The punch of heat that hit us as we disembarked at the Bali Denpasar airport served as a sweaty reminder that we had started a very different leg of our trip. While we were no stranger to the swarm of touts and taxi drivers that awaited past the baggage claim, we had uncharacteristically accepted our Airbnb host's offer to arrange for a private driver to take us the 45 minutes to our villa in Sanur. Our rastafari chauffeur made the traffic-ridden trip for only $1.50 more than the average taxi and dropped us off poolside at the nicest room we had stayed in thus far in the trip.
Unfortunately, we had only a night to rejuvenate in the little oasis before catching a morning boat to Bali's neighboring island of Nusa Lembongan. We were able to work a slight discount through our Airbnb for tickets with the very reputable Scoot Fast Cruises, but the roundtrip would typically cost around $40/pp for the bumpy crossing (including hotel pickup and drop-off at each end). Every penny was worth it when we jumped out of the boat with our bags overhead onto the pristine, white sand beaches.
Nusa Lembongan was everything that we had expected Bali to be. The entire community operates with a quintessential island pace and everything is within a 15 minute scooter ride; this includes the one ATM, a handful of world-class surf spots, and countless secret beaches. We opted for a central location on the top of the island's largest hill at Poh Manis Airbnb/hotel (we so highly recommend you do the same). Our incredible host, Wayan, set us up with a much needed scooter and plenty of awesome tips.
After a much needed jump in the pool to break the heat, we made our way to the tasty Suka Nusa for traditional eats of Nasi Goreng - a semi-sweet fried rice served with egg and shrimp crackers. This meal is a definite staple of Indonesia and certainly a must-try where ever in the country you go as each region adds their own flair. To wash it all down, we made the scooter ride over to Dream Beach bar and hotel for some tasty drinks with the bonus of cliff-side seats overlooking the beautiful cove.
While Dream Beach offered a stunning view, it may have even been topped by the Panorama Cafe's mountain vista and their ice cold Bintangs - definitely worth the winding drive there...just make sure to get the ice cream and Indonesian crepes as a reward. For other tasty eats on Lembongan, definitely try out the Hai Bar and Grill on Mushroom Beach with their glam-hut style dining and delicious seafood. For a morning fueling, we loved the quaint Two Towers Cafe that offer breakfast or jaffles (aka toasties, aka grilled cheese) with your coffee and milkshake as you dine in the jungle. We hate to be negative but TripAdvisor was wayyy off the mark with the highly regarded (and expensive) Beach Club - from our experience, we might recommend giving that one a pass.
Despite what it sounds like, there were plenty of activities on Lembongan other than eating, drinking Bintangs, and scooting from beach to beach (not that there is anything wrong with that). For just $5/day we were able to rent a decent surfboard from one of the several vendors on Coconut Beach. If you know what kind of board you're looking for, just ask as these guys have a secret shed full of their own boards that they are often willing to rent out. From the beach, you can paddle an easy 5 minutes to Playgrounds break or another 10 minutes to Lacerations. Playgrounds is a pretty good place for anyone learning to surf but make sure you keep an eye on the tides at Lacerations if you don't love the feeling of reef or value the skin on your back.
After a few days of scooting around Nusa Lembongan, we decided to adventure over to its neighbor, Nusa Ceningan. The two islands are separated by a VERY narrow bridge just wide enough for a single scooter to cross but it proved to be a gateway to even more beauty. There the local culture seemed less tainted by tourism and offered some of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever seen.
If you've braved the bridge to Ceningan, make sure to check out the aquamarine waters of the Blue Lagoon on the far side of the island. Or for a different view, we arranged a $25 boat and snorkling trip to Manta Bay to attempt a spotting of the elusive, giant manta rays that swim there. We weren't quite lucky enough to spot the crazy creatures but did dive around with a few schools of colorful fish in Star Bay as a backup. For some tasty restaurants after exploring, we loved both the food and waterfront setting of Le Pirate for a western/traditional blended cuisine and SeaBreeze Warung for down-home Indonesian.
We're far from professionals, but here's another short video we put together of our scootin' & snorklin' in Nusa Lembongan!
After our paradise week on the Nusa (Balinese / Indonesian word for island) we departed for mainland Bali, but our return trip was significantly less serene than our ride out to Lembongan. As soon as we arrived at the meeting place (aka the tiny tiny beach shack) a monsoon rolled in, so all of the passengers were corralled into the back room where we camped out, sans electricity, for several hours while waiting for a pause in the storm. As soon as there was a clear moment, we all booked it to the boat for what turned out to be the second most treacherous aquatic experience of our entire trip. Surprisingly we arrived safely to Bali without being thrown overboard, albiet 7 hours behind schedule.
Next up, Seminyak, Uluwatu & Ubud, Bali! Stay tuned for some sweet surf vids, miles of rice paddies, and overly friendly monkeys and ya'll!