Nusa Penida – Tourist Trap vs Gorgeous Island

should you visit nusa penida bali indonesia day trip guide

We decided to follow the hype and visit the island of Nusa Penida, the largest of the 3 ‘Nusa Islands’. We had seen numerous stunning videos, photos and had people recommend a visit. While many people visit Nusa Penida for a day trip from Bali, we decided to take it a little slower and spend one night on the island and have 2 days exploring. This popular island is located around 45minutes from mainland Bali (get the ferry from Sanur ferry port) or 15-20minutes from Nusa Lembongan (where we visited from). We visited Diamond Beach, Kelingking Beach, Thousand Island, Atu Beach, Broken Beach, Crystal Bay & Angels Billabong during our visit. Read on for our thoughts on our 2 day visit, including if we think you should check it out, or if it’s a little bit of a tourist trap?

Is Nusa Penida a tourist trap, or is it worth visiting?

The answer to this isn’t as straight forward as yes or no.. it really depends. However while we may sit on the fence a little bit, let’s break this down for you so you can make an educated decision.

Reasons why we think Nusa Penida is a little ‘tourist trappy’:
  • Instagram vs Reality: You have likely seen stunning photos and videos on social media of Nusa Penida. Think the iconic Tree House, clifftop views with no one around etc. However, these are an unrealistic view of the reality. The treehouse is a little bit of a ‘tourist trap’ (see below), and it is very unlikely you will have these locations without crowds unless you arrive very early. While this isn’t a reason enough on its own to stop you visiting, it is important to know that social media paints a slightly unrealistic perspective of what Nusa Penida is actually like.
  • The crowds & traffic: Be prepared, the popular destinations are definitely busy, especially late morning and early-mid afternoon. You can get around this a little by leaving early and climbing down the stairs past the “photo spots” that most tourists fail to venture past. The traffic on the island is also quite a lot! There are narrow roads that quickly fill with cars. Definitely try to make an earlier start otherwise you will spend time in traffic.
  • You will spend a lot of time in the car: Following on from the point above.. due to the nature of where the key landmarks are located, you will spend a lot of time in the car. Even exploring only one side of the island (either east or west) you will likely spend minimum 2-3 hours in the car. With traffic or additional stops, it can take even longer. It is just best to be prepared!
  • More ‘style than substance’: The views, key attractions and beauty of Penida are seriously impressive. However at times when exploring the island, we both kind of felt, “Is Nusa Penida more style than substance?”. This thought was sparked as we contrasted our experiences between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida. When visiting the more popular Penida, we found most people were only coming to see the attractions, take some photos for instagram, and many didn’t even bother climb down the stairs to the beaches, or stay on the island. The locals were also a lot more geared to the ‘tourist heavy’ nature of the island and not as relaxed as those on Nusa Lembongan. This is only our opinion, but definitely something we felt when contrasting between the two.
  • The famous ‘Tree House’ is a trap: We loved a picturesque photo as much as anyone, however if you have to line up, pay (75,000 IDR per person – even if you get the photo together), and have only a couple of minutes to get a shot.. it definitely feels ‘manufactured’. Those instagram shots that show no one around and look like you’re on the edge of a cliff aren’t quite the reality. Yes, the view is amazing. But it’s not quite what you might have expected.
  • Broken Beach & Angels Billabong: If you’re trying to prioritise destinations on your Nusa Penida day trip or tour, we urge you to consider skipping the Broken Beach & Angels Billabong stop. While Broke Beach was pretty, it’s not that impressive, and Angels Billabong was very overrated in our opinion. This a small rockpool in-between a rocky crevice. The drive to get there is a little out of the way, and overall, we felt this was a stop we could have missed.
Reasons why we think you should visit Nusa Penida:
  • It’s naturally beautiful! Okay, now the good stuff! Nusa Penida had some of the most beautiful views and natural landscapes of all the places we visited in Bali. There is a reason people flock here! We definitely enjoyed and appreciated the beauty of the key landmarks and beaches we visited.
  • Diamond Beach: Wow, this place was impressive! Yes it’s busy, but even then we loved our visit. If you walk past the first 20 metres of tourists on the stairs, it gets quieter (and steeper). The scene of the bright white sand, clear blue waters, and palm trees poking up from the cliff is just beautiful! We also loved our stop on the beach and having a swim!
  • Kelingking Beach: This was another seriously impressive view. We enjoyed climbing down the stairs, enjoying the sights, and checking out some of the local monkeys that lived there. It also made a great canvas for drone footage!

Some things to consider before you visit Nusa Penida:

Should you book a tour for Nusa Penida?

Probably. You can definitely do the island without one, however it’s a little chaotic, and the popular destinations are a long way apart. If you are planning on visiting without a tour, we suggest staying for a few days, getting up early and driving/scootering to the popular locations to beat the crowds. However, if you are doing a day trip or short visit, a tour makes things a lot simpler. We booked a tour through Bali Livin and overall found the to be good to work, however we do know there’s a multitude of tour operators out there for this island. If you do book a tour, try to start as early as possible. On our second day, we kicked off around 7.30am to beach some of the crowds!

What are the top places you definitely should see on Nusa Penida?

Diamond Beach & Kelingking Beach! In our opinion, these are both the top 2 attractions on the island! However, they are at opposite sides of Nusa Penida, and it’s a lot of driving between them (makes it a big 1 day visit, but possible). They are also some of the most popular, however, we think they are worth the crowds!

How to get to Nusa Penida?

You will need to take a ferry! The most common route is a ferry from Sanur (main ferry post of Bali) which takes 45 minutes. The other option is a ferry from the nearby Nusa Lembongan. This leaves from the ferry port near the Yellow Bridge and takes 15-20minutes. It is worth researching but we believe there are also ferries from other islands like Gili T.

What is an underrated thing you should do on Nusa Penida?

Climb down all of the stairs at either Diamond Beach or Kelingking Beach. The bottom part of the stairs are a lot calmer (better for photos) and the beaches have way less people. Plus the beaches are gorgeous, and it’s a great experience. However, don’t expect them to be easy. The hike down the stairs is moderate-hard difficulty (good shoes and reasonable physical fitness is required). The beaches are unsupervised, and while we swam (it was lovely), it can be rough and unpredictable. Don’t swim if you aren’t a confident swimmer and swim at your own risk.

Be Prepared.. visiting these locations and be physically Hard Work!

Popular locations like Thousand Islands, Diamond Beach & Kelingking Beach all require a significant number of stairs to get down to them and explore. While you can stay at the top for a view, to properly experience these locations, you will need to navigate a physical effort of hundreds (if not 1000s) of uneven stairs. This may make it a less desirable location for those that are less physically fit and able. We enjoyed the challenge, but definitely didn’t find it ‘easy’ to hike up/down the numerous hills/stairs to get to these locations.

Should you stay on Nusa Penida or just do a day trip?

It depends. You could see all of the main attractions in 1 day, but it would be a massive day with a lot of time in the car! We chose to stay 1 night to make things a little slower paced. Additionally, if you want to get up early and see some of the keey attractions with less people staying on the island is a must! However, we enjoyed our time on Nusa Lembongan more, so you could argue a big day on Penida and the night on Lembongan may be a better option?

If you are looking to visit the Nusa Islands, make sure you strongly consider the delightful Nusa Lembongan and quieter but picturesque Nusa Ceningan. See our guides below:

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