Accommodation offerings on rugged, out-of-the-way Nusa Penida are slim, and mostly focused around the main beach of Toyo Pakeh and in Sampalan, which is also home to the main market on the island. Here’s a rundown of where you can stay at the moment — expect things to change here quickly now though, with the announcement of a five-star operation setting up shop within three years. As long as you’re a bit flexible, booking in advance is not really required — this is not a busy island, to put it mildly.
For now, however, in general you can forget about hot water and air-con digs, unless you head straight to the top: spotless Ring Sameton Inn, which opened less than a year ago and at 300,000 rupiah per night offers the highest priced rooms on the island. If you’re needing a flat-screen TV, air-con, a functional work desk and otherwise sharply appointed room, look no further. The motel-style setup is a very short walk to the beach and right next door to the Bali starling sanctuary — where you can also stay if you are volunteering. The downside here is it’s a touch impersonal; though the wooden, open-air restaurant has a pleasant vibe and staff are friendly, this feels a little like a business hotel — or as close as you’ll get to one on Nusa Penida.
Let’s move down to the other end of the budget spectrum: three-room Losmen Tenang, right on Toyo Pakeh beach (though without views) is the cheapest spot we were able to find, with simple rooms going for 80,000 rupiah per night. It’s a basic operation and you’ll be able to meet any other fellow travellers here easily, with a small communal area. Rooms are fan-cooled and have private bathrooms with squat toilets.
If you have just a little extra cash you’re willing to blow on a bed, or you’re a diver who wants to do trips leaving from Nusa Penida (do remember that plenty of operators leave from Nusa Lembongan), it’s likely you’ll stay at Mutiara Nusa. This Czech-run place has friendly Indonesian staff, and you don’t need to be diving to stay here. Rooms are built around an open-air restaurant and are looking tired these days; they go for 135,000 rupiah including breakfast, with soft beds, cold water showers, Western toilets and towels and soap supplied. It’s just a five-minute walk from where the boat is likely to drop you off on Toyo Pakeh, so it’s a convenient option. Air-con rooms are also available for a few bucks extra.
Moving around the coast to the market town of Sampalan, a cluster of accommodation is on offer. Down a laneway to the new port on the outskirts of town, Nusa Penida Guesthouse has just two rooms in a clean Balinese-style building located in a small but pretty garden compound. For 120,000 rupiah you’ll get a private cold water bathroom with Western toilet and perhaps best of all, free WiFi. You’re around a 10-minute walk from the Sampalan market, which itself is well worth a look.
A short walk toward the water you’ll find the new Edy Guesthouse, worth noting for its painted tile pictures of various deities. It’s over the top in the most wonderfully kitsch and ornate way. There are just four fan-cooled rooms here — 125,000 rupiah not including breakfast — plus a small sala that was playing host to a gamelan set up when we were there, as well as caged birds — perhaps noisy at sunrise. Two of the rooms are connected and share a small empty living space; at a pinch families might do well here.
Further west, Bungalow Pemda struck us as a very odd setup and had almost a low-rent kind of feel but super potential, with half the bungalows on the sprawling block shuttered and the other, newer, ones open for business but very badly kept: think the bathroom in the photo here (the only bath we saw on the entire island actually) and cobwebs drooping among the ornate light fittings.
We heard later that it’s actually the government guesthouse; either way, if you want a standalone bungalow, for now it’s the only option on the island, but be prepared for, well, dirt. The beach just across the road has stunning views of Agung. For 135,000 rupiah it’s probably fairly priced if you ask them to give things a better scrub before you take up residence.
A cluster of homestays around Sampalan probably offer a better atmosphere than Pemda though. Our pick is friendly Made’s, which has a lovely garden with a lawn and plenty of plants, and four natural light-filled rooms set in a Balinese-style building. They’re located down a lane on the right just after you pass the BRI ATM. Look for the blue Made’s sign and walk a little past it; it’s on the left. They quoted us 150,000 rupiah per night but sounded like they’d shave a few bucks off if you asked politely. Back a little west, Homestay Ray offers 13 very clean and well-maintained Balinese-style rooms built around a paved courtyard with several birds in cages. It’s also priced at 150,000 rupiah but we got a sense it would be a more impersonal stay than say Made’s.
Back just off a lane running down from the water is the more basic and ramshackle Ibu Sri’s. If you’re on a tight budget and need to be in Sampalan (though we find anyone needing to be here hard to believe) then Sri’s will fit the bill at 125,000 rupiah per night but we’d pay a bit extra and go for Edy’s, Made’s or Nusa Penida Guesthouse. It’s not grim, really, but that word did spring to mind.
We just happened to drive past Tombong Limo because we just happened to want to see Nusa Penida’s wind turbines. We can’t quite work out why anyone would want to be in this middle-of-nowhere location, but it’s quite a lovely little set up, with fewer than 10 very nicely kept rooms climbing up a steep hill. There’s art on the walls and tables and chairs on the veranda; if you’re really wanting some simple peace and quiet, this place is probably rather awesomely sedate at night.
A place under construction to keep an eye on is located on the road to Crystal Bay. Wooden bungalows with thatched-roofs overlook a valley and look like the kind of joint that may finally have people coming to Nusa Penida simply just to hang out. If they had been open, this would have been our choice for sure.
And if you’ve simply got to do luxe — you’ll have to wait till 2015, when The Chedi is set to be built in the area pictured above. No fewer than 100 private villas are slated to be constructed on Crystal Bay, where mola molas frolic and currently only a few daytrippers come to dive or snorkel and drink freshly shucked coconuts. Is the island ready for it? It will be a shock, that’s for sure.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 21st April, 2015.