13 Things to Know Before Visiting Nusa Penida Island in Indonesia

Nusa Penida is an island just off the southeastern side of Bali. It’s only about 45 minutes by boat to get there from the Sanur pier and ferries depart frequently throughout the day. Most people choose to do a day tour of Nusa Penida in an air conditioned car, but we would highly recommend taking a more adventurous approach to your visit. Rent a motorbike and tour the island on your own!

It’s more difficult, of course, but it’s worth it for the freedom it will allot you. If you’re looking for an outdoors adventure during your trip to Indonesia, Nusa Penida Island is the perfect place to visit!

Read on to learn all about the things you should know when planning your Nusa Penida vacation, and be sure to read about the Best Things to do on Nusa Penida to help you plan your trip!


13 Things to Know Before Visiting Nusa Penida Island

#1. The Roads are BAD

Guide to Nusa Penida Island, Bali - Things to Know & Tips for Visiting: Narrow Roads
Maybe the best road on the island.

My best guess is that the roads around Nusa Penida Island were paved once, years ago, and have had little or no maintenance since. So you’ll find that many of the less traveled roads are actually in great condition, while the roads to some of the most popular tourist destinations, like Angel’s Billabong and Broken Beach, are in horrendous condition.

What I mean by “horrendous condition” is that there is some paving but it has been damaged so there are large potholes and ruts. Some areas are just large rocks and no paving at all. You’ll need to take it very slow through these areas because wrecks are common.

So don’t expect to get anywhere on the island quickly. It may take you 30 minutes just to drive a few miles with these road conditions. And be sure that you only choose to rent and drive a motorbike if you are confident in your skills. This is not a place to try driving a motorbike for the first time.

#2. You’ll Walk Up and Down so Many Stairs

Guide to Nusa Penida Island, Bali - Things to Know & Tips for Visiting: Kelingking Beach
Halfway up!

So much of the beauty of the southwestern coast of Nusa Penida Island is the dramatic cliffs that tower hundreds of feet above the sea. When you approach the popular lookout points you’ll be in awe of the spectacular views in either direction.

But dramatic cliffs make for a difficult journey to get down to the ocean. The Nusa Penida locals have been very clever in carving stairs into the rocks or building cement steps to get down to the sea. So in order to reach many of the most popular attractions you’ll have to descend a long staircase. Or, in the case of Kelingking Beach, a rocky trail with handrails on either side to keep you from plummeting off the side of the cliff.

Kelingking Beach, Tembeling Beach and Forest, Peguyangan Waterfall, Atuh Beach, and Diamond Beach all require that you climb down a set of steep stairs to reach your intended destination. Which means you’ll have a hot, sweaty, miserable climb back to the parking lot at the top.

Plan your journey so that you are not doing your hike up to the top in the heat of the day. And be sure you have plenty of water and sunscreen before you start. By the end of your Nusa Penida Island tour your thighs will be on fire!

#3. Bring Tennis Shoes

Guide to Nusa Penida Island, Bali - Things to Know & Tips for Visiting: Broken Beach
Tennis shoes look cool in photos, right?

I mentioned above that the hike down to Kelingking Beach is incredibly difficult. It is steep, rocky, and at times you’ll need to do some scrambling. We passed countless people doing it either in flip flops or just barefoot as that seemed to provide better traction than the rubber soles of sandals. The rocks are sharp and those people did not look like they were having very much fun.

We wore tennis shoes for pretty much every hike we did on Nusa Penida Island. We carried flip flops in our bags to wear at the beach, but felt far more comfortable on the steep stairs and rocky terrain in shoes that had good traction and some support.

Plus, in the event that you do need to use your feet to steady your motorbike, or if you get in any type of accident, you’ll be happy that your feet are protected.

#4. Roads are Narrow

The roads around Nusa Penida are quite narrow. And the edges are often crumbling which can make it difficult to pull off the road in a hurry. This is fine when passing other motorbikes, but can be quite difficult when passing car traffic. And surprisingly, there are a lot of cars on the island since many people book a day tour from Bali.

And we found that the drivers of these cars often don’t care how much of the road they are taking up when passing motorbikes. This can be really scary when you are rounding corners and find yourself face-to-face with a car and very little room on the road to get over. If you see oncoming car traffic, it’s best to find somewhere to pull off the road completely and wait for them to pass.

You know that the tours will be taking the early ferry boat over and heading to Angel’s Billabong and Kelingking Beach right away. And then heading back to the ferry boat in the evenings around 4:00pm or 5:00pm. So if you avoid going the opposite way on those roads during these hours, you can miss most of the worst car traffic.

#5. You Drive on the Left Here

If you’re coming from the US, this will probably throw you off a bit.

#6. Get Cash Before Leaving Bali

Guide to Nusa Penida Island, Bali - Things to Know & Tips for Visiting: Rumah Pohon Treehouse

We had every intention of getting cash out of the ATM prior to leaving Bali. We’d read that the ATM situation on Nusa Penida was precarious so we wanted to be prepared. But when we arrived to the port the people there wanted us to buy a ticket to the boat that was leaving right then and assured us that there were plenty of ATMs on the island. We tried the one ATM by the ticket office (no luck) before being ushered on the ferry boat and whisked away to Nusa Penida.

It turns out that everything we had read was true. The two ATMs near the port didn’t work – one wasn’t even on and the other didn’t accept foreign cards. Luckily we had $100 in US cash that we were able to exchange but at a terrible exchange rate.

Most of the hotels and restaurants on the island only accept cash. Plus you’ll need to pay cash to rent your motorbike and for all of the attractions on the island. We booked a stay at The Mesare Resort on our 3rd night on the island because they accept credit cards so we were able to stretch our cash a bit further.

On our last day on the island, we finally found an ATM that worked. The ATM Bri Batununggul on the northern end of the island was functioning and accepted our foreign card. The moral of the story is, don’t make the same mistake we did. Have plenty of cash on hand before boarding that ferry boat!

#7. Weather Can Change Dramatically, and Suddenly

Guide to Nusa Penida Island, Bali - Things to Know & Tips for Visiting: Crystal Bay

Take it from two people who got caught riding on a motorbike in a massive downpour on the island, twice. One minute we were lounging on Atuh Beach in the sun, and the next we were running for cover in the pouring rain. The bad weather on the island can roll in fast and be done just as quickly as it started.

Be sure to keep an eye on the forecast and the sky before starting any of the more difficult adventures. I wouldn’t want to be hiking up from Kelingking Beach during a downpour, the trail would be slippery and difficult to navigate. Nor would I want to be descending the stairs to Peguyangan Waterfall in the rain.

It’s not a bad idea to carry a rain poncho in your backpack, just in case.

#8. Warungs are Often Closed

Guide to Nusa Penida Island, Bali - Things to Know & Tips for Visiting: Fisherman at Broken Beach
Don’t wind up like this guy…

“Warung” is the name that is used for small, family-run restaurants in Indonesia. They generally serve local Indonesian cuisine as well as some western favorites. But because they are small and family-owned, they don’t exactly follow strict opening and closing hours. So if you’re really hungry, it’s best to start trying to find a warung early, just in case.

We learned this the hard way when we arrived to our hotel, famished and soaking wet after driving 45 minutes in the rain, to learn that all of the restaurants in the area were closed for a religious festival. So we dined on potato chips and beer for dinner.

It’s also good to keep track of the local warungs on your map just in case it starts raining and you need to seek shelter.

#9. Nothing Really Dries Here

Guide to Nusa Penida Island, Bali - Things to Know & Tips for Visiting: Diamond Beach
How to stay dry at the beach…

If you do get caught in a downpour, the clothes that you’re wearing and everything in your bag will get completely soaked.

#10. Popular Tourist Sites are Very Crowded

Guide to Nusa Penida Island, Bali - Things to Know & Tips for Visiting: Kelingking Beach

There are a lot of wonderful spots on the island that few people venture to and you can enjoy your own little piece of paradise. And there are others where that’s not the case.

Taking a day trip to Nusa Penida Island from Bali is a popular tourist attraction, especially since Instagram has really put Kelingking Beach on the map. These tours generally start with an early ferry ride and then a quick trip to the highlights of the island – namely Angel’s Billabong, Broken Beach, and Kelingking Beach.

And if you happen to be at any of these sites during peak hours, you’ll be competing with big crowds of people. Luckily most of them just enjoy the view from the top, very few actually make the trek down to Kelingking Beach or swim at Angel’s Billabong. A quick photoshoot and then they move on to the next destination.

If you want to take the perfect photo with no one else in it, be sure to arrive early, right around sunrise. There were only a few other people at the Kelingking Beach viewpoint when we arrived one morning at 8:00am, but as we were leaving at around 9:00am it started getting crowded. And we had Diamond Beach all to ourselves when we arrived for sunrise but as we were leaving at around 8:30am the photoshoots on the infamous stairs were in full force.

#11. Distances are Short but it Takes Longer Than you Think to get Anywhere

Guide to Nusa Penida Island, Bali - Things to Know & Tips for Visiting: Diamond Beach

As mentioned earlier, the roads on Nusa Penida Island are terrible. So even if you’re going a short distance, it may take quite a while to get there. Give yourself plenty of time to get to where you’re going. And take precautions if bad weather is in the forecast, these roads aren’t fun to drive in the rain!

#12. You Really Need at Least 3 Days to see Everything

Guide to Nusa Penida Island, Bali - Things to Know & Tips for Visiting: Atuh Beach

You may read some blogs about things to do in Bali that recommend taking a day trip to Nusa Penida. But that will mean you’ll only see a few of the amazing highlights of the island, you won’t have a lot of time at each, and you won’t have the freedom that comes with touring around on a motorbike.

We spent 5 days touring around Nusa Penida Island and still didn’t fit everything in that we wanted. There are countless beautiful beaches, viewpoints, swimming holes, and hikes to do, and you’ll want to spend some time enjoying each one. Plus, you’ll find the early mornings bring better weather and fewer crowds. So the more mornings you get to enjoy here, the better.

#13. You’ll be Exhausted at the End of Every Day

Guide to Nusa Penida Island, Bali - Things to Know & Tips for Visiting: Blue Stairs at Peguyangan Waterfall
Did we mention there are a lot of stairs?

Each day that you spend on Nusa Penida Island will involve long, bumpy motorbike rides, climbing up and down steep stairs, and hours spent baking in the hot sun. By the end of the day you will be totally exhausted. Your legs will be sore and your skin sunburned. This is yet another reason to plan more time on Nusa Penida island. It just isn’t realistic to fit too many activities into each day!

Have you been to Nusa Penida? Do you have any tips of your own for visiting?

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