While Bali’s great strength as a tourist destination lies in its diversity, including its rich culture, great food and incredible landscape, it certainly wouldn’t be as famous without the signature trait of every island: beaches. And we found the nicest places for just kicking back and relaxing in the sun on the southern Bukit Peninsula and on the islands around Bali. In addition to beaches, both places also offer mouth-watering food and grant you some incredible cliff views across the ocean. We took two daytrips to visit the Bukit Peninsula and Nusa Lembongan and these are some of our highlights:
Seafood in Jimbaran
Coming down from the north (in our case Canggu), the first obligatory stop on the Bukit peninsula is Jimbaran. Jimbaran is best known as the location of the immigration office for visa extensions, but it is also home to Bali’s most famous fish market. Rows and rows of fresh fish, crabs, oysters, lobsters and any other kind of seafood you can imagine. The smell is definitely something we had to get used to in the first few moments.
However, what is particularly interesting about the fish market are the food stalls right next to it. Basically, they can instantly prepare any seafood you bought fresh from the market for a small fee. So after we figured out the system, we went back into the market, brought some calamaris and had them cut, spiced and barbecued at one of the food stalls. Considering that all the seafood was probably caught in the morning, this might have been the freshest calamaris we have ever eaten! Delicious!
Temples, pounding surf and dramatic cliffs at Ulu-Watu
After filling our bellies at Jimbaran, we went straight south to the tip of Bali, Ulu-Watu. Ulu-Watu is like a Bali miniature and includes beaches, a Hindu temple with monkeys, a world famous surf break and gorgeous cliffs.
Right on the southwest tip of the Bukit Peninsula is Ulu-Watu temple. While the temple itself is not the most impressive on Bali, the views certainly are. There is a huge cliff with waves constantly pounding against the rock. Apart from the views, the monkeys at the temple are also fun, though there are obviously not as many as in the Monkey Forest in Ubud.
A little bit north of Ulu-Watu temple lies the world famous surf break. To reach the water, one has to climb down the cliff, which is now dotted with surf shops, restaurants and bars with obvious names such as Single Fin. From these restaurants, we could watch the surfers out in the water - not sure whether we would ever be good enough to join them at the line-up!
To reach the surf breaks, you have to descend the cliff right until you hit a cave and then paddle out from the cave. It’s pretty dangerous because of the walls of rock right next to you. Since we were obviously not experienced enough to actually surf the breaks, we were content with watching, before setting off to search for beaches.
The most beautiful beaches in Bali?
Driving along the west coast of the Bukit Peninsula, we were hoping to find some isolated but beautiful strip of white sand. We had before heard about Bingin, Dreamland and Padang Padang.
Since we were almost starving by that time we stopped at the first beach we came across, which was Padang Padang. And gosh, we were not disappointed! Getting there was a little bit tricky as it involved driving through some rocky unpaved path. At the end of the path, a flight of stairs (much like in Ulu-Watu) led down the cliff towards the beach. The beach itself was almost perfect, a long strip of fine, white sand between the cliffs. It was also almost deserted (compared to other beaches in Bali), with only a couple of tourists and surfers and some small Warungs (small shops/restaurants) around the beach. It was quite a contrast to Kuta Beach or the beach in Canggu, which are always quite loud and crowded. There were also a couple of guesthouses and we were definitively regretting it a little bit that we weren’t staying here!
On our very last day on Bali, we decided to head down to Nusa Lembongan, which is one of the three islands along the east coast of Bali. The other two are Nusa Ceningan, which is connected to Nusa Lembongan by a bridge and Nusa Penida, the largest but least developed of the three, famous for diving. These islands are sometimes seen as the new Gilis, the famed islands off the coast of Lombok. We have no clue about the Gilis, but after a full day on Nusa Lembongan, we are sure we could spend quite some more time on this relaxed island, just diving, surfing and practicing Yoga. After the frenzy of Canggu and Kuta, the islands are quite the relief with slow moving traffic (no regular cars are allowed here) and a laid-back atmosphere.
Getting to and around Nusa Lembongan
There are different ways to get to Nusa Lembongan from Bali. Our quick research told us that there is a “local local” boat, a local boat (Perama boat) and various fast boats that make the trip in under 30 minutes. However, since boat companies in Indonesia are about as safe as their airlines (as in they are far away from any safety standards in Europe) we decided to go with one of the more reputable (and more exprensive) companies, Rocky Fast Cruise. A return ticket was a hefty 500.000 IDR but included pick-up and drop off. The ride over to Nusa Lembongan was definitely rough with the massive swells around Bali and Nicole was not the only person to start feeling sick.
The moment we docked at Nusa Lembongan, we were immediately “welcomed” by a guy trying to rent us a scooter. He quoted 100.000 IDR for the day but gave in after maybe 30 seconds. In the end, we settled for 60.000 IDR including gas. The island is small enough so that everything is in walking distance, but with only one day, we did not want to take any chances. There are no real sights on Nusa Lembongan and neighboring Nusa Cenida, just some spectacular beaches and cliff views along with amazing diving and surfing.
Beaches on Nusa Lembongan
As a first stop, we headed over to Mushroom bay, which is really just a place for boats to dock. But behind the cliff to our right, which we reached after crossing a hotel/restaurant, was a deserted but immensely beautiful small beach with fine, white sand! Unfortunately, the weather was getting cloudier and we still wanted to see the rest of the island. So after taking a short swim and lounging around for a bit, we set off for our next destination, Dream beach. Dream beach is a great place for hanging around and has this amazing sand quality just like Mushroom beach. But apparently, you cannot swim here unless you want to be ripped apart by the strong currents in the sea.
The devil’s tear
Only a short walk from dream beach is devil’s tear. Devil’s tear is a rock formation along the cliffs in Nusa Lembongan. Basically, the cliffs have formed an almost complete circle with only one entrance and exit for the sea water. The immense currents and swells suck up the water from the “tear” only to crash back with awesome force, leading to an explosive spray along the cliff. It was quite the spectacle and something quite different from the usual waterfalls on Bali!
Nusa Ceningan, Nusa Lembongan’s smaller brother, is connected to the island via a quite iconic yellow suspension bridge.
The island is even less developed than Nusa Lembongan (which is already touristy but nothing compared to Kuta), but construction is under way. The main “attraction” on Nusa Ceningan is the Blue Lagoon, which is a little bit like devil’s tear but much bigger. Here, the water doesn’t crash and spray like at the devil’s tear, instead, it is almost surreally bright blue and green. It creates an astounding contrast to the ocean behind the lagoon, which is more blue-greyish. From the blue lagoon, we took some walks along the cliffs of Nusa Ceningan and found several gorgeous viewpoints before (time flies too fast!) we had to head back.
We ended our daytrip in the Eco Deli on Nusa Lembongan, a café/restaurant with a sustainable focus: If you bring some plastic to them that they can recycle, you will get 10% off your bill. In our case, our plastic bottle was enough! We had an amazing curry and a feta & watermelon salad, which was the perfect way to say goodbye to Nusa Lembongan. Hopefully we will be back for more soon!
Kevin & Nicole, written in Koh Rong Sanloem and Sen Monorom, Cambodia.