Bali has been romanticized in books and movies for its dreamy temples and the sacred vibes, but these days, it’s lost a lot of its charm due to the overwhelming popularity. Thankfully there’s another option – the Nusa Islands.
The Nusa Islands are, to me, the perfect option for those who want to experience Bali without the crowds and traffic. The culture is much the same, but the beaches and surf breaks have far fewer people, especially Nusa Ceningan.
It’s often referred to as the Bali of 30 years ago.
There are three Nusa islands and they’re easy to reach via a short ferry ride from Bali.
Nusa Ceningan is the smallest, nestled between Lembongan and Penida. While it’s not nearly as popular as Nusa Lembongan, I actually think it’s the much, much better option between the two. It’s quieter, more beautiful, and has less traffic.
I stayed on Nusa Lembongan and did a quick day trip over to Ceningan, however I’d reverse it if I were to do it over again, and stay on Ceningan and bike over to Lembongan for the main sights like Devil’s Tears.
For the best way to get to Nusa Ceningan, read the first section of the Lembongan guide for the ferry info from Bali, then take a motorbike over the yellow bridge – it’s quick and easy. If you’d rather not take a motorbike, you can get a truck ride over to the crossing, take a short boat ride over, and ask your accommodation on Ceningan to come pick you up. They may even be willing to do so from Lembongan.
Things to do
It’s easy to hit the main tourist attractions on Nusa Ceningan in an afternoon, though if you pool and beach club-hop around the island, it could easily stretch into a nice relaxing week! These are a few of the highlights:
Upon crossing the bridge over to Ceningan you’ll notice how dazzlingly blue and clear the water is. I’ve honestly never seen a shade that baby blue anywhere else. If you veer right, one of the first things you’ll come to is The Sand, a funky, open air bar and restaurant.
I loved the light colors of the driftwood bar, the swings, and especially the hammocks over the water! They have a daily happy hour starting at 4pm and when I went, three puppies (though they do tend to grow). I love that they serve their drinks with paper straws as well. A+ for caring about the environment, guys!
The Blue Lagoon
About 3 minutes from The Sand you’ll see a sign for the Blue Lagoon on your left and trust me when I say you’ve never seen water this baby blue in your life. I’ve searched high and low all over the tropics and it just isn’t this hue anywhere else!
The cliffs over the water provide the perfect vantage point for the amazing lagoon. There’s also a cliff jump, which you can see directly across from me in the photo above, though rumor is it’s now closed due to the dangers. That said, it’s easy enough to walk to if you’re determined. You’ll need to keep an eye on the waves for safety’s sake if you decide to attempt it.
Mahana Point Cliff Jump
For a smaller and more manageable cliff jump, you’ll find Mahana Point across the street from the Blue Lagoon. It’s a bit annoying as the small jump costs 25,000 IDR and the higher one costs 50,000 IDR per jump, so there aren’t that many people jumping.
However, the restaurant at the Point serves up a nice no-frills lunch and the view of the surfers and Bali’s Mt. Agung in the background sure is beautiful.
Secret Beach is another popular stop on Nusa Ceningan and while lovely, this is probably best for at least a few hours of chilling and eating rather than for a quick dip. The hotel on the beach, Villa Trevally, requests that those who use the beach at least spend 35k at the restaurant, or 100k for use of the pool and the beach. The road to get there leaves much to be desired as well.
At this point I was a bit annoyed that everything seemed to be privatized and cost money to enjoy so I kept exploring.
Zipline at Driftwood Bar
The Zipline at Driftwood Bar is probably one of the most picturesque ziplines in the world, zooming over that baby blue water. It’s a short zipline and costs 80k. Afterwards, enjoy the infinity pool and the view.
Ceningan is another great spot on the Nusa Islands for surfing. The main spot is near Mahana Point as mentioned above. When I was there, I only saw 5 surfers in the water. Not bad if you want a wave almost to yourself!
Diving and Snorkeling Excursions
You’ll see diving and snorkeling shops all over the island, though Ceningan Divers has the best reviews. Dive in the mangroves, rent a SUP, and take a snorkeling tour over to Penida to swim with the Manta Rays.
If you’re into yoga, you can get your fix without having to travel over to Nusa Lembongan! Ceningan Yoga Shala offers classes for every skill level. My only yoga experience was at Yoga Shack on Nusa Lembongan so I can’t comment on the quality of classes, though it’s rated well on Trip Advisor. Find the schedule here.
When it comes to laid back islands with plenty of comfortable accommodation options, Nusa Ceningan seems perfect to me. Though I wish some of the activities, like beaches and cliff jumping, were free. That said, other awesome things like the bridge crossing, the Blue Lagoon, and surfing all were, so it’s all about balance!
If you’re deciding between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan, I hope this edged you a bit closer towards Ceningan. It’s so laid back and gorgeous!