The Gili Islands
Floating off of the coast of Indonesia are three tiny islands adorned with white-sand beaches, crystal-clear turquoise water, swaying palms, horse-drawn carraiges (yes, there are no cars or motorbikes!), and unbelievable sunsets. With a very relaxing sunny island atmosphere combining with a very lively party scene, the Gili Islands are the perfect paradise blend of buzz and bliss.
Which Gili Island?
Gili Meno – Only 2km long and 1km wide, Gili Meno is arguably the most peaceful and remote of the islands. Home to far fewer accomodations and restaurants, this island is most popular among those looking for a very remote escape.
Gili Air – If a quiet bungalow, a chill beach bar, and remote relaxation is what you’re after, Gili Air is the island for you. It’s known as the more laid-back Gili island and is a haven for ex-pats, honeymooners and those wishing for a contrast to Gili T’s wild reputation.
Gili Trawangan – Often dubbed “Gili T”, Gili Trawangan has some of the best partying in Bali, giving the island a Spring Break feel all year-round. With plenty of hotels and resorts, countless beach bars and delicious seafood shacks, this island is the most hopping of the three– paradise for sun-seekers looking for a good time.
Where to stay
Hotel Ombak Sunset – Gili Trawangan
I stayed at Hotel Ombak Sunset on Gili T and cannot recommend it highly enough. It is a beautiful, relaxed resort that was perfect for everything I wanted for a Gili T vacation. From the huge pool (complete with amazing pillow floaties that made it hard to ever leave the resort), to the amazing beach seafood buffets, to, of course, the famous swings overlooking the sunset, this hotel was perfect. It’s great for families, but also amazing for couples or groups of friends. The service was outstanding as well, with every member of the staff knowing us by name and saying hello at every corner. This was quite possibly my favorite place I stayed in all of Indonesia. ( Hotel Ombak Sunset, Gili Trawangan )
What to do in the Gilis
The swings, of course
The Gilis are Instagram-famous for their overwater swings that provide an unreal backdrop to the always-incredible sunset.
Scuba Dive & Snorkel
The Gilis are renowned as one of Indonesia’s top places for scuba diving and snorkeling,best known for their beautiful coral reefs that are home to sea turtles, white tip reef sharks, lionfish, scorpion fish, cuttle fish, eels, spotted rays, and octopi. The water is warm and the marine life is beautiful. You can’t miss a chance to snorkel or dive in the Gilis.
You can join a pre-organized snorkel trip or simply hire your own boat and driver for the day to take you around to the best snorkel spots. We hired our own boat for a full afternoon for just under $100.
Sunset at Mowie’s Bar & Bungalows – Gili Air
On the quiet West coast of Gili Air, this beautiful spot is ideal for a sunset happy hour or dinner. The best sunset view on the island!
How to get to the Gili Islands
From Bali: The quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to get to the Gili islands from Bali is to take a fast boat from Padang Bai port. The journey is about 1 hour 30 to 2 hours. Tickets can be purchased from most hotels or tourism stands in Bali. Prices range from about 250,000 IDR – 300,000 IDR (~$19-22) for one way, and 500,000 – 600,000 IDR (~$40-45) round trip. You can also buy an ‘open’ round trip ticket with no exact departure date or island. Just make sure to check with the fast boat service at least a day in advance to ensure a spot on a boat for your desired departure date. The boats are great. Between the lively crew and the bintang-filled bar on board, you’ll have an easy, fun and entertaining ride to the islands.
From Lombok: Lombok is the closest part of Indonesia to the Gili Islands. Fast boats leave from the main pier daily to each of the islands and back, and only take from 15-45 mins, depending on which Gili Island you’re heading to.
From everywhere else: Coming from other corners of the globe, the easiest way to get to the Gili Islands is to fly to the Lombok airport and grab a taxi to the pier from where you can catch a fast boat to the islands.
Enjoy your swing through the Indonesian islands!