The Gili Islands are an archipelago of three small, remote islands — Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air — just less than 2 hours from Bali by fast boat. Think blue waters, white sands, palm trees, sun loungers and beach side huts. They’re tropical paradises rising up on travelers’ radars, but still remain far less touristy compared to Bali.
Differences between the islands
Gili Trawangan: The biggest, and most popular of the Gilis, also referred to as the ‘party island’. It takes around 3 hours to bike around, and it’s known for its super friendly vibe. The north attracts honeymooners, and an older crowd to some amazing bungalows, while the south and middle is for the crazy budget lovers who like to have a good time.
Gili Meno: The smallest and quietest of the three Gilis, with arguably the most stunning untouched beaches of the lot. It attracts honeymooners, or couples looking for a romantic beach escape. It’s the perfect place to do nothing but rest and relax, with only a handful of restaurants and accommodation limited to attractive resorts and bungalows.
Gili Air: A perfect blend of the other two Gilis, this island has many restaurants and bars alike Gili T, but with the peaceful atmosphere of Gili M. There’s a hippy feel to the island, and in terms of nightlife, it’s more of a laid back, chill-at-the-bar style culture with Bob Marley tunes in the background.
When to visit
High season: July, August, September and December
Low season: February, March, April and November
Rainy season: November – April
Things to do
Circumnavigate the islands. The only form of transport on the islands are by horse and bike riding, and it’s a fantastic way to explore the islands. There are several places to hire a bike for about about 50,000 rupiah a day (approx $5).
Beach bars. Beach bars, some later called sunset bars (my favourite is The Exile), light up the coast through late hours with party gigs, live reggae bands and some feature DJs. They also serve amazing cocktails and occasional fire dancers.
Ombak swing. The Ombak swing is situated at Ombak Sunset Hotel, in the north of Gili Trawangan. Just beware of the crowds during peak season and expect waiting in a line if you’re going around sunset!
Diving. The Gili islands are dotted with premier dive sites, drawing divers from all over the world to their crystal clear waters. The most popular dive sites are Shark Point, Manta Point and Meno wall.
Snorkeling. Enjoy the underwater beauty of the Gilis and rent yourself some snorkel gear from local stalls. There are many allocated places around the islands with shallow waters (with occasional sightings of sea turtles!). Take a stroll or bike ride away from the main beaches to have the vast, blue waters all to yourself. You can also book for a boat ride to take you to the most incredible spots!
Surfing. Gili T and Air have a great collection of reef breaks, with nice swells in the dry season. If you don’t have your board, rentals aren’t hard to find. Gili Meno features lesser swells, but fewer crowds means you get all of the playground to yourself.
Nightlife. If you’re looking to party, look no further than Gili T. You’ll find all the bars & clubs along the beach on the main strip. Rudys bar and Sama Sama are among the most popular, but there’s also bonfires on the beach at Horizontal from when it gets dark, yacht parties, and the most popular full-moon parties.
Animal attractions. There are sea turtle conservation sites at Gili T and Gili Meno, where species include green and loggerhead turtles.
Night market. After sunset, most people start heading to the night market. There’s amazing food all over the island, but the here hosts the cheapest and most authentically Indonesian.
For more: 25 things to do on the islands
If you’re coming from Bali, you can get there by fast boat. There’s several companies and they usually leave a few times per day. It takes around 2-3 hours and costs roughly $70 AUD p/p for one way. Click here for more information.
Have you ever visited or heard of the Gili islands?