I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a trip I took to Indonesia before the phrase ‘COVID-19‘ had never been spoken — living and travelling variously through my own memories, despite how distant they feel after a year and a half of border closures.
In late 2019, I flew to Indonesia to visit family and figured while I was there I should head to Bali — you know, to see what all the fuss is about. I don’t often take tropical holidays because my skin does not tolerate the sun and I, quite frankly, get bored of laying on a beach (give me a city holiday any day!).
In doing a little bit of research, I realised quite quickly that most of the accommodation spots on offer were massive hotels, which don’t get me wrong, we’re super luxurious and all-inclusive, but that’s just not my holiday vibe. When I travel, I like to immerse myself in the destination, experience sights that aren’t necessarily overrun with other travellers, and meet locals who live and breathe the culture of that spot. Opting out of the opulent hotel packages and beach clubs, I widened my search.
A friend had told me about Nusa Penida, describing it as “Like Bali, but 20 years ago”. I was intrigued. I discovered Nusa Penida is south of Bali and accessible by ferry, and one in a cluster of three smaller Nusa islands including Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. A quick Google Image search was all it took to convince me that this was my next holiday.
Pristine beaches, jaw-dropping cliff views, luxe beach clubs and tranquil accommodation spots; it was the perfect way to end my trip (little did I know it would be my last for a long time), and now, I’m sharing my tips with you.
Here is our guide to Indonesia’s Nusa Islands, specifically, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida.
Where to stay in Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida
I stayed at Batan Sobo, a small resort nestled at the top of the hill, surrounded by lush greenery and with a view overlooking the ocean. Probably the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever witnessed were viewed here, as I waded in the infinity pool and spa listening to the sounds of the rustling trees.
Batan Sobo has only six A-frame wooden cabins that are both luxurious and yet really simple. The resort has a small open-air restaurant on-site which serves guests breakfast and dinner daily, and a little shop to pick up locally designed clothes and accessories. The staff here are also happy to help you arrange bespoke day trips.
At around $50 a night for two, it’s one of the best places you could stay. Just be sure to make good use of the hotel’s shuttle service as the roads in Nusa Penida may be daunting to inexperienced motorcycle drivers.
Sandy Bay Beach Club sits in a quiet and tranquil spot on Dream Beach in Nusa Lembongan. The Beach Club itself is worth a visit for the cocktails and infinity pool, but the property also has a number of Garden Shacks and private villas, one of which has five bedrooms and its own beachfront pool. It’s ideal for a romantic escape or a stay with friends, being that you have everything you need right at your doorstep.
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Ohana’s brings a relaxed vibe that’s probably quite similar to Bali’s beach clubs, only with much fewer people. Its all-white-everything aesthetic is stunning next to the bright blue pool and ocean, which fronts the property. Deck chairs, lounging beds and little cabanas scatter the beachside, where you can spend the day ordering food and drinks, basking in the shade, and listening to catchy beats.
Ohana’s has 12 one-bedroom apartments, some with ocean views, and one three-bedroom villa with a private pool. If you’re after the resort vibe, then we’d recommend staying here.
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Things to do in Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan
Diamond Beach and Atuh Beach, Nusa Penida
Every photo is a postcard at Diamond Beach. The spot gets its name from the diamond-shaped rock formations that protrude from the rolling waves, and it’s a must-see sight for anyone visiting the island. You can climb down the cliff face to reach the beach, but you’ll need proper shoes and a bit of courage. The track is narrow and at some point, the rope raining just ends. You’ll rely on all fours to get down, and then of course, you’ll have to get back up. We hear the walk down to Atuh Beach is easier, in case you’re after something a little less shakey.
Kelingking Beach, Nusa Penida
A Google Image search of Nusa Penida will result in countless pictures of Kelingking Beach. The sight was really only “discovered” in 2003, which is why it might seem new to you. Like Diamond Beach, you can descend down to the beach from the cliff face, but again, it’s dangerously steep and pretty spooky in parts. Probably better to view it from above.
Goa Giri Putri Temple, Nusa Penida
This is a temple within a massive cave on Nusa Penida. You’ll arrive, be dressed in a sarong and enter via a small opening up a tiring set of stairs. Though the entrance may look small and pokey, the cave expands significantly and takes a fair few minutes to walk through to the other side. We’re told you might spot bats and snakes in here. I’m glad I discovered that now and not while I was walking through…