The brown algal genus Padina (Dictyotales, Phaeophyceae) is distributed worldwide in tropical and temperate seas. Global species diversity and distribution ranges, however, remain largely unknown. Species-level diversity was reassessed using DNA-based, algorithmic species delineation techniques based on cox3 and rbcL sequence data from 221 specimens collected worldwide. This resulted in estimates ranging from 39 to 61 putative species (ESUs), depending on the technique as well as the locus. We discuss the merits, potential pitfalls, and evolutionary and biogeographic significance of algorithmic species delineation. We unveil patterns whereby ESUs are in all but one case restricted to either the Atlantic or Indo-Pacific Ocean. Within ocean basins we find evidence for the vast majority of ESUs to be confined to a single marine realm. Exceptions, whereby ESUs span up to three realms, are located in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. Patterns of range-restricted species likely arise by repeated founder events and subsequent peripatric speciation, hypothesized to dominate speciation mechanisms for coastal marine organisms in the Indo-Pacific. Using a three-gene (cox3, psaA and rbcL), relaxed molecular clock phylogenetic analysis we estimated divergence times, providing a historical framework to interpret biogeographic patterns.