Nusa Lembongan, together with Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida, form an archipelago of three islands situated southeast of Bali, commonly referred to as Nusa Penida. With an approximate area of 8 km2, Nusa Lembongan has a permanent population of about 5,000 residents. A yellow bridge links Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan, the smallest island among the three. Despite the collapse of the bridge in 2016, the Balinese government has reconstructed it, preserving its original appearance, making transportation between the islands convenient.
The eastern part of Nusa Lembongan is covered by a 212-hectare mangrove, with most of the tourism development, which began a decade ago, concentrated on a small part of the island. As a result, the island is relatively dense, featuring numerous hotels and restaurants along the north coast. Nusa Penida, however, 25 times larger than Nusa Lembongan, is attracting an increasing number of tourists due to its open expanse and natural beauty. When choosing between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida, it all depends on your preference and what you are searching for.
Nusa Lembongan boasts a more extensive and diverse tourism infrastructure due to its early development. The offerings of high-end hotels and villas, in particular, are more developed, with twelve luxury hotels in Lembongan compared to only one in Penida. Renting a good villa with a pool is also easier to find on Nusa Lembongan. However, it’s worth noting that you can still find excellent 4 star and local resorts on both islands. Read our article about where to stay in Nusa Penida to know my favorite hotels.
Nightlife is also more developed in Nusa Lembongan. The north coast of Penida, however, welcomes now many bars. And new high-end projects are emerging, such as the sunset bar & restaurant Amok and its great pool.
Scuba diving and snorkeling
The majority of snorkeling and scuba diving sites are located in Nusa Penida, including Manta Point, Crystal Bay, Gamat Bay, Toyapakeh, and SD Point, with a few sites in Nusa Lembongan, such as Mangrove and Blue Corner. However, in reality, dive centers from both islands visit the same dive sites. And both islands boast excellent dive centers, such as the PADI 5 Star dive center Dune Penida. Additionally, snorkeling tours are available in both islands and offer similar experiences.
The northern coast of Nusa Lembongan boasts a long, sandy beach that has become a hub for tourism. Among the most famous spots are Mushroom Bay Beach and Jungut Batu Beach. However, if you are looking for more varied and wilder beaches, Nusa Penida has plenty to offer. Atuh Beach and Suwehan Beach are particularly spectacular, although they may be less accessible, especially for families with young children.
For surfers, Nusa Lembongan is a surf destination with some nice surfing spots, such as Shipwrecks, Playgrounds, Lacerations, Montags and Ceningan.
Nusa Penida offers some of the most iconic sites in Indonesia, including Kelingking Beach, Broken Beach, and Angel Billabong. The island’s western coast features towering cliffs that provide a breathtaking backdrop for watching the sunset.
If you’re planning a trip to the Nusa Penida archipelago, be sure to check out my guide featuring 15 must-see sites. While the first 14 are located on Penida island, there are also plenty of stunning sights to explore on Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. Popular attractions on these islands include Devil’s Tears, the mangrove forests, and the iconic yellow bridge that connects the two.
Boat connections between Bali and Nusa Lembongan
Around 12 companies operate 40 daily fast boat connections between Bali and Nusa Penida. The trip is 5 to 10 minutes shorter for Lembongan but it is not really discriminating. The price from Sanur in Bali to both islands is similar. To my knowledge there is however no fast boat connection between Kusamba in Bali and Nusa Lembongan. And less companies are going from Sanur to Lembongan.
Finally, for travelers who would like to come with their own scooter, there is no ferry boat from Bali to Nusa Lembongan. But you can rent a scooter on the island.
Culture and history are much more present in Penida than in Lembongan or Ceningan. The famous Ped temple of PED which shelters the spirit of the powerful demon Mecaling is indeed located in Penida. And also for tourists, the temple of Goa Giri Putri, inside a very impressive cave to visit. Festivals and ceremonies also take place in most villages in Penida if you are fortunate enough to be present for these occasions.
Seaweed farming was one of the main activities on both islands until recently. But it has practically disappeared because of tourism development and global warming. You can still find some near Suana on Nusa Penida island.
Nusa Penida or Nusa Lembongan?
In summary, Nusa Lembongan is an excellent choice for passionate surfers or families seeking easy beach access.
However, if you’re looking to discover the authentic Bali, immerse yourself in breathtaking landscapes, and indulge in a variety of exceptional experiences on land, in water, or underwater, then Nusa Penida is the perfect destination for you. There is an abundance of activities to enjoy, and I highly recommend spending several nights there.
You can also take a day trip to Lembongan from Penida, which is just a short 15-minute boat ride away, and rent a scooter to explore both Lembongan and Ceningan in two hours. However, I advise against splitting your two-day stay between Penida and Lembongan, as it would be a waste of time and offer no real benefit.