Nusa Penida is the largest and most exotic of the 3 Nusa islands, thanks to its collection of unique Hindu temples and picturesque natural features of cliff formations and lagoons. More recently, the island became best known as the new sanctuary of the once-endangered Bali starling (originally an endemic species from the forested region of West Bali National Park) following a highly successful captive breeding programme.

Nusa Penida measures over 200 sq km – significantly larger than the popular Nusa Lembongan and its accessible sister island, Nusa Ceningan. Lesser-travelled compared to the other 2, Nusa Penida has a very limited number of hotels and tourist features. Even so, what it lacks in infrastructure, it makes up for with unspoiled natural beauty and rare cultural highlights.

Nusa Penida Island - one of the highlights of 10 Places in Bali to Escape the Crowds and 5 Best Dive Sites in Bali (Read all about Bali here)

Things to do on Nusa Penida

Close to Penida’s white-sand beach of Crystal Bay, divers enjoy one of Bali’s best dive sites, where pristine coral reefs and Mola mola fish (also known as oceanic sunfish), manta rays and even whale sharks are among the seasonal sights. Besides diving in Nusa Penida, you can also find great visibility for snorkelling right near the shoreline. Some local shops selling refreshments right on the beach make for wonderful chill-out spots with sunset views.

Among Penida’s most famous temples is Goa Giri Putri, a Balinese Hindu temple set within a limestone cave in the village of Karangsari. It sees a steady flow of pilgrims from the Bali mainland visiting to pay their respects and ask for holy water and blessings. 

The grand temple complex of Pura Penataran Ped in the northern coastal village of Ped is another popular monument to visit. There are other temples dotted along the island’s coast but be sure to visit the unique Pura Paluang temple in the village of Karangdawa on Penida’s southwestern cliffs – it has shrines resembling automobiles!

Natural beauty in Nusa Penida

For some natural beauty, visit Atuh Beach, a remote beach on the southeastern coast of Nusa Penida, bordered by magnificent green hills and peninsular formations. Another popular beach is Pasih Uug – Nusa Penida’s ‘broken beach’ – that was once a large cave that collapsed to reveal the crashing blue waves from the Indian Ocean beneath. 

Nearby, there's Angel’s Billabong with its vast lagoon revealed by waves after high tide. Some visitors brave the descent for a dip and some out-of-this-world holiday photos, but it’s a treacherous descent, so this is not advised.

Boats mostly depart for the Nusa islands from the Bali mainland from the Padangbai seaport in East Bali, but you can also hop on a boat from Sanur. Most visitors usually stop at Lembongan and Ceningan first, then add a boat ride to Penida as an extended tour on their Nusa Islands trip.

Nusa Penida Island

Location: Nusa Penida, Klungkung, Bali, Indonesia

Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller