For an escape from Bali’s wannabe Ibiza beach club scene, the tranquil islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan offer a more relaxing getaway. There’s plenty of opportunity for chilaxing at the beach and sipping cocktails at sunset, but there’s so much more than just sitting in a beach lounger. Fantastic surfing, world-class diving and a plethora of coastal landscapes beckon to be explored.
We first stumbled on Nusa Lembongan and Ceningan ten years ago. Back then, the islands usual visitors were sunburned surfers, water-logged divers and the odd few backpackers doing the beach bum thing.
Fast forward ten years, Lembongan has catapulted to a booming low-key resort destination catering to a variety of travelers, from solo backpackers to honeymooning couples.
The good news, for the time being, it’s still affordable. Retaining budget friendly roots, Lembongan’s guesthouses are still reasonably priced.
Preserving the true isolationist vibe, Nusa Ceiningan is a completely different universe. A few resorts have laid a foundation here, but for the most part Ceningan is empty, perfect if you’re looking for a little escape.
To make things easy, we’ve listed our top picks for activities and destinations to keep you busy on your next visit.
Surrounded by water. Lembongan has its share of fabulous beaches. If you need a little more than a towel on the sand do not despair. On Lembongan you will find highbrow resorts, infinity pools and beach loungers with full cocktail menus ready to satisfy any beachside fantasies.
Jungut Batu The main village on Lembongan, Jungut Batu makes for a good home base. Close to a wide variety of eating options and scorching sunsets on its strategic west-facing coastline.
Dream Beach Ten years ago, this was our favorite beach in Lembongan. Now, sadly it has been taken over by resorts and daytrippers from Bali. Crowded but so what; when you can’t beat them, you might as well join them. Kick back at the infinity pool at Dream Beach Huts and watch the mini-buses (yes, there are now cars on Lembongan) unload Chinese tourists by the dozen.
The fine white, powdery sand sees more visitors than we remember (10 years ago we were the only ones) but the scenery and clear water still hold that alluring appeal.
Sandy Bay We were definitely surprised by the changes at Sandy Bay, this idyllic beach is still drop-dead gorgeous despite having gone more upmarket. Swanky beach clubs, infinity pools and fabulous villas now make Sandy Bay the luxury place to be, and really it is.
The sand here is truly amazing, ranging from deep coarse grains to fine powder filling in the space between the uplifted limestone slabs. We came in the middle of peak season and only a handful of bikini-clad sunbathers were taking full advantage of this idyllic natural setting.
The northeastern coastline of Lembongan is a natural mangrove wetland protecting the fragile coral reef ecosystem and providing habitat for many of the juvenile marine species. The typical mangrove boat tour runs 150K rupiah (~$10 USD) per boat. Alternatively, rent a kayak or SUP and paddle yourself. Depending on the time of day, the mangroves become sweltering hot so plan accordingly. There is outstanding snorkeling outside the reef, best accessed by boat.
You really can’t go wrong in Lembongan, just get to one of the island’s west-facing beaches and you’ll be dialed in.
Jungut Batu As our home base, this place sets the standard with splendid sunsets and the silhouette of Bali’s towering Mount Agung in the foreground.
Mahagiri Resort Located smack on the northwest corner of Lembongan, the beach is sprinkled with colorful beanbag beach chairs that look like a bag of Skittles were poured on the sand. Curl up in the sand and enjoy the show.
Lembongan has three surf spots, Shipwrecks, Lacerations and Playgrounds. We’ve only ever surfed at Shipwrecks, a righthander fronting Jungut Batu Beach that breaks over the shallow coral reef. Lembongan is no longer a secret spot, so expect some crowds. The water is still crystal clear and the wave peels fast with some barrels. Shipwrecks is no place for beginners, though Playgrounds on a smaller day would be.
The Indonesian archipelago comprising over 18,000 islands is uniquely situated between the South China Sea, the Indian and Pacific Oceans, meaning it’s home to the largest diversity of marine life anywhere.
Scuba divers have long been visiting Lembongan, Ceningan and nearby Nusa Penida for the thrilling drift dives and the chance to spot large pelagic species like manta rays and giant sunfish (Mola Mola). Hundreds of species of corals and thousands of species of fish call these waters home and the diving is unparalleled. If you’re not certified, Lembongan is full of dive shops ready to teach you.
If scuba is a bit out of your budget, don’t miss out on a snorkel tour. Most will hit Manta Bay on nearby Nusa Penida where it’s almost guaranteed to see these elegant giants. (Expect to pay 300K rupiah/~$23 USD).
The rocky sea cliffs nestled between Dream Beach and Sandy Bay are collectively known as Devil’s Tear. When large swells roll in the area becomes a spectacle of crashing surf and sensational sea spray. Don’t get too close to the edge, we saw plenty of smartphones get soaked by salt water.
By motorbike from Jungut Batu to Dream Beach you’ll ascend Lembongan’s largest hill. At the summit look to the right, a pleasant panorama of Jungut Batu Beach unfolds before your eyes. Stop here for a few minutes to take in the view.
Joining the two coral islands is the fascinating Yellow Bridge known locally as Jembatan Kuning. Hardly a destination, it’s the remarkable experience riding across, barely enough space for two motorbikes to pass, that is so thrilling. In October 2016, the bridge collapsed during a local religious procession causing several fatalities. It has since been rebuilt and the former wooden planks have been replaced with metal plates.
These cheesy selfie-magnets are everywhere in Indonesia, but who cares. Get off your bikes at each one and have some fun. Just after the Yellow Bridge, turn right and there’s a water swing on the ocean side. On the circle Ceningan road you can find another set of swings showcasing some spectacular views of Nusa Penida across the narrow channel.
There’s several places in Ceningan where you could whittle away an entire day doing nothing but staring into blue seas working on your suntan. At Mahana Point you can do just that and so much more. The point is now a cliffside restaurant (Mahana Point Warung and Bar) overlooking the left peeling Mahana Point surf spot. The wave is best suited for intermediate to advanced surfers who can handle strong currents and the shallow reef.
We spent hours soaking up the spectacular panoramas and dramatic surf from the warung’s shady tables. When the waves are flat, there are two places to plunge into the water, an 8-meter and 15-meter leap respectively. To the right of Mahana Point is a secluded beach accessed by the neighboring resort (for free).
One of Ceningan’s iconic landmarks is the Blue Lagoon. Under perfect conditions the bay’s water takes on fifty shades of blue appearance and there is little wonder as to what the appeal is. If you arrive here during massive surf, the horseshoe-shaped bay will resemble Typhoon Lagoon, and instead of blue, you’ll find a whitewashed deluge. When the swells are calm, the eastern point of the bay is a well-regarded cliff jump, best left for the experienced.
If you need a little adrenaline boost, head over to the Abyss Zipline at the Ceningan Island Resort. This short zipline flies high over surf-pounded, rocky cliffs. The less than 30-second ride will set you back 80K rupiah (~$6 USD) and will surely give you the jolt you’re looking for. Afterwards relax in the resort’s infinity pool or have a drink at the Driftwood Bar.
The saying, “fortune favors the bold”, aptly describes the courageous effort it takes navigating the pothole-riddled road to Secret Beach. The reward for this hearty journey is an isolated beach accompanied by an even emptier resort complete with infinity pool and beachside bar.
Large swells made swimming a dangerous affair during our visit. The beach however, is a fantastic stretch of clean, fine sand. We only saw a few other people taking advantage of this little patch of perfection.
Much has changed on these islands in the last 10 years, and despite the massive growth on Lembongan, we still recommend adding both to your next Bali itinerary.
There are at least two ATMs on Lembongan, located near the hospital/clinic in Jungut Batu. Contrary to many reports, there are now cars (mostly miniature taxis) on the island, used to fetch customers to hotels and day trip excursions. Ceningan has very few vehicles, mostly used for deliveries/contruction.
Compared to massive build-up happening in Bali, Lembongan and Ceningan will seem sedate in comparison. And to top it off they are drop-dead gorgeous.
Budget options still exist and nabbing a guesthouse with air conditioning and wifi won’t set you back too much. We paid 200K rupiah (~$18.50 USD) per night in high season for a clean AC room with wifi, but no hot water. There were no issues with the power supply.
To explore the islands properly and affordably, rent a motorbike, preferably from your guesthouse (60-70K rupiah/~$4-5 USD per day). We recommend helmets, though unlike Bali, the police here don’t hassle the tourists for these types of infractions. Taxis start at 150K rupiah ($10 USD) per ride, even for short distances. These prices are extortionate, but are making accessibility to travelers who otherwise would be giving Lembongan a miss.
Dining options on Lembongan have never been better. Decent Indonesian food at local warungs starts at about 20K-40K rupiah (~$1.50-2.50 USD) per entrée.
Western fusion restaurants are plentiful, but pricier. We can definitely recommend Tiger Lillys, and their scrumptious cheesecake that hit our weak point very hard. Truly amazing.
To get to Nusa Lembongan from Bali, take a speedboat from Sanur, they leave regularly when the seas are calm and there are plenty of companies who will compete for your business. A good price on the low-end is 150K rupiah, ($10 USD) one-way.
Whether you’re needing a break from Bali itself or prefer to completely immerse yourself in Indonesia’s outer islands, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan will surely keep you busy for a few days or even a few weeks if you allow yourself to succumb to the blissful isolation.