We went back in time, and this is Bali before it became Bali.
The road is slithering in between lush hills. The tops of palm trees are swaying in the mist. We’re watched with gentle interest — by slender cows, by women with bronze cheekbones carrying colorful sacks on their heads, by men on scooters loaded with grass and palm leaves. This is Nusa Penida, one of the few places in Bali that still belong to the locals.
We came to the island for dramatic cliffs and turquoise water. But we loved it for those bucolic scenes of village life, for dizzying scooter rides, and for the fact that it’s more nasi goreng than smoothie bowls. Nusa Penida deserves all the time you’ve got — but if you’ve only got one day, here’s how you can make it work.
How to get to Nusa Penida from Bali
Nusa Penida is a smaller island southeast of Bali, connected to Bali by numerous ferries and fast boats. Those depart from several ports, but I’m going to suggest Sanur here, because that’s the one we did.
One thing to keep in mind is that Nusa Penida is a fairly big island, where rides between points of interest will be 40 to 80 minutes. And if you allow 90 minutes for the two fast boat rides, and factor in that the last boat from Nusa Penida to Bali is at 5 pm, you’ll see you really have to boogie.
Here’s how you can get to Nusa Penida from Bali, and how to get around the island once you’re there.
1. Head to the Sanur port
Sanur is roughly 16 miles from Ubud, 12 miles from Canggu, and 19 miles from Uluwatu, so getting there is fairly cheap. I paid $12.6 for a private transfer from Canggu, and a Grab ride would’ve cost me 202K IDR ($14.8). You can also book a transfer from Ubud or Uluwatu.
While Grab is available everywhere, I’d rather book a transfer in this case, because sometimes the tension between local taxis and Grab will prevent your driver from picking you up at your hotel.
Allow at least an hour for the ride to Sanur, depending on where you are. To catch an early fast boat and have more time on Nusa Penida, you should head out around 6.30 – 7 am.
2. Hop on a boat to Nusa Penida
Multiple companies operate fast boats and ferries from Sanur to Nusa Penida, so you can get your ticket right at the port. After haggling a little, we paid 150K IDR ($11) for a one-way ride on a fast boat, which departed some 20 minutes later.
But! Since time is priceless when you’re doing a Nusa Penida day trip, you want to catch one of the earliest boats. This boat departs at 8:15 am, and you can book ahead to be sure you have a spot. At $11.45, the price is right as well.
3. Rent a scooter next to the harbor
Once you’re on the Nusa Penida island, driving a scooter is pretty much the only way to get around. There are no car rentals in a traditional sense — you can hire a car with a driver to take you around, but that will cost you between 600K and 1M IDR ($45-75).
So unless you have money to burn, rent a scooter from one of the shops next to the harbor (we paid 70K a day, or $5, for ours). Ignore the pushy guys that will besiege you right by the shore — the price is not as good, and the scooters are often rusty crap. If you walk down the harbor a bit, you can find a better ride and a better deal.
The Nusa Penida day trip itinerary
Most things worth seeing on Nusa Penida are on either the west or the east coast. The west coast is where the famous Kelingking Beach is (the one with the T-Rex shaped cliff), so it gets a lot more tourist love. In our experience, the traffic on the west coast around 9-11 am was heavy, and we got a few gray hairs trying to avoid those massive cars on narrow winding roads.
Because of that I suggest you go to the east coast first, because that side might be a little less busy. That means your Nusa Penida itinerary will look like this:
9:00 am – arrive to Nusa Penida
9:30 am – head to Diamond Beach on a rented scooter
10:30 am – get to Diamond Beach and Thousand Islands Viewpoint
1:00 pm – grab lunch at Lebah Ampuak
1:30 pm – head to Broken Beach
2:40 pm – get to Broken Beach
3:10 pm – head to Kelingking Beach
3:40 pm – get to Kelingking Beach
4:00 pm – head back to the harbor
4:40 pm – get to the harbor to catch the last boat
I’m adding a Google Maps route below, but be sure to get a local SIM card, so you have data on the island and can navigate. Saving the map offline is also an option, but I’d recommend staying connected — you’ll feel safer on those roads.
Diamond Beach, Thousand Islands Viewpoint, and the Tree House
Diamond Beach is absolutely stunning, with turquoise water and sand that begs to be touched. And what’s even better, the staircase down is easier and safer than those on other Nusa Penida beaches. Most people take the hike down just for the photos, so while the stairs get pretty busy, the beach has plenty of room. Don’t just do it for the ‘Gram: bring a blanket and some water, and give Diamond Beach an hour of your time.
☝When we tried following a Google Maps route to Diamond Beach, the paved road ended 8-10 minutes to the destination and turned into gravel and dirt. We had a minor accident because of that, and so did a couple just minutes later. So keep an eye out for that spot and consider parking and be very careful.
The Thousand Islands viewpoint overlooks Diamond Beach, so you can take some photos from a different angle. The Rumah Pohon Tree House, the Insta-famous tree house hotel right above Diamond Beach, is another spot to take in the view and take a few shots.
When you feel like you could eat something, head back to Diamond Beach and find Lebah Ampuak, a warung with food, coconuts, snacks, and monkeys that will steal all of the above if you’re not careful. It sits atop a cliff and has a hammock and a swing with ocean views.
Broken Beach and Angel’s Billabong
Our experience at Broken Beach and Angel’s Billabong was very different from what we had seen in the photos. It was a stormy evening, and instead of peaceful emerald water we got a frowning sky and a grumbling ocean. But, frankly, I liked it even better that way: the beach had a dramatic air it doesn’t get in the sunshine. The only downside was that Angel’s Billabong was closed for entry, because it wasn’t safe in that weather.
Angel’s Billabong, by the way, is a natural pool that gets swimmable in low tide. Check the tide online before your visit, but don’t get upset if you won’t be able to swim there. The views make this spot worth the trip anyway.
Kelingking Beach. Even people who have never heard of the Nusa Penida island will recognize this view. But here’s what the photos, including mine, are not telling you: it’s crawling with tourists.
It was afternoon when we got there. The T-Rex cliff was circled by cafes blasting pop music, and packed with people trying to take photos without other people in them. Add in the heat, and it felt like being by the Trevi Fountain in July. Because of that, this was my least favorite thing to do on Nusa Penida, even though the view is well worth its fame.
On this day trip, you won’t really have time to do the climb down to the beach. We didn’t either, but I heard it’s pretty damn hard.
How many days do you need on Nusa Penida?
I know you landed here because you wanted to do a Nusa Penida day trip, but here’s the truth: one day is simply not enough for Nusa Penida. You need at least two days, preferably three. This island is too big, too beautiful to properly enjoy it within 8 hours. If you do decide to spend a few days there, here are a few places to stay on Nusa Penida.
Nusa Penida hotels: Where to stay the night
Nusa Penida accommodation tends to be a bit pricier than Bali hotels, so you might end up paying more for a room of the same level. There’s a better selection of hotels on the west coast — plus, staying there makes more sense logistically, because most of the sights are over there.
📍Crystal Bay Beach Bungalow, Superior Garden View Room – $36 per night
This is where we stayed on our trip to Nusa Penida. This hotel with rooms and bungalows is within walking distance to Crystal Bay, a cozy little bay that’s good for swimming, snorkeling, and watching sunsets. There’s no hot water here, which is common on Nusa Penida, but there’s a pretty big pool, and the staff are super nice.
📍Ananta Bungalow, Bungalow With Garden View – $40 per night
A similar property close to Crystal Bay. The territory is green and lush, and it’s away from the road, which means you can get a good night’s sleep.
📍Rumah Pohon Molenteng Tree House, Tree House – $34 per night
If you’re after those sunrise views at Diamond Beach and the Rumah Pohon Molenteng Tree House, just stay at the tree house. It’s very basic, with the bathroom outside and no AC, but it’s a tree house overlooking Diamond Beach, so who cares? Just make sure they give you the hut that actually has the view, and consider getting out of there before the tourists arrive.
Is Nusa Penida worth a day trip?
Oh hell yes, it’s worth the trip! Nusa Penida was my favorite spot on the whole Bali trip, and I wish we had had even more time for its rugged natural beauty. If you only have a day to spare, by all means, do the Nusa Penida day trip I planned for you above. But if you have time on your hands, a few days on Nusa Penida are the best use for them.