This post was last updated on July 10th, 2020 at 12:21 pm
Years ago, the Gili Islands became a popular backpacker destination. They looked for a place to escape the crowds and went looking for parties with drugs, alcohol, and beaches. That is also what the Gili’s were known for at the time, especially Gili Trawangan, but times have changed (for the better). Today, you will find three completely different Gili islands, all with beautiful beaches.
Akisoto is happy to tell you more about these little paradises between Bali and Lombok.
Why Visit the Gili Islands?
The Gili Islands are a popular destination among tourists in Indonesia. The Gili Islands form an archipelago just a few kilometers west of Lombok. They are also called the Gili’s. It is one of those places where you plan on staying for three days but you end up staying much longer.
The turquoise water (with a temperature of about 30°C, or 86°F), the coral, the tropical beaches, large sea turtles, and the bungalows right on the beach contribute to a wonderful island vibe. Most travelers come here from Bali to relax on the beach, to snorkel or dive, or to go island hopping along the three main Gili’s.
Each island has its own character. Gili Trawangan is the backpacker’s paradise, Gili Meno is the lovebirds’ island and Air is the island where you will find more locals.
Akisoto’s Opinion of the Gili Islands
Everyone at Akisoto has been on the Gili’s. That immediately indicates how popular the islands are. It is no longer the pristine paradise as you can still find in the Moluccas, but the Gili’s are a perfect get-away for Bali or ideal for anyone passing through to Lombok.
You can read our experiences on this page.
Which of the Gili Islands Should You Visit?
“In the past,” the islands were only known for its parties. Although you can still go crazy on Gili Trawangan, it is not only drugs, alcohol, and beaches that you find on the Gili’s.
There is still a relaxed atmosphere and an ever wider audience is visiting the Gili Islands. We do not know whether this is an advantage. Especially Gili Trawangan has been anything but quiet in recent years.
Each island has its own character, which makes the Gili’s a special location. The islands you can choose from are Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air.
Did you know that there are more than 30 Gili islands in total? Gili Trawangan, Air, and Meno are the best known but there are many more! For example the beautiful Gili Nanggu.
Viewed from Lombok, this is the furthest island. Gili Trawangan is the largest island of the three, although you can walk around the whole island in a few hours. It is also the busiest island with the most parties (3 times per week).
Gili Trawangan is the most developed of all three islands. You will find plenty of accommodations here, most of which are on the beach. Accommodation can vary from high budget resorts to a lower budget hotel. There are also plenty of restaurants, shops, internet cafes, bars, tour agencies, and diving schools here.
You will find them all at the harbor (east coast) where the boulevard is located.
Although this is the most developed island of the Gili’s, you will not find paved roads, cars, or scooters here. You will find bicycles and horses. During the day the main activities here are diving, snorkeling, and sunbathing.
In the evening everything comes alive and the bars are open until the early hours (except during Ramadan out of respect for the residents).
Gili Trawangan is known for its vibrant nightlife, and you can party there seven days a week. The nightclubs open their doors at 11 a.m. and continue until late at night. Prefer a pub? Along the beach, you will find plenty of bars where they make strong cocktails, serve cold beers, and nice lounge sofas for an evening drink.
This island is suitable for backpackers and those looking for parties. Unfortunately, Trawangan is no longer the peaceful, unspoiled paradise it was a few years ago. Don’t expect to find any deserted beaches here.
You can read more about this island on our Gili Trawangan page.
The smallest island of the three, certainly the quietest. Those who are not looking for crowds or parties but a laid-back, quiet atmosphere are at the right place at Gili Meno. Although tourism is the main form of income here, the residents also earn a living by fishing.
You can walk around this small island within an hour.
Take the time to walk around the island. It is so small that you can be back in an hour. With some water and a snack, you can even relax on the beach somewhere!
Diving and Snorkeling
During the day the main activities here are diving and snorkeling. Just like on the other Gili Islands there are beautiful snorkeling and diving locations here where you will find plenty of colored fish, sharks, and sea turtles. There are plenty of diving schools where you can take classes and every restaurant and hostel/hotel rents out snorkeling gear.
Most hotels/hostels, restaurants, and bars can be found on the east side of the island.
However, if you want to find real peace, do not sit on the east side of the island. There are plenty of other good accommodations on other parts of the island. These are all located on beautiful white beaches, near the clear seawater.
Of the three Gili’s, we liked Gili Meno the most. That is of course different for everyone, but Meno is a lot quieter than Trawangan. We also recommend this island for families. You can have some more privacy and tranquility here. It’s also a great island to enjoy the environment and each other instead of listening to loud music and drunk tourists 😉
Gili Air is the closest to Lombok. In addition to tourists, you will also see many locals who make the crossing from Lombok. The island is larger than Meno but smaller than Trawangan. It will not surprise anyone that snorkeling and diving are the biggest attractions here too.
Around the island, you will find good snorkeling and diving spots. You can walk around the island in about an hour and a half.
Here you will also find a number of bars and restaurants where you can relax, especially at night. There are mainly basic accommodations here. For the real luxury accommodations, you have to go to Gili Trawangan.
Gili Air is a bit of the odd one out. Where Trawangan is really suitable for families and backpackers, and Meno is more for the couples and peace seekers, Air falls a bit in between. You could call it the “best of both worlds”.
Because the islands are so small, making reservations in advance is a great idea. Don’t take the risk of trying to find something on the spot. Just book in advance. We have some great accommodation tips in this article, take a look further down!
Differences Between Gili Trawangan, Air, and Meno
Still not sure which island suits you best? Understandable! To reassure you a little bit; every island is beautiful and offers plenty of entertainment. In addition, you can easily and cheaply travel from one island to another.
But to make your choice a little easier, we have listed the pros and cons of these islands;
Gili Trawangan is for backpackers and travelers who love lively beaches and good nightlife. You will find the best food and most accommodation options here.
Pros: Beautiful sunset and sunrise.
Cons: The main beaches can get a little crowded, especially during peak season.
Gili Meno is great for everyone. You’ll see backpackers, but also older travelers and many couples. Many people celebrate their honeymoon here.
Pros: Quietest beaches and local village life. Most suitable for families.
Cons: The “worst” connection between the three Gili’s and there are no shops.
Here you will mainly find the wealthier travelers and travelers who are looking for a good and quiet base to discover all three Gili islands and perhaps catch Lombok.
Pros: A sufficient number of eateries and shops and close to Lombok.
Cons: Not so many options for backpackers.
Contrary to what many websites claim, you will find ATMs on all islands. It can happen that they run out of cash so just to be sure we recommend bringing enough cash with you.
11 Fun Things to Do on the Gili Islands
There is more than enough to do here. One thing is certain, you will not be bored for a day on the Gili’s. No matter which island you visit. On the Gili Islands, you can easily enjoy yourself for a few days. Of course, you can just hang out on the beach for a few days, but there is more to do.
We have an overview below with some fun things you can do.
1. Spotting Sea Turtles
Diving and snorkeling is probably the best thing to do in the Gili’s. No wonder, of course, because the islands have a beautiful underwater world. There are diving schools on each of the 3 main islands, although most of those schools are on Gili Trawangan.
The water around the islands is shallow, crystal clear and nice and warm. Underwater you will not only encounter tropical fish, but you can also see sea turtles.
It’s a fun way to spend the day and see more of the impressive underwater world. You can rent gear on each island for US$3 to US$5 a day.
TIP – You can also book snorkeling tours where you snorkel to turtle sanctuaries. These tours vary in costs. Take a look at this Turtle Dive tour on Gili Trawangan.
2. Rent a Kayak
If you don’t like snorkeling or diving you can also sit in a kayak. You might be tempted to swim between the islands. After all, they seem to be close to each other, but the currents between the Gili islands are strong, so please don’t do this.
Instead of that, you’d better rent a kayak to cruise around the island. You can also do this with a guide, who will show you the most beautiful places.
Karma Kayak on Gili Trawangan offers guided day trips with kayaks for just under US$30 a day. On a good day, you can paddle past groups of sea turtles and mantas!
3. Take a Trip in a Glass-Bottom Boat
You’ve probably seen those pictures with boats that look like glass. A boat where you can look through the bottom into the crystal clear water. Most of those photos come from the Philippines, but on the Gili Islands you can take these photos too!
There are numerous companies that sail with glass bottom boats on Gili Trawangan. You pay about US$10 to US$15 per person to sail in such a boat along the most beautiful coral reefs on the island. The “glass boats” are also sometimes used as unofficial transfers between the Gili Islands.
If you look around you can negotiate a bit about the prices.
4. Walk Around the Islands
The three islands are not very large. It takes about two hours to walk around Gili Trawangan, an hour for Gili Meno, and an hour and a half to walk around Gili Air. That is if you don’t hang around one of the beach bars to enjoy a nice drink.
The islands are too small to get lost so take your time.
You sometimes see fanatics jogging in the morning. The paths are often good (sand) and there is no motorized traffic. For this reason, renting bicycles is also very popular. You can rent a bicycle at Gili Trawangan (prices are negotiable). Often the accommodations have their own bicycle rental.
Make sure to bring a lock to keep your bicycle safe.
5. Book a Surfing Class!
You can surf at the Gili Islands, although it is certainly not the best spot in Indonesia. If you want to learn to surf, you better go to Bali. The more experienced surfers should continue their journey to Sumbawa.
There are two surf spots in the Gili’s. One on the southeast corner of Gili Trawangan and a lesser-known surf spot at Gili Air known as Play Gili.
Waiting for a good wave requires a bit of patience, and the strong currents and the shallow reefs don’t make it any easier. They are not high waves so it is fine for beginners. You can rent a surfboard.
6. Watch the Sunset
Watching the sunset in one of the beach bars with chill music and a Bintang is definitely a must on the Gili’s. The Sunset Bar in the southwest of Gili Trawangan is very popular. However, if you are looking for a more romantic place, we recommend Gili Meno, here you have large parts of the beach to yourself in the evening!
Go to the west side of the island where you are staying, find a spot in the sand or a chair in a beach bar, and see how the sun turns the sky orange.
On Gili Trawangan, there are two popular spots to watch the sun go down about a half-hour walk or a 10-minute bike ride from the pier (south along the road).
7. Relax During a Yoga Class
If you want to find your inner peace, we recommend one of the yoga courses. They are offered on every island and you can take a class of a few hours up to a few days. Whole retreats are also offered.
Yoga is as popular as diving. There are many different types of yoga, as well as centers to choose from. At Yoga Place you’ll have a relaxing sunset yoga at 4.30 p.m. daily at the Exile Bar on the beach.
One yoga class will cost you about US$7. Unlimited classes for a week costs about US$35 p.p.
8. Hike to the “Viewpoint” on Gili Trawangan
One of the most famous sights on Gili Trawangan is the viewpoint. Trawangan is the only island with a “mountain” (read; hill) and from the viewpoint and you have a beautiful view of the Gili Islands, Bali, and Lombok.
You can even see Gunung Rinjani and Gunung Agung. The hill is at the southern end of the island and can be reached within half an hour from most places on Gili Trawangan.
TIP – Try to walk to the viewpoint at sunset. Watching the sun go down here is beautiful!
9. Party on Trawangan
Gili Trawangan is clearly the most suitable and best known for parties! Monday (Blue Marlin), Wednesday (Tir Na Nog or just the Irish Pub), and Friday (Rudy’s) are the biggest party days.
You can’t miss it, you just have to follow the crowd. A nice bar is the Sama-Sama by the way. Well-known Indonesian bands such as Steven & Coconut Treez often perform here and there’s often good live Reggae music.
There is even a Full Moon Party on Gili Trawangan. Of course, this doesn’t come close to the infamous Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan, but it’s still a fun party.
South Sea Nomads also has a party boat. For US$25 you can snorkel, eat, and drink around the Gili Islands for an afternoon. On Gili Air you have to be at the Legend Bar!
10. Visit the Night Market on Trawangan
Around 6:00 p.m. there’s a night market every day on Gili Trawangan where you can score tasty and cheap food. It is almost impossible to miss because everyone seems to be there around 6:00 p.m.
Everything is sold here, such as fresh fish, seafood, satay, various rice and noodle dishes, vegetables, grilled corn, and much more. We recommend you at least try the Nasi Campur. A typical Indonesian rice dish with vegetables, eggs, some meat, tofu, peanuts, and fried noodles.
There are many food stalls with small snacks to choose from. You fill your plate, then ask for the price and you will be shocked at how cheap it is here.
TIP – For about US$7 you can have a complete meal. A snack often costs no more than a dollar.
11. Volunteer to Clean Up the Beach
The Gili islands are extremely popular. Unfortunately, the arrival of all these tourists also has a downside. The islands have major problems with waste processing on the islands. Many travelers, but also many locals, leave their waste on the beach.
Fortunately, there are a lot of volunteers who clean up the beach. The beach clean-ups are organized every Friday afternoon from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Trawangan and you can participate right away. You get a free beer at the end of your efforts.
But even more important is the fact that the beach is cleaned up. Ask your accommodation where to go.
12. Outdoor Movie Theater on the Beach
There are several open-air cinemas on Gili Trawangan where about two films are shown every night.
TIP – Looking for a great boat trip? Check out our article on the boat trip from Lombok to Flores.
Gili Islands Malaria
The island of Lombok is known as a malaria zone, but if you only travel to one of the three Gili Islands, it is not really necessary to take malaria pills. Although some maps state that there is malaria in the Gili Islands, this is not the case. You do not have to take malaria pills here. There are a lot of mosquitoes in some seasons so it is smart to put on long trousers in the evening or to apply good mosquito repellent.
Whether you will have to take malaria pills when you go to the Gili’s depends on the rest of your travel itinerary.
How to Get There
From Bali and Lombok, there are quite a few possibilities to get to the Gili’s. There are no airports on the Gili Islands so the boat is the only way to get there. There are two options: the speedboat (more expensive, but faster) and slow boats (cheaper, but slow and uncomfortable).
From Bali to the Gili Islands
The easier way to get here is from Bali. Below the options.
Every day, a number of boats leave from Padang Bai in Bali to the Gili Islands. They leave in the morning between 9:00 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. The most famous organization is Gili Cat. You can buy tickets for their boats on their website.
Another well-known organization is Blue Water Express.
An often cheaper (and easier) way is to buy a ticket in Padang Bai yourself for about 450,000 IDR (around US$30).
From Amed to the Gili Islands
Another option is to travel from Amed, also in Bali. It only takes 45 minutes instead of 1.5 hours like from Padang Bai. It also costs only half the price, about 250,000 IDR. Not many travelers know about Amed because organizations in Bali (and especially Kuta) do not promote this place.
It takes about 3 hours to drive from Denpasar to Amed.
A rather slow, but inexpensive option is the local ferry between Padang Bai (Bali) and Lombok. The ferry departs every hour, the journey takes about 5 hours and costs only 40,000 IDR per person. If you have less money but a lot of time, this is the ideal option.
You still have to make the crossing from Senggigi to one of the Gili Islands.
From Lombok to the Gili Islands
Of course, you can also go from Lombok (Senggigi) to the Gili Islands (Gili Trawangan). A fast boat departs from Senggigi Harbor at 10:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m.0, and 12:45 p.m. It takes about 45 minutes. Keep in mind that the boat back to Lombok does not sail very frequently.
Costs vary and it is best to check current prices on the spot.
Check out Gili Island Transfers for more info on routes and prices.
Transport Between the Gili Islands
A boat (Island Hopper) sails between the islands twice a day. Once at 9 a.m. and once at 4 p.m. The cost is only 40,000 IDR per person. A speedboat also operates between the Gili Islands.
The speedboats sail every hour between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. The price is 100,000 IDR per ticket.
Gili Islands Accommodations
Where you stay the night depends on the island. Each island has its own beautiful spots. It is almost impossible to list all the accommodations for each island as there are far too many. Our impression is that most travelers choose Trawangan or Meno.
Accommodations on Gili Trawangan
Trawangan is the busiest and most popular island. There is, therefore, no shortage of accommodation. Accommodation varies from luxury to every budget. We had good experiences with Cinta Cottages at Gili Trawangan. It is not a low budget hotel, but not extremely expensive either. Here are some great options for every budget:
- Luxury option (~ US$90 per night) ➜ Pearl of Trawangan
- Middle class (~ US$55 per night) ➜ Cinta Cottages
- Budget (~ US$12 per night) ➜ Little Woodstock Homestay
Accommodations on Gili Meno
Gili Meno also has quite a selection of accommodations. The first time we were here we really had to make a reservation because otherwise there was no room available. In Gili Meno, we stayed at AVIA Villa Resort. Slightly more expensive, but super nice houses and a great location.
- Luxury option (~ US$65 per night) ➜ AVIA Villa Resort
- Mid-range (~ US$40 per night) ➜ Sunset House Gili Meno
- Budget (~ US$12 per night) ➜ Meno Heaven
Accommodations on Gili Air
Gili Air is a great place to relax, enjoy snorkeling or watch beautiful sunsets. There are a number of great accommodations that you can choose from. We stayed at the Koho Air Hotel. It’s a mid-range budget hotel but it was very beautiful and we a great time there. It even has an outdoor shower which really adds to the overall experience.
- Luxury option (~ US$100 per night) ➜ Jago Gili Air
- Mid-range (~ US$80 per night) ➜ Koho Air Hotel
- Budget (~ US$20 per night) ➜ Rangga Homestay
Best Time to Visit
If you plan to stay in Bali for a longer period of time, island hopping in the Indian Ocean is the perfect pastime. Next to Bali are some beautiful islands, which are definitely worth a visit! Lombok belongs to the small Sunda islands and is located east of Bali. The Gili Islands are located off the north-west coast of Lombok and consist of three small sandy islands: Gili Air, Gili Meno, and Gili Trawangan.
It is also wonderfully tropical on these islands. The best time to visit Lombok and the Gili Islands is between May and September. In the following table you can see the average temperature per month on the Gili Islands and Lombok, as well as the sunshine hours per day and the number of rainy days per month.
Gili Islands Climate Table (Gili Trawangan)
|Max. Temp in °C||31||31||31||32||32||31||30||31||31||32||32||31|
|Min. Temp in °C||24||24||24||24||23||22||21||21||22||23||24||24|
|Water Temp in °C||29||29,5||29||29||29||28||28||27||27||28||29||29|
|Rainy Days (Month)||12||13||14||11||7||5||3||2||3||9||16||14|
- April 28th – Idul Adha
- May 19th – Hijrah (New Year)
- June 2nd – Waisak
- July 28th – Mavlid
- August 17th – Independence Day
Try to avoid these holidays if you can because it will get more crowded on the islands.