The busy port of Padang Bai sits on a very pretty bay surrounded by hills with easy access to some pleasant nearby beaches. In East Bali’s Karangasem region, it lies smack bang in the middle of the coast between Sanur and Amed. To the majority of travellers, Padang Bai is just a gateway to Lombok or the Gilis, but this charming little village has a relaxing vibe and is worth a stop as a destination in its own right.
If you do, you may find yourself hanging around longer than intended, and it’s a good base to explore East Bali. In recent years, the number and quality of both places to stay and places to eat has significantly increased. The majority still cater to the budget end, but there are a few decent midrange places too — and up on the hill, top-range Bloo Lagoon, if you are planning a splurge.
Padang Bai offers some excellent opportunities for snorkelling and diving. Numerous dive operators line the beachfront, and a flotilla of local fishing boats offer snorkelling trips to colourful reefs. Snorkelling is possible directly from the beaches at nearby Blue Lagoon Beach and Bias Tugel Beach. Both beaches are good for swimming and relaxing spots for whiling away a day in the sun. For geology buffs, deserted Pantai Pasir Hitam has some interesting rock formations.
As well as admiring the sea life in its natural habitat, Padang Bai is a good opportunity to eat some of it. When those aforementioned fishing boats aren’t taking tourists on snorkelling trips they’re out catching some of the freshest fish you’ll find. Barracuda, mahi mahi and snapper are among the choices that can be rustled up to your fancy in the restaurant or simple warung of your choice. Unfortunately, some fish sizes we saw on sale would be too small to be legal in many countries — choose large fish and give the small ones a chance to grow up.
If you’re sick of laying on the beach, switch to a local spa for a massage at a price not much higher than the sandy beach variety. Stretch out in a yoga class — Yoga Bale have classes a couple of times a week, and can do private classes and Bloo Lagoon has a daily early morning class.
Temples in Padang Bai are not particularly noteworthy unless of course you are Balinese. However, Pura Silayukti, on the headlands between Padang Bai Beach and Blue Lagoon Beach, is said to one of the oldest in Bali. Don’t forget to take a sarong and a sash if you visit. Of note, and worth a detour on your way to or from Padang Bai is Pura Goa Lawah, the Bat Cave Temple.
Even though the village of Padang Bai still feels like sleepy old Bali, it can be lively and noisy at times. The port for car ferries to Lombok (and once a day, Nusa Penida), operates 24 hours — with announcements on the hour. A constant stream of trucks pass by, transporting goods across the archipelago. The population is a mix of Hindu and Muslim — a scattering of temples have daily early morning Hindu stories transmitted over the loudspeaker, perhaps in competition to the call to prayer at the mosque. And there are roosters. If you are a light sleeper, bring earplugs.
The road into Padang Bai turns off the main road from Denpasar and Klungkung towards Candi Dasa and leads along Jalan Pelabuhan Padang Bai directly to the port. Most accommodation and restaurants are to the east of Jalan Pelabuhan Padang Bai, with a couple of budget options to the west. The village is small and easily walkable. Ojeks and taxis are plentiful.
As well as the car ferry, Padang Bai is a port for fast boats to Lombok, the Gilis and Nusa Lembongan. Tickets are available all over town.
Shops sell mostly daily sundries, catering to the locals. Beach sellers can provide you with a sarong, but for souvenirs, wait until Candi Dasa. Ryan Book Shop on Jalan Segara is a treasure trove of secondhand books in English and a handful of European languages. They also sell postcards, sunblock and playing cards.
The police station is on Jalan Pelabuhan Padang Bai, and the post office on Jalan Pertima, the small street that heads southwest from the port. ATMs are dotted along Jalan Pelabuhan Padang Bai with a cluster near the port. Several others are found around town.
Most hotels and cafes offer free WiFi, but if you need to get something printed Pertion SSB is an internet cafe with a printer and is on the same road as the village temple (Pura Desa). It’s open daily 9:00-17:00; internet is 300 rupiah per minute, colour printing 2,000 rupiah and B/W printing 1,000 rupiah.
Two local GPs, Dr Made Oka Sastrawin and Dr L G Devita Yudiar, consult daily 16:00-20:00 (near the Pura Desa), and a puskesmas (community health clinic), with a nurse only, operates mornings. The puskesmas is located behind the post office. A professional local clinic, open 24 hours, is located a 10-minute drive from central Padang Bai.
Klinik Penta Medica Candidasa: 88 Jalan Raya Manggis, Desa Manggis; T: (0363) 41 909; F: (0363) 41 002; email@example.com; www.pentamedica.com.
Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Padang Bai or check hotel reviews on Agoda and Booking . Hungry? Read up on where to eat on Padang Bai. Want to know what to do once you're there? Check out our listings of things to do in and around Padang Bai. If you're still figuring out how to get there, you need to read up on how to get to Padang Bai.
By Sally Arnold.
Last updated on 12th October, 2016.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.