Skip Nusa Penida? Yup, you read that right! Everyone flocks to Penida and so did we, but in hindsight, we would have been happy to skip it. It’s an unpopular opinion if you’re judging by the amount of blogs about the island out there, but we’ll tell you why in a little bit.
It’s easy to see why so many people do visit Penida. It’s only a short boat ride away from Bali, the pictures we see of the beaches are stunning and A+ for island vibes. Considering all this, we had booked ourselves 3 nights, but there’s a lot of people that visit on a day trip from Bali.
So, why weren’t we head over heels with this place? Off we go!
The lack of accessible beaches
The beaches are absolutely gorgeous, if you can’t tell by our amateur photography. Tiny catch to it though; they’re hardly accessible. The beautiful Diamond Beach, as pictured below, Atuh Beach or Kelingking Beach all require a hefty hike to get there. And remember; what goes down must come up or something like that. Especially for Kelingking, down is also not an easy project. Leaving the heat and humidity out of it, it’s a workout. We were wondering how the elderly locals get to their shops on the beach every day and here’s the secret: they climb 10 steps and sit down for 15 minutes. This repeats itself until they’re back up!
If you do decide to make the climb; do read this first to get a better idea about what you’ll be up for!
The only beach that’s easy to get to and thus where everyone hangs out is Crystal Bay. Don’t get us wrong, it won’t let you down, but depending on where you are at the island, it’s quite a ride. We asked quite a few locals where they would go to the beach, and we didn’t hear any other tips unfortunately.
The amount of Instagram tourists.
Guilty as charged. We were somewhat prepared for this and truth be told, we also wanted to take our pictures, but we hadn’t expected the storm. Where a lot of times you’ll be told to get to Kelingking Beach by 9 to beat the crowd (and the shade over the beach) it doesn’t really apply anymore. The same thing applies for the end of the day, come sunset everyone rushes to west Penida to catch the sundowner, sometimes creating dangerous situations on the already poor roads.
Fun fact; we tried to do the Insta thing at Diamond Beach, but got so flustered by the heat and humidity we held up our camera and clicked away at random for a whole minute before we literally had to run out because we were melting. Honestly; much respect to you if you managed to get that shot in a pretty dress and makeup.
The lines and picture fees
I guess it comes with the crowd, but we were quite surprised that at some places (all of the ones mentioned above) there would be actual lines for that perfect photo op. Us being oblivious walked right by it the first time, but were immediately told to go to the back of the line. A little awkward. While it creates the opportunity to get the photo without anyone in it, it felt… off.
To top it, some places require a donation or flat out ask money to take a picture. Now, considering Nusa Penida was off the beaten track until a few years ago and the locals were completely surprised by the sudden influx of tourists, I get it. If any of this was in my backyard I’d also be charging money for people crowding my space. The story has 2 sides to it, and in some places the money is actually used for upkeep and maintenance, but it doesn’t always feel right getting charged for a photo of a public beach.
As in, on the island itself. It’s common knowledge that the roads are pretty bad. We’re pretty good scooter drivers (well, Jochem is!) but we definitely struggled a little bit. The amount of times we crashed the bottom of the bike over rocks… it’s a miracle there wasn’t any serious damage. We found the ring road mostly fine, though the loose sand and tiny rocks are deceitful, once you go off it, it gets bumpy! We’ve seen so many people wrapped up in bandages it was a bit scary.
Maybe this goes hand in hand with the roads, but it also felt like half the island was under construction. There are so many unfinished resorts, hotels and what not, which also results in a lot of trash. The capitalisation is completely understandable, but it could do with a few guidelines!
- How to get there: it’s an easy boat ride from Sanur Beach on Bali and will take about 45 minutes to Penida. There’s a plethora of companies to choose from!
- How to get around: if you’re confident, a scooter! Otherwise hire a private driver through your hotel. They’ll show you everything in a day
- Where to stay: we splurged and stayed at Reynten Hill. We fell for the bungalows and stayed for the infinity pool
- Cashflow: There are a few ATMs and they work, but just to be safe, bring some cash!
Do we regret going to Nusa Penida? Absolutely not. Would we skip Nusa Penida next time? Yes. If you need content for your social media, it really is great place to be, but you could easily do it in a day if you hire a driver to take you around. Otherwise, consider Nusa Lembongan, the island that we did fall in love with, or take some extra time on Bali like Nina did, and check out her guide!
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It looks like such a beautiful place but when I’m reading about the amount of crowds, it doesn’t seem like a place I’d really enjoy. Thank you for sharing, I love seeing honest posts ?
Thank you! It was a bit of a love/hate thing for us also 🙂
This is EXACTLY how I felt! I was so confused because I had read about beautiful empty beaches along with these gorgeous photos, but no one mentioned that you can’t actually swim or get in the water at any of these places. I showed up at Broken Beach in a bikini, thinking I would be able to laze around for a while! Great post, love the honesty! 🙂
Same! We very optimistically brought towels and all that stuff only to return disappointed. We spent SO much time at the hotel pool instead haha
For having visited Nusa Penida I can totally relate to all the arguments you used! The roads are very complicated to drive and dangerous. And it require some hiking skills to access the most stunning beaches on the East side. I think it’s important to keep it in mind when you visit the island and also I would recommend to go to the most popular places at sunrise to avoid the crowd. But Nusa Penida is still breathtaking!
I’ve really enjoyed reading your alternate view on this…Nusa Penida is/was definitely on my list and before this, I had only heard good things. Sadly, I am not surprised to hear about the Instagram tourists – I know Bali in general has become a tourist mecca! Thanks for this insightful post.
I was in Nusa Penida just last year in January and although I quite liked it, I can see what you mean. It’s very beautiful and great for photos, but if I wanted a place to relax and stay longer in, this is probably not it. I also didn’t like how hard it was to get around without hiring a driver.
True, we much preferred Lembongan, so much more relaxed!