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Our experience at Nusa Penida, Bali

After seeing amazingly picturesque photos on Instagram, we decided to visit Nusa Penida on a day trip while we were in Bali. We were expecting to see crystal blue waters, somewhat of an even more beautiful tropical paradise away from tropical paradise. This was very far from the truth.

Getting to Nusa Penida

Getting to Nusa Penida is tricky. The boats to Nusa Penida leave mainland Bali from Sanur. Now, because there’s a huge lack of public transport everywhere in Bali (read about our experience with Uber in Bali), getting anywhere cheaply is difficult.

We booked the Caspla Bali ferry/fast boat tickets from our hotel for 550k each. We later knew we were ripped off. You should expect to be charged 200-300k maximum (important learning!). This should cover the driver and hire car to get you to Sanur, and also a return trip on the fast boat from Sanur to Nusa Penida. On the way, the driver might try to sell you hire car and transport around the island. The price we were quoted was 600k per person. Of course we knew that wasn’t right. Instantly, we got our friend from Indonesia on the line via Skype and asked her (within earshot of the driver) how much we should be expecting and if we can find hire cars on the island. She said while she paid a package deal when we went, 600k was too much and that we could find hire cars on the island.

When we left the car at Sanur, the driver gave us a better quote instantly: 600k for two people.

We declined. He had burnt us once already.

Fast boat from Sanur to Nusa Penida

Sanur ferry port
There's no wharf, per se, at Sanur - walk straight up to the boat through the water!
Sanur ferry port
You'll need to go through knee-deep water to get onto your boat to Nusa Penida

If you’re a no-plan traveller you might get disappointed if you just turn up at the ferry ticket office hoping to get a ticket - we saw at least 7 to 8 travellers being turned away because the fast boat had ran out of spots. Mind you, this might save you a lot of hassle! For people who turn up to Sanur, the price with Caspla boats is 300k (quoted - probably not actual).

The port is just around the corner from the ticket office. For those wearing long, flowing dresses hoping to take the ultimate instagram, I suggest you leave those at home! To get onto the boat, you will literally need to walk through the water and climb on. The water at its deepest is around knee-high. There is no platform for you to step onto the boat! Be prepared to get wet and dirty! It’s worth noting I really enjoyed this experience - because this is what the locals did.

The boat ride takes around an hour or so, by the way. If you get seasick easily I recommend taking some ginger tablets or seasickness pills.

Also, be prepared to swim fast if it sinks. There’s not enough life jackets. No joke.

Getting around Nusa Penida

The roads at Nusa Penida
The roads at Nusa Penida aren't exactly maintained... be prepared for a bumpy ride!

Independent travellers will get ambushed once they get off the boat - we certainly did! Instantly there were drivers offering their services (although not many, around 3 to 4) and negotiations started.

As a rough guide for you all, we were charged 600k for 4 people. The agreement was for the driver to take us to four locations: Angels Billabong, Broken Beach, Crystal Bay and Kelingking Beach.

Angels Billabong and Broken Beach

Angels Billabong
Angels Billabong on a grey day
Path to Angels Billabong
On the way to Angeles Billabong

Angels Billabong and Broken Beach are around the same area and was the first place our driver took us to. I think something I personally did not expect was how bumpy and I maintained the roads are. Don’t expect paved concrete roads - sure, the main roads on Nusa Penida may have a little bit of pavement, but it is ridden with holes. Once it gets into the small paths, it gets increasingly narrow and turns into dirt tracks. The cars available for hire via negotiation (I can’t speak for the package deals) were absolutely not equipped for this type of terrain. Any mistake in driving could lead to your car falling off the cliff. You’ve been warned!

The roads leading up to Angels Billabong and Broken Beach were by far the most rugged out of the lot. You also need to drive a long way to get there. Once you’ve arrived at the car park, it is a short walk down some steps to get to Angels Billabong.

And here’s the thing the Instagram photos don’t tell you: it is very difficult to be in the right conditions to take the photos where you are floating or standing at the edge of Angels Billabong. The tide might be too high and so there is no infinity pool; it might be too low so there’s only a puddle. The weather might be too harsh for you to reach it as well, as it’s a climb down to get into the pool (nor should you risk your life). Having said that, it’s clear that in the right conditions, it’s damn beautiful.

The trek up the Broken Beach? Well, the weather was so atrocious when we went that there was no path to climb up; it was all just mud. We opted to not go, actually, because it looked too dangerous to climb. Many people tripped on the sliding mud, sometimes face first.

Kelingking Beach

A bit of myth busting time! There’s plenty of instagram posts with people sitting idyllically on a tree branch. The reality of this is:

The tree branch at Kelingking Beach
The famous tree branch at Kelingking Beach

The view from Kelingking Beach is from high up, and you are to see a T-Rex like shape. I was most excited about this attraction, as a lot of people online rave about it being beautiful with clear blue and green waters. However - since it is so high up, any bad weather may lead to fog and thus you won’t be able to see a thing. Check the weather forecast ahead of your trip! Also, the safety there (like at Angel’s Billabong) is absolutely non-existent. Be careful, folks!

Crystal Bay

Crystal Bay
The view at Crystal Bay

Crystal Bay was the gem of the lot, as it’s less susceptible to weather changes. After all, a beautiful bay will be a beautiful bay even if it is raining a little! However, if you’ve seen the likes of Uluwatu beaches and are no longer fazed by beautiful beaches and bays, then maybe you can skip this.

Lunch at Caspla Resort

This was a mistake on our end - we should not have booked with Caspla fastboats. This is the reason why: the boats drop you off at the wharfs at Caspla. While it is (from a little research) one of the few reputable resorts on the island, what they neglect to mention is that at around 9:30am, if you are unlucky, Caspla will be swarmed by hordes of Chinese tourists for the day. I’m talking possibly around 200 to 300 of them. To put it into perspective, Caspla Resort only has few rooms! Since we were not snorkelling during the day or staying at the resort, this didn’t affect us much… until lunch.

Lunch at Caspla is a buffet for 80k pp. Of course, compared to Western standards it is quite cheap - but for 80k pp on mainland I could’ve ordered a damn good nasi goreng or a few portions of delicious babi guling. This particular buffet had: cold noodles, questionably cooked kebabs, sweet and sour pork (I think?) and white rice. Look, if you’re expecting great food, this isn’t the place. Add in 200 to 300 people trying to get a bite, you have a disaster.

A side note: the pool at Caspla is absolutely filthy, and the bathrooms - if you can hold it in, hold it in!!! I can’t speak for the male bathrooms, but the female ones were absolutely filthy. Used tampons lying around, pads overflowing the bin, no flush for the toilet - it was a hygiene nightmare.

Fast boat back to the mainland

Caspla fast boat back to Sanur
Caspla fast boat back to Sanur

At around 3:15pm, the fast boat came to pick us up from Nusa Penida and transfer us back to Sanur. The trip was similar to the one going to Nusa Penida, except this time you climb out of the boat and into the knee-high waters. No one was there to greet us, so we just made our way back to the office around the corner and there our driver was waiting to take us back to our hotel.

Summary and Tips/Tricks

Would we go back? Our experience was greatly destroyed by the weather and also by Caspla. I would say, if you’re prepared for bumpy roads, potentially dangerous driving and it’s a sunny day, go for it!

Our learnings/tips and tricks:

  • Prebook only if you’re sure the weather is going to be amazing - if it’s raining, it will ruin your day on Nusa Penida!
  • Package deals including car transfer to Sanur, fast boat to Nusa Penida and car hire with driver are preferable- this should only be around 500k pp. If you don’t get a package deal, the car transfer to Sanur and fast boat should only be around 200-300k pp, no more.
  • Lunch options are limited; if you can, pack your own lunch.
  • The route our driver took was Angels Billabong/Broken Beach, then to Kelingking Beach and then to Crystal Bay before heading back to the port.
  • Wear sensible clothing, as you’ll need to climb in and out of the fast boat and waddle in knee-high water to get on and off it.
  • Don’t go with Caspla Bali fast boats. Try another company.
  • Bring bandaids and antiseptic in case you scrape yourself.
  • Bring wet wipes or antiseptic liquid to clean your hands when you don’t have access to clean facilities.