- Explore the nearby islands of Mimpang, Tepekong and Biaha
- Dive the local sites and hunt for amazing macro ‘critters’
- Head over to Nusa Penida and Lembongan for manta rays, sharks and turtles
- Encounter mola mola during the cold-water season
- Relax and enjoy the sleepy feel of old-school Bali tourism
- Visit a local temple or one of the traditional villages
The small towns of Padangbai and Candidasa on Bali’s east coast make great destinations for visitors looking to explore some of Bali’s best diving, but prefer to avoid staying in the busy and touristy south. Both towns have easy access to the fantastic coastal sites, the islands just off the coast, as well as the amazing dives around Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan.
Diving at Padangbai & Candidasa
Grey reef shark
Whitetip reef shark
Schooling reef fish
Cryptic ScorpionfishJuly - November
Plentiful reef life
Mola molaJuly - October
Diving from both Padangbai and Candidasa is focussed on three offshore islands: Gili Mimpang, which is actually three separate rocky outcrops, Gili Tepekong and Gili Biaha. All three islands have beautiful reefs, swirling currents and plenty of fish life and are well worth spending several days exploring.
At Mimpang, the vast currents that push through the Lombok Strait are obvious from the churning water at the surface, but divers can always find more sheltered conditions. Mimpang is a fantastic place to see sharks, turtles, cuttlefish and schools of small fish, and Mola Mola are often seen in the deeper sections during the summer months. Gili Tepekong also has plenty off fish life concentrated at a site known as ‘The Canyon’. Here a jumble of boulders drops down into deeper water, concentrating the fish life into a fish ‘soup’ of sweetlips, barracuda, sweetlips, goatfish and others. Tepekong also has several small caves with resident whitetip sharks and some beautiful reefs and coral bommies. The last of the islands - Biaha - is well known for its walls and overhangs.
Padangbai also has a few local sites around the headland on the east side of the bay and an incredible jetty dive at a site further east. These sites are great places to encounter sharks, turtles, friendly cuttlefish, lots of great macro ‘critters’ and schooling fish. However, the jetty dive and the nearby reef has started to gain a reputation as one of the best sites in Bali with regular sightings of sought after subjects such as Rhinopias, mimic and blue-ringed octopus and ghost pipefish, especially during an after the cold-water season.
Reef diving, muck diving
Beginner upwards, although some sites can be challenging
Year round - June to September is best for bigger fish
5 - 35m
10 - 25m
23 - 28C
About Padangbai & Candidasa
The small town of Padangbai, approximately 1 hour northeast of Kuta in southern Bali, is a great destination for tourists that appreciate its beach and sleepy, laid-back atmosphere. Padangbai is also a natural harbour and doubles as the port for ferries and transfers east to Lombok and beyond. Along the beach road are a string of small hotels, shops, restaurants and dive centres, offering day trips out to the local islands and across to Lembongan and Penida.
Further along the coast is Candidasa, once a small fishing village but now a string of tourist developments that run for several kilometres along the coast. Candidasa offers more in terms of tourist facilities and choice but lacks a decent beach - the sand was washed away as a result of coral mining and the destruction of an offshore reef during the building boom of the 80's and early 90's. There is a larger range of accommodation available in Candidasa, but for divers it is probably best to stay at Padangbai further west with its great local sites.
Both locations are very close to some of Bali’s most beautiful beaches, several important temples that see lots of ceremonies and some interesting traditional villages in the hills above the coast. Overall, Padangbai and Candidasa offer plenty for visitors - great diving, lots of accommodation options and plenty of interesting things to do and see.
Getting to Padangbai & Candidasa
Padangbai and Candidasa are just 1 - 1.5 hours away from Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport in the south. Resorts can book a transfer or guests can easily arrange a taxi to take them along the coast. It is recommended that guests arrange with the resort to book a transfer as the airport taxis can be rather expensive.
Padangbai is a busy harbour and large ferries and many of the private transfer boats to Lombok and the Gili Islands depart from Padangbai - making it easy to combine diving in both Bali and the Gili. Both Candidasa and Padangbai are also en route to Amed in the northeast and beyond to Tulamben.
Where to stay
Both towns have a wide range of accommodation - from budget backpacker hostels to villas, resorts and hotels. There are also many dive centres that either have their own accommodation, or work in partnership with resorts. With the wide range on offer, divers can easily find something to suit their budget and need for luxury or not.
In Padangbai most of the accommodation is concentrated around the harbour area, with a few other options up and behind the town. In Candidasa the hotels and villas are strung out either side of the main road that runs along this stretch of coast.
Season & Weather
Like the rest of Bali, the dive sites around Padangbai and Candidasa can be dived all year round but conditions can change dramatically according to the season. The wet season normally runs from November to March or April, although this is never particularly exact. During this season the water is warmer and visibility is less and any storms can make diving around the offshore islands a little more difficult. During the dry season conditions are generally better. Cold upwellings from June through to September or October create the perfect conditions for the mola mola that are regularly seen around the offshore islands and some of the coastal sites. However these same upwellings can make diving difficult - simply because of the cold! Water temperatures can drop to a comparatively freezing 18C in the deep water during these summer months but the shallow water normally stays above 24C. Strong winds during the dry season can make for some rough seas when crossing to Lembongan or Penida, but rarely enough to cancel any trips.