Introduction to Nusa Lembongan
Located 12km off of the Balinese mainland, Nusa Lembongan oozes charm with its laid back vibe. Add in affordable beachfront accommodation and plenty of bar and restaurant options and it’s hard to beat. While the island has become more popular since my first visit in 2009, it has retained a rustic feel and relaxing vibe.
There are accommodation options for everyone, ranging from $20 per night beachfront bungalows to beach club resorts. No matter where you chose to stay, you’ll be able to experience the island that is sometimes described as the ‘Bali of 30 years ago’.
While ‘rustic charm’ may sound synonymous with cheap, the island’s gaining popularity combined with the additional cost of shipping everything in by boat from Bali, you can expect higher prices on Nusa Lembongan compared to the mainland. It’s well worth the extra cost though. Try spending a week here and not leave relaxed!
Getting around Nusa Lembongan
Being a fairly small island of about 8 square kilometres, Nusa Lembongan is easy to explore. Transportation options include scooters, peddle bikes, hitching a ride in a mini-people mover, and of course walking.
The small island has two main tourist areas, a forest of mangroves and a few beaches to explore. The main tourist area is Jungutbatu, which sits along a long strip of beach on the northern side of the island. Here you’ll find budget accommodation, several diving and snorkelling companies and a scattering of bars, restaurants and warungs.
The other major tourist area is Mushroom Beach, which has a variety of restaurant and accommodation options. There’s also snorkelling a few metres off the beach and beach equipment such as stand up paddle boards available for rent. While located only 3.5 km away from Jungutbatu, the two areas are separated by a fairly sizeable hill. At the time of writing this, there was no coastal pathway to walk between the two (yes we tried, and no we couldn’t find a path!).
The Mangrove Forest is on the north-eastern side of the island and can be reach by following Jl Jungutbatu until it turns on a sharp right. Following the road along the water, you’ll be able to make it fairly far before you reach a point where you must pay to continue. If you want to visit the mangroves, ask your accommodation about taking a tour.
The island’s main town is Lembongan Village, and is primarily inhabited by locals. Passing through Lembongan village and following the water, you’ll see seaweed farms and the bridge to Nusa Ceningan. If you’re uncomfortable riding a scooter on Nusa Lembongan, the roads get worse once you cross over the bridge. On the plus side, there’s very little traffic and it’s likely you’ll be the only tourist around.
While my usual travel advice is to download a map on an App such as Google Maps, user beware when it comes to Nusa Lembongan! On my last trip I followed a “road” that turned into a path through a field that led me into a small shanty-type camp used by local workers. After politely asking where the road was, I was directed back to the main road and away from the workers having a mid-afternoon nap! My advice – stay to the main ‘roads’.
Do I need to rent a scooter?
In terms of transportation options, the best option will depend on whether or not you’re comfortable riding a scooter. While a scooter is a very popular option, depending on your plans, you can get around on a peddle bike or even on foot. Keep in mind though of the massive hill in the middle of the island.
I don’t personally like riding a scooter, so when I was exploring the island solo, I walked where I could or I used the door-to-door transfers offered by day spas or restaurants. When in doubt, ask if transfers are available. Most tourist places will offer a pick up and drop off in a vehicle like this:
Where you stay will also dictate your need for transportation. For example, if you want to spend your time going on dive trips and you base yourself in Jungutbatu, you most likely won’t need a scooter. However if you’re going to stay in the Mushroom Beach area and you want the freedom to explore the island, a scooter is a good choice.
How to rent a scooter
For about 50,000 Rupiah (including petrol) you can rent a scooter for a day. Renting a scooter is easy to organise through your accommodation or if you’re visiting for the day, there will be people offering rentals where the fast boat drops you off on the island. And when I mean it’s easy, the “rental process” takes about 30 seconds when the accommodation rep hands you the keys and tells you vaguely where you’ll find your new ride.
While driving a scooter in Nusa Lembongan is relatively safe, before renting one, make sure you check your travel insurance policy to see if you’re covered in the event of an accident.
What to do in Nusa Lembongan
So now you know the layout of the island and how you’ll be getting around. The next step is to decide how you want to spend your time. Here are my suggestions on how to spend 3 to 4 days.
If you’re not staying on Mushroom Beach already, it’s worth visiting for the beachside restaurants. With the nicest beach, it also has a number of restaurants and beach activities. If you’re out in the water, be aware that some ferries dock at this beach and so do a lot of other smaller boats. Make sure to pay attention and get out of the way if needed. With crystal clear water and lots of fish, I highly recommend venturing out in the bay on a standup paddle board or kayak.
Located on the western side of the island, Dream Beach has some of the best swimming waves on Nusa Lembongan. With the road to the beach mostly flat, it’s an easy walk from Mushroom Beach (but very hot in the midday sun). With no lifeguards on duty and some pretty large waves, only competent swimmers should enter the water.
If swimming doesn’t interest you, how does sipping cocktails in the infinity pool at the bar and restaurant overlooking the beach sound? If you’re not staying at the resort, you can pay for an entry pass that gives you access to change rooms and the pool. I opted for a drink at one of the tables overlooking the beach. For more information on resort and restaurant, click here.
Devil’s Tear is around the corner from Dream Beach. It’s a pretty spectacular show of mother nature, with explosive waves crashing through the limestone. Devil’s tear is accessible only by foot, and had no signage that I could see during a recent trip. At the ‘parking lot’ for Cafe Pandan, walk away from Dream Beach. Using the picture above as a guide, follow the water to the right and you’ll eventually find it. You can’t miss it especially on a windy day when you’re likely to get hit by the mist coming up through the limestone.
If you’re really feeling adventurous, take the new yellow bridge over to Nusa Ceningan, Nusa Lembongan’s less developed neighbour. With only a handful of tourist accommodation options, it’s even more off the beaten track. During a short trip over to the island, we followed a local ‘school bus’ picking up students and dropping them off at their local school.
Be careful when crossing over on the bridge. With lots of traffic heading in both directions, make sure to yield to oncoming traffic if they started crossing before you.
Relax at a Day Spa
It wouldn’t be a trip to Bali without at least one massage. On a recent trip, I opted for the highly rated Harumaya Day Spa. Since the day spa is located on a side road away from the major tourist accommodation spots, the spa provides complimentary transportation to and from your resort. To book, ask your accommodation provider to call on your behalf. My driver arrived on time (actually to the exact minute I was told he’d arrive) and the reception at the spa was very welcoming. My three hour treatment was fantastic and I didn’t want to leave. Five stars without the cost of a high end resort!
There are several day spas around the island, many located within resorts. You will be hard pressed to find one that you won’t enjoy. For a less expensive experience, there are plenty of massage parlours located near Mushroom Bay and Jungutbatu where you’ll spend about 100,000 rupiah ($10) for an hour long massage.
Diving or snorkelling
With some world class diving spots, avid divers have to go out on at least one day trip when visiting the island. While very rare, on a dive trip a few years ago, I saw a whale shark (the dive master was just as shocked as I was!).
Nusa Lembongan, or more accurately neighbouring Nusa Penida, is known for its Mola Mola sightings from July to December. It’s also known for Manta Rays at two ‘cleaning stations’ on the southwest of Nusa Penida. While visibility can be temperamental, even in limited visibility, manta rays are pretty epic to watch float over your head like a giant magic carpet!
While you can snorkel off the shore, especially at Mushroom Beach, for better snorkelling options consider a half day trip on a snorkelling trip.
During my last trip, I went on two dives with Lembongan Dive Centre, located on Jl. Jungut Batu. The dive company was professional and the gear well kept. The trip consisted of two dives with a light lunch during the break between dives. We were four divers with a dive master and saw several manta rays and then a drift dive with some pretty serious current.
Have sunset drinks at one of Nusa Lembongan’s bars
As Nusa Lembongan has increased in popularity, so has the quality of its eating and drinking establishments. While there is still a lot of low-key and inexpensive options, you can definitely eat very well on the island. Of course you can spend some serious coin in the process.
Specifically for drinks, a few favourites include the Deck Bar and Cafe for the view overlooking Jungutbatu and the Hai Bar and Grill at Mushroom Bay. The latter is great for pre-dinner drinks and as an excellent dinner option with a view (book ahead to get a table facing the ocean).
Get your coffee and cookie fix at Nusa Lembongan’s best cafe
I have to give a shout out to my favourite cafe on the island – Bali Eco Deli. Located on Jl Jungut Batu, they serve the island’s best coffee, smoothies, juices, baked goods (say yes to the cookies) and fresh salads and other goodies. They also provide free mineral water refills when you bring your non disposable or reusable container. Definitely give them a try if you’re feeling more like baked goods than a Nasi Goreng or need your espresso coffee fix. And it’s not just me singing their praise, check out their Tripadvisor reviews here.
A Photo Op at the Panoramic Bar
While travelling between Jungutbatu and Lembongan Town and Mushroom Beach, you’ll need to pass over a fairly step hill. Perched on the top of the hill you’ll find Panoramic Bar, and not surprisingly, a fabulous panoramic view. While you’re passing through, grab a drink at the bar and take in the views.
How to get to Nusa Lembongan
Located off the southeast coast of Bali, the best way to reach the island (besides a private helicopter ride) is to take one of the several fast boats from Bali. Boats level from Sanur on Bali’s east coast to either Mushroom Beach or Jungutbatu Harbor on Nusa Lembongan. The travel time is about a half hour, but most companies will pick you up about an hour before departure.
Which ferry company to use
When travelling from Bali I’ve used Marlin and Lembongan Fast Ferries. On a trip from the Gili Islands, I opted for Scoot cruises since they travel between Gili Trawangan and Nusa Lembongan. All options provided similar service, all required some kind of ‘standing around waiting and wondering what is going on’ time and we arrived in one piece (along with our luggage).
While it is likely the crossing will be cancelled in very bad weather, the trip can get a bit rocky and the interior of the boat, while open, can get a bit stuffy for those prone to seasickness. Be prepared!
How to book a ferry to Nusa Lembongan
The easiest way to organise the ferry is to ask your accommodation to organise it on your behalf, in the unlikely event they don’t ask you first. Based on my recent trip, it was actually cheaper to book through the accommodation provider than through the companies directly.
In terms of payment, you might need to pay through your accommodation provider or more likely you’ll pay the ferry company directly when you arrive at the ferry ‘terminal’. And by terminal, I really mean a couple benches in the shade next to the beach. Confirm payment details when you book so you don’t get caught out without cash, though some ferry companies will accept credit cards.
A few helpful links for booking ferries:
When booking your ferry, you’ll be asked to provide your pick up point and destination. The price of the ferry should include transfers on both ends of the journey. Private speed boat companies range in price from 250.000 – 350.000 Rp (one-way) or 500.000 – 600.000 Rp (return) per person.
If you arrive at the Sanur departure point on your own, there is a public speed boat option that will be slightly cheaper. You will need to arrange for a transfer to your accommodation once you arrive in Nusa Lembongan. This could be a good option if you are visiting the island on a day trip.
Where we stayed
In three visits to the island, my favourite accommodation has been Bay Shore Huts, which consistently rates high on Tripadvisor. The resort is located near Mushroom Beach (about 10 minute walk), set on Tamarind Beach. The accommodation consists of a series of bungalows stretching down towards the pool and restaurant area next to the beach. While technically located on a beach, at high tide the beach disappears so the beach frontage is limited to the pool area. With a number of fishing boats in the bay, it’s not a swimming beach even at low tide.
Besides onsite dining, the resort also offers massages in an open air (but private) hut next to the second pool. The attendent at reception will happily help you organise and other activities and transportation. We’ve stayed at Bay Shore Huts twice and it makes for a relaxing stay.
Have you visited Nusa Lembongan and have any tips to share? Where have you stayed and what are your favourite restaurants? Leave me a comment below. 🙂