If you are like myself, and were deeply disappointed with the quality of Balinese beaches, then I suggest you keep reading to find out why you need to make the short trek to one of Bali’s best kept secrets – Nusa Lembongan!
If you are planning on arriving to Nusa Lembongan via Bali, the fastest and cheapest way of doing so is:
Via Sanur, Bali:
Make your way to Sanur, on the East coast of Bali. The cheapest and fastest way to do that is by hopping in an Uber. In Bali, Uber costs approx 8$AUD per hour. Heading from Kuta, the trip took us around 1 hour and 15 minutes and cost us around 9$. Taxis would charge more than double that. Do be careful where you call the Uber to though. Avoid at all cost setting your pickup point from neighbourhoods as the taxi community has been rallying against ride sharing apps extremely hard the past couple years. I’ve heard stories of taxi drivers throwing rocks at Uber drivers cars for picking customers up in their “territory”. Since you don’t want to be apart of that, try heading to a busy main road, away from other parked taxis and you’ll be good to go.
There are heaps of fast boat companies that all depart from Sanur beach, at the end of Jalan Hang Tuah. We opted to take the one way trip to Nusa Lembongan, as we all hate to travel on a specific itinerary. We managed to talk down the price to 130,000 rp each (13$AUD), through Nirwana Fast Cruises, on their biggest boat, which I would highly recommend as the sea can get pretty rough. Don’t pay more than 150,000 rp as most companies will start around 170,000 -200,000 rp to uninformed tourists. The 12 km trip across the Badung Strait only takes around 25-30 minutes.
Where to stay?
After you have been dropped off on the north western part of the Island, due to the water being much calmer, you essentially have 2 options.
You can turn left (the budget option), where you will find bungalows, hostels, and home stays that are directly on or within a couple hundred meters of the beach. Expect to pay anywhere from 200,000 rp – 450,000 rp per night for a private bungalow.
After stopping at multiple bungalow rentals along the beach, we found a great spot with the best price of 200,000 rp per bungalow/night, called Mandara Beach Bungalows. The only downside was that the running water was salt water! Apparently this is the norm for this part of the island though.
There is also a hostel that we came across called Blue Corner Dive Centre that offered up more of a “backpacker” vibe. Check them out for daily drink specials, and a movie night every Thursday!
If you your wallet is a bit fatter and you are more of a luxurious style of traveller, I would recommend hopping in a taxi and turning right, up into the hills. Here you will find gorgeous resort style hotels, and villas. I cannot recommend any places to stay since I went for the budget option-which more than nice enough for me. I’m sure they offer fresh water showers though, which would be amazing!
What’s there to do?
After you agree on a price and get settled in, you’re going to want to get exploring! Nusa Lembongan’s attractions are mainly limited to outdoor activities, as there are very few monuments or man made structures that are worth checking out. But outdoor activities are where it’s at!
The island is well known for its year round breaks, and is suitable for surfers of all levels of experience. There are 3 main breaks on the island, and all are best at mid to high tide:
- Playgrounds: Known as the “party wave”, its a short paddle from coconut beach, and is an ideal for beginners.
- Lacerations: Either a short paddle over from “Playgrounds”, or a very short boat trip from shore. Suited more towards intermediate to advanced level surfers.
- Shipwrecks: This right handed breaker is located quite a ways from land, which definitely requires a boat ride to get to. Swells can get quite large out here, so only experienced surfers need apply.
Probably the most popular attraction of Nusa Lembongan is the amazing scuba diving that is on offer. I ended up doing my Open Water Certification here, at Dive Concepts. I highly recommend this company, as it is an SSI school, instead of PADI, which will save you at least a couple hundred of dollars (for the exact same course!). All the instructors and dive masters were very knowledgeable and professional, and always made diver safety the priority. There are plenty of incredible dive sites within a 45 minute boat ride, that offer up vibrant and very alive coral, massive sun fish (mola), heaps of turtles, and majestic manta rays.
Make sure you spend the extra money on heading to Manta Point, it’s well worth the extra 100,000 rp, and is an experience you will never forget!
If you can’t see yourself ever going through the scuba diving course, you should definitely dip your toes in the water (pun intended) by giving snorkelling a go. I found the best spot for snorkelling on the island was on the north shore, near the mangroves. Rent a motorbike for the day, and take the main road all the way north, until you can’t go any further. From here, hire a private or semi-private snorkelling boat to take you to a couple different locations. Every boat has life jackets incase you are not the strongest swimmer, allowing everyone to be able to participate. Expect to pay between 300,000 and 400,000 rp for a 2 hour trip.
Don’t forget sunscreen and your Go Pro!
Essentially, the entirety of Nusa Lembongan is one continuous beach, but there are 3 specific ones that are that little bit extra special:
- Mushroom Beach: Despite the numerous fishing boats and fast boats that are waiting for their return journey to the mainland, Mushroom Bay offers up the best place on the island for beach chill outs and swimming. Definitely the most popular beach though.
- Song Lambung Beach: If being around hoards of tourists isn’t your thing, Just head down the road from Mushroom beach to Song Lambung for by far the most quiet and tranquil beach that the island has to offer. Also perfect for swimming with the entire family.
- Dream Beach: Definitely lives up to its name. A bit of a trek to get to, but well worth it. Water can get very rough so take precaution if you decide to go swimming. Children should absolutely not be allowed close to the water. Super close to Devils Tear which is also a must visit.
Nusa Penida Day Trip:
Unfortunately, I never got the chance to explore this incredible island, as I was busy completing my final dives in my Open Water Certification Course. My travel buddies were adventurous enough to make it out there for a day trip, and all agreed it was one of, if not the biggest highlight of their entire trip! Bummer I couldn’t make it. But you can!
Finding a boat to make the 15 minute journey from NL to NP won’t be difficult for you at all. In fact, you will most likely be offered a ride before you even end up asking someone. You can hire a boat for the whole day, where the driver will wait for you and take you back to NL, or you can opt for two one ways. Expect to pay around 400,000 rp for a round trip.
Once you arrive to Penida, I highly suggest renting a scooter, as it is always the best way to explore. A one day rental will cost around 80,000 to 100,000 rupiah depending on the season and your haggling skills. After you have a bike, you can go wherever you want on the island. Be careful on the roads, as most of Nusa Penida is very undeveloped and the road systems are sketchy to put it nicely. If its your first time renting a scooter, you might want to go with a private tour group.
Some highlights from my friends’ adventure were:
- Goa Giri Putri Cave Temple: A massive cave temple with frequent Hindu devotees attending to pray.
- Crystal Bay: Pristine, gorgeous beach that is a must visit. One of the best dive/snorkelling sites in Bali is here.
- Exploring the cliffs: Almost the entire perimeter of NP is absolutely stunning. I remember staring in awe at the massive cliff drop offs on our dive at Manta Point, which is on the south west side of the island. One of the most famous cliff views is located here.
There was only one gym that I could find on Nusa Lembongan, called J & S Gym. It was by far the most primitive, old school gym that I have ever seen. If you are into circuit workouts or cardio machines, then this definitely isn’t the place for you. But if you are into strength training, and know how to train, you can put together a great workout, all the while listening to some awesome workout beats. Best part about this place is the 20,000 rp ($2AUD) per day price!
Where to eat?
There are heaps of great restaurants to check out on your stay at Nusa Lembongan. Here are some of my favourites:
Green Garden Warung: A great little spot off the beaten path, that caters to vego’s and vegans, as well as meat eaters. Everything we had here was super delicious, especially the nalu bowls. Only negative aspect was an insane amount of flies buzzing around, but it’s Asia so what do you expect!?
Nitya Warung: By far my favourite spot for cheap and delicious eats on the island. Friendliest servers I’ve ever come across in SEA by far! You have to order the Pepes Ikan, which I talk more about here in another post about Indonesian food!
Lemongrass: Just across the street from Nitya, Lemongrass is more of a “fine dining” type of meal. The food is good, architecture of the place is beautiful, and they offer up live music almost every night of the week. Not the cheapest option though.
The Deck Cafe & Bar: This isn’t the place to come to for a great meal or cheap drinks. This is however the best place on the island to come to if you wan’t an epic view of the crystal clear water while sipping on fancy cocktails. Great place to watch the sunset, but then again the entire west coast has amazing sunset views!
When the inevitable time comes to leave this little slice of heaven, theres a couple options that you have. You can head back to Sanur, Bali which would seem like a drab shit hole at this point in your trip, or you can continue onto more beautiful beach days by heading over to the Gili Islands. I highly recommend the latter.
If you choose to head to the Gilis’, good choice! You’re going to need to book a fast boat, available at almost every bungalow resort on the island. Everyone knows someone, who knows someone, that has a boat, or a taxi taking you to a boat.
There are 2 main boats that make the trip over to the Gilis’. Scoot Fast Cruises, and Eka Jaya Fast Boat. We booked the Eka Jaya Fast Boat to Gili Air for 300,000 rp each, which is as keep as it gets. I believe Scoot charges around 600,000 – 700,000 rp for their boats, but offer up a comfier ride. Choose Eka Jaya and spend that money you saved on an extra dive once on the Gili’s!
Somehow, there is only 1 ATM on the entire Island which frequently runs out of money. Money is deposited in the ATM every Monday, which draws flocks of tourists to withdraw their fun coupons. Take it from me, you don’t wan’t to be one of those people. I would highly recommend arriving on the island with at least 2 max withdraws from an ATM on the mainland, so you don’t find yourself sweating buckets in the long ATM line, or worse – Shit out of luck!
I hope this information helped you get the most out of your trip to Nusa Lembongan.
If there is anything that you think I missed out on, don’t hesitate to leave and comment and let me know!