Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Penida ?
Nusa Lembongan, along with Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida, is part of an archipelago of three islands southeast of Bali, also called Nusa Penida. The island has an area of around 8 km2 and a permanent population of around 5,000 people. A yellow bridge connects Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan, the smallest of the three islands. The bridge collapsed in 2016, but the Balinese government has rebuilt it identically since. You can therefore travel easily from one island to the other.
A 212-hectare mangrove covers the entire eastern part of Nusa Lembongan. Tourism development, which began on the island about ten years ago, is therefore concentrated on a small part of the island. And the very many tourist hotels and restaurants built over the past 10 years thus form a fairly dense network along the north coast. Therefore, Nusa Lembongan is now pretty much saturated. Which explains why Nusa Penida, 25 times larger, attracts more and more tourists.
You are planing your trip to Bali and to Indonesia and you are wondering if it is best to choose Nusa Penida or Nusa Lembongan ? It all depends on what you are looking for!
The tourism infrastructure is larger and more diverse in Nusa Lembongan because it started earlier. The high-end hotel and villas offer is in particular more developed. There are thus 7 luxury hotels in Lembongan and only one in Penida : Adiwana Warnakali hotel. You will also find more easily a good villa with pool to rent on Nusa Lembongan. But you can find a good local resort on both islands.
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
Most of the snorkeling or scuba diving sites are in Nusa Penida (Manta Point, Crystal Bay, Gamat Bay, Toyapakeh, SD Point, etc.). Some are in Nusa Lembongan (Mangrove, Blue Corner). But in practice, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida dive centers go diving to the same dive sites. And the two islands have very good diving centers, such as the PADI 5 Star dive resort Warnakali in Nusa Penida. You can also book pretty much the same snorkeling tour in both islands.
Beach and surfing in Nusa Lembongan
A long sandy beach runs along much of the north coast of Nusa Lembongan. Where tourism has concentrated. Mushroom Bay Beach and Jungut Batu Beach are for example very famous. But Nusa Penida beaches are more varied, wilder, more spectacular, with a special mention for Atuh Beach and Suwehan Beach. But they are also generally less easily accessible, especially for children.
Surfers will rather choose to stay in Nusa Lembongan which has some waves you can surf. For example Shipwrecks, Playgrounds, Lacerations, Montags and Ceningan.
The palm of the landscapes undoubtedly returns to Nusa Penida with extremely emblematic sites like Kelingking Beach, Broken Beach or Angel Billabong.The very high cliffs of the west coast of Penida also offer a great sunset.
Check my great 15 sites to see in Nusa Penida archipelago guide. The first 14 are located in Penida island. But I’m probably a bit biased… There are however also some spectacular places to see in Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. The main ones are Devil’s Tears, the mangrove or the yellow bridge between Lembongan and Ceningan. Half a day will however be enough to go for a trip in scooter around these two islands.
Boat connections between Bali and both islands
16 companies operate 40 daily fast boat connections between Bali and Nusa Penida. I didn’t check the exact count, but I think most companies go to both islands. 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 also the same. To my knowledge there is however no fast boat connection between Kusamba in Bali and Nusa 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. This is indeed where the famous temple of PED is located which shelters the spirit of the powerful demon Mecaling. And especially 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 conclusion, choose Nusa Lembongan:
- if you are passionate about surfing
- or if you are looking for 4-star accommodation and you were unable to book at Adiwana Warnakali or if you look for a villa to rent.
- or if you want easy access to the beach for your children
But if you want to rediscover the authentic Bali, enjoy fabulous landscapes, live exceptional and varied moments on land, in water or underwater, choose Nusa Penida ! There are so many things to do there …
And if, as I highly recommend it, you decide to spend several nights in Penida, you can always take a day trip to Nusa Lembongan. The public boat will take you there in about fifteen minutes for the low price of 60,000 rupees ! And you can always hire a scooter when the boat arrives and tour Lembongan and Ceningan in two hours.
But I clearly do not recommend to spend one night in Penida and one night in Lembongan if you plan to stay only two days. You will waste time transferring from one hotel to the other, with no real benefit.