Maua Nusa Penida’s prime hilltop location is no happy accident. This is a resort that lives for the views, where west-facing villas (and their plunge pools) provide ringside seats for technicolour Indian Ocean sunsets, all rambutan reds, dragon-fruit pinks and papaya oranges. The resort’s clever design is such that you’ll find your gaze drawn to crazy-amazing panoramas of Gamat Bay, Mount Agung and the viridescent jungle canopy from almost wherever you go: when strolling in the tropical gardens, while cooling off in the infinity pool, or when lingering over a breakfast of sugar-sweet mangosteen, fresh coconut and perky Java coffee. Head to the sugary sands at nearby Crystal Bay for a different perspective and – oh, if you insist – an ice-cold lychee martini from one of the bars there.
There are 23 one-bedroom villas at the resort and a couple with two bedrooms.
11am, but flexible up to 12 noon, subject to availability. The 2pm check-in time is also flexible where availability permits.
Double rooms from £184.10 (IDR3,600,000), including tax at 21 per cent.
Rates include breakfast in Kowhai restaurant, with mountains of fresh fruits and juices, plus pastries, breads, jams and a choice of cooked dishes from the à la carte menu.
At the hotel
Restaurant, bar, outdoor pool, spa, gym, free WiFi. In villas: plunge pool, air conditioning, minibar, cable TV, Nespresso coffee machine, free bottled water, bathroom with shower and Swisscare toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
The whitewashed villas here all favour a simple contemporary design that draws the eye ever outwards through floor-to-ceiling glass patio doors that frame those glorious views: Gamat Bay, Mount Agung and the jungle canopy. All face west, so you’ll want to turn off your TV for sunset, the day’s undisputed viewing highlight, best experienced from your plunge pool with a negroni in hand. Upgrade to a Suite Villa for a little extra space and some of the best views in the resort.
Recline in a cabana surrounded by tropical greenery and views of Bali’s volcanic Mount Agung. The infinity pool is open from sunrise to sundown, and the bar here stays open later still, serving up tropical juices and fruity cocktails until 10pm. There’s a smaller adjacent pool for kids.
Treat yourself to a vigorous pummeling in the spa where, perhaps unsurprisingly, Balinese treatments are the order of the day. Go for the 90-minute Balinese deep-tissue massage and traditional boreh body wrap (and stick around for the cookies and ginger tea). The spa is open from 9am until 9pm.
Hiking Nusa Penida’s hills is rewarding but can be fairly intense, with most walks involving precipitous climbs down steep steps to sandy coves or up densely forested hills to clifftop temples and viewing points. Essentials for such adventures include solid hiking shoes with reliably grippy soles, a large refillable water bottle, and a decent backpack for stowing camera equipment, snorkels and swimwear.
Working out is rendered approximately 150 per cent more pleasurable by widescreen jungle views from the treadmill and spinning machine, and available classes at the resort include Hatha yoga (held at sunrise and sundown), aqua stretching and Pilates.
Little Smiths are welcome, though child-friendly options here are limited to a small kids’ pool and a pair of two-bedroom villas.
Maua Nusa Penida’s flourishing vegetation is pollinated by bees from the resort’s own hives, providing a steady supply of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs to the kitchen. Local suppliers provide fresh meat, fish and seafood and the restaurant earns its stripes in this circle of life by composting its kitchen waste to fertilise the soil. The resort has also minimised its use of plastics, so water is supplied in glass bottles and cocktails are served with paper straws. LED lighting with timers and motion sensors keeps energy consumption to a minimum.
You’d be hard-pushed to find a table without a gallery-worthy view here, but the closer to the edge of the terrace you sit, the more completely unobstructed your sunset will be.
Tropical-print cotton kaftans and kurtas for Mrs Smith; cool, pressed linens for Mr Smith. But here be mozzies, so leave ankles exposed (or unsprayed) for al fresco dining at your peril.
Overlooking the island’s verdant hills and Gamat Bay beyond, Kowhai’s menu has a focus on fruits, vegetables and herbs from the resort gardens as well as fish and seafood caught and delivered by local fisherman that very day. Expect Indonesian classics including chicken satay and nasi goreng as well as crowd-pleasing steaks, burgers and more. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Poolside Aroha Bar stays open until 10pm, serving light snacks, drinks, cocktails and a range of New Zealand wines to cabana dwellers throughout the day.
Bar, restaurant and room service all wind down at 10pm.
Available between 7am and 10pm, with last orders at 9.30pm.
Located across the Badung Strait south-east of Bali, Nusa Penida is accessible only by boat or helicopter. Intrepid travellers to this island paradise are rewarded with world-class diving spots, jaw-dropping sunsets and sandy, forest-flanked coves.
The nearest airport is Ngurah Rai in Bali. It's around 45 minutes from the airport to Sanur Harbour for ferries to Nusa Penida. The resort can organise transfers on request.
For the most part, Nusa Penida’s roads are very rough and narrow, with little room for vehicles to pass one another and plenty of blind summits and hairpin bends. Not for the faint-hearted, in other words. You can rent scooters and motorbikes for day trips around the island or, if you want to play it extra-safe, book a car with a driver who knows the roads. Taxis are also available for short journeys. Maua Nusa Penida has free secure parking on site.
Live the dream by arriving on Nusa Penida by speedboat from Sanur Harbour or – better yet – by helicopter from the airport. The experience of descending over densely forested hills and bone-white sands lapped by turquoise waters is not one you’ll soon forget.
Worth getting out of bed for
Remote Nusa Penida may be, but that doesn’t mean it wants for things to do. Indeed, for the keen scuba diver, the happy snapper and the nature-loving adventurer this island is something of a hidden treasure. Heck, if you came here seeking a holistic hideaway you needn’t even leave the resort, thanks to dawn and dusk yoga classes and aqua stretching sessions hosted in your own private plunge pool.
Seagrass beds and colourful coral reefs that teem with manta rays, sea turtles and rainbows of tropical fish make for some of Indonesia’s finest snorkelling and scuba sites. Lucky divers might even come face to enormous face with a showstopping ocean sunfish or two. You can’t miss them, really: they’re about 20 times the size you are. Manta Point and nearby Crystal Bay are two of the best spots. Or take a boat trip over to the aptly named Blue Lagoon at neighbouring Nusa Ceningan.
You are of course spoiled for choice here when it comes to palm-fringed white sands and crystal clear waters. Budding photographers will love Broken Beach for its distinctive arch, circular cove scooped out of the cliffs and turquoise waters that, inaccessible to humans, are a playground for manta rays. Prefer your coves a little more… swimmable? Head to Tembeling Beach where, beneath forest-fringed cliffs, lies a huge sea cave with a waterfall and natural pools. Intrepid adventurers will need to channel their inner Indiana Jones or Lara Croft to reach it though – it’s located at the bottom of a somewhat hair-raising cliffside dirt track.
With its signature T-rex-shaped outcrop, Kelingking Beach is one of the island’s most visited (and photographed) attractions. Trek along the top of the beast’s head, from where you can take the vertigo-inducing stairway down to the pristine beach below. Nearby Paluang Cliff affords excellent t-rex views minus the crowds. There’s also a Hindu shrine up here, commonly known as the Car Temple due to two monolithic stone sculptures that appear to have been modelled on the vehicles from Wacky Races.
For a more traditional but no less religious experience, head out east for a hike up to Goa Giri Putri Temple. You’ll find it up a steep staircase and through a hole in the mountainside, where worshippers gather for Hindu ceremonies inside a huge natural limestone cave.
The Chill Penida is as laid back as the name suggests, with a pool, beachfront sea views and a cocktail list that makes the most of Indonesia’s fruity bounty. Swig a punchy passion fruit margarita or smooth coco-lime daiquiri before dining on a wide variety of international classics that includes pizzas, burgers and tacos as well as stacks of plant-based dishes. We’re going for the grilled watermelon salad and steamed fish with umami tauco sauce and Balinese sambal.
Perched high in the cliffs, Green Kubu Penida is as much about the views and infinity pool as the authentic Indonesian cuisine. Pair a dip overlooking the Nusa islands with great platefuls of local seafood: catch of the day drenched in zingy Balinese sauces, seaweed shrimp salad and seafood laksa for the win.
Penida Colada merits a visit for that pun-tastic name alone, let alone its exceptional north coast beachfront views and a cocktail menu that includes – yes – the signature Penida Colada, plus other imaginative concoctions like the fiery rum- and chilli-laced Mango Fury and perky vodka-fuelled Coffee Colada. Soak it all up with a jackfruit burrito or Indonesian-style fried banana with brown sugar syrup and vanilla ice cream.
Trading on those ever-spectacular dusk views, Amok Sunset couples traditional thatched bamboo structures with a long list of modern cocktails. Book ringside seats for sundown in the bar’s thatched lookout towers, but be careful not to overdo the vodka-laced signature Blue Ocean cocktails or you may find yourself descending the ladder rather more quickly and painfully than intended.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this tropical island paradise just off Bali, shaken the sand from their shoes and unpacked their stash of Indonesian coffee, a full account of their mountain villa escape will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Maua Nusa Penida in Bali…
A bumpy track marks the final furlong of an epic adventure by air, land and sea that delivers you to this off-grid resort in the mountains of tropical Nusa Penida. That unassuming makeshift road belies the luxury that awaits within Maua Nusa Penida, a village-style resort comprising 25 villas, each with swoonsome sunset views and a private plunge pool. This is a place to switch off – both literally and metaphorically – and to contemplate the meaning of life, the universe and everything over frozen dragon fruit daiquiris at the poolside bar. Spend balmy evenings on your terrace enveloped in a starlit silence that’s punctuated only by the occasional distant barks of quarrelling macaques, and by fruit bats high in the jungle canopy, feasting noisily on pilfered papayas.