The Gili Islands consists of three small islands just off the coast of Lombok in Indonesia. Their popularity has continued to increase due in part to the hundreds of images on social media of overwater swings at sunset. But there is more to explore in the Gili’s, on land and in the ocean. In this post I share some useful information for planning your trip, places to stay, where to eat and things to do in the Gili’s.
GETTING TO THE GILI ISLANDS
The Gili Islands are located in Indonesia, around a 10 minute boat from Lombok. However, many visitors to the island are coming from nearby Bali so it is likely you will want to jump on a boat from there. There are two main options a boat from Sanur in south east Bali which will take around 3 hours or it you prefer more time on land and less time on water then you should book a boat from Padang Bay where boats only take 1.5 hrs to get to Gili.
We booked with Gili Gili Fast Boat, which costs around US $50 per person. I highly suggest organising your own transport to the ferry terminal and not taking the free pick up, as the free transport will make a 1.5 hour drive around 3 hours by stopping at every port.
Most boats will stop at Gili Trawangan first, then continue on to Gili Air and Lombok. Few boats have scheduled stops at Gili Meno, so if you plan to go to that island too, you will need to take a private boat across which will cost IDR 250 (around US $20). You can barter this down to IDR 200 – but avoid paying IDR 400 as our friends did!
If you were not already aware, once you reach the islands you will see that the only modes of transport are by horse and cart, bicycle and foot. Depending on your own views on responsible tourism bear this in mind when booking your accommodation.
If like me, you are very uncomfortable with the horse and cart option you will be dragging your suitcase by foot to your accommodation. Once settled at your chosen hotel, guest house or hostel you will be able to get around on any of the three islands by foot or by bicycle. Bike hire ranges from IDR 40 – 70 (US $6) per day, so choosing an accommodation that includes this will save you money if you are on the islands for a while.
THE THREE ISLANDS
There are three islands in the Gilis, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Which order you see them in doesn’t really matter as they are all very close and boats between take around 10-15minutes. There are plenty of things to do on the Gili islands, and each of the islands has its own character and charm.
Known as the party island, Gili T attracts a crowd that in large part want to party. But that being said quiet can be found on the western side of the island, where there are far fewer bars and shops and arguably a much nicer beach. From this side of the island you also get to enjoy sunset over the ocean from one of the many overwater swings.
Where To Stay
White Coconut guest house which is located in the middle of the island, a 10 minute ride from either the east or west coast, so easy to reach all the bars, restaurants and beach. Rooms cost around US $60 including breakfast and I would highly recommend staying here as its super tranquil spot on the island with helpful staff and free bikes!
Le Pirate Beach Club, located overlooking the beach on the west coast. Le Pirate has become a favourite spot on the island due to its pretty white and turquoise beach huts that make the perfect backdrop for your photos. Prices start around US $90. If you don’t stay there, then stop by one evening for open air movie night on the beach complete with fresh popcorn.
My Favourite Restaurants & Bars
Casa Vintage – This little beach bar and restaurant is perfect for lunch or sunset cocktails. With cute décor, complete with pineapples hanging from the trees you will definitely need to bring your camera.
Pesona – If like me you love Indian food, and like my boyfriend you like to smoke Sheesha, Pesona is a perfect combination of both. Set overlooking a busy part of Gili T, its perfect for people watching as you have dinner before heading out for the night.
Karma Kayak Tapas – A little north of Le Pirate on the West coast, there are a few great restaurants on the beach, including Spanish tapas at Karma Kayak
Gili Meno is the smallest and quietest of the three islands. You can walk or bicycle around the whole thing quite easily, so if you have a few days on the island you will likely see every part of it! Take a few days here to totally escape from it all, enjoying the beautiful beaches, visiting the lake in the centre of the island, snorkelling in search turtles and enjoying a beach front cocktail (or even a Mushroom shake if that’s your thing) at sunset.
Where To Stay
If you are looking for luxury then the Mahamaya resort, settled right on the beach where the sunsets over Lombok is the place for you. But if you are looking for a more budget friendly and arguably far more characterful place to stay then I recommend Villa Bagus, where I stayed for four nights.
My Favourite Restaurants & Bars
Karma Beach – This cool bar and restaurant looks like something you would find in Greece! With sand in your toes you can enjoy delicious lunch or dinner right next to the water. Prices are on the higher end compared to other spots but definitely worth it!
Diana Cafe – One of the prettiest spots for sunset cocktails on the island. The food is cheap and basic, you really go here for the view rather than a great meal. The decor is pretty too, with strings of seashells hanging between washed up drift wood.
Adang Adang – Set in the north of the island Adang Adang, is located just in front of beach where there is reported to be a high number of resident turtles. So, after enjoying lunch from the their extensive menu (I suggest going for one of the Mexican choices) you can jump in the water for a swim.
Gili Air’s vibe sits some where in between Gili T and Gili Meno, there are plenty of restaurants and bars, but it still retains the calmer atmosphere of Gili Meno and hasn’t quite reached the crazy party scene found on Gili T. Plus this island has the best beaches, by a mile! So if crystal clear water is what you are looking for then head to this island first, but you may never want to leave!
Where To Stay
Captain Coconuts Hostel. Despite being a hostel and having an open air dorm area I would call Captain Coconuts more of a guesthouse. There are 5 gorgeous private rooms that start around US $60 a night and are set around a lush tranquil pool area. Serving only organic, wheat and gluten free food at the restaurant, its worth a visit even if just for lunch. Plus it’s a 5 minute walk to to the best beach on the island. Only downside is the long walk from the ferry with your bags!
My Favourite Restaurants & Bars
Mowies – The fact that this beach bar is full every night, when its neighbours sit empty speaks volumes. The food is delicious, so much so we ate here more than once. Head there early to watch sunset.
Sunrise Beach Club – This restaurant looks like a place you would find in Greece, offering an al a carte menu and also a seafood and meat barbecue for IDR 90 (US $7.50). Choose the barbecue, trust me.
Shark Bites – Great lunch spot for sandwiches and burgers located close to the port.
THINGS TO DO IN THE GILIS
1. Diving & Snorkelling
With so much crystal clear water all around the Gili Islands, its not surprising that one of the most popular activities to do here is diving and snorkelling. It doesn’t really matter which island you are staying on as the islands are close together, so you can access all of the dive spots from each island.
Since we have our own snorkels on Gili Meno, we asked around to find the best snorkel spots that could be reached by swimming from shore. However, I really wouldn’t recommend doing this, we snorkelled for over an hour where we were told there were “loads of turtles” and saw nothing. Instead book a trip so the boats can take you to the exact right spots.
Ask your hotel about snorkel trips, we booked a private boat through Captain Coconuts on Gili Meno for IDR 650 (US $50), instead of IDR 950 which is the quoted price at dive shops. Also, DEFINITELY take a private boat, we saw about 60 people crammed onto the public boat of around the same size! For diving we were recommended Divine Divers on Gili Meno, but there are lots of dive options so ask around, do some research and stop by the dive centres to chat with them before booking.
2. Lounging In Overwater Swings
The Gili Islands are all about the overwater swings and hammocks. Gili T now has lots of them all over the island, so you wont walk far along the beach before you reach one. But be prepared to get in line, on Gili Air we watched as people lined up to get their sunset shots at one of the swings. Tip – there are some swings next door to Le Pirate on Gili T which are usually empty, giving you plenty of time to just relax and enjoy actually swinging in the ocean!
3. Sunset Cocktails At Happy Hour
As I mentioned, each island is different, and whilst Gili T has the biggest parties, every island is packed with beach front spots offering happy hour. Be sure to head down before sunset to grab a bean bag and some cocktails. One of our favourite spots for sunset happy hour was Mowies on Gili Air.
4. Bike Around The Islands
Hopping on a bike is one of the easiest ways to get around and see the islands. You will spend around US$ 6 a day to hire a bike, or check if your hotel includes free rentals. Then grab your beach stuff and go get lost around the island.
5. Horseriding On The Beach
Horseriding on the beach is really popular on the Gilis and probably the best time to do it is at sunset. I didn’t do this activity myself, but I saw plenty of couples enjoying a romantic stroll with views back over to Bali.
OTHER TIPS & THINGS TO DO ON THE GILIS
– Check out the Night Market on Gili T, this is a popular place to grab cheap and delicious street food. Lots of stands offer grilled skewers with rice and vegetables.
– Go on a Booze Cruise – I mentioned Gili T is a party island, and a party island wouldn’t be complete with out a day out sailing and drinking! Check for options along the main stretch on the east side of the island.
– Watch a movie at the beach, there are quite a few movie night options on Gili T, including ones at Vila Ombok and Le Pirate.
– Check the drinks menu when ordering mixed cocktails, and make sure to order branded alcohol not local Arak.
– Carefully check the location of your accommodation before booking to ensure its close to the area that you want to be based if you don’t want to rely on horse and carts.
I hope this post has helped you to plan your own trip to the Gili islands, these islands offer a perfect mix of relaxation, with activity and partying! Please share your own tips for visiting the Gili Islands with our readers in the comments. I would love to hear your own favourite spots on the islands!
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