Island Escape: Exploring Nusa Ceningan, Indonesia
If you’ve spent any time on Instagram recently you may agree that it seems like Bali is the hottest travel destination right now. Everyone is raving about this beautiful part of Indonesia. There are blog posts galore about where to go and what to do in Bali, plus an array of gorgeous photos to get you reaching for your passport. And whilst I will readily agree that Bali is a fantastic choice to visit, I am keen to discover more of what Indonesia has to offer, especially when it means getting away from the crowds.
Enter Nusa Ceningan.
Nusa Ceningan is situated in between the islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Pendida, off the coast of Bali. These islands may not have been exposed to the recent Bali tourist boom yet, but it’s only a matter of time before mass development catches up there.
Nusa Ceningan nestles in-between its two larger neighbours at a miniscule eight square kilometre circumference. You may feel like there can’t be much to do on such a small island, but that’s part of its appeal. I found that my two nights and three days there were filled with the perfect balance of relaxation – as that’s a big reason to come to a beautiful island, right? – and activity. In fact, I liked it so much I found it hard to leave the palm trees and empty beaches behind.
Getting Around Nusa Ceningan
There are very few motorised vehicles on Nusa Ceningan, which is what makes this place so fantastic. There are open sided jeepneys with wooden benches in the back for passengers that are used to transport visitors to and from the bridge to their accommodation. Otherwise, the main method of transport is motorbike or moped.
Nusa Ceningan is easy to navigate as there’s pretty much only one main ‘road’ that encircles the perimeter of the island, with a few access tracks to property. This road is narrow, twisty and bumpy, which of course makes exploring all the more fun. As you bump along over the rutted tarmac, you may turn a corner and have to brake to allow several chickens across the road.
To fully explore the island it is best to rent a moped. This can be done very easily, usually by speaking to your accommodation. I found an average price to rent a moped for the day, including helmets, tended to be around $8AU / £4.50 GBP.
The island is fairly steep and hilly on one side, so I would suggest a bit of a practice run on the flatter half of the island by the bridge if you’re a novice moped rider. However, there is little to no other traffic on the island, apart from the odd wild pig, so if you wobble on a hill then there’s only your travel buddies to laugh at you.
What To Do In Nusa Ceningan
Nusa Ceningan is tiny. Don’t go there expecting wall-to-wall activity and beach bars aplenty. To me though, this summed up its appeal and I enjoyed spending long days that stretched sleepily out in front of me. I feel you can cultivate the perfect Nusa Ceningan itinerary without much difficulty that blends total relaxation (which feels like luxury indeed to me!) and fun, locally focused activities.
Here’s my pick of places to call in on during your exploration of the island:
On the south east tip of the island there is a beach bar overlooking the ocean at Mahana Point. It is perched high on cliffs overlooking the powerful ocean and is the perfect place to enjoy a cold Bintang and marvel at the daredevils braving the immense waves below on their surf boards.
It’s home to the Mahana Point Cliff Jump, which is basically exactly as it sounds. The bar is the jettison point for adrenaline junkies who wish to jump off the cliff and into the whirling waves below. I preferred to admit that I was a scaredy cat and sipped at my beer whilst
tapping my foot listening to the Justin Bieber music being played and taking in the views.
This is the perfect spot to take in the sunset. I must have taken a thousand photos as I soaked it all in. I was lucky enough to spot a pod of dolphins playing in the surf offshore. A gorgeous way to end the day.
The Blue Lagoon
Just before you get to Mahana Point you’ll come across the Blue Lagoon on the left hand side. There’s not much to do here than enjoy the views from the cliff top and marvel at the colour of the water. This place is also famed for the thrill seekers who apparently jump into the water from the rocks, but as the sea was rough when I was there it certainly didn’t cross my mind.
This tucked away stretch of white sand was one of my favourite spots on the island. It sounds a bit strange when I explain why, though. I enjoyed strolling along the sand and admiring the contrast of the dark cliffs either side of this small bay, fringed with tall palms and tangled tropical forest. However, the water displayed a force to be reckoned with. The currents here were clearly incredibly strong. The waves crashed ashore and threatened to drag any foolhardy swimmer that dared to dive in.
Whilst I didn’t go into the ocean at Secret Beach, to me it felt like the wildest spot on the island. The beach was empty. No hawkers, no beach bars blaring music, no inflatables pulled by noisy speed boats. Just the power of the ocean and me.
Scuba Diving and Snorkelling on Nusa Ceningan
The waters around the three islands are teeming with stunning marine life. As a result, scuba diving and snorkelling are very popular activities. I took a day trip with the superb Ceningan Divers, a small family run business with impressive facilities and equipment in a 5 star eco-friendly PADI resort. My group was only of three people and so we got exceptionally attentive care by the dive masters, Arkadii and Victoria.
My day trip started at 8.30am when I spent an hour or so in the saltwater pool at the dive centre familiarising myself with the equipment. We headed out on the boat with our two guides and skipper to the first of our two dives spots. This one was called SD Point just offshore Nusa Pendida and it is a drift dive over a coral plateau about 12 to 18 metres deep. Most memorable for me was to see a large hawksbill turtle bedding down for a snooze under a coral shelf. After a rest break where we drank tea and munched on Indonesian snacks of pancake filled with desiccated coconut, we were ready for more diving. The afternoon was filled with more beauty and visual overwhelm from more coral and more species of fish that I could have ever imagined.
Time and current permitting, I would have loved to check out Manta Point to swim with manta rays like I did when I was in Western Australia.
What To Do On Nusa Lembongan
If you’ve rented a bike and you’re keen to explore then it’s worth heading back over the yellow bridge onto Nusa Lembongan for a day. This island is bigger than Nusa Ceningan and you’ll find bigger hotels and places to eat, plus conveniences such as ATMS.
The Devil’s Tears is an area of the coastline just past Dream Beach where the power of Mother Nature is showcased with a daunting ferocity. It’s a popular spot to take photographs, although do be careful of walking too close to the edge. Sunset fanatics can also pull up here and enjoy the beautiful hues of sun down.
Nusa Lembongan is definitely the place to relax if beach hopping is your thing. There is no shortage of tantalising, sandy spaces to spread your towel and soak up the rays. Mushroom Beach, Sandy Bay, Dream Beach, Coconut Bay – the list keeps going. Some of these spots are also popular for surfing.
Where To Stay
I stayed at Le Pirate Beach Club, which I freely admit to falling for on Instagram beforehand. This gorgeous little place overlooks the inlet between the two islands with a compact little infinity pool sat right on the cliff edge. Here you will find picture perfect white beach huts, each with their own veranda and hammock just begging to be snapped and shared on your social media.
The first thing I did was to relax by the pool with a cocktail and watch those feeling more energetic than me glide past on stand up paddle boards. Then I took a dip in the pool and continued to admire the view. There’s really not much else to it.
It’s the perfect spot for budget travellers wanting to chill out and enjoy the views. Prices start at about $40 AU / £23 GBP / 396, 200 Indonesian Rupiah.
Where To Eat
Apart from the restaurants attached to the accommodation on Nusa Ceningan, there are a variety of small, locally run warungs to choose from. I feel like this is one of the reasons you’ll either love or hate Nusa Ceningan. There are no coffee shops or fast food places to be seen. Instead you can expect to find Indonesian cuisine, made in tiny, hole in the wall places, served to you by smiling staff who ask you about where you’re from and genuinely appreciate your patronage.
I enjoyed a delicious lunch at Ceningan Cliff Restaurant one afternoon. This tucked away place is situated on a high view point overlooking the neighbouring island of Nusa Pendida. As we were riding along on our mopeds we just happened upon this place and were rewarded by cold beer, good food and a beautiful view. It’s street address is Jl. Raya Ceningan Kangin, however it’s not hard to find if you drive left away from the yellow bridge and ascend the hill. It’s the only restaurant that will cross your path up there.
If you’re hankering after food that’s slightly more Western in its style, then head to the Next Level café along the main road on the island a couple of doors down from Le Pirate Beach Club. They serve tasty looking brunches and coffee and are a fun place to relax and watch the sun go down from their raised vantage point.
How To Get to Nusa Ceningan
How to get to Nusa Ceningan is straightforward and a lot of fun. The boats to Nusa Cenigan depart mainly from a place called Sanur on the eastern side of Bali. If you have the time, I would recommend a night or two in Sanur as this little place has quite a lot to keep you entertained. You’ll find plenty of beach bars and cafes to keep you happily fed and watered, a sandy beach for relaxing on plus plenty of water sport activities such as stand up paddle boarding and surfing.
There are several boat companies that offer a return service from Sanur to Nusa Ceningan. If you’re not staying in Sanur then you can arrange a pick up from you accommodation elsewhere in Bali for an additional cost. I arranged a pick up from where I was staying in Canggu and found the service to be prompt and my driver to be friendly.
The boat journey only takes 30 minutes to Nusa Lembongan, which is only 21km off the shore of Bali. As you disembark on Nusa Lembongan, you are organised into groups depending on where you are staying and ushered onto an open sided jeepney. You rattle and bump through the narrow streets of Nusa Lembongan until you reach the infamous Yellow Bridge.
The yellow bridge separates the two islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. The original bridge apparently washed away, and now there is a sturdy, brightly coloured bridge spanning the inlet between the two islands. Only pedestrians and motorbikes can cross the bridge, so I hitched my bag onto my back and walked over the bridge to Nusa Ceningan.
On Nusa Ceningan I was met by another jeepney and taken to my accommodation, Le Pirate Beach Club.
There are plenty of companies offering a boat service from Sanur to Nusa Lembongan. I chose to travel with Marlin Fast Cruises, which cost me 550,000 Indonesian Rupiah / £31.80 GBP / $55 AU for a return pick-up service to/from Canggu.
Hints and Tips
- There are no ATMs on Nusa Ceningan, so bring along some Rupiah with you. There is an ATM on Nusa Lembongan.
- The best time of year to visit Nusa Ceningan and Indonesia is May to September when it is the dry season.
- If you are into surfing or diving, make sure you take care in the waters around Nusa Ceningan as the currents are strong. For your safety and comfort, take to the water with a local guide who can show you the best spots such as Ceningan Divers.
Have I tempted you to visit Nusa Ceningan? Do you have any questions? Have you been here before? What was your favourite thing to do on the island?
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