The Nusa islands near Bali are a popular destination in Indonesia. Each island has its own charm and it’s great to visit both islands. But of course you don’t always have enough time for doing this. I visited both Nusa islands during my Indonesia itinerary for 2 months and tell you exactly what you need to know so you can make your choice!
In this article I mainly highlight the two most popular Nusa islands, namely Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan, but Nusa Ceningan is also part of the Nusa islands. This island is easily accessible from Lembongan.
Nusa islands: Nusa Penida or Nusa Lembongan?
Penida is the largest Nusa island with its area of 203 km². The island is characterized by high cliffs, some beautiful beaches and a dry hilly landscape. Many tourists visit Nusa Penida with a tour and then drive around with a driver all day. It’s a great option if you’re short on time, but I really recommend staying there for a few days. Would you like to see everything on Nusa Penida, then you need at least 3 whole days, but with 2 whole days you also go a long way.
What to do?
In terms of sightseeing, Nusa Penida clearly beats Nusa Lembongan. The island is also much larger. There are a lot of rocky and sandy beaches. The best thing to do is to spend a whole day for exploring the (north)east coast and one to two days for the (south)west coast.
A common option is to hire a driver for a few days. Often you can arrange this at your accommodations and split the costs with other travelers with a bit of luck. The price is around 500,000 IDR for the car for a whole day. The best option in my opinion is driving around on the scooter. However, the roads on Nusa Penida don’t have the best reputation. These are often narrow and not always of good quality. It’s therefore really important to drive carefully. Renting a scooter costs about IDR 75,000. At some places of interest you need to pay a small contribution of IDR 5,000 for parking your scooter.
Tip: Do you want to explore Nusa Penida by scooter? Then rent your scooter in advance at the port. This saves a taxi ride back and forth.
In the northeast coast you will find a number of gems of beaches including Atuh Beach, Diamond Beach, Suwehan Beach of which Diamond Beach is the most beautiful in my opinion. But the Thousand Islands Viewpoint is also very beautiful. The Bukit Teletubbies (or Teletubbies hills) are also very cool to visit. If you’re driving to the east coast, choose the road that runs all the way to the north. This one has the best quality.
Most sights of Nusa Penida are located in the southwest coast. First you will encounter Crystal Bay. Then you will find Smoky Beach where the waves hit the rocks and the special Broken Beach with the typical rock arch. The most famous beach is Kelingking Beach with the characteristic rock in the form of a t-rex. If you are in good shape, I definitely recommend climbing down to the beach. At a good pace this will take at least half an hour and trust me, you will sweat a lot. Preferably do this in the morning.
If you drive even further southeast, you will encounter several waterfalls, including the Seganing Waterfall and the Peguyangan Waterfall. But also Banah Cliff Point, Tembeling Beach and Forest and Saren Cliff Point are highly recommended. I would recommend that you visit all these sights on a separate day.
In addition, it’s also recommended to book a tour to go snorkeling or diving. The reefs around the Nusa islands are very beautiful and you have a chance to spot giant manta rays!
By far the most beautiful sunset viewpoints on Nusa Penida are Crystal Bay from the beach and Amok Sunset. The latter is a restaurant with an infinity pool where you can relax perfectly.
Where to stay?
There are accommodations all over the island for different price ranges. The best places to stay are on the north and west coast. But also all the way on the east coast are many accommodations and restaurants. Look here for an overview of all accommodations on Nusa Penida.
- Nusa Penida to Bali: To travel to Bali you can choose for a fast boat to Kusamba from around 100,000 IDR or to Sanur. The cheapest option, however, is the 30,000 IDR ferry to Padang Bai which departs at 8:00 AM.
- Nusa Penida to Lombok: To travel quickly to Lombok you can choose a fast boat to Bangsal of 350,000 IDR that will make a stop at Padang Bai in Bali. If you have enough time and are traveling on a budget, then the ferry is the best option. You first take the ferry to Padang Bai for 30,000 IDR and then the ferry to Lembar for 46,000 IDR which takes about 5 hours.
Nusa Lembongan (and Nusa Ceningan)
Nusa Lembongan is characterized by coral reefs with white sandy beaches and low limestone cliffs. The island is approximately 8 km² in size and has a population of over 5,000 people. The island is connected by a yellow bridge to Nusa Ceningan, the smallest of the three Nusa islands. When you rent a scooter, you can easily visit both islands on the same day. I would recommend you spend about 1 – 2 full days for Nusa Lembongan.
What to do?
Nusa Lembongan is best explored by scooter. If you prefer not to drive a scooter, you could also inquire at your accommodation for a taxi.
Nusa Lembongan has many (low) cliffs and a number of relaxed beaches. At Devil’s Tear you can see the waves crashing against the rocks with great force, but you can also enjoy a similar spectacle at the Sunset Point in the northwest. The most beautiful beaches on the island are Dream Beach and Sandy Bay Beach in the southwest, but the extensive Jungutbatu Beach in the north is also very relaxed. Mushroom Beach is quite popular and there are many accommodations, but Hidden Beach nearby is even more beautiful. You can reach this beach by following the path down the cliff next to the restaurant. Chances are you will share this beach with just a few others.
In addition, snorkeling and diving around the islands are highly recommended. Tours have different spots at both Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida. At Manta Bay and Manta Point you even have a good chance to see giant manta rays! A big disadvantage is that there are hundreds of people and dozens of boats in the water. It is therefore no longer a very unique experience…
In addition, Nusa Lembongan also has various spas and massage salons where you can relax. You can also take yoga lessons in a number of places to get completely zen.
Be sure to drive to Nusa Ceningan where you can admire the Blue Lagoon. This is a bay with incredible blue water. Unfortunately you can not swim there, but the view is great! A little further east is Secret Beach. To get here, follow a small road down until you reach a resort. Secret Beach is actually a private beach of the resort, but you can relax there (sometimes for a fee). Don’t expect a sandy beach, but a rocky beach. The resort also has a swimming pool where you can relax.
The most beautiful spots for watching the sunset on Nusa Lembongan is at the Sunset Point, but it is also beautiful at Devil’s Tear.
Where to stay?
The island has 3 small villages, namely Jungut Batu, Mushroom Bay and Lembongan village. As a tourist it’s best to stay near Mushroom Bay or Jungut Batu. Most restaurants are located here and you are close to the beach. In my opinion, Mushroom Bay is the best place to stay because of the many options of restaurants and accommodations and because it’s within walking distance of most sights. But you can also choose to stay on Nusa Ceningan. Here are also plenty of accommodations in different price ranges. View here an overview of all accommodations on Nusa Lembongan.
- Nusa Lembongan to Bali: There are a number of boats a day from Lembongan to Sanur harbor. Tickets cost 100,000 – 300,000 IDR. The price is very dependent on your negotiation skills. If you’re traveling from Bali to Lembongan, it pays to buy a bus-boat combination ticket from Bali.
- Nusa Lembongan to Lombok: To travel to Lombok, you can take a fast boat to Bangsal or the Gili Islands.
Both islands have their own charm. I say in advance, if you have enough time, visit both Nusa islands. In case of a shortage of time, I prefer the larger Nusa Penida. The beaches on this island are generally much more beautiful than those on Lembongan. I found the whole nature and landscape truly breathtaking.
Tip: Bring enough cash for both islands. ATMs often don’t work.
Gili islands or Nusa islands?
Not only the Nusa islands are a popular destination, the Gili islands near Lombok are also popular with many tourists. The Gili Islands include Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. These small islands are very different from the Nusa islands. If you would like to see a lot of beautiful nature, visit the Nusa islands. If you’re in the mood to relax and party, visit the Gili Islands!