Everyday, 1000’s of Indonesians and tourists pour through the streets of the small coastal town of Padangbai. Many take the local’s ferry to Nusa Penida or Lombok. But even more go from shuttle bus to speedboat ferry to one of the three “Gili” Islands, or vice versa. Less than 10% of the tourists choose to stop in this little town that is “hidden in plain sight”.
A lot of tourists don’t have a good impression of Padangbai. It’s hot. There’s a bunch of guys approaching you saying “Transport” and “Taxi”. There are ladies selling overpriced cans of Pringles and Coke to tourists shuffling from Shuttle to Boats in the center of town. But if you get out of the center during the day and after sunset, you will be rewarded with a quiet place to stay with nice beaches, excellent snorkeling, R&R, interesting temples with no tourists, and great meals. This draw led me to spend 8 nights (2 before and 6 after my trip to Nusa Penida)
Blue Lagoon Beach
This is a great beach to visit in the morning as the sun shines nicely on this east facing beach. There is snorkeling here and many dive boats dock just off shore. It’s a 10 minute walk from town, take a left at the fork at the east end of town and go up the hill.
White Sand Beach
I preferred this beach to Blue Lagoon. You can rent a lounge chair in the shade and have cheap meals at one of several warungs (restaurants) here. Look for the natural hot tub/tide pools on the west side of the beach. Go through the gate on the left that says “300 white sand beach” which means it’s 300 meters. The first time I visited, I made the mistake of staying on the road which is the motorbike and car route and takes more than 30 minutes to walk.
There are several temples at the top of the hill if you turn right instead of left on the way to the Blue Lagoon Beach. They appear to be important sites for the Balinese people as there were pilgrims on buses visiting at all times of the day. As a tourist, you are a bit limited in your visit, but make sure you go down the hill to the small cave temple on the sea for some great marine views.
Snorkeling at the Coral Garden
For 150,000 IDR, a local fisherman will take you out in one of these beautiful boats for morning snorkeling at the Coral Garden, a bit north of the Blue Lagoon Beach. There is some dead coral here, but there’s some great live coral and they’ve submerged some cages to grow new coral as well.
All over Bali, you can try the Luwak coffee at a coffee plantation and spice garden. This is the most expensive coffee in the world. First, a civet cat (luwak) eats the very best and ripest coffee beans. They only digest the sweet outside layer so the bean is intact. It ferments in their digestive system and then gets pooped out. Locals collect the poop and sell to a Luwak coffee processor. The beans are cleaned and roasted and then you get the most expensive coffee in the world! I tried a cup along with a bunch of samples of sweet coffees and teas.
This water temple is less than an hour drive from Padangbai and is a great diversion. This temple has lots of water features, fountains and statues. The koi fish are amazing and well feed (purchase your own fish food at one of the shops before entering). 30,000 IDR to enter but make sure you bring an extra 10,000 IDR to swim in two of the pools with natural spring water. Bring your snorkeling gear because there’s an incredible amount of fish in one of the pools!
Get a Massage
While certainly not the cheapest Balinese massages in Bali, there are several massage parlors in Padangbai. I got a couple massages at the OK Divers Hotel and Spa in a relaxing and clean surrounding.
If the 1000’s of tourists getting on speedboats to the Gili Islands everyday doesn’t dissuade you, maybe seeing the wreckage of the Gili Cat will. The Gili Cat was known as the safest, most expensive way to go to the Gili Islands until last September, when one or more of the motors exploded. A couple people died and others had severed limbs. I’m not sure why they haven’t moved this wreckage from the bay of Padang. It sits on the beach in town as a grim reminder.
Where I stayed:
Marco Inn. 150,000 IDR per night for private room, own bathroom with cold shower, nice breakfast of eggs, toast, fruit, and Balinese coffee. Great cats. Slight view of the bay from balcony, even better from the rooftop seating area. Locally owned.
Where I ate:
Warung Bu Jero. I literally ate here every night. For 50,000 IDR you got a nice sized grilled fish (you pick the fish), salad, rice, two Balinese sauces, and a fruit plate for dessert. This became my regular place and all the friends I made in Padangbai made it their favorite too. It’s also the only place in Padangbai where you can sit by the bay to listen to the water and boats and watch the stars. And it’s locally owned!
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