Could this be the most beautiful place in the world? We had plenty of time to consider the question while sitting in a rural hospital on Nusa Penida, Indonesia, an island neighboring Bali. That question and what to name our wrecked scooter. Renting a bike gave us freedom to explore the steep rocky cliffs and tropical beaches, but a flash afternoon rainstorm had pushed the worn brakes and bald tires beyond their limits. After the scooter slid out around a corner, the thoughts of crystal blue water, giant manta rays and lush paradise were joined with a new one. What to name our not so trusty steed. Widow Maker, Die Cycle…the sheer fact that we could consider a name meant that these wouldn’t do. And so we hobbled along on the barely functional Maim Mobile, searching for a hospital where we could ponder whether this was in fact, the most beautiful place in the world.We arrived in Bali outside of our original plans, only adding the stop after discovering that the stopover made flying between Australia and Singapore even cheaper. Sometimes you are just forced to vacation in paradise. Nusa Penida is a short boat ride from the main island of Bali, and much less touristed than its larger neighbor. Beachgoers and divers alike have plenty to explore on this natural wonderland, where waters are clear and marine life is plentiful.Typical prices for a decent private hotel room with attached bath are around 250,000-300,000 IDR ($20 USD). Fresh seafood meals and frozen drinks both run around 70,000 IDR ($5). Most restaurants have two for one at happy hour and almost all places come with a complimentary ocean front view. With amazing scenery, few crowds and ultra cheap prices, this is an incredible place to get away.
Nusa Penida is easily accessible with one of the many private fast ferries from the Sanur boat harbor, around 30 minutes northeast of the airport. Taxis are readily available upon arrival which are all eager to overcharge visitors. Uber operates on Bali, but some areas prohibit the service and taxi owners have been known to threaten Uber drivers making it is unlikely to get one from the airport. We managed to get a taxi to Sanur for 180,000 IDR ($13.50) after some haggling.
Ferry prices to Nusa Penida are negotiable but most companies advertise 200,000 IDR ($16) one way from Sanur. The trip is a rough hour and a half on the swift ocean current between the islands. Make sure to have your dramamine ready.
Remote paradise has its downsides, with limited transportation options being among the frontrunners. Absent safety regulations could arguably be a close second, beating out even the risk of impending eruption from nearby Mt. Agung volcano. Most people rent scooters as an easy and cheap way to get around, which are available at several shops near the boat terminal and through any hotel. They run between 60,000-70,000 IDR (roughly $5) per day and require nothing (not even your name) other than prepayment. If you choose this option, THOROUGHLY inspect the bike first and ensure that the tires are new and brakes are good. Do not accept a bike that is not in very good condition. There are no safety requirements and helmets are not available. In addition, road conditions tend to be in very poor repair and have been known to flatten tires (twice).
We had three separate motorbike rentals, all with bald tires and/or broken brakes. Poor bike maintenance combined with sudden rain, which happens often in the afternoon, caused us to slide out around a corner. Adding $125 in hospital bills, $20 in bike repairs and plenty of road rash, the cheap rental didn’t seem like such a good deal. Private drivers are available for hire and can be arranged by most hotels. We did not do this so cannot comment on prices, but it would certainly be less money and hassle than everything stated above. Regardless of the cost, it would be a smart option.
What to See and Do
There are a number of beautiful areas to explore around Nusa Penida, with most spots requiring a small entry and/or parking fee of 5,000-10,000 IDR ($0.40-$0.80).
- Atuh Beach – A private beach accessible only on foot via steps down the steep rocks. The beach is hidden between tall cliffs which makes for a stunning setting. There are a handful of food stands selling a limited selection of local cuisine, and beach chairs available for use. There are incredible views of jutting ocean towers from the top before the descent.
- Rumah Pohon – An amazingly beautiful cliff with ocean view tree houses. These rooms are available for rent, but also make a stunning viewpoint for a day trip.
- Kelingking Beach – One of the most beautiful lookout points on the island. The beach is technically accessible and very remote, but the path down is extremely steep and in dangerously ill repair. There are signs warning against using the path, although some people still choose to climb down. We enjoyed the view from afar.
- Broken Beach – A secluded harbor connected to the open ocean only beneath a land bridge. The area overlooks Manta Bay, where dozens of giant manta rays come to feed and clean.
- Angel’s Billabong – A natural infinity pool set into the volcanic rock located adjacent Broken Beach. The pool is accessible and swimmable, although waves crash over the edge at high tide.
- Scuba Diving – Nusa Penida is surrounded by healthy reefs and a plethora of marine life. There are numerous dive sites surrounding the island where lush colorful corals and large ocean dwellers can be found. The north reef is loaded with tropical fish and the swift ocean currents keep corals dense and healthy. These areas involve drift diving, but also have the opportunity to see the monstrous mola mola (we were graced with an off season sighting on our first dive). The south part of the island is famous for the Manta Point dive, where dozens of giant manta rays come to a cleaning station. There tend to be large ocean swells in this area, making for a unique diving experience. Along with numerous mantas, we saw bamboo sharks, nudibranch and mantis shrimp. Most dive shops charge just over 1 million IDR ($80) for a two tank dive. We found the reef condition around the island to be far superior than that in the Great Barrier Reef.
“I’d rather have a passport full of stamps than a house full of stuff.” – Unknown
Did you enjoy this post? Share the inspiration with someone who needs a tropical vacation! Make sure to take a look at other posts from our previous adventures trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, camping in Eastern Africa, or struggling through India.
Feeling like long term travel needs to be in your future? Stop by our Trip Planning posts, where you can learn how to prepare for a lengthy trip, see how to never check your bags on planes, find out about travel security and make sense of travel insurance, amongst others.