Padangbai is infamous for its port, one end of the fast boat journey between Bali and the Gili Islands. Scams, hassles and a lack of seating are common issues, but walk a few blocks from the action and you’ll find a pleasant enough town with some great beaches a short walk away. Keep reading for the best things to do in Padang Bai!
Wait For Your Fast Boat to the Gili Islands
The most common thing to do in Padang Bai is to wait around for your boat to the Gili Islands to depart. These boats can be pretty dodgy, the same for the people running them. Lots of scams, especially when arriving there from the Gilis and organising onward travel in Bali. There are a few restaurants close to the boat offices — it’s a good idea to grab a table and wait with a cold drink!
If arriving from the Gili Islands you’ll be caught in a tide of touts and drivers who will tell you anything to get you to ditch your onward ticket and book a taxi. Even the people at the boat company did it, telling customers they didn’t drop off in Seminyak and when that didn’t work they said it’d take hours to get there and we’d be better off booking a taxi.
READ MORE: Check out my post about travel between Bali and the Gili Islands
Bias Tugel Beach
Bali, to the surprise of many, isn’t a great “beach” destination. The main beaches have dark sand and murky water and you have to travel a long way to get to the good ones. Bias Tugel Beach is one of the best I’ve seen on the island, and I’ve seen heaps!
It’s a 20-minute walk from town and features white sand and clear blue water. There are a few places to eat and drink — perfect for a relaxing afternoon away from the bustle of the port. The water gets quite rough at Bias Tugel Beach so be careful if you’re planning to swim.
Blue Lagoon Beach
Blue Lagoon Beach is a short stroll north of town and is a good option if you’ve got an hour or so to kill before your boat to the Gili Island. It’s not quite as nice as the name suggests, mostly because of the trash. It’s close to a very busy little port so I guess that’s to be expected. It has a lot of potential though, as does the town (more on that at the end of this post).
I’ve visited dozens of beaches in Bali over the last decade and if I had to choose a winner it’d be Virgin Beach. It has inviting water, white sand, viewpoints at either end and a good array of places to eat and drink without being too busy.
Virgin Beach is 20 km from Padangbai, making it the perfect day trip spot. It’s a long way from Kuta / Seminyak so staying at Padang Bai is a pretty good option if you want to spend some time at this beautiful beach.
Enjoy the Town Without the Crowds
After the boats have all arrived or departed, the vibe of Padangbai changes drastically. It’s a picturesque, sleepy little town if you strike it at the right time! With great beaches a short walk from town and plenty to do nearby it feels like it should be more popular than it is. If the boats to and from the Gili Islands ever moved it’d quickly become an interesting alternative to the built-up west coast of the island.
The busy port puts a lot of people off from spending any more time there than they have to, which is definitely understandable. I’m not sure I would have stayed there if I wasn’t writing about it on this blog, but I’m glad I did! Is it somewhere you’re interested in exploring? I hope this post helps you figure that out!
Are you planning a trip to Bali? Check out my two-week Bali itinerary!
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