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Everyone has their own expectations of Bali. Some want to take it easy on its beaches during the day and hit its party hot-spots at night. Others want to explore its teeming coral reefs and dramatic coastline. And yet others want to soak up its culture and admire its ornate temple architecture. If you’re looking for any of these experiences, but don’t like the hordes of tourists that go with them, Nusa Ceningan is for you. This little island encapsulates everything that Bali is about, and that’s why it’s one of the best places to stay in Bali. The only thing missing is the rice fields, but you’ve got seaweed farms instead.
Also read: Peace and crashing waves on Nusa Ceningan
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Why Nusa Ceningan is one of the best places to stay in Bali
Nusa Ceningan (pronounced noo-saa chen-eeng-gaan) is a little island off the south-eastern coast of Bali, between the larger islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida. Here are my reasons for thinking it’s one of the best places to stay in Bali.
1. It’s far less crowded and commercial than is usual for Bali
If you’ve done some research on Bali, you’ll probably have figured out that it’s one of the top tourism destinations in the world. That means that it can get really crowded, especially in the more popular places. Nusa Ceningan is the perfect place to get away from all the crowds and have a more authentic experience. It’s even less touristy than neighbouring Nusa Lembongan, which is considered off-beat by Bali standards. I’ve heard it said that Nusa Ceningan is what Bali used to be like 30 years ago.
That being said, it does get its fair share of tourists, but mostly on day trips from Sanur, or from across the bridge on Nusa Lembongan. Evenings and nights, on the other hand, are incredibly peaceful. So much so that you might just be completely alone during your evening walks!
2. It has a dramatic coastline, with sharp cliffs and crashing waves
Nusa Ceningan’s coast is dominated by black basalt cliffs, and with the strong waves smashing against them, they’re an otherworldly sight! One of the most popular spots on Nusa Ceningan is the Blue Lagoon, an inlet in the cliffs that has some almost artificially-blue water. But the entire south-eastern side of the island is lined with equally impressive cliffs and, unlike Blue Lagoon, you’ll hardly see any other tourists there.
3. It has nice, cosy beaches, both public and private
Nusa Ceningan doesn’t have a whole lot of beaches, but the ones it does have are pretty special! A long, clean beach stretches along almost half the island’s north-western shore, dotted with cafés. The cafés might ask you to buy something before you use the beach in front of their place, but there’s also a public stretch that’s equally beautiful. Especially at sunset. And at low tide, towards midday, the water recedes so far that you can actually walk over to Nusa Lembongan! Just watch your step; you might be walking through someone’s seaweed farm.
Nusa Ceningan has some very cosy smaller beaches, too, but these tend to be private ones attached to resorts. But order something at their bars or coffee shops and they’ll be happy to let you use them. Secret Beach and Secret Point beach (I know, it’s confusing) are among the better ones, enclosed by cliffs and with a very intimate feel to them.
4. It has great places to eat and stay, from the basic to the elegant and upmarket
Despite it not being very touristy, Nusa Ceningan has a surprising number of great eateries. Whether you’re looking for good local food or nice world cuisine, budget eateries or elegant beachside cafés, you won’t be disappointed. Nusa Ceningan pretty much has things covered as far as food is concerned. And if you can’t find what you want, chances are a short hop over the bridge to Nusa Lembongan will do the trick.
Nusa Ceningan isn’t lacking in accommodation, either. There aren’t any massive chain hotels on the island (so far), but that doesn’t mean you need to compromise on comfort. The island has some great places to stay, whatever your budget. Some even have private beaches, and almost all have pools.
Still don’t think this is one of the best places to stay in Bali? Then read on.
5. It has quiet forests to explore if you’re tired of the beach
While Nusa Ceningan’s beaches and cliffs are fun, it’s also got lots of forest to explore if you feel the call of the jungle. It’s not the dripping rainforest of northern Bali, but it’ll still make you feel a bit like Indy Jones. What’s more, there are some beautiful little temples and shrines you can trek to and indulge your inner explorer.
6. It’s smack in the middle of some of the best dive spots around Bali
If you’re in Bali for the incredible marine life, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself diving or snorkelling in the vicinity of Nusa Ceningan. It and its neighbours Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida are surrounded by some of the best snorkelling and diving spots around Bali. So if you’re actually staying on Nusa Ceningan, all these spots are within easy reach. And the best part is that you can hire yourself a private boat to take you there, instead of tagging along with a large group. Chances are, your boatman can even recommend the best spot, depending on the weather and how many other tourists there are.
7. Neighbouring Nusa Lembongan has lots of water sports, nightlife, and temples
Nusa Ceningan is peaceful and laid back, but if you’re tired of that kind of thing, head over the bridge to Nusa Lembongan. Its beaches, especially Mushroom Beach and Jungut Batu Beach, are lined with bars, clubs, resorts and cafés in which you can indulge your party needs. And if you need an adrenaline rush, almost every place will be able to organize a bunch of water sports for you before you settle down with your drink. If you’re lucky, you might be even be able to crash a beach party or two. Of course, you won’t find anything as wild and raucous as you might in Kuta. But if that’s what you’re looking for, you probably wouldn’t be on Nusa Ceningan in the first place.
Another thing Nusa Lembongan has lots of is temples. In fact, one of the main roads up the eastern part of the island is lined with ornate temples and richly-decorated family compounds. So if you’re looking to goggle at the legendary Balinese temple architecture, this is a great place. And if you’re looking to watch a ceremony or two, you won’t be disappointed either. If you’re lucky, the people running the place you’re staying at might even have a private ceremony of their own while you’re there.
8. It’s all very affordable
My last reason for thinking Nusa Ceningan is one of the best places to stay in Bali is that it’s surprisingly affordable. So unless you’re the kind who likes to wallow in creature comforts (or spend days on end diving), this place definitely won’t burn a hole in your pocket.
For example, by far the most expensive meal we ate on Nusa Ceningan was at Le Pirate Beach Club, and that worked out to around IDR 500,000 (about INR 2,500 or USD 36) per head, with drinks and dessert. On the other hand, a meal at the basic Warung Kandel cost us around IDR 30,000 (about INR 150 or USD 2) per head. Most meals shouldn’t cost you more than IDR 100,000 (about INR 500 or USD 7). Our rooms at the popular Secret Point Huts cost us IDR 476,100 (about INR 2,400 or USD 34) per night for a basic double room, including breakfast. Hiring a scooter cost us IDR 50,000 (about INR. 250 or USD 3.5 per day), and a two-hour snorkelling trip cost us IDR 600,000 (about INR 3,000 or USD 43) for the entire boat.
There you have it. After all this, is there any way Nusa Ceningan can’t be one of the best places to stay in Bali?