Nusa Ceningan and Mushroom Bay

Nusa Ceningan and the not-so-secret beach and Happy Hour at Mushroom Bay

After Living the Dream at Dream beach, we decided to do a bit of exploring on the island. We hired a couple of  dilapidated Vario scooters from the hotel, grabbed a “map” (essentially a rough sketch of the island with some big red crosses on it and headed out, there was only one road after all, how difficult could it be?

Mangrove Point

We started at Mangrove Point, at the northern-most tip of the island and just up the road (technically, everything was ‘up the road’, but this was the closest) from our hotel. We parked up and went to find out what was going on. It was clearly peak time, with lots of  Chinese tourists getting into wetsuits and snorkels. A guide told us that this was really the only time to go in as later on at low tide, it would be impossible to reach the coral. He then tried to flog us a couple of snorkels, so we politely declined.

Ultimatums don’t tend to go down well when the Greedy Cat is in holiday mode and in any case we weren’t keen on getting wet so early in the day. We similarly declined the offer of a boat trip around the mangroves and decided to get back on the bikes and see what else was going on.

So, back to the bikes and back along the tip of the island and down the other side, which faces neighbouring islands Ceningen and Penida. Lembongan and Ceningan are connected by a famous yellow bridge (famous for collapsing), so we took advantage to cross over and go and explore Ceningan.

Nusa Ceningan

Ceningan is the smallest of the three islands and it probably took us around an hour to drive around it.

As you get off the bridge on the other side, there is a sign pointing to a ‘port’ for crossings to Nusa Penida but when we go to investigate, we find two young lads, a small shack and no boats.

We enquire at the ‘port’ and ask if there are any scheduled crossings, whilst suspecting that they may have put that sign there themselves in a burst of entrepreneurial spirit, but then forgot to get an actual boat. They tell us that they can take us across but not our bikes and it will cost 350k for the crossing. We try negotiating but they are not keen (possibly owing to the fact that they don’t have a boat) so, away we go to continue our tour of the island – Nusa Penida can wait.

The worst-kept secret in Ceningan

After a few miles of nothing but scrubland punctuated by a rubbish tip, we come across another point of interest on the island – a well-placed sign ironically points us towards ‘secret beach’.  Imagining some wild and deserted cove with a small shack selling Bintang beer, we follow the sign down a number of broken-up dirt paths, each one more broken up and more dirty and realise that, if it wasn’t for the signs, you really would be lucky to find it! Eventually, we come down a steep ramp and park up at what looks like a resort. Plush villas are nestled in the mountains surrounding us and the entrance to a hotel signals the way to ‘secret beach’.

The final sign leading to Secret beach asks us for a minimum spend of 35k for the chance to sit by the infinity pool at the hotel. It wasn’t quite the wild oasis of simple calm we expected but we had no desire to get back on that road again, so went and grabbed a lounger by the infinity pool and ordered a couple of Bintangs.

We noticed the the beach itself was just to the side of the hotel and that you could in fact go and sit on it, presumably without paying the hotel fee. However, the sea was crazy-wild with waves breaking on huge rocks – there was no way anyone was going in there.

The shore at secret beach
Secret Beach – a bit wild!

In the end it is a nice place to chill out for a drink, we can see Nusa Penida’s Crystal Beach looking beautifully inviting from across the straight and remind ourselves of our mission to get to Nusa Penida.

Hotel infinity pool at Secret Beach
Infinity pool at Secret Beach, looking towards Nusa Penida and Crystal Beach

 

But not yet, and we get back on our bikes and head back towards the bridge. On the way, you pass a lovely stretch of water, that connects you back to Lembongan. The water is a perfect turquoise colour and we stop to go for a paddle. There are a couple of beach shack-style restaurants that look inviting but we decide to continue back to Lembongan.

After crossing back over the bridge, we rejoin the road and follow it back round to Dream Beach again. Continuing on past Dream Beach, you get to Mushroom Bay.

Happy Hour at Mushroom Beach

Mushroom Bay is more of a tourist hub and you walk past numerous dive shops and restaurants before getting to the beach. In search of some good seafood, we first try Mesari Beach restaurant, right on the beach, which promises fresh chili crab. Unfortunately, we are informed that the crab is only available for dinner, so we opt instead for Bali Bar and Café, which has a blackboard outside advertising all kinds of grilled fish. The quality is good without being outstanding and the Bintang is reasonably priced. The restaurant offering in general looks pretty similar, with beach front hotel/restaurant offering grilled fish at tourist prices. We passed a couple of interesting-looking restaurants which overlook the straight to Ceningan on the way to Dream Beach and I suspect the quality and price would be superior there.

Beach at Mushroom bay
Mushroom Bay beach

In any case, we are paying to laze around on the beach and enjoy a drink without having to get straight back on the bikes. So after lunch we go and sit on the sand in front of the Mola Mola coffee shop and lazily debate whether we should go paddle boarding.

Just then the waiter from the coffee shop comes and plants a board next to us

Happy Hour Cocktails 2 for 1

Needless to say, the paddle boarding doesn’t happen.

Happy hour cocktails go down very nicely, so nicely in fact that we order another two and settle into a couple of beanbags ready to contemplate the sunset.

Dusk at Mushroom bay
Getting ready for sunset

Only we soon realise that we are in completely the wrong end of the beach to see it. So we down our drinks and head to the opposite end of the beach. There, we stumble upon a perfectly located bar, with a second level with perfect views of the sunset. As luck would have it, they also have a happy hour! All cocktails are two for 100k. Unsurprisingly the place is full but we manage to grab a sun lounger next to (yet another) infinity pool and toast the sun setting on a fantastic day on the island.

Holding a Margarita by an infinity pool at sunset
Sunset on a perfect day

Do

  • Hire motorbikes – You can do the whole island as well as Ceningan
  • Have the first happy hour cocktail at Mola Mola – they have a limited menu but they are delicious and the price is 80k for two
  • Get to Mushroom Beach Bungalows bar before sunset – grab a spot by the infinity pool and have a happy hour drink from their extensive menu

Don’t

  • Have too many happy hour cocktails – the drive back to the other side of the island is pretty hairy!
  • Get fooled by the ‘port’ – Transport to Nusa Penida can be arranged from Lembongan
  • Expect to be the only ones on ‘secret beach’ – but it’s worth a visit nontheless

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