The Ultimate Dive and Travel Guide to Nusa Penida

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Just five years ago, Nusa Penida was a well-kept secret among divers. Accommodation options were limited and there were just a handful of dive centers to choose from if you wanted to scuba dive in Nusa Penida. Most divers stayed on the more-developed island of Nusa Lembongan and took a boat to Nusa Penida’s incredible dive sites.

Today, Nusa Penida is developing at an incredible pace with new homestays, restaurants, roads, and dive centers popping up on a weekly basis.  A journey here will reveal hidden beaches and dive sites known to host manta rays, mola mola, and an abundance of reef life. In this guide to Nusa Penida, we’ll show you where to stay, where to dive, and what to do on this beautiful island.

We’ll cover:

  • The best time to visit Nusa Penida
  • How to get to Nusa Penida
  • The best dive sites in Nusa Penida
  • The best dive centers and schools in Nusa Penida
  • Freediving in Nusa Penida

The best time to visit Nusa Penida

One great thing about Nusa Penida is that it’s a place you can visit no matter the month.

Nusa Penida’s high season is from early July to late August. This is when hotel prices tend to spike and dive sites turn into a flurry of bubbles. From April to September is when Nusa Penida has the best weather. Sadly, the rainy season in Bali brings an influx of trash from December to February.

Most divers hope to see two creatures on their trip to Nusa Penida: Mola mola (sunfish) and manta rays.

Manta rays can be seen all year round in Nusa Penida, though you’ll have better luck spotting them in calm conditions when there is high visibility. If you have mola mola on your mind, the best time to visit is from July to October, when the water is coldest.  

How to get to Nusa Penida

You can only reach Nusa Penida by boat. From Sanur, Bali a boat ride takes about 40 minutes and often stops at Nusa Lembongan first. There are also boats from the Gili Islands that go to Nusa Penida. Tickets from Sanur cost around 300k IDR per return trip and include transfer to and from your accommodation.

When it comes to getting around Nusa Penida, we do not recommend driving a motorbike. I’ve crashed while driving around Nusa Penida as have many of my friends. In an article about the dangers of motorbiking around Nusa Penida, Justine from The Travel Lush says, “Part of the issue is that at first Nusa Penida seems like a deceptively easy place to ride. The roads near the main pier – where most tourists base themselves – are surprisingly good. But in order to reach most of the island’s famous attractions… (the roads) get really sketchy.”

I’m not against driving motorbikes in general – I rent them all the time and drove one in Australia for five years. Please be extra cautious if you drive a motorbike in Nusa Penida because the roads tend to be steep, windy, and laden with potholes. If you do rent a motorbike to drive around town, expect to pay about 70k IDR per day.

It’s best to see the more remote regions of Nusa Penida on a day tour with a personal driver. A driver costs around 500k IDR per day.

The best dive sites in Nusa Penida

One of the best things about staying on Nusa Penida itself during your scuba trip to Bali is that you’re close to all the best dive sites. Even the dive shops operating from Nusa Lembongan typically run dive trips to the coast of Penida.

Manta Point: Love manta rays? Manta Point is an incredible dive site where manta rays partake in a bit of a spa treatment. Manta Point has a gargantuan coral bommie that attracts many reef fish who feed on parasites attached to the manta rays’ skin. This is why many divers also refer to Manta Point as the “cleaning station.”

Manta Bay: Manta Bay is home to Nusa Penida’s juvenile manta rays, who take shelter in shallow bay. This is a great spot to freedive and snorkel with mantas, as they tend to glide just a few meters below the surface. Occasionally, the surge can get quite strong in Manta Bay if there’s a serious swell around.

Toyapakeh: The currents around Nusa Penida can be quite strong, but the current at Toyapakeh is usually more mild than other sites. Explore a ledge of reef covered in hard and soft corals, with animals like scorpionfish, moray eels, orangutan crabs, batfish, puffer fish, and nudibranchs taking shelter among the reef.

Crystal Bay: Crystal Bay delivers what many people imagine when they think of diving in Indonesia. In Crystal Bay’s shallower area, you’ll find warm water, thriving coral bommies, sea turtles, peacock mantis shrimp, and reef fish galore. Venture deeper, and you might get a chance to spot a mola mola.

The best dive centers in Nusa Penida

Karma Diving

Karma Diving is one of the safest and best dive centers in Nusa Penida. Newly renovated and centrally located in Toyapakeh, Karma Diving is SSI accredited and focuses on small groups and personalized service, making them more of a boutique dive center rather than a certification factory. If you’re a nervous diver or want to find a small community during your stay in Nusa Penida, dive here. They offer fun dives and SSI courses ranging from SSI Open Water to Divemaster.

Karma Diving also partners with eco-friendly programs like Trash Hero, Coral Guardian, and Refill my Bottle. Groups are kept to a maximum of four people per guide/instructor and you’ll likely catch the owner, Raphael, chatting with visitors at the shop.

Read: Inside the Dive Shop: Karma Diving

Blue Corner Dive

Blue Corner Dive on Nusa Lembongan has become somewhat of a second home for many of The Salt Sirens writers over the years. We’re excited to report that Blue Corner Dive on Nusa Penida holds the same high standards as its shop over on Nusa Lembongan. Blue Corner Dive is PADI accredited and offers Open Water, Divemaster, and specialty courses. They are also part of Project Aware, a nonprofit that focuses on marine debris removal and shark conservation.

Scuba Junkie Penida

When you walk into Scuba Junkie Penida, it’s easy to notice the staff’s playful and welcoming demeanor. Though Scuba Junkie Penida is new to Nusa Penida, their other dive centers around Indonesia and Malaysia have been accruing stellar reputations since 2005. Scuba Junkie is centrally located, has a resort on site, and teaches PADI courses from Open Water to Divemaster.

Freediving in Nusa Penida

If you want to lose the tanks and dive with mantas and mola molas on one breath, there’s one reputable freediving school in Nusa Penida. Depth is easy to reach off of Nusa Penida’s shoreline and you’ll often have clear conditions with limited current (though visibility is outside of rainy season). Water temperature hovers around 82°F (28°C) for most of the year, but you do get some thermocline (as cold as 73°F (18°C) at depth.

Freedive Nusa

The spacious grounds and yoga shack at Freedive Nusa set the scene for relaxation. The owner, Kirill, is a SSI Instructor Trainer and Molchanovs Master Instructor. You can get your SSI Level 1-Master Course or take a customized freediving for surfers course (that includes SSI Level 1).  

What tips do you have for scuba divers heading to Nusa Penida?