After a lot of research and advice from friends who had visited the beaches of mainland Bali, we opted to spend our “island time” in Bali on the Nusa Islands. We were looking for something with beautiful landscapes but less touristy than the mainland, and while the Nusa Islands are definitely becoming more and more popular thanks to social media posts featuring their major sights, they’re still largely untouched. Because they’re largely untouched still, housing options are a bit more limited than mainland Bali, but there are places to stay on all three of the islands. I’d highly recommend Batu Karang Lembongan Resort & Spa if you’re looking for the perfect beach getaway. You can read more about why I loved it so much here.
The Nusa Islands consist of three islands, Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan, and Nusa Penida (in order of proximity to the mainland), and it’s only about a 30 minute speed boat ride between Sanur Beach on mainland Bali to Nusa Lembongan. It’s not too much further if you opted to go from Sanur to Nusa Penida, either. You can absolutely do a day trip to one of the islands from the mainland, but my personal opinion is that there is way too much to see in just one day (there are three islands, after all!), so best to plan to spend at least three full days here. Keep reading for an overview of how to incorporate all three islands into your time in the Nusa Islands, including specific recos on places to see with the time you have!
- Day 1: Nusa Lembongan
- Day 2: Nusa Penida
- Day 3: Nusa Ceningan
DAY 1: NUSA LEMBONGAN
While there are a few taxis on Nusa Lembongan, the island is so small that most people get around by motorbike/scooter, regular bicycle, or even walking. The roads are quite narrow, so regularly cars are few and far between. Based upon your comfort level, I’d recommend one of those three. We opted to rent bicycles, which cost a couple of dollars each and we were able to rent them for the entire day, and they gave us a lock for when we wanted to stop and see different places. You can essentially do a massive loop and see most of what Lembongan has to offer. Start on the main road just behind the town, then head north to the mangrove forest. You’ll hit a deadend in the northeast corner of the island, so back track until the first fork (take a left), and you’ll go east into the heart of the island, eventually making your way to the famous Yellow Bridge that connects Nusa Lembongan to Nusa Ceningan. Keep going down the main road and eventually circle back up to the southwest part of the island, stopping by Devil’s Tear, Sandy Bay Beach, and eventually up to Mushroom Beach. From mushroom beach, it’s a quick ride back down to the main road to drop off your bike. It takes about an hour to ride around the entire island without any breaks, so make a day of it and stop at each of the beaches for a little bit of zen time.
DAY 2: NUSA PENIDA
To get to Nusa Penida, you take a 5-10 minute speedboat from the Nusa Lembongan side of Yellow Bridge. I’d recommend booking a driver through your hotel, and they’ll coordinate all of your transportation from hotel pick up to drop off at the end of the day, which takes a lot of the hassle off your plate so you can focus on the things you want to see! While Nusa Penida is by no means a large island, you definitely do need to either rent a scooter or hire a driver (I’d recommend the latter because the roads can be REALLY bad in places, so unless you’re super comfortable on a scooter, it’s worth the peace of mind to have a skilled driver take you around). Given the amount of time you have to spend on Nusa Penida, there are a number of famous sights to see. We focused our time on Angel’s Billabong (beware of the strong tides here – yes, it’s an instagrammer’s dream to lay in the tide pool, but multiple times a week tourists are pulled out to sea trying to get that perfect picture – use your brain, and don’t go in the tide pool at high tide or if the waves seem the least bit rough…please!), Broken Beach (the iconic spot where the water has pushed a hole through the rock, forming a beautiful archway you can see right through), Manta Point (yes, we could see MASSIVE manta rays!), and Kelingking Beach (the famous t-rex shaped beach). A note about Kelingking Beach – the hike down and back takes about 2-3 hours, and it’s incredibly steep and not well protected (i.e. no guardrails), so unless you’re an experienced hiker, have the proper attire, and aren’t scared of heights, just stay up top and admire the view from above. Trust me, even that is worth the journey to Nusa Penida. All of those spots are located along the western side of the island, along with Crystal Bay, which unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit. If you have more time to spend a couple days on Nusa Penida, some other popular sights include Atuh Beach (this is where the famous treehouse AirBnB is located), Bukit Teletubbies (a bit more inland), Pura Goa Giri Putri on the northeast side of the island, Peguyangan and Seganing Waterfalls (not next to each other, but within an hour’s drive), Tembeling Beach, Banah Cliff Point, and just south of Kelingking Beach, Pura Paluang (the Car Temple)
DAY 3: NUSA CENINGAN
The smallest of the Nusa Islands, you really don’t need a full day to explore Nusa Ceningan, but there are some really fun beach clubs that will help you pass the time between sights. From the Yellow Bridge that connects Lembongan and Ceningan, ride your bike or scooter south towards Dream Point. If you’re riding your bike, note that there is a terribly steep hill, and even the most experience cyclist will most likely need to get off and walk their bike up. It’s the only bad one on the island though, I promise! From Dream Point, ride back along the main road to Secret Point for a quick photo opp before heading to the picturesque Blue Lagoon. Keep riding a bit further and you’ll find yourself at Secret Beach. Plan to spend a couple hours soaking up the sun here before heading back towards the Yellow Bridge. On your way back, like I said earlier, there are tons of beach clubs where you can take those insta-worthy photos on swings with crystal clear water behind you. I’d recommend The Island Ceningan. It’s right in the middle of it all with a great menu and fun vibe!
Remember when I said some people do day trips to these islands? Now you know why I said spend AT LEAST three days here!
What are your favorite things to see or do in the Nusa Islands?