If you are going to Bali or anywhere else in Indonesia, I highly recommend spending at least a few days on the Gili Islands, located just off of the coast of Lombok. The Gili Islands are some of the prettiest islands that I’ve ever been to. The sand is powder white, and the water a clear aquamarine. The Gili Islands are the perfect picture of paradise. Not only that, they aren’t so remote that they lack comfortable accommodations or good restaurants like many of the other beautiful islands of Indonesia.
The best part is there are no cars or motorbikes on any of the islands, which immediately makes things more relaxing. You can rent bicycles or take horse-drawn carts to get around. There are three Gili Islands. Gili Trawangan would be the place to go if you are looking for a lot of nightlife or the most varied selection of restaurants. If you want your hotel to be on a quieter part of the island, I recommend staying on the North Beach, where it is still possible to feel like you’ve gotten away from it all. It is a long walk to the main restaurant area though, so you will probably be taking the horse-drawn cart which run $5 per trip.
If you would like an island that still feels untouched, but also has a good variety of chill-out bars, then I suggest Gili Air. There are some beautiful places to stay with ocean views. Gili Air reminds me of what Gili Trawangan used to be ten years ago. There is still a quiet pace, but a better choice of restaurants than on Gili Meno. Where on Trawangan, they play loud and horrible American Top 40 music, Gili Air bars are either playing chill-out tunes, or having Goa style beach parties with techno and electronica. You can also surf on Gili Air. Gili Air is my personal favorite of the three islands.
Gili Meno is probably the most beautiful of the islands, and is definitely the quietest of them all. If you truly want to get away from it all, this is where you should go. Gili Meno is the only island of the three on which you can stay directly on the beach. It is also the smallest of the three islands. There are no ATM machines on Gili Meno.
Botel, an artist on Gili Meno
If you are going to the Gili Islands from Bali, you have the option of arriving by plane or by ferry. If you arrive by plane, you will arrive at the Lombok airport, and will need to hire a taxi to take you to a boat over to the Gili Islands. If you are going by fast boat, the best thing to do is to buy your ticket from a travel agent in Bali. If you buy ahead of time, you will pay $60 for a one-way ticket online, but if you buy through a travel agent, you will only spend about $25 for your ticket one-way. For a schedule of the fast boats, go here.
During the day, you can take the public ferries between the three islands for less than $5 round-trip. You can also charter a longtail boat for about $20 one-way if you miss the public ferry.
Divers and snorkelers both will really enjoy the Gili Islands. There are many sea turtles in the area, sharks, and colorful fish. You can rent masks, fins, and snorkels by the day. You can also charter a fishing boat for a fishing trip. Whatever you do, don’t miss the amazing sunsets the Gili’s have to offer!
Gili Trawangan North Beach Sunset
Whichever island that you choose from the Gili Islands, I can guarantee you one thing. You will not want to leave. Enjoy your stay. Relax, chill, and let the beauty of these gorgeous islands take you away.