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Sometimes, the spots that seem secret are in plain sight. Standing on the main beach in Padang Bai, you would never have guessed, prior to arrival, that this transient town had so much to offer.

Padang Bai is Bali’s one-night stand town. It really deserves a second date.

Other than the diving crowd, who might stay for three nights to check out the dive sites around Padang Bai, most visitors pass through en route to the Gilis and only spend the night if they really must. The majority of those travellers would have landed in Kuta, made arrangements with travel agents there and zipped right through Padang Bai without giving it a second look. That’s such a shame.

Dump the comfort zone of pre-arranged travel, and definitely break up with Kuta. You’ll be so glad you did. Just remember to go with the flow. If the boats are full one day, spend another night on the mainland. You might stumble upon something very, very special.

Ready to get intimate with Padang Bai? Here are 5 reasons to spend more than one night in the eclectic port town.

The purrfect stargazing beach

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Local fishing and dive boats float close to the shore, waiting for work. Padang Bai. (Photos by E Zuliani)

By day, Padang Bai is a bustling place. Local ferries come in and out of the harbour constantly, busloads of tourists bound for the Gilis arrive in the mornings to hop on the fast boats, hawkers and tourist guides set up shop on every available corner – there’s plenty of action at every turn.

Come nightfall, Padang Bai turns into a completely different place. The restaurants are empty, it seems like there aren’t any tourists around and the beach is completely deserted. You could spend hours laying on the cool sand, watching the night ferries dock in and out of the harbour and gaze up at the stars.

White sand beaches

The best beach on Padang Bai is Blue Lagoon beach, where you can snorkel right off the shore and stop for lunch at a breezy beachside café. From Padang Bai jetty, head east and follow the signs to Blue Lagoon beach. It takes about 15 minutes to walk, or a zippy ride on a moped.

Sweet diving

Padang Bai is the centre of Bali dive sites amongst serious divers. The dive sites are home to mesmerizing macro critters, and night dives in Blue Lagoon and Tanjung Jepun are pretty sweet we hear. Sharks, mantas and giant cuttlefish are an easy spot, but it’s the rare crustaceans, seahorses and tiny creatures that pulls the diving crowds.

Cheap sleeps + Cheap eats

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Topi Inn — the cheapest sleep in Padang Bai.

Accommodation in Padang Bai is mostly homestays, all found along the main beach. A basic room costs IDR100,000 – 150,000 per night; IDR200,000 with air-con. If you’re looking for a really cheap sleep, take a right as you step off the jetty and keep walking to the end of the main strip till you come to Topi Inn where bunks are only IDR50,000 a night.

Eating at local warungs around Padang Bai is super cheap. The main town road between the jetty and ferry terminal caters to local commuters. There’s plenty of stalls and restaurants serving local favourites. Plus, there’s plenty of shops selling suncream and travel necessities. It’ll be cheaper to stock up here than in the Gilis.

Groovy cactus forest

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Follow the sea of cactus to the sun kissed ocean.

This spot took us completely by surprise. We started walking up the hill heading west from the jetty until we came to a temple. Then we noticed a narrow path that sloped down (possibly to the reef?). As we followed it, the sparse vegetation on either side turned into a sea of cactus plants. The path lead all the way down the rock face to a meditation deck carved into the rocky platform, overlooking the reef.

Don’t you just love stumbling on these sorts of things?