While technically not part of Bali, the famous Gili Islands are close enough to combine a visit as part of your Bali itinerary. A look into our recent family Gili getaway.
Discovering the Gili Islands
While technically not part of Bali, the famous Islands of Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno are close enough to combine a visit as part of your Bali itinerary. If you live in Bali, these Islands make for a great getaway close to home!
Like everywhere the Gili Islands have felt the impacts of no International tourism during the pandemic. There are, however, plenty of businesses working hard to keep their doors open, which makes you a very lucky person if you get to visit Gili soon… you’ll have paradise almost all to yourself, at the lowest rates seen in years!
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Getting to the Gili Islands
When in Bali, the easiest way to get to Gili Island is by boat. Eka Jaya Fast Boats leaves Padang Bai in Bali in the mornings and drops off at all three of the Gili Islands, which is ideal if Gili T, Gili Meno, and Gili Air are on your Gili getaway itinerary. The boat ride over is around 1.5 hours and the boats are very comfortable. They even play a movie for those sitting in the indoor spaces. There is a toilet on board too! There are often deals for booking your tickets online and an antigen rapid test is required when traveling to Gili Islands (you can either get yours before or they also have a service at the Eka Jaya Office).
Gili T (as it’s commonly referred to) is usually known as the party Island… however, there is not a lot of partying happening at the moment. All of the Gili Islands have no cars or motorbikes. There are a few electric bikes on the Island, but most people get around on bicycles – which is a big reason we love it!! On Gili T we stayed at the gorgeous Gili Eco Villas. Located on the side of the island opposite the harbour area, here you can catch epic sunsets and it’s only a 10-minute bicycle ride to the main town part of the Island. Gili Eco Villas have options of 1, 2- and 3-bedroom villas, there is a lovely pool and beachfront restaurant at the villas also. You will be provided with bicycles during your stay, and if you want there is snorkelling equipment there also. You can snorkel right out the front of the villas!
We did some beach horse-riding while we were in Gili T, Stud Horse Riding Adventures has been working tirelessly during this time to keep their horses well looked after. What a magical moment to take in the beautiful Gili T beaches on horseback.
We had delicious meals at many different venues across Gili T, the resort had amazing options and we really love Kayu Café in the main town area too. We hired a private boat to take us on the short transfer to Gili Meno, normally there is an Island hopper boat, but it has not been in operation during the pandemic. We used a man named Robert, who had a nice safe boat, it was 200,000 Rp for a private boat transfer in his boat (contact him on WA +6285937055751), he does Island and snorkelling tours also.
Gili Meno is typically the quietest of the three famous Gili Islands and it’s the smallest. We stayed at the picture-perfect Mahamaya Resort on the absolute beachfront and white sands of Gili Meno. We love that this resort is eco-friendly and family-friendly (but can also be super romantic!), in your room you are given stainless steel water bottles for the duration of your stay and a water dispenser to keep them full. This is the first resort in which we’ve seen this! Also, in your room, you get snorkel equipment, as the main attraction of Gili Meno is right on the resort’s doorstep. You may have seen the underwater statues near Gili Meno on your Instagram feed, you can see them in real life by just walking and swimming out to snorkel from the resort!
We decided to get Robert to take us on a snorkel tour, his boat has a glass bottom and snorkelling with the boat was easier with the kids. We visited the statues, the amazing coral, and the turtles on a two-hour trip. We snorkelled with 4 HUGE turtles and it was a real highlight of our trip.
For a small island, Gili Meno really packed a punch when it came to dining options. Mahamaya has one of the best restaurants on the Island and they were very good at catering to any dietary request. While we were there, they also set up a special romantic beachfront dinner for two of the in-house guests, which was just gorgeous. A stay or day visit to Gili Meno is not complete without stopping in for a bite at Ana Warung & Bungalows – delicious food, fantastic hosts, cocktails, and a gorgeous sunset view of Lombok and Gili Air. If you’re looking for more budget style accommodation, they also have cute little bungalows to stay in too! We highly recommend the fresh fish dishes when you visit Ana’s!!
It’s a fairly quick bicycle ride to get around Gili Meno, there is a track that takes you the whole way around…but you’ll have to walk the bike in some parts where it is quite sandy. Mahamaya Resort provides a variety of bike sizes for guests. There is a turtle reserve on the Island also to. visit, and, as the highlight of your Gili getaway, you might get lucky and be there to release some of the baby turtles or even see them hatching.
Gili Air is like a combination of Gili T and Gili Meno, it’s the middle-sized Island out of the three Gili Islands. There is a great community vibe on Gili Air and once again, there are no cars or motorbikes, but we did notice quite a few more electric bikes here than on the other Islands. We stayed at the funky Pink Coco Hotel – all in pink theme (you even get a 10% discount on drinks at sunset time if you’re wearing something pink!). If you arrive at high tide by private boat you can get dropped directly in front of the resort, if coming at low tide you must enter via the harbour area.
The two-bedroom joglo we stayed in was huge and could easily fit 6 people, it was perfect for a family stay. There are also smaller rooms too, all cute and in the pink theme. The pink ocean swings are an iconic part of the Island, and of course, we took our chance at sunset to snap our own pics there. We loved this resort, it was well located and fun, it also had the best pink bikes for exploring the Island.
There was a lot happening on Gili Air and it seemed to have a lot of people around still. We ate often at Gil Lumbung – the food was amazing! A huge range of foods and a special healthy/vegan menu selection also. It is also known as one of the most popular sunset spots on Gili Air…the cocktail specials weren’t bad either!
Your Gili Getaway
Whether you want to visit all three Islands like us, or just base yourself on one Island for a stay, there really has never been a better time to plan a Gili trip. The water around this area and the marine life is just stunning. How lucky to be able to explore it without any crowds. Getting away from the traffic and motorbikes felt like a real break, we loved taking family bike rides around the Islands. There is more than enough open on each Island to give you are a range of places to stay (with amazing deals happening right now!), places to eat, and things to do. Everyone on the Islands is excited to be welcoming domestic tourists and go out of their way to ensure you are well taken care of. There is even a large group of expats/tourists who have even decided to call the Islands home during the pandemic.
For the behind-the-scenes look into our own family Gili Getaway take a look at our Instagram highlights on the Gili reel, we’re sure this will give you all the inspo you need to take a visit soon!
Bali Buddies Tips
- Need accommodation in one of Bali’s top hotels or resorts? Visit Booking.com.
- If you prefer alternative accommodation, such as one of Bali’s stunning treehouses.
- Accidents do happen. In case they happen to you, make sure you have a travel insurance. We recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance.
- Arrive without any hassle, book the Airport VIP Fast Track service and your Bali Buddies airport transfer in advance.
- Book your tours and activities prior to departure with GetYourGuide.
- Need to transfer money without the huge fees then check out Wise.
- Always connected to WiFi? Buy a Skyroam hotspot.
- Ensure your devices are secure with a VPN.
- Prefer to travel light or forgot some travel essentials? Order on Shopee for seamless delivery in your villa or hotel.
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