I first came to these islands 8yrs ago and loved my time there. It was another 6yrs until I returned and nothing much seemed to have changed, which is a big part of the attraction for me. These days I go a few times a year, I love the South Bali mainland but this is my favourite escape from the tourist pace and high stress of choosing which beach club party to attend each weekend.
I love how accessible these islands are (see map) from mainland Bali. Just a 30min taxi from Seminyak (depending on traffic) or 20mins on the motorbike if you ride like me, and we are at Sanur Beach to catch the fast boat to Nusa Lembongan. No need to arrive too early, we usually get there 20mins before departure and enjoy a coconut water while the staff load our luggage. We always book with either Rocky, Marlin or Dream Beach Express. When you book the ticket over the phone tell them you always pay 300,000 rupiah per person return, there's no need to pay more. Boats depart almost hourly all day starting from 8:30am from Sanur and the last one returning from Nusa Lembongan at about 5pm. You have the option to go to Mushroom Bay or Jungut Batu, both on Nusa Lembongan. The trip takes about 20mins or so, it can be a little rough depending on the ocean that day so if you get sea sick maybe pick up some tablets to prevent that at the Apotek beforehand. Some boat companies have a service to and from the Gili Islands so if you want to do a little island hopping it can be done. If you have already booked accommodation then there will be a pickup truck or golf buggy waiting for you when you disembark the boat.
Where to stay:
We like to stay at Dream Beach Huts. For 750,000 rupiah you get a bungalow right on the beach with an amazing ocean view and the sound of waves crashing as you sleep at night. The showers only have cold water and it's salt water but that's pretty much the way it often is on these two islands so it doesn't bother us. For a little cheaper price Dream Beach have bungalows slightly further from the beach without a view. The pool here is a pretty epic spot to hang as you can see from the pic here, it's just a shame their pool guy seems to have an obsession with chlorine! But it's a nice spot to enjoy sunset and have the bar staff deliver over cocktails during happy hour from 4-6pm There's no shortage of 'bungalow-style' accommodation like this on Lembongan but almost none with this location so I don’t really know why anyone would stay inland for about the same price they could stay beachfront here...
When I’ve been with a larger group I’ve loved to stay at stunning Villa Opera. Incredible views, a 20m infinity pool and a private cook in arguably the best prime position you could ask for on the island of Nusa Lembongan. It’s a massive 5 bedroom place and can sleep 12 people. Total luxury and it’s perfectly located overlooking 3 famous surf breaks and Mount Agung. Walking distance to good places to eat and close to spots for Stand up Paddle Boarding and snorkelling. Also private yoga at the villa is available and they can organise all your water sport activities for you.
If that’s too big for your needs then Bersantai Villas have great 2 and 1 bedroom villas which are really classy and nicely located.
Secret Point Huts on Nusa Ceningan would be my pick of places to stay on that island. Right in front of you is a good surf break and it’s located directly on the beach. The bungalows are quite spacious and the service is friendly. If you’re really on a budget then maybe just get the boat to Jungut Batu and walk along the beach and down the main street and see what cheap places are available, you’re sure to find something.
If you don't ride a scooter then here is a pretty good place to learn. Roads are very quiet, not many cars so you shouldn't get I to too much trouble. It's a great island to explore on a scooter which you can rent for 75,000 a day, the roads are full of pot holes though but at least this means people only travel at a cruisy pace. You can also rent bicycles though if that's more your style. For those that just aren’t comfortable with getting on a scooter but still want to make good time, there’s a Golf Buggy taxi service and you can also rent a golf buggy here.
Some restaurants like 'The Beach Club at Sandy Bay' have a pickup service so just call ahead and they'll pick you up in their truck and drop you home after your meal. For quick short travel, ask for an ‘Ojek’, to get you to your destination cheaply. It’s a scooter with a driver and you sit on the back, basically any local with a scooter is a potential ‘Ojek’.
Walking is a great way to get around here - there’s a seemingly endless supply of quiet roads to explore the countryside on. These islands are very easy to navigate especially if you have a free guidebook map available at most restaurants and accommodation.
Nusa Lembongan was first opened up as a tourist destination by surfers, and it has long been an established part of the Bali surf circuit. It’s host to some premier reef breaks. These consisting of the main breaks all within a short boat ride of each other - Playgrounds (left & right), Lacerations (fairly shallow right hander), Razors (fast left hander) and the iconic Shipwrecks - a fun walley right hander. Playgrounds is a short paddle from the beach and is popular amongst the less experienced surfers and SUPS however when decent swell is present, proposes some very challenging rides. The other breaks are accessible via a 2 minute local boat (perahu) ride out from a local captain. Otherwise if you are keen to work on the paddle fitness it's a good 10-15 minute paddle. A ten minute scooter ride will find you on the other side of the Nusa Lembongan where you can cross a rather narrow rope suspended bridge to Nusa Ceningan. This is home to a left hander – Ceningan. This seems to attract a little more swell when there is not much happening on Lembongan. Be careful to not get over excited and wind up on the reef. It is quite shallow here, has a reputation for sharks and seaweed sticks, therefore experienced surfers only.
Although surfable all year round, waves are best when winds are in the Southeast quarter, normally from April to September/October.
Jalan Jalan - Exploring
Exploring with a scooter ride across the wooden bridge to Nusa Ceningan is certainly a must. It’s a small seaweed farming island and you will notice the quieter pace as soon as you get here. On Nusa Ceningan you have to go to Blue Lagoon and if you're game there's a 14m cliff jump into the ocean. There used to be a business running this and you would pay 50,000 for two jumps. I've done this a few times, it's a little hairy but quite a rush. This business has since closed down and they took the ladder with them to climb back up. But I see people are still jumping and finding a way back up the rocks to the top. Also ‘Secret Beach’ is really nice, and remains a pretty well-kept ‘secret’ so you will likely have it all to yourself. Nearby is Mahana Point Warung which is a great place to watch the surf and often it's pumping at this spot and you have a great vantage point, or jump off their smaller 7m cliff jump and try catch a few waves yourself. Only problem with this Warung is they have vague opening times. I think they just open when they feel like or when they aren't surfing. There's a nice spot to stay next door right on the beach too called Secret Point Huts.
In between Sandy Bay and Dream Beach is a point called Devil’s Tear (they did a great job naming these spots!). This is an awesome spot to see the sunset, and marvel at the huge waves that crash into the limestone cliffs, causing beautiful rock pools. It’s a great photo opportunity and you’ll be whipping out the old selfie stick in no time and going to town on the #hashtags. Be careful not to get too close to the edge though!
Whilst out exploring it’s well worth going to the mangrove side of the island. There’s some nice warungs (cafes) on the beach and it’s a very relaxing place to chill on a beanbag over a beer or have some fresh grilled fish.
One of my favorite ways to spend a half day is going out on a local fishing boat for snorkeling. Last time I went there were 4 of us and we paid 150,000 each. We left by 7am to get the best conditions. The skipper provided the snorkelling gear, we just brought water and sunscreen. He took us to three locations, the best being Manta Point on Nusa Penida about 25min away. The snorkeling was some if the best I've ever done. We spotted turtles and so many colorful fish and the coral was pristine. I was envious of the scuba divers below us though who looked like they were seeing a whole lot more. The spot is known for it's Manta Rays so if you visit at the right time of year you might be lucky enough to see these beautiful creatures. Also the Mola Mola fish can be seen here at times.
Diving is really outstanding here in the crystal clear waters around these islands. There’s over a dozen dive shops on Lembongan, mostly in Jungut Batu and Mushroom Bay, so you’ll have no shortage of people to take you out.
The most interesting sites are off neighbouring Nusa Penida which has a 20,000 hectare marine protected area. There are some challenging drift dives here, and dive operators will visit certain sites only when the sea conditions are safe. There are plenty of options for easier flat reef and wall dives as well. If you are lucky enough you might dive with large manta rays which are present all year round even more spectacular, the massive oceanic sunfish (mola-mola) in season July-October. There’s also white-tipped reef sharks, nurse sharks and the odd hammerhead. Whale sharks are far from regular, but the odd migrant is seen and you might spot one of the 4 species of sea turtle can be found in these waters.
Where to eat:
Le Pirate - when you arrive in Nusa Lembongan stop what you're doing and head over to Ceningan and try the Kung Pai Chicken & Cashew salad, it's incredible! Most of the food here is great but skip the buffalo wings, I had these on my last trip and was in a ‘food coma’ for hrs later. They have some really nice cocktails here and usually good music, atmosphere and a fun vibe. Plus you can enjoy the pool and watch the seaweed farmers and fishing boats down below. The Beach Club at Sandy Bay is a regular 'go to spot' for people who frequent Lembongan. It's one if the few places that's slightly more up-market where you can get a glass of wine that isn't Plaga to go with an imported tenderloin steak. The dinner BBQ grill here is great, and I especially like the fajitas which has to be the best value option on the menu. They also have a pool overlooking the beach and you can relax here on sunset very nicely as it's facing the setting sun. Perhaps the most impressive and ‘up-market’ meal in the area can be found at Indiana Kenanga - Renowned French chef Clement Fouquere. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner - I haven’t eaten here but I’m told it’s brilliant.
For those of us that enjoy healthy options and don’t mind a bit of ‘Earth Café /Bali Buddha’ kinda action on the mainland, you will enjoy ‘Bali Eco Deli’ in Nusa Lembongan. It’s a cosy café located on the main road behind Jungut Batu, everything they serve is made to order and baked daily in-house using fresh ingredients sources from organic & fair trade farms. Great spot for a healthy salad, amazing smoothies, slow juices, great coffee etc. Located at Batu Karang Resort, The Deck has for years been a reliable favourite for many. Go there for the gourmet baguettes, paninis, freshly baked pies, pizzas, home baked cakes, gelato ice cream, fresh juices, smoothies and REAL coffee from a REAL espresso machine. All with a great view of the fishing boats and Mt Agung in the distance. They televise the Australian football codes on as well so you can catch a game whilst enjoying 5pm Happy Hour!
These three found in Jungut Batu are all well worth visiting: Nyomans Warung for excellent local fresh fish. It's traditional and very basic, feet in the sand at local prices. Pondock Baruna is a local-style warung on the main street. Delicious local food at affordable prices. Tigerlilly is a great spot for fresh juices, smoothies, and breakfast bowls, also delicious chocolate crepes. The super smoothie bowl with banana, dragon fruit, muesli, chia seeds, mango and coconut is by far our favourite! And we always get the Protein Pleasure smoothie: chocolate, banana and blitzed coconut.
Hai Bar in Mushroom Bay has great wood fired pizza and excellent cocktails. A beach front location, with outdoor movies scheduled during the week in the evenings under the coconut trees - definitely give it a try.
I do like a spot of yoga and so does the Mrs so when we visit Lembongan Serenity Yoga is where we head for that. Located at the northern end of Jungut Batu, on your way to the mangroves. The open air studio sits amongst a garden of coconut palms and is just meters from the beach. They offer a variety of daily drop in classes for yogis of all levels - power yoga, vinyasa flow, Hatha flow and yin yoga. They offer private classes, and also run regular 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training program's throughout the year. Daily drop in price is quite reasonable at 100,000 rupiah, and they also offer 3, 5 and 10 class cards.
Other points to note:
Most restaurants and accommodation have wifi, not as fast or as reliable as in Bali but you should get by. Reception for your Bali SIM card can be hit and miss depending on how high ground you are on. I'm with XL and it's not great, but good enough. Not sure what it's like with other carriers. There's only one ATM on the island and on rare occasions this can run out so I suggest you take sufficient dough with you to last the trip in case someone beat you to it at the machine and you cant pay for another Bintang until they re-stock the machine a day or so later! Most places accept credit cards though too.
Written by Jess Kirley, A Team member of The Bali Bible