Nusa Penida is the biggest of the tree islands that sits just southeast of Bali. Is a really green and wild island, almost untouched by tourism. Is a nice change of scenery from the touristic Bali, with a lot of nature and empty beaches.
– LOCATION, GETTING THERE, GETTING AROUND, ACCOMMODATION –
We got to Nusa Penida from Padang Bai harbour (east coast of Bali). Public ferry (a bright yellow chunk of old and rusty metal) was only 31k rupiahs and takes less than an hour to do its job. There are (now, February 2017) two ferries every day (12pm, 5pm). Once in Penida you’ll find plenty of affordable scooter taxi (not without a bit of bargain). We were 4 and turned out more comfy to get a car for the 15 minutes drive to our guest house in Ped (find name). The room was nice with room starting at 230K rupiahs (aircon and western toilet) and going down to 200 (aircon room with “hole in the ground toilet”) or 130K rupiahs for fan room.
Ped is in the northern part of the island, a good place where to start the exploration of the island.
To get around you can rent a scooter for 50k a day, roads are sometimes a bit difficult, but scooter is still in my opinion the best way to move around. In alternative you can arrange for car/bike taxi.
Even if tourism is still not a big thing, you’ll find people with an okay level of english, especially those who are in contact with the few foreigners. Once in the temples or villages can be a bit harder to make a conversation, but using your hand and maps you can always find answers. There are a couple of ATMs on the island. One in Ped town center, one close to the beach where the boats for Nusa Lembogan depart. They both are on the main road so you will see them driving around. Reception is okay with a Indosat SIM card but don’t expect a 4G speed.
– WHAT TO DO, WHAT TO SEE, WHAT TO AVOID –
Being not really touristic Penida is a bit short of tourist infrastructure, but you will find plenty of stuff to do.
Here what we managed to do during our 4 days visit:
- Cave temple (find local name): this Hindu and Buddhist temple sits on top of a little hill, on the east coast of the island. You can get there with a 20/30 minutes ride from Ped. The ride is fine, and the coast line very nice: waves where breaking on the edge of the stretch of sallow water that host the seaweed farms and locals collecting them with inflatable wheels. At the parking you’ll be asked to rent a sarong if you want to enter the temple. Now I had long trousers on (knowing we were going to a temple) but that seemed to be not enough for them. I am quite sure that we could have got the sarong for free at the temple entrance, but we decide to take them. The entrance of the temple is at the top of a 100 steps ascent, and it’s a little bit disappointing (a lot of rubbish). We signed the guest book and left a donation (minimum 20K rupiahs/head). Now starts the interesting part: te entrance is a hole in the rocks, and you will have to get on all four to make it in. Once inside the cave opens in a huge room (incredibly and unexpectedly big), with the level of humidity of a sauna, bats flying around (but not messing with you) and beautiful mosaic foot paths. It’s a beauty of nature and not really spoiled by humans (there are some lights, statues and places to pray, but not much more). Once inside you can walk around and visit different rooms inside the cave. On the opposite end there is a bigger temple and an amazing view on mountains and jungle (again unexpected). We couldn’t walk the outside path because of the rain, so we stepped back inside the bat cave and walk our way back to the exit.
- Crystal bay: this long stretch of grey sand is in the west coast of the island, quite a ride from Ped and with the last km the road is very damaged. The beach itself is not amazing, but the view and the variety of fish is amazing. The bay is surrounded by a wild thick vegetation, and in the middle of the water sits a big rock with (I think) a temple on it. We were the only one on the beach and the weather wasn’t amazing but we were amazed by an explosion of colors when the sun came out of the clouds just before sunset. We went back to Crystal Bay with a snorkeling tour a couple of days after our first visit and we saw a lot of colorful reef fish all around.
The beach was almost perfectly clean (and its crossed by a river) and a big sign wrote “don’t leave your garbage on the beach”, and I wish there were more signs like this in Bali. We had a coconut on the beach, and battle our way back under the rain and on flooded roads.
There are many other places to explore on the island like the Car Temple, the jungle at the top of the mountains, (the other bay with the arch shaped rock), so if you like this kind of stuff give yourself at least 3-4 days here.
– FOOD, DRINKS, GOING OUT –
In Ped area there are just few western restaurants but a couple of them are a really nice. We had breakfast every day at Art Gallery Cafe (opened by Mike, a really interesting and kind man) and dinner at Penida Colada (a nice spot on the beach). So usually we won’t go for touristy place, at least not every day (not really budget friendly) but this two places were really worth it.
Breakfast at Art Gallery is cheap and really tasty, we tried pretty much everything on the menu but the best is probably the cheese and tomato omelette. They also have a couple of really nice teas and coffees, all local or local friendly. Penida Colada, was also a great discovery for many reason: good food (not cheap cheap, though), friendly staff, nice breeze (is just on the beach) and super talented musician jammin’ every night (at least when we were there). We had a really good curry and I had a nice plate of spaghetti (I actually had two..). Juices were also amazing. Its a good spot also for a beer after dinner just to enjoy the music and the breeze.
There are many local restaurants on the road serving Balinese dishes at really cheap prices.
– SAFETY TIPS –
Roads (especially during the rainy season) can get really dangerous with water streaming around and slippery mud. If you are not an experienced driver can be safer to get a motorbike taxi or regular taxi.
Mosquitoes can be an issues as well, and in areas like this you don’t want to be bitten too much (Dengue fever and similar are still a problem) so make sure you have a good repellent and maybe wear long sleeves and pants when you go in the jungle.
When you decide to explore the jungle make sure you have enough time before sunset and be ready (especially if it’s rainy season) in a unexpected storm.
– THE GOOD / THE BAD –
The musical moment at Penida Colada were one of the highlights of our visit in Nusa Penida, same said for the Cave Temple and nice view during our ride on the coast. Bad is the condition of the roads.
Sadly I was sick during our visit on Penida and I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to. It’s a very active place where to go an explore a bit of untouched Indonesia.