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
Whilst 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 also make for a great getaway closer to home!
With each of the Gilis having their own unique vibe, you can easily find an island that is perfectly suited to you. Gili Trawangan is the largest and is renowned as the ‘party island’, making it the perfect destination to check out one of the many bustling bars and infamous nightlife. If you are a fan of snorkelling, just a short walk out from the beach you will discover Turtle Point where you may just be lucky enough to spot plenty of stunning marine life and get to swim with some of the many turtles that can be found there.
Gili Meno is the second island along, and has a totally different feel. As the quietest out of all the islands, this is ideal for honeymooning couples, if you’re travelling with a family or those that are looking for a true tropical island ambience. There are plenty of snorkelling sites that are accessible directly from the shore and many more that are just a quick boat ride away – from swimming amongst colourful fish and many turtles, to discovering the famous underwater statues that will make you feel like you are totally in another world! There is also plenty of prime beach areas to relax on too (the beach areas on the other two islands can be quite busy, but in Meno you are spoiled for choice!).
The third and final of the Gili Islands is Gili Air which is located the nearest to mainland Lombok. It’s not as crowded as Gili Trawangan and not as quiet as Gili Meno, so is often referred to as the ‘Goldilocks Island’ for being just right. Gili Air has the perfect mixture of awesome restaurants, fun nightlife and chilled vibes – and like the other islands it is surrounded by white sands and turquoise waters with an abundance of stunning underwater life and snorkelling spots.
All three islands are easily accessible and only a short 10-15 minute boat ride away and definitely all worth exploring! There are plenty of public boats which run throughout the day, as well as private boats which you can easily hire to tailor make your own island-hopping adventure plans – perfect!
Getting to the Gili Islands
When in Bali, the easiest way to get to Gili Island is by boat, with Sanur and Padang Bai being the two main departure points. It is worth noting that if you are not a fan of travelling by boat, leaving from Padang Bai is definitely the best option, as the boat journey is only 1.5 hours, compared to 3 hours from Sanur.
Whilst there are numerous companies that offer fast-boat services, we would recommend Blue Water Express for their reliability and safety.
Eka Jaya leaves Padang Bai port in Bali in the mornings and makes drop-offs at all three of the Gili Islands – which is ideal if Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air are on your Gili getaway itinerary. During your boat ride you will be allocated a comfortable seat and they will even play a movie for those sitting in the indoor spaces to help pass the time. There are also toilet facilities on board too! You can often find deals when it comes to booking your tickets online, or ask directly at the Blue Water Express for any promos that they may be running.
Another option for travelling to the Gili Islands is by air – however, be warned that it will take longer! Although the flight from Bali to Lombok is only 40 mins, it is then a 2-hour drive from Lombok airport to Lombok Harbour. You will then need to travel by ferry boat or charter a private boat from the harbour to take you to the Gili Islands.
Getting Around on the Gili Islands
One of the many reasons that we love coming to the Gili Islands is because it gives us a chance to switch off and unwind into a more gentle pace of life. And with no motor vehicles being allowed on any of the three islands, part of its charm means that you really do feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the busy Bali traffic!
Walking is the most popular and best way to navigate the islands, and with the largest of the Gili Islands (Gili Trawangan) being no more than 3 km long and 2 km wide, travelling by foot along the island’s coastal paths is often the easiest method to get around.
Bicycles are another popular transport option and there are plenty of places to rent bikes from, either by the hour or per day. And with all three of the Gili Islands mostly being flat, it’s a fun and accessible option to get around comfortably, whilst enjoying the feeling of the gentle breeze in your hair – bliss! It is worth noting that whilst you may see one or two e-bikes on the island, these are only for the locals to use and are not accessible to tourists.
Some of the islands, especially Gili Trawangan are renowned for their famous Cidomo, or horse-drawn carts.These are used by locals to carry goods and also to transport tourists and their luggage around the island. Whilst organisations, such as the ‘Horses Of Gili’ have helped to ensure these horses are well-cared for, we personally prefer not to use this option for transport as it is not only expensive, but also can be a massive strain on the horses.
Rundown of what we did on each island
Gili T (as it’s commonly referred to) is usually known as the party Island – it offers plenty of awesome places to grab a bite to eat or relax on a beanbag with a drink in hand and take-in one of their epic sunsets. If you’re looking to let-off some steam, hit-up one of the many bars located on the south of the island which is home to Gili T’s renowned pub crawls. Or check-out the west-side of the island and grab a sunset pic on one of the famous Gili sea-hammocks and swings that line the beaches.
The Gili Islands are a haven for sea turtles, and at the north-eastern side of the Gili T is ‘Turtle Point’ – an awesome snorkelling point that is known for its turtle spotting. Pull-up a beanbag at one of the many tiny bars that are scattered along the beach and enjoy a chilled day of turtle-spotting, or rent a stand-up paddle board and paddle around until you spot them!
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, and Stud Horse Riding Adventures works tirelessly to ensure that their horses are 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 -the boat owner Robert had a nice safe boat and it was 200,000 Rp for a private boat transfer (contact him on WA +6285937055751), he does island and snorkelling tours also.
Gili Meno is typically the quietest of the three famous Gili Islands, as well as the smallest. There are a few accommodation options to choose from, however we would highly recommend checking out the picture-perfect Mahamaya Resort and luxurious BASK villas and beach club for a truly unforgettable stay.
Located right on the white sandy beachfront of Gili Meno, we love this resort’s eco-friendly and family-friendly vibe – as well as being super romantic too! In your room you are given stainless steel water bottles for the duration of your stay and a water dispenser to keep them full – a great way to cut-down on plastic bottles! Also, in your room, you’ll be supplied with snorkel equipment, so that you can take part in one of the main attractions of Gili Meno which is right on the resort’s doorstep.
You can also organise snorkelling tours from the resort with glass-bottom boats which is a great option if you have kids. We visited the underwater statues, amazing coral, and snorkelled with 4 HUGE turtles which was a real highlight of our trip! Mahamaya Resort also has one of the best restaurants on the Island and they were fantastic at catering to any dietary request. While we were there, they also set up a special romantic beachfront dinner for the in-house guests, which was just gorgeous!
BASK Resort & Beach Club
This five-star resort boasts 82 luxury villas, stunning beach club, restaurants, wellness retreat & gym and beachfront infinity pool idyllically nestled amongst the white sands and crystal-clear waters of Gili Meno – making it the ultimate romantic destination or island getaway with friends. We loved the beautifully designed villa rooms, with separate lounge and kitchenette area. And the amenities kit has to be one of our favourites so far – filled with locally made goodies from charcoal toothpaste, sunscreen, zinc, after-sun and even candles!
Their 35-metre infinity pool is surrounded by plenty of cabanas and day beds for you to relax poolside and sip on a bespoke cocktail whilst seeking respite from the midday sun. You may have seen the underwater statues near Gili Meno on your Instagram feed – well, now you can experience one of the island’s prime snorkelling spots by just walking out directly from the resort!
And just because you’re on an island doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to get some high-end cuisine – their impressive restaurant serves up a selection of delicious Western and Asian-inspired dishes. They even have their own wine cellar and sommelier on hand to help make the perfect recommendation for your meal and create an unforgettable dining experience!
For a small island, Gili Meno really packed a punch when it came to dining options. And a stay or day visit to Gili Meno is not complete without stopping-in for a bite at Ana Warung & Bungalows where you’ll find delicious food, fantastic hosts, quality 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 you try the fresh fish dishes when you visit Ana’s!
It’s a fairly quick bicycle ride to get around Gili Meno and most of the resorts and hotels will provide you with complimentary bicycles. 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. There is also a turtle reserve on the Island which is open to visitors – you might even get lucky and be there to release some of the baby turtles or even see them hatching.
Kura Kura Resort
For a true tropical island escape, Kura Kura Resort has it all! Offering stunning surroundings just a stone’s throw away from one of the best beaches on the island, this oasis of calm has everything you need to recharge your soul and indulge in some island time at its finest.
Their spacious deluxe and family-sized suites are surrounded by lush gardens and full of all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay. Take a break from the strong Gili sunshine in their ample-sized swimming pool, complete with shade sails for total sun protection and blissfully refreshing water. Relax at their waterfront restaurant and sip on a ‘Happy Hour’ cocktail as you soak-up the spectacular picture-postcard views of Gili Air, Mount Rinjani and North Lombok. And for those early-birds, it’s the perfect spot to watch the sun rise over the horizon whilst enjoying your first coffee of the day.
Why not treat yourself to a full body massage and unwind from the stresses of daily life at the resort’s spa? You can even arrange for in-room treatments too! With the resort offering a range of activities from diving and snorkeling trips, to horse riding, kayaking and fishing experiences, there is plenty to keep you busy (should you want to!). They can even organise day trips to the main island of Lombok, where you can visit the wildlife park and 18-hole golf course at Lombok Kosaido Country Club.
We used the ‘VIP Card – Bali, Destination Gili Meno’ to make our booking at the Kura Kura Resort. Not only does the VIP card offer an amazing discounted price for a x2 person stay at the resort – but it also includes heaps of amazing perks for you to indulge in, such as:
- Private pick-up from your Bali hotel to Padang Bai
- 2x return tickets on the Eka Jaya Fastboat to Gili Meno
- 3 nights in a deluxe room at the Kura Kura Resort, including daily breakfast
- 1 day complimentary snorkel gear and bike hire
- 10% off food and beverage purchases
- 20% off indulgent spa treatments
- Private pick-up from Padang Bali back to your hotel in Bali
With bargains like this to be had – the ‘VIP Card’ is definitely not one to be missed! Check it out now and start booking your ultimate Gili Meno getaway on the most beautiful of the islands that the Gilis has to offer!
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 – an ‘Adults Only’ resort which is 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.
We were also lucky enough to try out a few other resorts on the island too:
On our arrival to the island, we were met by the wonderful Villa Tokay staff and were whisked away to our stunning villa. This luxury resort blew us away with its unique bamboo architecture and breathtaking art-deco design – mixing dreamy tropical island vibes with luxurious comfort. Each villa has its own private pool and exotic gardens which is perfect for honeymooners or those looking for their own exclusive escape. We loved the personalised service that Villa Tokay offered, from organising private snorkelling day trips, in-house massages and bikes to help navigate the island. But one of the highlights has to be their floating breakfast, served to you in the comfort of your own swimming pool – we couldn’t think of any better way to start our day! And with their concierge service easily contactable via WhatsApp, our every whim was perfectly catered to as we relaxed in our stunning island surroundings.
Another newly built boutique hotel that is definitely worth checking out is JAGO Gili Air. Nestled in the heart of the island just minutes away from the glistening white sands, this modern stylish resort offers a slice of paradise for discerning travellers. Their fresh, clean rooms are perfectly equipped with all of your holiday essentials, and the large shared pool has plenty of loungers for you to relax and top up your holiday tan. With their excellent customer service, you can be sure that the staff at JAGO are on hand to make sure that your Gili Air experience will certainly be one to remember!
Snorkelling & Diving spots around the Gili Islands
With its crystal-clear turquoise waters, calm conditions and abundant marine life, the Gili Islands offer plenty of amazing snorkelling and diving spots for all ages and abilities. And with the island’s close proximity to one another, it is easy to hire a boat and explore the many different sites. Here is a run-down of some of our favourite snorkelling and diving spots.
Rent a GoPro for your Snorkelling & Diving Trip
If you want to dive or snorkel in Bali, you should not miss the chance to capture the unique moments with a rented GoPro. You don’t have your own GoPro? That’s no problem. With Klook you can easily rent a GoPro and choose between different models.
An easy walk out from the beach on the east side of Gili T is Turtle Point. Perfect for snorkelling in the shallow waters and its crystal-clear visibility makes it a prime spot to spot some turtles! And if you need to take a break, there are plenty of beachside bars where you can grab a drink and chill out.
The Nest – Underwater Statues
Just 100m off the west coast of Gili Meno you will find one of the famous underwater statues that have become a firm favourite with snorkellers and Instagrammers alike. Commissioned by the BASK Resort, these hauntingly beautiful statues were created to raise awareness of the need to protect and conserve our marine ecosystem. It is worth mentioning that the current here can be quite strong, so best to use a life jacket if you are not a strong swimmer.
The Bounty Wreck
On the southwest side of Gili Meno is a sunken jetty which is known as the Meno Bounty Wreck. During a large storm in 2001 the pier was hit so hard that it sank and has now become a haven for many different types of fish that allows people of all levels the opportunity to experience exploring a wreck site.
Located on the west of Gili Trawangan, this is a firm favourite with many divers. It offers a diverse array of marine wildlife such as large green turtles, reef sharks, moray eels and occasional rays. The site features a sloping reef with different zones, including shallow areas that are popular with snorkellers and are often where turtles can be spotted. Just to the north of Shark Point is the location of the Glenn Nusa tugboat which was wrecked in 2016 and is a popular spot for divers to explore.
Situated to the east of Gili Meno, Turtle Heaven certainly lives up to its name – with an impressive number of turtles to be seen each dive. The site features a sloping reef with plenty of colourful coral, creating a diverse habitat for the various reef fish hiding in the crevices.
Manta Point (also known as Sunset Reef)
This dive site is located on the south side of Gili Trawangan, boasting plenty of diverse corals and is the perfect spot for encountering larger fish, with frequent sightings of white tip reef sharks, stingrays, turtles, octopus and schools of yellow snappers. There is definitely plenty to keep you busy!
Positioned between the islands of Gili T and Gili Meno, the corals in this area are some of the finest in the region, with plenty of stunning colours and even some impressive coral fans! Expect to encounter plenty of beautiful marine life during your trip here.
Tips for travelling to the Gili Islands
- If you are travelling with small children it is worth thinking about how you will navigate the island with them. Are they able to ride a bike, or will they need to sit on the back or a bike? We recommend contacting your accommodation provider beforehand so that they can organise the right type of bike to suit your family’s needs.
- The Gili Islands are predominantly Muslim, therefore it is common to hear the call to prayer throughout the day. Depending on your proximity to the nearest mosque (and remember the islands are small!) you may want to bring some earplugs with you if you are a light sleeper.
- With accessibility to the Gili Islands being by boat, a burst of bad weather can lead to boats to and from the islands being cancelled. This is something to bear in mind, especially if you have a tight timeframe with regard to catching a flight from Bali.
- Although the distance between the three islands may not look that far apart – do not attempt to swim between them! The currents can be very strong and unpredictable and there are plenty of boats to take you safely where you would like to go.
- Although it may feel like Bali, the locals on the Gili Islands are Muslim so it is best to show some respect when you are visiting. Do not sunbathe nude or topless, and when you are away from the beach area cover up with a sarong.
- Plan your activities to do in Gili Islands early, these islands are small, so things can book out during peak periods.
As well as this behind-the-scenes look into our own family Gili Getaway we’d also recommend that you take a look at our Instagram highlights on the Gili reel for more insp to help you plan your own visit to these laid-back, tropical islands. Be sure to check out the Gilis for your own slice of sun-kissed serenity!
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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!
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!