The Gili islands are complete paradise – white sand beaches, crystal blue water, and the most incredible underwater life for snorkeling and diving. Each of the three islands has a slightly different vibe, so there is certainly something to suit pretty much anyone.
How to get there
You can book a fast boat from either Lombok or Bali, which will take about an hour and a half from Bali and 20 minutes from Lombok – the journey from Bali can be a really bumpy ride so we’d recommend considering sea sickness tablets (although we didn’t and just about managed). There is also the option of a slow boat which although is a lot longer, is also a lot less bumpy.
- You wont find cars or motorised vehicles on the islands, only bicycles and horse and cart
- The best way to get around is by walking or renting a bike, the horses don’t seem to be treated well
- When you’re looking for accommodation bear in mind that you will need to either carry your bags or get a horse and cart. All three of the islands are small, but the walk seems a lot longer if you’re carrying a heavy bag
This is the most built up island, and has the most going on in terms of nightlife, restaurants and bars. While we did prefer the beaches on Meno and Air, there are still beautiful beachy areas on Trawangan with incredible, clear water.
Things to do:
Snorkel with Turtles: This was our highlight of Gili T. In the North East part of the island there is a turtle snorkelling spot (you can easily find this on Google Maps/Maps.me). This is prime turtle territory! We went there twice and both times saw so many turtles – they’re all very used to seeing people so will come and swim close to you, which is an amazing experience. There are lots of places to rent snorkelling gear in this area, we rented ours from La Moomba as this was closest to the turtle spot, so was an ideal place to leave our bags.
Catch an Incredible Sunset: Gili T is in our opinion, the best island for sunset – the sunsets are up there with the best we’ve ever seen. Our favourite place to watch the sunset was The Exile, they have the famous Gili T swing/hammock, and they also do sunset drumming. Other great places to watch the sunset and grab a drink are Casa Vintage and Ombak Sunset (another famous Gili swing).
Take a bike ride: Trawangan was the only island we hired a bike on as it is the biggest one to get around (not to say you shouldn’t on the others). We enjoyed cycling through the middle of the island, which was full of palm trees and lots of animals.
Enjoy the Nightlife
Gili T is the best for nightlife! Annoyingly, we were sick during our stay there, so couldn’t drink or go out. However, there is lots of nightlife, we really liked the look of the Reggae bar.
There is lots of good food on Gili T, our favourites were:
- Pituq Café
- Kayu Café
- Regina Pizza
Gili Meno is the quietest and least developed island, however, this also means that it has the best beach and water! Because of this it was our favourite Gili island by far. If you’re looking for somewhere heaving with restaurants and nightlife then this isn’t the place, but if you want a beautiful beach paradise then we really can’t recommend it enough.
Things to Do
With a beaches this nice, there wasn’t much reason to stray far away from them. The beach area we liked most was on the East side of the island a little bit further South than the port. This was seriously one of the nicest beaches we have ever been on. Beautiful white sand, incredible crystal blue water with the Lombok mountains providing an incredible backdrop – paradise.
Meno was by far our favourite place to snorkel, the water was the clearest we have ever swam in, there is so much incredible sea life, all really close to the shore. There is a specific ‘turtle point’ on the map, but we often snorkeled lower down by our favourite beach and whenever we swam out to where it starts to get deep we would always see turtles.
There are also snorkeling trips, you can get these from Meno or any of the other Gili islands – they will stop off at different snorkeling points on all three islands. These did look good, but also like they had the potential to be busy – we asked one stall about this and they said the boat would have 20-30 people on it so we decided to just go out from the shore.
Most of our time eating was spent either buying fruit from sellers on the beach, or in Rust restaurant, which was connected to the cottages we stayed in. The food there was reasonable, and we always enjoyed everything we had – especially the pizzas! Also, our cottages had lots of coconut trees around (including one on our porch), so we ended up having quite a lot of those!
Although not quite as impressive as the sunsets on Trawangan, we still loved going to the West side of the island to watch the sunset. We usually went to Diana Café which was such a cute little spot with beanbags and music.
The vibe on Gili air is an in between of Trawangan and Meno: there are lots of nice restaurants and bars, but not so much of a club/late night bar scene.
Things to do
Gili Air was the only island which we didn’t see turtles when we snorkelled (don’t worry, everyone else seemed to) – but there were so many incredible fish and corals that it was still one of our favourite snorkelling experiences. We snorkelled along the East side of the island – it’ best to go early-ish as the tide goes out throughout the day. There is also Hans reef, and apparently early on there are often turtles in the North part of the island.
although we saw diving schools and courses on all of the Gili’s, we saw the most on Gili Air(and also quite a few freediving courses). If you do want to dive this seems like a great place!
Catch a Beautiful Sunset
Every night we were at Gili air we caught a beautiful sunset! We watched this from the beach bars with bean bags in the North of the island, if it’s not too cloudy you will be able to see mount Batur in the background.
We actually didn’t get around to doing yoga, but we stayed near H20 Yoga and meditation centre which looked like a great place for it (and also great accommodation). We actually stopped by for food, which was really delicious…
Gili Air has some really incredible food! Some of our favourites were:
- Ruby’s Café – The best curry! You may have to queue for a table and wait a while for your curry but it will be so worth it.
- Captain Coconuts – Delicious healthy food. This also looked like an amazing place to stay
- H20 Yoga & Meditation Centre – Such good smoothie bowls! Again looked like an amazing place to stay
- Places that looked great which we didn’t get around to were Gili Bliss & Pachamama
Thanks for reading our Gili guide. We can’t put into words what a great time we had on these three lovely islands, and we really hope that this blog will help you have a great time too! We’d love to hear from you in the comments 🙂