Angel’s Billabong is Broken Beach, known locally as Pasih Uwug. Broken Beach is an island of water surrounded by cliffs and a stylish sea arch connects the Balinese Sea to this unique geographic phenomenon.
There is no actual beach access here, but the cliff enclosed sea views are nothing short of outstanding. We recommend visiting earlier in the day to capture the amazing blue hues of the water.
Known for crystal clear water, coral gardens and colorful fish, Crystal Bay is one of Penida’s most popular destinations. Located about fifteen minutes by motorbike from Toyapakeh on a well paved road, the bay receives a fair share of daytrippers and dive boats.
Compared to the rest of Penida, Crystal Bay is on the crowded side. We still enjoyed the white sand beach and snorkeling the clear offshore reef. If you have enough time, climb the stairs at the south end of the beach and walk to the secluded sandy bay 30-minutes away.
Cost: 5K rupiah ($0.37 USD) motorbike parking fee
The Banah Cliffs viewpoint is basically a cow pasture. Don’t expect any signage to indicate your arrival, in fact there’s no parking lot, no vendors, nothing. This off-the-beaten-path authenticity suited us perfectly. It will only take ten or twenty minutes to absorb the sea cliff views and the stunning offshore islet resembling a stone donut half-submerged in the ocean.
We only spent a couple of nights on the north coast of Penida and the landscape here is drastically different from the steep sea cliffs to the south, west and east. The shoreline from Toyapakeh to Ped to Sampalan and beyond is lined with seaweed farms and rough sandy beaches.
There’s an interesting lifestyle here and the connection to the sea sharply contrasts to the agricultural economy found on the rest of the island. Perhaps the area is not as scenic as the rest of the Penida, but if you look hard enough there’s beauty everywhere.
Like Bali, Nusa Penida is a Hindu island and temples, shrines and mysterious processions are everywhere. We were so stunned by the marvelous scenery created by the collision of land and sea that we almost missed out on the mystical Hindu architecture lying about before our eyes.
Located on the southwest corner of Nusa Penida, Pasih Andus is a secluded sunset viewpoint that is completely off the radar. To get here, turn right just before the Angel’s Billabong/Broken Beach parking lot. The road quickly turns to a single dirt track ending abruptly about a kilometer later at a series of stunning sea cliffs. We came here on a whim and gazed awestruck as the flaming orange daystar sank below the sparkling sea. We were completely alone except for the thunderous surf reverberating off the cliffs.
The beach and pools at Temeling are two kilometers down a steep single lane track from the nearest dirt road. The track is so steep we decided to park the bike and walk. That proved to be a good decision as the path is for expert riders only.
The forest is one of Penida’s last native stands and in the deepest part of the ravine you can see some larger trees and if you’re lucky, a troupe of macaques. At the trail’s, end there is a temple under construction and a final set of steps leading down to the beach. A natural spring feeds two separate pools, the largest was almost completely destroyed by a rockslide in October 2016 (making it impossible to swim, unlike photos you may see on the internet). The other pool is very, very small.
This is no swimming beach either, and the small bits of white sand are overwhelmed by huge rocks and boulders. Nonetheless staring up at the steep sea cliffs never cease to amaze.
Located off Bali’s southeastern coast, Nusa Penida is the largest of the three karst islands between Bali and Lombok. Daily ferries leave Sanur in Bali for Toyapakeh and Sampalan in Penida.
Enquire at the ticket offices in Sanur for daily departure times. Costs run 150K-250K rupiah ($11.25-1873 USD) one-way, depending on the company, time of year, and your negotiating skills.
From Nusa Lembongan, the cheapest option is the morning ferry from the yellow bridge (50K rupiah/$3.75 USD, one-way). The yellow bridge connects Lembongan to Ceningan island and getting a taxi here will run you more than the ferry itself. Alternatively you can hire a private boat in Jungut Batu Beach, expect to pay 300-500K rupiah ($22.50-37.46) for a private boat or 80-100K rupiah ($6-7.50 USD) per person for a shared boat to Toyapakeh Harbor.
Renting a motorbike is most efficient and independent mode of transport on Penida. A daily rental is 75K rupiah ($3.75 USD), and the expectation is to return the bike by 7:00 pm. Try to rent from your guesthouse and ask for a discount for multiple days. It’s also a good idea to take pictures of the bike to avoid any misunderstandings about damages that may or may not have taken place.
The roads on Penida are terrible and motorbike accidents are all too common. If you are not an experienced rider, this is definitely going to be a harrowing experience.
A private taxi (the only kind), starts at 650K rupiah (($48.70 USD) per day. If you can fill the seats with six people the price isn’t too bad. The meager transportation options and poor road conditions are helping keep the crowds down, for now anyway.
Don’t try to see everything in one day, it’s impossible. With private car you can squeeze in four sights, with a motorbike probably only three. But what’s the rush?
Download an offline map application like Maps.Me or Google Maps and carry a battery charger for your cellphone. You’ll be stopping a lot to check your position.
Don’t expect a plethora of dining options in Penida. We went with local warungs (food stalls) with dishes running 20-30K rupiah. If you’re worried about the hygiene, look at the tables. If they’re clean, chances are so is everything else.
If you find yourself in Ped, give Penida Colada a try. They’ve definitely got the resort-like ambiance more familiar with Bali and Nusa Lembongan. The food is good too. Prices are elevated accordingly.
We visited Penida twice in high season (July and August 2017). The guesthouses here are more expensive than the equivalents in Bali and Lembongan. In Toyapakeh we stayed at Ari La Casa, 300K rupiah ($22.48 USD) per night. The rooms are clean, the beds comfortable, breakfast is included and the AC is cold. Each unit has a private bathroom attached on the back, cold shower only.
On our second trip to Penida we stayed at Nusa Penida Dive Resort (in Toyapakeh), 350K rupiah ($26.22 USD). Our AC room was small, drab and dated as was the bathroom (cold shower only). The best thing here is the grounds, with ample space for socializing and relaxing. The included breakfast was also quite good.
We also stayed two nights in a treehouse outside of Ped called Rumah Pohon. At 500K rupiah ($37.46) per night for a treehouse with a balcony and ocean view. This was the most expensive room during two months of Indonesia traveling (fortunately split among 3 people). The cheaper option is to sleep in a makeshift tent (camping) for 200K rupiah ($15 USD) per night.
The treehouse was outrageously overpriced, though they do include breakfast, dinner, tea, coffee and drinking water. Aside from some amazing sunrise/sunset views, the property also has a zipline that takes you screaming down to the parking lot.
We really came here for the experience and made the best of it. The location is rugged and remote, sprinkled with elevated sunrise/sunset views and an adventurous zipline. Hey it’s not every day you get to sleep in a treehouse. It’s worth it for the uniqueness, but from a value for the money perspective, not so much.
All the above accommodations can be booked through Booking.com.
***We received no commissions or kickbacks from any of the businesses mentioned in this blog, and all opinions are our own. Prices are current as of August 2017. Happy Travels!