Bali's Hidden Gem | 10 Highlights of The Nusa Islands
I've heard mixed reviews about Bali over the past few years, and it's infamy for being a boozy playground for Aussies put me off visiting, at least until May of this year, when we found island paradise within hours of Denpasar airport.
Keen to squeeze in a beach holiday when heading back to the UK for a wedding, we came across a group of islands called 'The Nusa Islands'. The Nusa Islands, located around 20km East of Denpasar, are full of adventure, stunning scenery (& surf) and 100% free from stag dos and hen parties! This post provides you with 10 must-see spots from this trio of island gems and how to get to them, but first, a summary of each island.
The nucleus of the Nusa Islands, Nusa Lembognan is surrounded by turquoise waters and white sands, which are a little more crowded than the other islands. With Mt. Agung providing a more distant backdrop for Jungut Batu beach, you're well catered for if you're after some tasty seafood or a refreshing beer. There are also an abundance of dive centres to help you find that perfect trip!
The smallest of the three islands, Nusa Ceningan is less sparsely populated than Nusa Lembongan, but more so when compared to Nusa Penida. Once you've crossed the Yellow Bridge, which is possible on motorcycle or on foot (dodging those motorcycles), you can circumnavigate the island and experience some pretty sensational clifftop views, great for a sunset.
Not as accessible as the other two islands, Nusa Penida is the largest of all the islands and the most fun to explore, but it is also comparatively expensive to get to! We chartered a boat from under the Yellow Bridge for 250,000IR return and managed to get around half of the island in a day. Nusa Penida is made up of some seriously dusty, bumpy roads, so beware if you're not a seasoned moped rider and leave plenty of time, as it's a big old island and you're likely to want to spend an eternity enjoying the views! If you don't fancy taking your chances on a moped, you can join minibus tours with various stops, however, be aware of travelling in too much style, you might end up in an air con minibus with blacked windows! Hiring a vehicle to take you round the island will cost around 500,000IR and renting a bike around 100,000IR.
1 | Kelingking Beach, Nusa Penida
Ranked as my number 1 beach (in 2017) and quickly becoming Instafamous, Kelingking Beach, located on the south west of Nusa Penida is an absolute must see when on The Nusa Islands. A bumpy ride away from your beach of arrival (if staying on a neighbouring island), you're instantly greeted to a breathtaking view of Kelingking Beach from on high. Also known as T-Rex beach, due to the shape of the cliffs that tower over it, the huge crashing waves and dazzling blue waters surrounding the sand contribute to the awe-inspiring landscape.
Getting to the beach is even more exciting; once you've passed the monkeys guarding the entrance to the newly constructed 'path', an ever steeper track flanked by a knee high bamboo fence leads you down to the beach, where you're finally greeted by monstrous waves crashing against the ladder's foot. A treacherous descent to the most alluring beach I've ever had the chance to visit - and it was all miiiine!
2 | Devil Tears, Nusa Lembongan
Just around the corner from 'Dream Beach' on Nusa Lembongan, you'll find an awesome display of mother nature at her meanest, as huge swells smash into the cliff face at Devil Tears. Accessible via a dusty track, the turquoise waves loom over the edge of the cliff face on approach and shower everything around with a salty spray. A few tourists mill about the edge of the waters at the centre of Devil Tears, but don't get too close, because when a big set rolls through there is some serious wash across the rocks surface. Devil Tears is a beautiful spot to relax as the mesmeric water churns and smashes against the rocks, well worth a stop-off on your island tour.
3 | Manta Point, Nusa Penida
As seen from above (at Broken Beach), Manta Point is exactly as the name suggests, a hub for majestic Manta Rays to gather from around the Indian Ocean. There are two main stations to visit as a snorkeller or diver on the lookout for Mantas on the islands, one is a cleaning station and the other a feeding station. Manta Point is the latter and, on an organised tour, you've got a fantastic chance of an encounter. We were lucky enough to swim with one for half an hour or so as he inhaled the nutrients at Manta Point, an unforgettable experience and one that is uncommonly accessible on the islands.
4 | Broken Beach, Nusa Penida
Another popular stop on the coast of Nusa Penida, Broken Beach encapsulates the beauty of the Nusa Islands, with dramatic turquoise waves smashing through a natural archway, endless cliffs and extraordinary wildlife. Beyond the allure of the broken beach itself, perched atop the archway you can look down to the stunning waters and make out manta rays and turtles serenely floating beneath the tumultuous surface, truly remarkable.
5 | Blue Lagoon, Nusa Ceningan
Just around the corner from our favourite sunset spot, Mahana, you'll find the Blue Lagoon. A popular swimming spot if the swell allows for it, the Blue Lagoon is another beautiful example of the sheer natural beauty the islands possess. A large opening to a wash of turquoise and white water, you could spend a lifetime adoring the dramatic crashing waves or swim away the afternoon on a calmer day.
6 | Angel's Billabong, Nusa Penida
A stone's throw from Broken Beach is Angel's Billabong, a departure from the crashing waves (if you're lucky), the billabong is an electric blue natural pool skirted by sharp rock formations with the Indian Ocean sprawling into the distance behind. You can take a dip in the pools, but keep an eye out for a big swell, because getting caught in one would not end well. There are shallower pools higher up the rocks if you want to cool off in complete safety and the whole place is, once again, absolutely gorgeous.
7 | Blue Corner Dive, Nusa Lembongan
The Nusa Islands are about much more than lying on the beach in the relentless sun, but Blue Corner Dive on Nusa Lembongan is as good a place as any to grab a drink and some food to recline in the shade. At the top of the busiest beach on the islands, you're suitably cut off, but well looked after on a pristine stretch of sand. The reef offers the perfect shelter for a more relaxed swim than you might find elsewhere and, although we didn't dive, they also seemed to offer some good looking packages to get out and experience the underwater wonders of The Nusa Islands.
8 | Crystal Bay, Nusa Penida
A slightly underwhelming beach, given the extraordinary local competition, Crystal Bay boasts some very cool reef just meters from its shore. The beach is a darker shade of sand and reasonably busy by Nusa Penida's standards, but the fish and coral off the beach is beautifully varied and colourful. We spent a couple of hours enjoying the reef spread over a couple of days and the ease of access to it is a real luxury.
9 | Mahana Point, Nusa Ceningan
Dusk on the Nusa Islands is an enchanting time; the surfers are out making the most of the last light, the colours in the sky are magical and the beers are flowing. There are endless options across all the islands for sunset spots, but we found a favourite in Mahana, a cliff top surfers' retreat on Nusa Ceningan. The waves rolling through are monstrous as they crash on to the reef backed with a chilled out soundtrack, cheap beers & cocktails and there's even a diving platform if you're up to it (although we got our tides wrong every time :( )!
10 | Next Level Cafe, Nusa Ceningan
A slice of Sydney's Eastern Suburbs, Next Level Cafe on Nusa Ceningan is an awesome place to devour some healthy, hearty grub after a morning of exploration. With views down to the Yellow Bridge and out to sea, the reggae vibes and friendly service will have you feeling a million miles from the office.
Flying from Sydney to Denpasar is easy & cheap, our first consideration once that was done, however, was how do we get out of here quickly!? Pleasant enough, but lined with karaoke bars and cafes proudly serving Aussie, English or Irish breakfasts, we arranged for transport on from our hotel in Sanur (after landing late) to the ferry terminal early the following morning, heading for the island of Nusa Lembongan. The transfer from our hotel took 10 minutes and, after a 30 minute wait on the beach, the ferry itself only another hour or so, which left us sweeping through lucid turquoise waters and onto Jungut Batu beach. From there, we jumped on board Bemo (open-backed mini bus) and travelled round to the famous Yellow Bridge that joins Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Ceningan, our home for the week.