Despite its small size and tranquil atmosphere there are enough things to see and do in Padang Bai to keep most people happy for a few days. The majority of visitors choose to base themselves here purely for the excellent diving and snorkeling which is among the best in Bali. If it is peace and quiet you crave, nowhere is more relaxing with very little traffic in town and hawker-free golden sand to lie on.
It still retains a tranquil fishing village atmosphere and has a fair bit of history to explore. There are several historic temples and some interesting buildings dating back to Dutch colonial times. The attractive curved bay from where Padang Bai takes its name is flanked by sheltered coves which are all but deserted outside the busier summer months and it is easy to claim a whole stretch of sand for yourself. Blue Lagoon to the east is especially picturesque and has the area’s finest reefs for snorkelling.
Scuba diving in Padang Bai and snorkelling
Padang Bai is a great spot for learning the basics of diving with generally placid currents and excellent year-round visibility.
The waters are teeming with exotic marine life and there are a few more challenging dive sites within easy reach. Expect to encounter abundant reef sharks, rays and hawksbill turtles.
There are several professional dive schools in town offering a full program of scuba diving courses from basic open water up to assistant instructor level.
Geko Dive (website: gekodivebali.com) is the longest running and an accredited five-star PADI dive resort. Absolute Dive (website: www.absolutescubabali.com) is a good alternative and offers preferential room rates for divers. Dozens of shops and kiosks rent out snorkeling gear for around rp35,000 a day and the best snorkelling sites are to be found at Blue Lagoon just beyond the eastern headland and at Tanjung Sari reef.
Temples in Padang Bai
For such a small place, Padang Bai can boast an amazing five imposing Hindu temples all within striking distance of the beachfront. Of these Pura Silayukti is the most impressive, overlooking the east of the bay and dates back to the 11th century. Pura Segara is right on the sand in the centre of the village and features a central courtyard with intricate wood carvings and statuettes. All Padang Bai temples welcome visitors who must wear a sarong and sash with admission by donation.
Yoga in Padang Bai
Padang Bai is one of the very few places outside Ubud where you can enjoy holistic pursuits such as yoga and meditation in suitably tranquil surroundings. Marco Inn (website: www.balihomefromhome.com) offers a range of courses for all levels in yoga basics, reiki and chakra therapies, meditation and stress management, performed on a breezy roof top terrace. All are led by qualified practitioners and prices start from around rp150,000 for a short introductory course. It’s a great way to alleviate aches and stress.
Goa Lawar (Bat Cave)
Just ten minutes away is an intriguing natural attraction with important religious significance to local people. The imposing cave of Goa Lawar or ‘Bat Cave’ is a sacred site filled with hundreds of spooky bats and remarkable cave etchings dating back centuries. It can be toured by torchlight and is the focus for several annual festivities which are always a memorable experience.
There is an adjacent temple dedicated to the cave and each morning and at sunset, women in ceremonial dress leave offerings at its entrance to appease the spirits who lie within. It is a very popular spot on the tour bus circuit and can get very crowded in the late afternoon.
Fancy checking out all the beauty of Bali’s magnificent marine life without getting your toes wet? Well Odyssey Submarine has the answer. Perfect for children or non-divers, Odyssey’s vessel dives down 70ft to tour the reefs and drops around Padang Bai’s majestic coastline. Trips cost from US$85 with a buffet lunch and transport included. (website: www.submarine-bali.com).