Our next destination in Indonesia was the tiny island of Nusa Penida. After spending a month in Ubud, we said goodbye to our neighbors and caught a ferry to the island, where we spent the next 3 nights at an AirBnb on the Northwestern part of the island. A driver from our AirBnb, Jona Bungalow, picked us up from the harbor and drove us 20 minutes up winding and broken roads into the hilly tropical jungle. Our bungalow had a gorgeous little garden out front with fluffy bright green grass and beautiful tropical flowers. Breakfast was delivered to us each morning on our front porch where we happily took in the coolest part of the day while munching on banana crepes and sipping coffee Bryan made. Our bathroom was indoors, which was a welcome change from our Ubud apartment. The best part though was the strong air conditioning. It felt nice to be a little chilly again. Not to mention, Bryan and I could snuggle up again without the immediate sticky hot discomfort from our previous apartment with the weak AC. This bungalow had geckos of course and one even pooped on Bryan’s forehead much to his surprise! I think he kept one eye open while sleeping after that experience…
The owner was a large burly man with a husky voice and laid back attitude. It was common to see him in the afternoons seated in the reception area with his family and employees sitting around him while he told jokes and stories. He spoke good English and was quick to offer suggestions for our stay. We rented a scooter from him with which we traveled around the entire island. The scooter was beaten up with tires low on air. We had to lean forward and pray every time we drove up a steep hill that the thing wouldn’t fall back on us, but the little scooter got us all around the island.
Our first day we settled in and then went to the highest viewpoint on the island. It was quiet and serene looking over the lush green island. Bryan and I agreed the vegetation on Nusa Penida was even better than Hawaii’s island of Kauai. From the viewpoint we could see Bali off in the distance.
We then went down to Crystal Bay for sunset. The road to Crystal Bay was terrifying. It was steep, broken, with tons of potholes, and at one point we spotted a “DANGER BROKEN ROAD” sign. We quickly learned what danger was awaiting us as we drove around the next sharp bend where the wall along the edge of the road that provided a barrier between us from the cliff’s edge suddenly disappeared. It looked like someone had crashed right through it, and instead of repairing it, they just put up a caution sign. Needless to say, we drove cautiously the rest of the way there. Bryan swam a bit and I dipped my toes in. I was still wary of getting me knee wet as it hadn’t quite scabbed over yet. We each had a refreshing Lemon Bintang Radler and watched locals and tourists enjoy the end of the day. The beach was less crowded than any we had seen in Bali, and I loved it. After we had our fill of the sunset and watching waves crash on cliffs, we rode to dinner at Organica, which had a vegan section to their menu. The restaurant was right next to—I kid you not—the Krusty Krab. I couldn’t help but laugh at how random it was for a cartoon themed restaurant to be located in the middle of nowhere Nusa Penida. They had some great live music going on though!
On the way back to our bungalow (and glorious AC!) it was officially DARK out, and with few streetlights to help us back, we had to rely on our scooter’s headlight. Because of my accident, I couldn’t comfortably use my wrist yet to drive, so Bryan had to drive our scooter the entire time. Also as a result, Bryan drove more cautiously than ever around dogs. He not only watched out for dogs suddenly crossing the street, but also dogs that lay in the middle of the road after a blind curve, and the ever bold dog that actually run towards the scooter if you honk at them. Typically, we honk to let dogs know of our presence and to MOVE or at least become aware of us. Anyways, we were cautiously riding back in the dark when I see a bright lump on the road ahead. Must be a dog on the road’s edge. Bryan had the same thought because he honked at it—only to realize it was a large white rock! We were on a whole other level of cautious driving at that point.
The next morning we got an early-ish start. After breakfast, we packed up the scooter and set out to the southeast edge of the island. Our first stop was Teletubbies Hill, which is appropriately named because it looks like the round mounds from the children’s show. It was a beautiful view of the lush green tropical forests and farms, and you could see the sea int he distance as well. We noticed the locals here loved to ask us where we were going. To our surprise though, it wasn’t followed up by a sales pitch for their tour or product they were selling, but to just help out. It caught us off guard as it was completely different from all of our other experiences in Southeast Asia. And they would always warn us about the roads—Slow! Slow! Careful! Which you have to be anyways to navigate the half broken up roads. The last kilometer of the road to the Teletubbies Hill viewpoint we experienced this for the first time. It got to a point where we weren’t sure it could be qualified as a paved road, more like a dirt road with chunks of broken up concrete blocks thrown on top.
Our next stop was Atuh Beach. After paying our entrance fee (20,000 IDR), we started walking along a peninsula cliff. The way down to Atuh Beach is made up of steep concrete stairs snaking down the cliff side. There were many moments of “One misstep and I’m toast,” but we made it safely without any mishaps. The beach was sandy and not crowded. There was a little trash, but it was cleaner by leaps and bounds than most of the beaches on Bali. We rented 2 lounge chairs and an umbrella for 50,000 IDR then ordered Gado Gado and coconuts as we both were getting hungry. While waiting for our food we took a dip in the inviting bright blue ocean. The water is refreshingly cool, but it’s not very deep so you have to float on your back to really cool yourself off. There are also large rocks on the bottom, making it difficult to stand without getting knocked over by ocean waves. Our favorite part was the island jsut off the coast that had a natural bridge, under which waves would come crashing. We always love admiring the power of those waves. After lunch, we continued to lounge and take ocean dips. There was a couple doing some seriously difficult looking acro yoga down the shore. They had attracted a local and were teaching him some moves. Then I hear a loud buzzing like a pack of bees about to descend and attack me. Nope, just dudes coming in with their drones. They were followed by countless girls taking staged Instagram photos. Some of these girls had “Insta husbands,” a term I learned from Suzie. These poor guys have to take dozens of photos of their girlfriends/wives. The ladies look at these photos and always disapprove and yell at their partners for not capturing them at the right angle or moment. The cycle then repeats until their partner is happy. I’ve never seen so many of these poor Insta husbands than I have in Southeast Asia. Bryan likes to joke that maybe it isn’t the photographer’s fault, but the bad modeling. I couldn’t agree more—how are they supposed to know what sort of fake spontaneously sexy situation that these women are trying to capture look like? After our fill of sun and ocean, we climbed up the steps again and took in the view of the next beach over, Diamond Beach. This beach was a lot smaller and had a terrifying staircase going down, so we skipped it, but it looked even less crowded and without vendors to bother you. I imagine it’s a more tranquil beach.
Our next stop was Goa Giri Putri Temple. We parked our motorbike across the street from the temple entrance. A sign at the entrance indicated we had to wear appropriate clothing, which is a sarong skirt, a t-shirt, and a sash belt (men and women). My heart sank at first because I realized Bryan needed a sarong, and we only had one. So at first I told Bryan we couldn’t go in, but then we spotted a guide taking tourists to a shop across the street to rent sarongs. Yay!! We did the same. They even helped Bryan wrap his sarong and tie it with a sash. The temple is a 10 minute climb up stairs from the entrance. Once there, we paid 20,000 IDR entrance fee per person and then was pointed int he direction of a small cave opening that we basically had to crawl through. Once we were inside it opened up to a very tall and spacious cave. The air was hazy and humid, thick with the scent of incense. Bats could be heard flying around, and we even saw a few hanging above us. Water dripped from the stalactites. It took us only 10 minutes to walk through the temple, but it was a really awesome 10 minutes. There were many different areas that were used to pray and gather to play music. It would be interesting to see a celebration there—on one hand you have great acoustics—on the other hand it would be STEAMY in there and you’d come out glistening! We walked out the exit and around the outside of the cave for 15 minutes to get back to our scooters. Afterwards, we ate a late lunch at a place that had a vegan section to their menu. The food was pretty good, but we especially enjoyed our peanut chocolate banana smoothies! We then scooted home and enjoyed the rest of our evening in the air conditioning.
The next morning we got an earlier start because we had a lot to pack in! Our first stop was Angel’s Billabong and Broken Beach. As we approached the area we ran into a long line of white vans going exactly where we were going. That’s when we realized we were on the tourist track. You see, most people only visit Nusa Penida as a day trip from Bali. Few people actually stay on the island overnight, so we had up until this point seen the places off the day trip list. Angel’s Billabong is a small natural “infinity pool.” You can only swim in the pool at low tide, and most of the “pool” isn’t deep enough to swim. It looked amazing in photos I saw online, but in reality it was a tourist trap of mobs trying to get their photo. It was underwhelming, but we were also there just as the tide was rising, so no one was allowed to swim. You can immediately see why because the ocean waves would crash on the cliff with a very powerful force that would certainly knock anyone swimming there into the sharp rocks surrounding the pool. In fact, there have been a few reported deaths of people attempting to “swim” there. Just as we arrived to the pool, it started raining so we quickly looked at the Billabong then ran under a tree for shelter. Bryan then remembered his helmet was upside down on the scooter, so he ran to turn it around and avoid getting bowl of helmet water later. Once he returned the rain let up to a drizzle, so we walked to Broken Beach. Broken Beach is a cool viewpoint, and it’s literally just that—a viewpoint. You can’t actually go down to the beach below. It’s a cove where the ocean has bore a hole on one side to create a natural bridge. From Google Maps it looks like a strange pocket of water next to the ocean. After walking along the bridge, the rain suddenly intensified. We ran to a warung for cover. As we waited, we realized we were going to be there for a while, so Bryan decided to order some fries and I got a bag of homemade Rempeyek. Rempeyek is a crisp with peanuts and flakes of lime leaf. As we waited, more people flocked for cover—an then the thunder came. We were there for about an hour before the storm finally passed. Once it did, we ran to our scooter and braved the bumpy, and now muddy, roads.
One good thing about the intense heat there though is the roads were dry within 2 hours. Our next destination was Kelingking Beach, which I knew would be on the tourist track! Made famous a few years ago by photographers, this beach is more well known for its viewpoint of the neighboring cliff which supposedly looks like a T-Rex than it is for the beach. After paying our 11,000 IDR entrance fee, we follwed the droves of day tours to the viewpoint. From the crowded parking lot, I knew we didn’t want to stay too long among the hoards of tourists. We took a picture and took in the view. It really is a breathtaking view. The beach itself is apparently getting trashed with each passing day as more and more people visit and buy plastic wrapped items or plastic bottles, which many just throw ont he ground. It was sad to see so many tourists trashing the place honestly. We ate some Mie Goreng and drank dragonfruit juice/coconuts at a local place before heading to our next attraction.
Our next stop was (finally) off the day tour path, and we understood why—you can’t drive a van there! We arrived at Tembeling forest in the early afternoon not sure what to expect. There was a bunch of locals hanging out by the entrance, so we slowed down wondering if there would be another entrance fee—there wasn’t! This was a good sign that it wasn’t too popular yet. We asked if we could park at the entrance, and were told to drive one kilometer furth to the actual entrance of the pools. About 200 meters later the road became a single track, sketchily paved, and steep path. we opted to park and walk the rest of the way. We both ended up loving this option because we were able to experience the sounds of the forest. We spotted an Asian water monitor lizard (looks like a smaller komodo dragon) and some monkeys playing in the trees. Plus, we actually got some exercise in which had been tough for us to do because we rode our motorbikes everywhere instead of walking. We walked mostly downhill for 1.5 kilometers. Along the way, locals at the top rode past us on their motorbikes asking if we’d like a taxi to the bottom. We continuously refused them, and it was funny to see their reactions. The couldn’t believe us tourists would actually WALK somewhere. At the start, one guy said it was a long walk, almost 3 kilometers! Uhhh, first, 3 kilometers isn’t that long of a walk and second, the entrance locals said it was only 1 kilometer, so he was clearly trying to convince us to get on his taxi motorbike. We stayed strong though and continued to refuse the local taxi motorbikes. At the end of the path there was a small temple. We went to the right of the temple where stairs led us to the beach. Near the bottom of the stairs, we came across a large natural pool with very cold water and a small ledge that you could jump off of into the pool. Further down, there was actually one more pool, but it was clearly man made and the water feeding it came out of a PVC pipe. The beach looked like a nice place to relax, but you couldn’t swim in the ocean. We went back up to the first pool and Bryan took a dip while I put my toes in the water. At this point we were both sweaty and hot, so the water felt great! Bryan climbed up to the ledge and jumped off into the pool. He got cold quickly though, so we didn’t stay long. As we hiked back up to the scooter, we were asked over and over again if we wanted a taxi. I just kept cracking jokes and throwing sarcasm their way. They seriously couldn’t understand we wanted some exercise!
Our last stop was perhaps our favorite—Manta Point. Bryan had found this on Maps.Me by chance. We drove to where we thought it was and parked our scooters. We realized Google Maps had marked it at a different location than Maps. Me, so we prepared for another hike. The grassy field we parked in opened up to a while temple that looked like it was under construction still. We walked past it and turned left down a barely visible path that ran along the edge of the temple on one side and a very high cliff on the other side. The path opened up to a small clearing and looked like it continued, but we would have to go into some dense brush. That’s when I noticed dark spots swimming around a rock jutting out of the ocean below. The manta rays! Bryan and I just stood there for a while watching a group of 10 or so swim about and surface a few times. They looked huge even from the top of the cliff. The best part was we had the view all to ourselves.
We then rode to the only vegan restaurant on the island—Vegan Soul Kitchen—for dinner. We thouroughly enjoyed our meals (tempeh sate and veggie burger), played with their 2 puppies and rode home. It was dark at this point, but we only had 1 kilometer drive to our AirBnb. But it was an eventful ride home as a bat flew right into Bryan’s helmet! We were both given quite a fright, but we laughed it off and pretty much collapsed when we got back to our bungalow!
All in all, Bryan and I both loved Nusa Penida. To really get a feel for the island, stay on the island itself for 2 or 3 days, rent scooters, and explore all parts of the island! This gives you an opportunity to see the island in off-peak times when you there’s less chances you’ll be whacked in the head by a selfie stick.