10+1 best things to do in Nusa Lembongan
Why you need to visit Nusa Lembongan
Tired of the pace of Bali? Why not take a 30 minute speed boat ride to Nusa Lembongan, a small island off the southeast coast of Bali. Cars are not allowed here and hawkers are not to be found? This is true relaxation. Lie back and enjoy the peace and the clear, bright blue waters. Snorkel or dive around the coral that surrounds the island. Walk or bike around the island. Alternatively, you can just bask in the peace of the virtually empty white sand beaches.
Nusa Lembongan is a small island, about 8km2, and is one of a group of islands. The others include the much larger Nusa Penida, and tiny Nusa Ceningan, which is joined to Lembongan by a bridge.
What you need to know about getting there
To get to Nusa Lembongan, you can take a boat from Bali. There are lots of options depending on your budget and how fast a boat you choose. The options range from fast private boats that take 20-30 minutes, to slower boats that take 1 hour 30 minutes. Another option is to join a day cruise to the island, which will typically include food, drink, activities and snorkelling gear.
Most speed boats leave from Sanur Beach, but there are also some which set off from Serangan Harbour and Benoa Harbour. These take about 30 minutes and cost around IDR250-300,000. You can grab a taxi from your villa to Sanur, or most tickets include a pick up from your accommodation. It’s easy enough to buy a boat ticket directly from the ticket offices located in Sanur once you arrive. If you prefer to buy in advance, you can get tickets direct from one of the boat company websites. Typically it will take 24 hours to get confirmation. Another option is tor go to one of the many agents you’ll find. Alternatively, try Gilibookings or Gilitickets to buy tickets, check availability, and get immediate confirmation.
If you’re on a budget, consider taking a slow boat. The public boat leaves Sanur at around 8 am (or when full) and costs around IDR 60-100,000. It takes 90 minutes and is not the best option if you want comfort! There’s also the Perama local boat. It is a little more expensive at IDR150,000, but it is roomier and a little more comfortable. This leaves Sanur at 10.30 am.
Whichever option you choose, bring your sea legs. The fast boats can be quite rocky, and you’ll have to wade through water on departure and landing.
What you need to know about how long to stay
It’s perfectly possible to take a fast boat to Nusa Lembongan in the morning and return later that same day. However, if you have the time, we recommend taking it at a slower pace and spending two days and one night on the island. There is an abundance of accommodation, ranging from luxury hotels to super cheap beach huts, and this way you get to enjoy a peaceful sunset, devoid of day trippers, and the island’s relaxed nightlife.
1. How to have the best beach day
You can take your pick of beaches, but we recommend heading south and trying out Dream Beach or Sandy Bay. Dream Beach lives up to its name, with powdery white sand, clear blue water and all the peace and quiet you need. There is a café here so you’re not totally isolated, but don’t expect crowds, except at midday when the day tourists from Bali arrive. Early morning and late afternoons are the best times to visit.
Just to the north of Dream Beach is Sandy Bay (also known as Sunset Beach). It has white beaches, crashing waves, the pull of the beautiful Devil’s Tear outcrop, and a secret cave that becomes exposed at low tide. It also has the facilities of the Beach Club – but manages to stay laid back and peaceful.
Right on the other side of the island, we also recommend Scoobydoo Beach. This is on the northwest coast, near Jungut Batu Village, and is wonderfully secluded.
2. The best ways to explore the island
Nusa Lembongan is a small island and you can easily explore much of it on foot, or, if you’re more adventurous, by push bike or by motorbike. There are almost no cars on the island, although most hotels will have a truck to transport you and your heavy bags to and from the boat departure point. Other than this, you are reliant on your own two feet, or on local boys who will give you a ride on the back of their bikes – for a fee, of course. This is not a problem – it’s about 4 km from one end of the island to the next so is easily explorable under your own steam – and this way you get to see so much more.
There’s a network of coastal paths around the island, especially in the southwest, that give easy walking, spectacular views and access to most of the key sites. Alternatively, most hotels will rent you a push bike for around IDR20 – 30,000. For a little more, you can rent a motorbike for IDR50-100,000 – but be warned that some of the roads are quite hard going for a first timer.
Try walking, or biking, from Dream Beach over the Devil’s Tear – though prepare to get wet! In the north east, wander along the cliff path over to Mushroom Bay, keeping an eye out for kingfishers and frigatebirds.
3. Delight in the spectacular mangrove forest – by boat
Northern Nusa Lembongan is home to an extensive forest of mangroves. You can reach it via the coastal village road of Jungut Batu. There are lots of local wooden boat operators around here who can take you on slow, quiet tours through the mangrove forest for a small fee. Some of the tours include snorkelling stops, if you so choose. Afterwards, relax in one of the quiet beach bars here: many of them have swings over the water.
4. Brave the bridge to the stunning Nusa Ceningan
The smaller sister island of Nusa Ceningan can be reached by foot or bike from Nusa Lembongan by a yellow suspension bridge found on Nusa Lembongan’s southwest coast. The bridge itself offers up gorgeous views high over the blue waters, of traditional fishing boats, seaweed farms, and mangroves. The island offers scenic walking/biking and beautiful views back over to Bali. It’s also a prime spot for watching the sunset – head to the central Ceningan ridge for this. If you’re a surfer, Ceningan offers additional appeal in the form of an uncrowded surf break. There’s also a zipline over the lagoon.
5. Breathtaking nature will blow your mind at Devil’s Tear
Don’t miss the Devil’s Tear outcrop on the south west coast with its spectacular crashing waves and plumes of water. The outcrop sucks in water and then spits it back out with a loud boom – creating the titular Devil’s Tear. If you’re lucky, you might see the spray creating a rainbow effect. You can reach this geological formation by walking just north of Dream Beach, or just south of Sandy Bay. While you’re there, don’t miss the rock pools just the other side of the outcrop. This is a beautiful spot for sunset, as the setting sun is reflected in the clear, still water.
6. How to swim with manta rays – the most epic Diving/Snorkelling
If you’re a diver, you must head to Nusa Lembongan. There is excellent diving to be had in the clear waters and coral reefs around the island. You can pick up a specific diving trip from Bali, or try one of the licensed dive shops on the island directly. Highlights include large manta rays (all year round), huge sunfish (July to October), white tipped reef sharks, nurse sharks and four species of sea turtle. Night dives are widely offered.
You needn’t miss out on this underwater wonderland if you’re not a diver. Snorkelling is available near Mushroom Bay, and by the mangroves in the north. You can book this, including all the equipment you need, direct with the operators on the beach or through your hotel. You can also book a place on a boat to snorkelling spots further offshore – spots close to Nusa Penida are particularly popular.
7. Challenge your surf skill with awesome breaks
It was surfing that kickstarted Nusa Lembongan’s position as a tourist destination, and surfing remains an important draw here, for intermediate level surfers and up.
There are three main breaks, all on the west coast, plus another less well known break just off Nusa Ceningan. Playgrounds, Lacerations and Shipwrecks are the three main breaks. All can be reached via a strenuous paddle from the beach – but you can charter a local boat if you prefer to conserve your energy for the surf. While Playgrounds is touted as the easiest, it is still not recommended for beginners – this is intermediate territory. All the breaks are surfable all year round, but are best from April to September/October.
8. Lembongan Village is the treasure chest of vibrant culture
Need some culture? Just north of Lembongan Village you can find Puncak Sari Temple, the largest and grandest Hindu temple on the island. It’s a fascinating place just to wander around but also offers fabulous views back over the straits to Bali.
Also, in the village is a unique underground house that is well worth a visit. Goa Gala Gala is a limestone labyrinth of connected chambers. It’s a manmade creation inspired by an episode from the epic story Mahabhrata where the Pandawa heroes fled persecution from the Koravas by hiding in a cave. A decade in the making, the underground house was completed in 1976.
9. Fascinating seaweed farms: you see what powers this island
If you want to get a sense of how the locals live here day to day, just take a walk along the shoreline anywhere in the southeast of the island – we recommend the farms to the south of Lembongan village. The main sources of income here is seaweed farming, alongside fishing. Much of the seaweed grown is destined for the Asian cosmetics industry as well as for food and for carrageenan jelly powder. You’ll also see harvested seaweed being dried along the shore.
10. Complete your day with a sunset of a lifetime
One of the main reasons to stay the night on Nusa Lembongan is so you can catch the marvellous sunsets here. You can get a great sunset view from any west facing area on the island, but the beach at Jungut Batu is where most people choose to view it. If you want to get away from it all, head over to Nusa Ceningan and make your way up to one of the west facing high ridges. Sunset all year round is around 17.30 to 18.00.
+1. Extend your trip to stunning Nusa Penida
If you have more time, consider spending a night or two on Nusa Penida too. Nusa Penida is a great option for getting away from it all, but note that it is a big island – you’ll need to allocate plenty of time for travel and if you choose to go here, we recommend you stay a couple of nights.
Dramatic cliff formations, waterfalls and lagoons, a collection of beautiful Hindu temples, amazing diving and snorkelling characterise Nusa Penida. The island is also famous for its sanctuary for the once endangered Bali Starling. It has much less tourist infrastructure than Nusa Lembongan but you can still find a few hotels and refreshment stops by the beaches. Our top tip is the Pura Goa Giri Putri Cave, a Hindu temple set inside a cave, midway up a mountain, accessible only by a steep winding staircase. Join the pilgrims and be blessed with its holy water, but keep an eye out for those rogue monkeys!
If you’re having trouble deciding between Nusa Lembongan and the Gilis, check our blog post on Gilis here.