It truly is an amazing and beautiful island, with a lot of culture, kind locals, and a plethora of activities to do for every kind of personality. Unfortunately the crowds can be pretty massive in Bali, especially down south and in popular central areas such as Ubud. Not to worry though! If you hate giant crowds and the general bad behavior from a great deal of tourists, I have an alternative for you! A place where you can still get the “real Bali” feel, beautiful setting, wonderful culture, interact with the locals and other travellers, and have less than half the crowds of the south of mainland Bali… Look no further than the Nusa Islands: Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan, & Nusa Penida! Three beautiful islands located just a short 30 minute boat ride from mainland Bali. Everyone always raves about the Gili Islands and Lombok, which I’m sure are amazing, but the Nusa Islands are worth it alone for how easy it is to get to from the mainland as well as how cheap it is! You won’t waste a day or more trying to get there and can easily explore the islands as a fun day trip or make a whole week out of it! This place is gaining popularity however, so I would hurry and make your trip before it becomes the new “it” destination, which I definitely foresee in the future.
You can get to Nusa Lembongan by fast boat and there are several companies that offer this service. Rocky Fast Cruise, Scoot Cruise, and Bali Hai Cruises are a few of the popular choices but it really depends on your preference. I would do some shopping around for pricing and of course read reviews. Our host set us up with Rocky Fast Cruise, and they were okay, I have some criticism on them which I’ll get to later. They currently have some of the best reviews on TripAdvisor right now, but every experience is different and ours was so-so, but it got the job done. The prices online say $50 one way per person, but I recall paying less thanks to my host (he was magical). Rocky departs from Sanur and a taxi ride from Uluwatu to Sanur was about 300,000 IDR. The boat will most likely be full, so I recommend trying to be one of the first to get on if you want a good spot. It’ll probably be kind of hard because people are like stampeding animals nowadays, and to me it’s just not worth all the hassle of trying to get to the front, but I definitely regret not trying on the way back. On our way there we got very lucky and got good seats without having to push our way to the front…on the way back was a different story…more on that later.
The boat ride can be pretty bumpy, I recall being bounced around a lot. Keep this in mind if you are prone to getting seasick. It’s also pretty hot in the boat which is why getting a good seat with a window to open for ventilation is crucial. The 30 minutes go by though and when you look out the window you will see an amazing tint of blue in the water, not quite like what I’ve seen on the mainland. The waters of Nusa Lembongan are really beautiful and very clear. I wouldn’t say totally clean by any means, but it definitely has better clarity. When we got off we were immediately greeted by a nice guy who offered us a scooter for the day at a cheap price, as well as a map of the island which was very handy. Also, if you have a travel phone with data the GPS satellites/service/mapping works pretty well on the island. It saved us a lot when it came to finding some of the more hidden areas around Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan.
Can you tell we really enjoy our scooter rides together?
Accidentally ripped the map :/ Still worked though!
We stopped at most of the major landmarks on the map. We went to Mushroom Bay (one of the more popular beaches to stop at on the islands), Devils Tears, the Blue Lagoon (sort of), Dream Beach, Secret Beach, and of course crossed the Yellow Bridge to explore Nusa Ceningan. I thought the water was even more incredible on Nusa Ceningan’s side and we saw a lot of seaweed farming areas as this is their main source of employment/income aside from tourism. Le Pirate Beach Club is also on Nusa Ceningan which is a popular destination. We didn’t stop by as it was a little crowded but I hear it’s a great place to kick back and relax and I believe they have sleeping accommodations as well. Mushroom Bay on Lembongan has accommodations and a lot of restaurants along the beach. It is one of the better swimming beaches because the waters are pretty calm but there are a lot of boats in the area. I saw people snorkeling there as well but I’m not sure if the snorkeling is anything to ring home about. Dream Beach on Lembongan is a little difficult to find but when we GPS’d it, the phone took us right to the location so again, I think it is really helpful to have a travel phone with data on it, especially since data is so cheap in Bali. If you ask a local I’m sure they can help you out as well. The waves looked a bit rough at Dream Beach, it is definitely more suited for surfing, but it was still a lovely little beach and there is a restaurant perched up top and an infinity pool to hang out in as well.
Mushroom Bay & its many boats
Dream Beach from above, near the restaurant area
There was a swing near me, but everyone was on it. This picture will have to do!
Devils Tears is right next to Dream Beach, past the parking lot that people park their scooters at. The waves crash against the rocks here creating huge epic splashes. I’ve seen some pretty cool pictures of this but I would be very careful. The ocean is powerful and if you’re not careful I’m sure the waves could sweep you up off your feet into the water and pull you out faster than you can say “Help Me!”. Not to sound so cynical, I love the ocean, but people underestimate its amazing power so please take caution while walking around on the rocks and getting your photos.
I’d encourage you to research the “For Bali” environmental movement if you’re curious about these flags
Calm waters at this point
Not even close to as big as the splashes I’ve seen in photos!
After hitting the main landmarks of Lembongan, we crossed the yellow bridge over to Nusa Ceningan. Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan were previously connected by a bright yellow suspension bridge that I mentioned earlier very briefly. It was a very popular tourist attraction as the bright yellow against the sky blue of the water made for a stunning photo. The downside to this being a popular attraction was that the bridge could get very crowded with pedestrians lingering for photos and people scootering across. While we were there it was very crowded and I was really afraid to cross the bridge, it just didn’t feel secure, and we were on a scooter trying to get past everyone. Tourists forget that this was a right-of-way for all the villagers, not just a photo opportunity. The bridge recently collapsed during a ceremony resulting in several tragic fatalities. I know that during the ceremony there was more people than normal (and normally there is quite a bit to begin with) but I do think years and years of tourists weighing down the bridge contributed to the wear and tear. A Gofund me was setup by The Lembongan Traveller, a hospitality service in that area, and was only up for a month & raised over $25,000 I believe, which really warmed my heart. Other organizations raised money as well. I felt awful for the locals there when this happened. Loved ones were lost as well as a way to connect to their fellow neighbors, businesses, transportation to the mainland, etc. It’s always inspiring to see the love that the world really does have for their fellow human. I believe the rebuilding of the bridge is currently in process. The money also went to the families of those that passed and those that were injured. You can read a full update here:
My photos are not nearly as spectacular as most tourist ones but I wanted to capture the amount of people that go on at a time
It’s hard to see, but besides the people entering, there are tons on the bridge at that moment as well
Gorgeous view on the bridge. That water clarity is amazing!
Over on Nusa Ceningan is where I felt like we experienced the most authentic glimpses into local life. I think Ceningan is not quite as busy as Lembongan. We mostly enjoyed scootering around small roads in Ceningan and taking in the views. We did make brief stops at Secret Beach and the Blue Lagoon but did not do much exploring unfortunately. Secret Beach can be reached by following directions to Villa Trevally, which actually looks like a pretty nice resort area, with 7 different villas to choose from and an infinity pool right on the beach. When we started walking towards the pool/beach the tide was pretty high with not much beach to walk on. The pool also had several people in it already and we didn’t feel like purchasing anything to use the pool so we didn’t really explore the beach. It looked pretty though, but also pretty small. We left and scootered on to the Blue Lagoon, which I’m not really sure we saw the cliff jumping area (which the cliff jumping practices has been abandoned for awhile now), but we did end up at the Abyss zipline area and the infinity pool and drift bar situated on a cliff with an amazing view. We grabbed a drink at the bar and relaxed by the pool under their shaded area for awhile and watched a couple take what seemed like hundreds of pictures of themselves in the pool with the view in the background. It’s always fun people watching! The pool and bar are a part of a new and upcoming resort called Ceningan Island Resort. I think it is going to be pretty successful. It’s in a great location and looks really beautiful with some cool amenities. Here is a link to the resort below, as well as a link to Villa Trevally if you are interested:
Villa Trevally/Secret Beach Entry
We managed to scooter around the entirety of both islands during the 6 and a half hours we were there. It was really fun scootering down the nearly empty roads, however the roads are extremely narrow and not kept up very well, so if you do happen to run into others on the road it can be a little scary. Especially when the big box trucks drive by and you can hardly even fit on the road, but aside from that it was really fun and such a freeing feeling scootering around the island. All the locals we made contact with were extremely friendly as well and we scootered past many traditional hut homes with no electricity. It was really fascinating to get a glimpse of the local life, watching some of them napping the heat away underneath the shade on their porch. I felt like an alien invading their land, and I am so fortunate that many of them are so kind and accepting of us foreigners, because we all know that not every tourist is a great tourist…there are many rude and disrespectful travellers out there. Also, if you are not comfortable with scooters, I saw many tourists hitching rides on the back of the big box trucks for a small fee. The bonus about this is the truck drivers will know the islands like the back of their hand, so you’ll have no troubles finding the places you want to see.
Mahagiri Beach Club Area
Nice white sand, kept pretty clean at this beach club
This water was actually a much more turquoise-y color than it appears in the photo!
We didn’t end up checking out any snorkeling or going to Nusa Penida but I would love to check it out one day. I heard the snorkeling and diving is fantastic. Nusa Penida is the largest of the 3 Nusa Islands but also has the least tourist oriented environment. I think that this island probably is the closest you will get to old school Bali but because of that it could be difficult for a tourist to navigate or stay for a long period of time. There are many sights I’d love to see on the island though and if I have a chance, I definitely will visit one day.
If you’re only going for a day, most of the boats depart around 4:30. Our boat ride back was pretty brutal as we had to sit all the way in the front with no windows to open and no ventilation. There was a window area up top that was beating sun down and they kept it close so water wouldn’t splash in. It was SO hot, I am not even exaggerating. The people sitting in the same area across from us were sweating buckets, as were we, and there were times I thought Joe (my boyfriend) would pass out. So lesson learned, make your way onto the boat ASAP…or suffer the consequences. Also, Rocky claims they couldn’t take us all the way back to Uluwatu (you’re supposed to get a free shuttle back to your hotel/lodging with the price of the ticket). They didn’t even help us obtain a taxi, offer a number for a cab service, or gave us anything to go off of. So we left the boat and started walking until we got to the main road and luckily we looked like lost tourists and a cab finally drove up to us and took us all the way back to Uluwatu (he wasn’t happy about it, but we tipped him well). Now here is what makes me mad…we were almost to Uluwatu and what do we see…a Rocky Fast Boat shuttle with multiple passengers from our boat. And they were looking at us too, like wow why are they paying for a taxi when they could have gotten a free ride? My guess is they were getting dropped off to probably the area right before Uluwatu. Why couldn’t Rocky take us there and then we could’ve done a much cheaper cab ride from there to Uluwatu? They made it sound like they wouldn’t go near Uluwatu at all for transfers and that we were out of luck. That really pushed my buttons and docked points from me for their customer service, but at the end of the day, I am just glad we were able to find a taxi driver. That was probably the scariest moment for us, was the language barrier, it was getting dark out, not being familiar with the Sanur area, and not knowing if we could easily find a ride back to Uluwatu which was about an hour away depending on traffic.
So that about sums up our Nusa Islands day trip! There were many other spots we could have explored (the popular cave house comes to mind) but as we were strapped for time, we picked the places we wanted to see the most and went for it. Part of the fun of exploring is just getting lost and wrapped up in this new world you are not familiar with, and it was fun being able to do that with my beloved partner in life! I highly recommend exploring the Nusa Islands, and if you can stay for more than a day, even better! There are plenty of cheap, as well as luxurious accommodations to stay in while visiting.
Have you ever been to the Nusa Islands? Are you planning to? Are you interested in checking it out? Let me know in the comments below and also if you have been or plan to, what you recommend or are excited to see. I want to know your thoughts!!
Until next time,