Bali has gone through a jaw-dropping metamorphosis in the recent years. After browsing the trendy boutiques in Seminyak and sipping a matcha latte in Canggu, you might find yourself craving for a laidback, toes-in-the-sand, snoozing-in-the-hammock kind of island getaway. Well, Nusa Lembongan is just what the doctor ordered. Here’s our guide to a sneaky getaway to Nusa Lembongan, the perfect chilled out twist to your Bali itinerary.
Introducing Nusa Lembongan
Nusa Lembongan is a small tropical island located about 20 kilometres off the southeast coast of Bali. Measuring at just 8 square kilometres, Nusa Lembongan has a permanent population of some 5,000 people. The island is part of the three Nusa islands: Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan.
Though a separate island, Nusa Lembongan is administratively and culturally a part of Bali. This means that the island is governed by the same Hindu traditions as its famous neighbour and you’ll spot the same colourful offerings and temple ceremonies on both islands. This is a different experience to visiting Lombok and the Gili Islands, which are also located close to Bali but are dominantly Muslim areas with their own distinct customs.
Though Nusa Lembongan and Bali are essentially parts of the same whole, there is still a palpable difference between the two islands. Life on Nusa Lembongan remains very relaxed and the ambiance is what southern Bali might have felt like some 30 years ago. The distances within the island are small and so is the community. A case in point: upon returning our rental motorbikes in Nusa Lembongan, we were instructed to leave the keys in the ignition and the money under the seat. Needless to say, this laidback way of life makes for a very relaxing holiday.
How to Get There
Thanks to the island’s minuscule size, there is no airport on Nusa Lembongan. The closest airport is the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali and the only way to reach Nusa Lembongan is by boat.
By far the most popular option is to depart from Sanur, which is located about 40 minutes from the airport. The boat ride from Sanur to Jungutbatu in Nusa Lembongan takes about 30 minutes. In Sanur, boats depart from the harbour which is located at the end of Jalan Hang Tuah, close Sanur’s KFC and Dunkin Donuts.
If you’re arriving by motorbike, you need to pay a small fee when driving in (around IDR 2,000) after which there is plenty of space to park. Since you’ll probably be leaving your bike for a night or two, remember to store your helmet securely under your seat.
If you don’t feel like driving or are carrying large luggage, most fast boat companies offer a complimentary pick up service within southern Bali, or you can pay a little extra to be picked up a little further off, i.e. from Canggu or Ubud. Remember to confirm the pick up when making your booking.
The most trusted fast boat company between Sanur and Nusa Lembongan is Rocky Fast Cruises. They have a small office just before the harbour in Sanur and a separate counter where their boat departs. When heading out for your boat, remember to wear flip flops and shorts, as you’ll need to take off your shoes and wade through the water to get to your boat.
Return ticket for adult: IDR 500,000 (USD $50)
Return ticket for children: IDR 300,000 (USD $30)
Sanur – Nusa Lembongan
Nusa Lembongan – Sanur
Getting Around Nusa Lembongan
The “traffic” in Nusa Lembongan is very relaxed. The main form of transport are the same motorbikes you see in Bali and there are practically no private cars on the island.
You can rent a motorbike directly at the harbour or ask your accommodation to arrange it for you. The cost is usually around IDR 50,000 – 80,000 per day (USD $3-6). You’ll rarely see locals wearing a helmet while driving, but we definitely recommend always using one, no matter how relaxed life on the island might feel.
Besides motorbikes, you’ll see pick-up trucks shuttling travellers between the harbour and their accommodation. A few private companies also offer electric buggy rentals in Nusa Lembongan and some villas can also organise buggy rentals for you. The daily rate is around IDR 800,000 (USD $59).
Where to Stay in Nusa Lembongan
Jungutbatu is the main village and this is where you’ll likely first land on the island. Jungutbatu is a great place to stay if you don’t want to rent a motorbike, as you can easily reach restaurants and the beach on foot. Staying in Jungutbatu also gives you easy access to the Shipwrecks surf breaks and most of the island’s dive shops.
Villa Samudera offers a great location in Jungutbatu, with the beach within a two-minute walk down a small sandy lane. There are great restaurants within walking distance, including Ginger & Jamu and Lemongrass. Villa Samudera is a bohemian surf pad and features three bedrooms, two of which are fluidly connected to the open-plan living areas. In true island style, the villa includes a pool and a surf rack.
Mushroom Bay is located about 10 minutes south from Jungutbatu. This is a great beachside cluster of laidback restaurants and beach bars. The white sand beach is proctected by a reef, so you can usually expect calm waters. Mushroom Bay is the unofficial backpack central of Nusa Lembongan and if you’re staying right in the centre, you don’t need a motorbike to get around.
Villa Pantai Lembongan is a huge seven-bedroom villa with a layout that resembles that of a private resort. The bedrooms are divided into separate pavilions and the villa also includes a private gym and spa room. This is a great option for families, as the villa has a great bunk room neighboured by a fun media room. Villa Pantai Lembongan is located about 600 metres off the small hub of Mushroom Bay.
Castaway is a great three-bedroom villa located in the heart of Mushroom Bay, making this a great option for travellers who don’t feel like driving. There is a great coffee shop two doors down and Mushroom Beach is about 300 metres away. Castaway is a light and spacious villa with a Balinese alang-alang ceiling and a private swimming pool lined by laidback beanbags.
Sandy Bay remains ever so slightly below most travellers’ radars, which makes discovering this idyllic cove all the more rewarding. This area has two great beaches: Sandy Bay (pretty but not swimmable) and the aptly named Dream Beach. There are a few casual eateries in the area, but the main attraction is the fabulous Sandy Bay Beach Club which offers great views at sunset.
Villa Sari is a beautifully bohemian villa located just two minutes from the beach club. The villa is decorated with laidback island style and features a private pool, an alfresco dining area and a bunk room sleeping up to six kids. A great tropical breakfast is included in the villa’s rates. Read more about our team’s stay at Villa Sari.
If you’re looking for a real stunner of a villa, Villa Tranquilla is one of your best bets on Nusa Lembongan. This four-bedroom villa sits on a scenic clifftop about 300 metres from Sandy Bay Beach Club and offers jaw-dropping views from its infinity pool and the master bathtub which sits beside a full-wall window. Truly one of the most beautiful villas on the island.
Things to Do in Nusa Lembongan
Enjoy the Beaches
Nusa Lembongan is home to stunning white sand beaches and offers a fantastic setting for water sports. The main beaches on Nusa Lembongan are Mushroom Bay and Dream Beach. Mushroom Bay is protected by a reef and offers calmer waters than Dream Beach, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Bali area.
You could easily spend days just lying on the beach of your choice and enjoying the views. If you want to get a little more active, Nusa Lembongan is also a popular destination for snorkelling, diving and surfing.
Most of the dive centres are located in the main village of Jungutbatu. Though the setting is ideal for experienced divers and you can get certified right on Lembongan, you can also try diving even if you have no plans to get certified by joining an introductory scuba class. These are offered by PADI dive shops like the highly rated Two Fish Divers and Lembongan Dive Center.
The turquoise waters surrounding Nusa Lembongan offer a great setting for snorkelling (and finding Nemo while you’re at it!) The local attraction are the majestic manta rays which live in the surrounding waters.
Some people walk straight out from Mushroom Beach to snorkel, but you’ll be treated to much better underwater views if you join a snorkelling boat excursion a little closer to neighbouring island Nusa Penida. There are countless shops and operators offering snorkelling trips which usually include one to three stops. The best snorkelling spots around the Nusa Islands include Mangrove Point (Nusa Lembongan) , Crystal Bay and The Wall (both on Nusa Penida).
Explore the Island(s)
Thanks to the petite dimensions of the island, it’s very easy to explore Nusa Lembongan even in one day – you can drive from Dream Beach in the south to Mangrove Point in the north in just 20 minutes. Besides the beaches, Nusa Lembongan is home to lush mangrove forests where you can enjoy leisurely boat rides. You can also easily visit the neighbouring island of Nusa Ceningan by crossing over the famous Yellow Bridge which connects the two islands.
One of the best things about Nusa Lembongan is the island’s relaxed pace of life which practically forces you to slow down and take a deep breath. Instead of cramming your days with back to back activities, it’s best to leave plenty of room for sheer and utter relaxation. Spend your days floating around your villa’s pool, bury your nose in a good book while lying on the beach… You get the idea.
Great Restaurants in Nusa Lembongan
Sandy Bay Beach Club
Sandy Bay Beach Club is a trendy pool and beachside venue located in picturesque Sandy Bay. The restaurant offers western and Indonesian dishes of the gourmet variety and gets very busy during sunset. Book a table if you want to get seats to the sunset magic.
The Deck is a fantastic ocean-view restaurant located at the Batu Karang Lembongan Resort. This chill venue serves ice cold cocktails and relaxed cuisine alongside spectacular views of the Jungutbatu Bay. The Deck’s Sunday Sunset Sessions see the venue host international DJs at the decks. There’s also a hidden whiskey bar downstairs. If you’re staying a little further off, The Deck offers a free pick up service throughout the island after 5pm.
Hai Bar & Grill
Hai Bar & Grill is located along the beautiful Mushroom Beach. This is a great casual restaurant where you can enjoy fresh seafood and wood-fired pizzas surrounded by island style bamboo architecture and overlooking the turquoise waters. Hai Bar & Grill offers a free pick up and drop off service across the island.
Ginger & Jamu
Ginger & Jamu is a cute café with a bohemian hippie flair to it. Located directly on the beach in Jungutbatu (and just metres from Villa Samudera), Ginger & Jamu offers healthy food and plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. True to the boho vibe, the venue also offers yoga classes in a space above the restaurant.