The last place we wanted to visit during our two month stay in Indonesia was Nusa Penida. Over the past few years tourism has started to expand on this beautiful but sleepy fishing island off the east coast of Bali, and we wanted an opportunity to visit prior to the inevitable tourism explosion which seems to loom everywhere in Southeast Asia.
Getting to Nusa Penida is extremely easy and efficient. We arranged transport from Ubud which included the taxi (roughly 45 minutes) to the port town of Kusamba, then the fast boat onward to the island which took about 20 minutes. While growing, the tourism infrastructure is still quite limited. I would recommend basing yourself somewhere on the northern shore of the island, close to the ferry port as this has (as of writing) the best access to stores, restaurants, etc. The map below gives an indication of where we stayed and what we visited (number 1 is the ferry port and number 2 is the location of our guesthouse).
Nusa Penida is roughly 200 square kilometres, and while the roads are steadily improving, the major sights you’ll want to see are spread out and getting to some of them entails driving on some pretty rough terrain. People can either opt for a driver or rent a motorbike. Renting a bike is definitely far less expensive and an incredible way to see some of the panoramic vistas that the island offers. As we had only two days in Nusa Penida we dropped our bag at the guesthouse and headed out right away.
Despite the seemingly close proximity of the first two sights, Kelingking Beach and Angel’s Billabong, each one is about an hour from the other (and in turn an hour from the guesthouse) as you have to drive into the interior to reach each. Nothing is easy in Nusa Penida, as we found out when we visited Kelingking. This spot has become an ‘Instagram hotspot’ and rightfully so. Also known as the T-Rex viewpoint because of the structural similarities to that fearsome dinosaur, the view will literally take your breath away. It’s a wonderful feeling in this day and age of social media where you can ‘see’ everything without actually visiting, to reach a spot and have your expectations completely exceeded. This viewpoint is an example of that.
Many people opt to take photos of the viewpoint and continue on their way. Option B, however, is traversing the cliffside down to the enchantingly blue waters and picture perfect sand of the beach that lies below. Although there are ‘steps’ and rickety bamboo to assist with the ascent and descent, this is not a climb for the faint of heart. With that said, I’ve never experienced water that felt so refreshing and rewarding after losing sweat by the bucketful on the climb down. Worth it.
From Kelingking Beach we hopped back on the bike and rode out to Angel’s Billabong and Broken Beach. Again, the roads out there are horrendous and it took a long time to get there. The scenery was well worth the trip, though.
These two places took the majority of the day, and we decided to pack it in for day one. Our second day we wanted something a bit more relaxed, and we had heard from some travellers that a new road had just opened (not even on Google Maps of yet) to head out to Atuh Beach on the east coast of the island. The drive out was incredible, winding our way across the island higher and higher to take in a wonderful 360 degree vantage. Atuh Beach still required a descent from where we parked, but it was child’s play compared to the day prior. The beach itself was almost completely deserted, and offered an amazing place to hang out for the day.
With this day under wraps we headed back. An interesting feature of the Hindu temples on Nusa Penida was that they were all constructed of whitewashed limestone, which is found in abundance throughout the island. The contrast to the dark brown temples on Bali was stark and quite interesting architecturally.
We opted to take the early ferry out after two nights in the guesthouse. I would say that two full days would suffice to see what you would want to see on Nusa Penida. Now is definitely the time to go, though, as the limited infrastructure still allows you to feel as though you’re slightly off the beaten track, something that is becoming more and more challenging to do in Southeast Asia. With this, our two months in Indonesia came to a conclusion. I fell in love with this country during this time and already long to return.