With almost 5 months of travel under our belt, we chose Bali to get some much needed rest and relaxation. Bali has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia and at most times during the year the island is bursting with tourists. Despite this, it is still possible to find a less busy part and step back from the maddening crowds.
For this we decided on Sanur. As we drove in from the airport, we heard a constant flapping sound and noticed several kites flying in the air. We soon discovered that we had arrived during the annual kite festival, an event that brings people from all over Bali together and highlights the Balinese culture. The large kites are of various sizes, with some ranging at over 10 m in length.
Sanur is a neighborhood filled with restaurants and bars and is an easy place to get around by foot. From our hotel, it was an easy 20 minute walk to the promenade connecting Sanur beach to Mertarsari beach.
To get the most of our time in Sanur and the most needed R&R, the top priority for us when looking for a hotel was to have a room with a private pool. We found Sanur Art Villas, a small complex of two-storey villas each with a private pool.
The complex is located about a 20-minute walk to the beach, and in close proximity of a number of shops, cafes and restaurants. While the villas were extremely picturesque, they were unfortunately poorly maintained and we had several issues daily. The good thing though was due to it being low season, we were able to switch villas. Hopefully, these are purely growing pains, and in the future, things will improve. The staff were friendly and helpful, and gave us a number of suggestions on things to do. One such suggestion, was to visit Nusa Penida.
TIP: Always research suggestions from hotel staff, as chances as the prices have been inflated and cheaper options can be found.
A day in Nusa Penida
An island of about 200 square km, Nusa Penida is the largest of 3 islands off the coast of Bali. Compared to the smaller more popular Nusa Lembongan, the infrastructure on the island is very basic, with a limited amount of accommodation and dining options.
To ensure that we made the most of the day-trip, we set off for Nusa Penida around 7:30 (Ferries from Sanur Beach start around 7:00 depending on the speed boat company. There are several speed boat companies, and we used Angel Billabong for the journey out to the island). The journey from Bali takes approximately 30 minutes, and to board the speed boat we had to wade out into the sea.
With just a few hours to spend on the island, since the speedboat back to Bali left at 14:00, we picked three of the main key spots to visit on the island. Transportation options on the island are limited, and to avoid paying astronomical fares for taxis and not be exposed to the hot sun all day, we opted to hire a car and driver.
TIP: Though on Trip Advisor some boats are recommended over others, we traveled on Angel Billabong and DWI Manunggal 3, and the standard of the boats were about the same. Since the trip is quite short, and both had life jackets, other differences are not worth the extra money charged.
TIP: We were able to arrive and depart from different parts of the island and not have to retrace our steps due to the boats booked. If that is important take that into consideration.
Kelingking Beach was our #1 destination. Located about 30 minutes drive from the port via a sandy and pot-holed filled road, south west of the island. Due to its popularity we ensured we arrived quite early in the day and were thrilled to have the place mostly to ourselves, apart from the locals who were setting up.
The cliffs above the beach provide a spectacular viewpoint and the headland resembles a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The beach is accessible via a path with some steep stairs along the cliff edge with minimal railings. While making our way back up from the beach, we noticed swarms of manta rays swimming in the water below.
Angel’s Billabong and Broken Beach (Pasih Uug)
From Kelingking Beach, the drive to Angel’s Billabong is approximately 40 minutes, on roads which are in a pretty bad condition. The key attraction at Angel’s Billabong is a natural – though sometimes dangerous – infinity pool popular with swimmers at low tide. The rugged cliffs and the crashing waves around it provide a beautiful background.
About a five minute walk from Angel’s Billabong is Broken Beach, which used to be a large cave. Over time, the roof of the cave eroded leaving what appears to be a hole in the cliff wall leading out to the sea.
The last stop on our day trip was Crystal Bay. It is a small strip of white sand beach on the north-west coast of the island. The beach is quite touristic and most people come here for snorkeling or diving.
The trip to Nusa Penida ended up being the highlight of our trip to Bali and though we did not have a whole lot of time to spend, it was worth it.
Tip: We booked a tour with Nusa Penida Explorer which was the most reasonable of the various companies we called, and had good ratings on Trip Advisor. For the quoted fee, we received 2 return trip speed boat tickets. pick up and drop off at our hotel, tour around Nusa Penida, and lunch.