NUSA ISLANDS GUIDE: LEMBONGAN, PENIDA, CENINGAN
The Nusa Islands are a tropical trio less than 30 minutes by boat from mainland Bali. The islands are still considered part of Bali, but you will feel worlds away from the rapid pace and buzz of Kuta and Seminyak.
The Nusa Islands are all about enjoying nature, surfing, snorkeling, cliff jumping, hiking and relaxing in a chill island atmosphere.
This article will provide you with the top things to do on each of the Nusa Islands. I personally experienced everything on this list in five days. There will no doubt be a few activities and locations I didn’t get to on the Nusa Islands but I am sure you will discover those and much, much more during your explorations. I’ll be back to hit them up too no doubt!
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Nusa Lembongan has slowly grown as a tourist destination thanks to its good surf. I had only heard about the crazy cliff jumping on nearby Nusa Ceningan but there was also so many awesome things to do on Nusa Lembongan. This is definitely known as the surf destination amongst the Nusa Islands.
How to get to Nusa Lembongan
We booked with Sri Rejeki Express and the tickets cost $35 USD return including pickup and drop-off from Canggu (or so we thought). The boat trip only takes twenty-five minutes but from pickup to arrival on Lembongan it might take 3-4 hours when you include waiting times. The service was fine until we arrived back to Sanur Beach from Lembongan. Our flip flops, which were collected in a big basket were dumped in a huge pile in the muddy sand. Our bags were also thrown onto the muddy sand without any second thoughts. To top it off I was told all three of us had to be dropped at the one location despite staying at different hotels. It didn’t ruin our trip by any means but maybe the other companies operate with a little more due care.
We stayed our entire 5 nights on Nusa Lembongan and made day trips to the other islands. This is a popular way of experiencing the Nusa Islands. However, accommodation of all price ranges is available on Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida also.
Where to stay on Nusa Lembongan
We stayed at Swara Homestay 2, which set us back $10 a night for a private room with a bathroom. It was incredibly basic but we weren’t there to enjoy a fancy room so it worked for us. Along the beachfront, there are plenty of fancy resorts if you have the cash to splash but you can get a private room with everything you need for under $20 a night with no problems. I wrote an extensive to guide to picking the right accommodation for you on Nusa Lembongan. I’ve included pictures of all the hotels and there are some awesome finds including beach villas with pools for under $50 a night. I’ve added a link to it below.
Click Here to view the: Nusa Lembongan Accommodation Guide
6 Awesome things to do on Nusa Lembongan
1. Dream beach
A very dreamy beach indeed. A hotel with an infinity pool and a restaurant overlooking this cute little cove of white sand and crystal clear water. We had a great time swimming in the decent shore break waves at this beach. A perfect spot to hang out for the day with good access to food, drinks, pools.
2. Devil’s tears
Exploring Devil’s Tears is the best thing to do on Nusa Lembongan in my opinion. The outcrop sucks the water in before it explodes out with a boom, creating the tears of the devil. Not only does it make the devil cry but the spray also creates a rainbow on many occasions. That wasn’t the only magic that we witnessed while at this popular location.
A local guide started clapping at a steady pace. At first, I thought he was cheering on the ocean. I could no longer hold back my curiosity and went and asked the old man why he was clapping the ocean. And he told he wasn’t cheering the ocean but he was, in fact, calling the turtle to appear. We laughed and joined him. He left and we stopped clapping but magically ten minutes later I spotted a turtle. Coincidence or not you tell me?
After enjoying the tears from the devil we headed around the corner to check out what we could find. More outcrops being smashed by water and some incredible tide pools. We knew we had to come back for sunset when we found the tide pools. This was definitely my favorite sunset spot on the Nusa Islands.
3. Sandy Bay
We explored even further around the corner and found Sandy Bay, another secluded beach.
4. Jungut Batu Beach
This beach is the main strip and the longest beach on Nusa Lembongan. All of the wooden tour boats and fishing vessels moor here. There is a surf break out quite a far way if you are keen to hit the swell. Almost every night we would come to Jungut Batu for the sunset and one of the nights was an absolute gem. The sky filled with electric orange and vibrant yellows.
We also followed this beach all the way down to the mangroves on a long exploratory walk. We came across everything from old wooden boats to volleyball courts to packs of stray dogs. The beauty about walking along this beach is that Mt Agung is always looming in the background. The volcano last erupted in 1963 but it is still an imposing feature in the distance.
5. Mushroom bay
Mushroom Bay was an awesome spot to grab a bite, hang out in a relaxed atmosphere and even rent a SUP board. It had a great family/calm atmosphere to the entire bay with a range of restaurants along the strip. We managed to find a $4 Margherita pizza from a fancy restaurant overlooking the bay. Win!
6. Mangrove Forest
We thought about doing the Mangrove tour but had done a few in the past so we opted to just drone over it haha! Maybe I will just stay in my hotel room and drone to all the places in the future… It did look pretty interesting from the sky and we could visit a little of the forest when we caught the boat from Nusa Lembongan to Nusa Penida.
Nusa Penida is the biggest of the three Nusa Islands just off from mainland Bali. Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan make up the trio of islands, each with uniquely breath-taking landscapes.
How to get to Nusa Penida
From Nusa Lembongan, the boat to Nusa Penida took only 20 minutes and cost $35 USD split between my two friends and I. However, you can make a day trip from mainland Bali to Nusa Penida.
In hindsight, we should have stayed for at least two days on the island because it was quite large and there were so many things to do on Nusa Penida. We arrived early in the morning and explored at a ferocious pace taking in as much of the beauty as possible. Here is my personal list of 8 adventurous things to do on Nusa Penida.
We hired a moped for $5 USD. For the first time in my travels, the owner said the fuel was full and we could return it at empty. Thank you very much, boss!
1. Pura Goa Giri Putri Cave
Our first stop was unbelievable! The Pura Goa Giri Putri Cave is perched midway up the mountain, accessible by a steep winding staircase. Before being allowed up the staircase we had to rent a sarong for 50 cents. We dodged a few rogue monkeys before arriving into the middle of prayer. With no idea what he had walked in on we were blessed with some water to the forehead before crawling through a tiny crack in the ground. Over 100 other people joined us down, crawling through the crack.
Once inside, the roof opened up and we were inside a 300m long cave. More prayer was underway but no-one seemed to mind us looking around. I would have loved to yell out and hear the echo in this massive underground temple. Instead, we wandered around, enjoyed the smell of the incense and the eerie atmosphere before crawling out again. This was one of the coolest but strangest experiences I had on the Nusa Islands.
2. Atuh Beach, Nusa Penida
After the interesting cave experience, we headed to the coast. We drove through a collection of villages waving to the kids as we dodged chickens, dogs, and potholes on the road. The poor road soon turned to a dirt hill so we abandoned the bikes and crossed our fingers we were in the right spot when all of a sudden we spotted an amazing view through the branches. Atuh Beach is a stunning white sand beach surrounded by the huge cliffs and remarkable rock formations. An arch sits directly out from the shore while several islets string off in the distance.
We explored the shore and the ocean before enjoying a fresh $2 coconut. Air Asia knew what they were doing when they provided these umbrellas to the resorts. I can’t imagine how many Instagram photos have inadvertently advertised the airline. This was up there in my top beaches on the Nusa Islands.
3. Peguyangan Waterfall
The Peguyangan Waterfall was on our way so we thought why not drop in for a look. Little did we know we would encounter the blue stairway to heaven. A steep cliffside trail comprised of blue steel stairs lead you down to the bottom of the cliffs and the waterfall.
4. Seganing Falls
If you don’t like heights skip this trek. The path is at times less than half a yard in width. On one side is the giant vertical rock wall and on your other side a tiny wooden fence protecting you from a certain death if you were to fall. The fence looked like something you would see on an old farm. Nevertheless, we made the journey down with a self-appointed guide who insisted on joining us. He was incredibly funny despite not speaking any English. At each scenic point, he would throw his hands up and scream wow, motioning to us to take a photo of him.
The trek was incredible, which made up for the waterfall. We were dripping in sweat, my friend Joel had cut up his leg and we were out of energy hoping to find an amazing waterfall running into the ocean. Once at the bottom we were surprised to find a cascade of trickles running down the rock face. It was an anti-climax after the crazy trek down. I would suggest this trek as it was truly one of my favorite things to do on Nusa Penida. However, don’t expect Niagara Falls at the bottom.
5. Kelingking ‘T-Rex’
The Instagram famous coastal cliffscape, which truly does look like a T-rex didn’t disappoint. I still remember the moment I laid eyes on the beach below. I felt like a human drone. I watched the crystal clear water slowly form into a wave before crashing below us, in what seemed like slow motion.
We took a short trek down the spine of the T-Rex but didn’t have enough time to venture onto the beach although we did find a path down. This is definitely my favorite thing to do on Nusa Penida and is just one of those landscapes that make you feel small. It makes you feel lucky to be in its company, to be able to witness earth’s creation.
That was the end of our moped exploration for the day as we raced back to the port to get our boat back to Nusa Lembongan. However, we would be coming back to Penida the next morning
Snorkeling Nusa Penida
FULL BLOG POST: Discovering Kelingking T-Rex on Nusa Penida
6. Manta Bay
We hopped on a group snorkel tour from Lembongan with one thing on our minds. We were keen on swimming with giant Manta Rays as is a popular thing to do on Nusa Penida. After initially not being able to locate the Manta Rays our awesome captain found them. We were able to swim and snorkel with the playful Manta Rays for over half an hour. They were majestic and intimidating. I would dive down as the Manta swam straight at me with its mouth wide open before darting away at the last moment. This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and it was only the start of the snorkel trip!
FULL BLOG POST: Snorkeling with Giant Manta Rays in Bali
7. Crystal Bay Beach Nusa Penida
By now we were all so tired from swimming non-stop all morning that when we arrived at Crystal Bay we slumped on the sand and began an hour of recovery! Our captain then rounded us up and took us 100 yards out into the bay on the boat and we enjoyed the crystal clear water you would expect at Crystal Bay. Although we were more interested in flipping off the front of the boat. What’s new.
Our final stop on our Nusa Penida journey was to Toyapakeh. This awesome snorkel spot has a strong current. Our captain dropped us off and we hardly had to swim as the current slowly drifted us down towards a small cove. We were drifting on the edge of a huge drop-off with fish and coral in abundance.
Things to know before you go to Nusa Penida
Nusa Penida Island is quite large compared to Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan. Therefore you may want to consider spending 2-3 nights on the island if you would like to see all of the points of interest without having to rush.
The roads in some parts are fantastic but to get to many of the waterfalls and beaches the roads were pretty crazy. At times we were just driving over small rocks. If you aren’t confident on a moped this could be some terrain too heavy to handle.
There were a few spots that locals asked us to pay a small entrance or parking fee at. For example, as we left Kelingking we had to hand over 50 cents for parking even though nothing was mentioned beforehand. Just enjoy the views hand over the small fee and continue on your journey.
Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Penida?
Sometimes in life you can’t have it all. If you are limited for time and only have a few days on the Nusa Islands you might have to choose one location as your base. However, you can still visit all three islands.
Day 1: Explore Nusa Lembongan attractions
Day: 2 Nusa Ceningan cliff jumping and beaches
Option 1) Half-day snorkel boat trip to Nusa Penida to swim with Manta Rays
Option 2) Catch a boat at sunrise to Nusa Penida, explore all day and catch the boat back for sunset.
However, if you do prefer to take in one place at a slower pace rather than rushing around to see every corner of every island you will have to make a decision. These are the key factors to consider to help you decide to stay on Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Penida.
Staying on Nusa Lembongan
Several great beaches
Acess whole island in less than half hour on moped
Great rocky coastline to explore such as Devil’s Tears
Bridge access to Nusa Ceningan for cliff jumping and exploring. (It almost becomes a double island)
The surf requires a boat to take you out to the reef
Half-day boat trip required to swim with Manta Rays
Staying on Nusa Penida
Awesome coastline with epic cliff views around every corner whereas Lembongan is flat
Moped adventures across the island, which is far far bigger than Nusa Lembongan
More of a chill vibe with eco-stays, vegan cafe’s and that kind of atmosphere
Manta Rays near the coastline
Roads can be quite rough for mopeds in some places
No access to cliff jumping on Nusa Ceningan
Little bit more expensive hotels than Nusa Lembongan (but still cheap!)
Personally, I love epic cliff views and exploring the land on crazy moped adventures so if I had my time over I would stay on Nusa Penida. However, missing out on cliff jumping at the Blue Lagoon on Nusa Ceningan would have been a disaster. It’s a hard decision but if you have to make it I would go with Penida and somehow try and get a day trip to Nusa Lembongan. The beauty of humble Nusa Lembongan is that it’s in the middle of the two best islands so naturally, it is the perfect base if you gotta do it all!
Nusa Ceningan is a small tropical island, which is part of Bali in Indonesia. The island is nestled between popular Nusa Lembongan and the large island of Nusa Penida. The trio of islands is an awesome spot to explore and get away from the craziness of mainland Bali. Nusa Ceningan was the adrenaline spot of the Nusa Islands in my opinion with cliff jumping around every corner. I will highlight four of the best Nusa Ceningan things to do!
I spent five nights on Nusa Lembongan and day tripped to Nusa Ceningan, which is accessible by bridge. Ceningan is quite a small island and I didn’t even rent a moped, instead, I opted to discover the coast by foot with my two mates.
4 Adrenaline pumping things to do on Nusa Ceningan
1. The Nusa Ceningan Blue Lagoon
After crossing the bridge we walked for about thirty minutes and headed straight to Blue Lagoon.The Nusa Ceningan Blue Lagoon is a rocky cove of the brightest blue water I’ve laid my eyes on.
The Blue Lagoon isn’t just for looking at, you will find a prime cliff jumping spot at the entrance of the cove. There are relatively safe jumps from heights of 4m, 6m, 8m, and 13m. The water was very deep and we didn’t could see the bottom was way too far to worry about touching it. To get out of the water once you are in you will swim to your right back towards the coast and clamber up the cliffs when you find a gap in the waves. If the swell looks too big maybe save the jump for another day as you don’t want to get stuck unable to get out. The day we went had some decent waves but none to cause too much trouble. We all finished another awesome day on the Nusa Islands without a single scrape, just a big smile plastered on our faces.
FULL BLOG POST: Cliff Jumping at Blue Lagoon, Nusa Ceningan
2. Driftwood Bar
After the Blue Lagoon, we headed along the coast in search of Secret Beach. On the way, we accidentally stumbled into a classy hotel, which had an infinity pool overlooking another stunning blue cove. The hotel was called ‘Driftwood Bar’ and I definitely recommend stopping for a smoothie and enjoying the pool on your way to Secret Beach. One of the best things about the Nusa Islands was there were hardly any other people around. We got to enjoy so many locations all to ourselves.
3. Secret Beach
We walked our way through a maze of hedges along the coast to finally arrive at a lookout over Secret Beach. I waited at the lookout and snapped a shot of my friend Jorden down in the water before finally joining them on the beach. One other family was at the beach but other than that it lived up to its name.
A shallow reef spanned almost the entire beach, which didn’t make for great swimming. However, one small strip of sand had us snorkeling in what Jorden called, “The clearest water of his life.”
4. Mahana Point
Time was ticking on our day on Nusa Ceningan Island so we packed up and started the trek back towards another cliff jumping spot. This time we walked back past the Blue Lagoon and headed across to the other side of the cliffs. We came across a sunset bar with diving boards called Mahana Point. A 10m and 6m board overlooked a popular surf break. A few beers and a quality sunset topped off our amazing day on Nusa Ceningan!
I hope you found this guide to the Nusa Islands helpful and you have a blast exploring and adventuring!
Nusa Islands Map