Padangbai – A Must in Bali
After spending a few days in Kuta, it’s easy to become drowned out by the mass tourist impact and consumer growth. We decided to grab a bike for a few weeks and head Northeast to Padangbai. Talking to an old Aussie man who’d been travelling back and forth to Bali for the last 22 years, we quickly became convinced that this is the place for us.
The road from Kuta sticks closely to the coast and is nearly clear of traffic. On the fresh tarmac we cruised at about 60km/h (which feels much faster on a little scooter) and saw the sign for Padangbai about an hour into the drive. Pulling in we made a wrong turn towards the ferry that shuttles people to and from Lombok and the Gili Islands and were quickly hounded by locals selling diving trips and speed boats across. However, once we turned around and entered Padangbai we quickly felt the calm backpacker vibe that we’d heard about.
Right on the Eastern coast, this little town has two pristine beaches, a cozy main strip, and dive and snorkel shops line the beach providing the opportunity to take a plunge in the crystal clear waters. The diving industry is very active in Padang-Bai as there are quite a few spots where you can see relatively lively reef and many species of fish.
Funky cafés, friendly smiles, humble restaurants, and an all-around warm vibe envelop this part of Bali. During the day Padangbai serves as a port to get to Lombok or the Gili Islands, therefore it’s full of tourists and backpackers stopping by for only a few hours before heading off again. At night however, the whole town slows down, crowds disperse, and the streets light up.
Where to Stay:
There are many guesthouses and sleeping options in Padangbai, without booking ahead you should be able to find a place to rest your head. The two places I would recommend are:
- Pondok Wisata Parta: A tidy little place tucked in a snoozy and somewhat hidden location boasts nine rooms and incredibly friendly and helpful staff. We lucked out at were given one of the two rooms on the top floor, which provides a beautiful view and fantastic sea breezes. All rooms come with Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, and TV (but who uses that?). The price is 200,000Rp-250,000Rp but with a strong spirit you can get downwards of 175,000Rp
- Topi Inn: This cool spot sits on the far eastern side of the strip and has an immediate attraction. As it has a dorm option, generally most travellers end up here. Beautiful views of the curve of beach, friendly service, wifi, and an amazing café downstairs make this a solid option. There’s also outdoor movie nights every Saturday and Wednesday. Price starts at 150,000Rp
What to do?
The beautiful thing about Padang-Bai (especially with a scooter) is that you can rent some snorkel gear (30,000Rp/set) and head out in search of reef around the two main beaches, you can simply just splash in the waves and relax on the sand, or you can use it as a home base and make short trips to visit some of Bali’s greatest sights.
- Snorkel and swim at either Blue Lagoon or White Sand While each have a reef to boast about, White Sand tends to be a little quieter and less disturbed. Take care to watch the waves if going for a dive as they can easily throw you into sharp coral if you don’t swim out far enough.
- Go diving with a 5-star PADI certified dive center. Although we didn’t use this option, there are multiple dive spots and lessons, one of which includes a sunken US ship from WWII.
- Take your scooter and go for a cruise. There are many beaches along the eastern coast, usually private and sometimes completely deserted, take a drive and see what you find.
- Climb the beautiful and spiritual Pura Lepanyung. About an hour`s drive from Padangbai, this serene location consists of 8 temples built high on one of Bali`s hills and provides panoramic views of Mt. Agung and much of Eastern Bali. (See Perfectly Unplanned in Pura Lepanyung for more information)
- Chill out and listen to some live music. Padangbai has three main bars that alternate on playing live music almost every night. Grab a beer and relax to a slightly accented `Hotel California`.
- Feeling a little homesick? Enjoy an outdoor movie with a cold Bintang at Topi Inn on Wednesdays and Saturdays. A strung up white sheet, small projector, and candlelit tables give this a cozy feel.
As for food, there are a ton of cheap and delicious options. Surf & Turf on the western end of the strip is a cool little spot, with a wealth of options from around 20,000Rp-50,000Rp. Aloha Café also has a large variety of options and a warm environment, it`s a great place to hop on Wi-Fi and send a few emails. If you`re feeling like some fresh snapper or seafood in general, the main strip has about 3 solid seafood choices for a slightly higher price budget.
While Padangbai gets its wrap for being a one-night stopover on your way to Lombok or the Gili Islands, it truly has a lot more to offer. If you`re thinking of heading out to Eastern Bali, spend a few nights in Padangbai and you`ll be hard pressed to leave.