Bali’s Nusa Penida has so far escaped the rampant development of south Bali and is a long way from approaching even the level of congestion on neighbouring Nusa Lembongan. Which is strange, considering it offers some stunning beaches, amazing cliffs and wonderful, desolate scenery — there’s plenty here to see and do for a few days, at the least.
Yes, it’s true that places to stay on Nusa Penida are thin on the ground. And you’ll be eating some pretty basic food while you’re here — though they do say hunger is the best spice and I had a 17,000 rupiah veggie fried rice here that was out of this world, I was so starving after a day on a motorbike. But things could be changing on Nusa Penida, with The Chedi announcing in September that they plan to open 100 private villas on Crystal Bay by 2015.
When we puttered down the hill into the bay earlier this month, my motorbike driver and guide tut-tutted and shook his head, gesturing to the maybe a dozen motorbikes parked in the coconut grove that skirts the beach here. “So many tourists!” he exclaimed. (He’ll be in for a surprise a few years down the track.)
For now, Crystal Bay is a quiet arc of white-grey sand set amid rocky, scrubby outcrops. On our visit the surf seemed a touch too rough for snorkelling, but a few boats were moored in the bay. The majestic mola mola, or sunfish, comes to shelter here, meaning divers and snorkellers are also lured here. A little rubbish was strewn here and there, detracting from the idyllic appeal somewhat, but it wasn’t terrible.
Daytrippers from Bali come on cruise trips and trudge ashore to spend a few hours sunning themselves, getting a massage and frolicking in the waters. Part of the beach is set aside with some thatched huts for their use, but it’s not like there are security guards patrolling around, so you’re free to stick your nose in for a look — though they probably wouldn’t take kindly to you setting up camp in a hammock, at least while the daytrippers are still there.
There’s a temple near the beach too, and a small warung next to the coconut grove, so you can have some instant noodles and a coconut water if you do want to spend a few hours dipping and lying on the beach.
Until The Chedi sets up shop, you won’t find any digs to stay in at Crystal Bay. A five-minute ride up the road back towards Toyo Pakeh however a French-run operation is under construction; we heard it’s supposed to open in 2013, so do check it out if you’re heading to Nusa Penida then.
We reckon it’ll be the first spot on the island to really attract Western travellers just wanting to chill and enjoy the island’s ravaged beauty. In the meantime, you’ll have to head here just for the day; and you should.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 27th February, 2015.