If you’ve never heard of the Gili Islands before, it’s ok. Before last month we had never heard of them either. The Gili Islands are an Indonesian archipelago of 3 islands located to the east of Bali. Each of the islands is small enough to walk around in less than two hours, but has a ton to offer! Although the Gili Islands are all within just a few kilometers of each other, each is vastly different and has become infamous for very different things. Gili Trawangan (Aka Gili “T”) is the party island, Gili Meno is the honeymoon island, and Gili Air is the most “local” island; providing the most grassroots feel of the three.
Admittedly, this blog will only cover 2/3 of the Gili Islands. If you’re looking for more of a social, single, party experience, you’ll want to be sure to visit Gili T. After much research and many referrals, we decided to only visit Gili Meno and Gili Air.
Considering we had never even heard of these beautiful islands just a few months ago, we decided we would write a guide on how to best visit the Gili Islands.
To get to the Gili Islands you have 2 options. You can either take a “fast boat” or you can fly. The “fast boat” is operated by Scoot Cruises with departures twice daily from Bali. Generally you will pay just under $100/person return, but the ride will take you 3.5 hours each way. If you choose to fly, you’ll take a short flight from Denpasar to Lombok, an hour long cab to the Lombok harbor and then a short 10-15 minute boat to your respective Island. After spending 7 total hours on a hot, humid, miserable boat, we highly suggest flying!
On Gili Meno you’ll find a world class resort with some of the nicest staff you’ll ever encounter. With an ocean side infinity pool and dinner set up on the sand, you’ll feel the romance immediately. Seri Resort is well known by tourists and locals alike is it stands out as an oasis in its own right. It is the perfect romantic resort for a couple or even for someone traveling solo. The best bonus was that the best spot for snorkeling in the Gili Islands is 100 meters off the coast of Seri. Here we encountered sea turtles and hundreds of types of fish amongst the beautiful coral reef.
On Gili air, the choices are much more elaborate as the island is more densely populated. We chose the Grand Sunset Resort for its strategic west coast position, so as to ensure we had a quality sunset. Similar to Seri, the Grand Sunset also has a wonderful infinity pool that seems to pour into the Indian Ocean. The Grand Sunset seemingly caters to a younger crowd than that of the honeymoon/family aspect of Seri, so you’ll appreciate the ping pong and billiards tables along with the board games and bean bag chairs on the beach.
The Gili islands are a great place to do absolutely nothing. Laying by the pool or on the white sand beaches is enough to occupy a day or two of your time. However, there are also tons of activities to do during the day.
If you love snorkeling or diving, you’re going to be in heaven. We rented a snorkeling set from our resort and headed out to what they refer to as “Sea Turtle Point” for some of the best snorkeling we’ve ever done. You’re guaranteed to see beautiful coral reef and hundreds of beautiful fish and if you’re lucky enough you’ll even encounter a sea turtle! We were lucky enough to see 2 of them swimming together, so our day was absolutely made.
Walk the entire island. Each of the islands is small enough to walk the entire circumference in no more than 2 hours. We walked most of Meno and the entirety of Air so we got to see the awesome difference between the resorts and the life of the locals on these islands. Populations on the Gili Islands are all sub 1000, so the community is very tight knit and friendly.
Take a horse taxi around the island. None of the islands have automobiles of any form. The only engines on the islands belong to boats, so the fastest form of land transportation is via horse. The Gilis have an awesome “taxi” system of horse carriages that will take you around the island for about $5-10. This makes for awesome transport from the harbor to your hotel or even just a fun ride around to see more of the island.
Gili resorts offer every amenity you could think of and restaurants with delicious local cuisine. If you stay at Seri and the Grand Sunset, there is really no need to look farther than your resorts beachside restaurant. The traditional Indonesian dishes at each of our resorts were our favorite, but they have also catered part of the menu to tourists and as such have both American and Italian options.
If you’re up for an awesome adventure and a wonderfully relaxing trip, do yourself a favor and visit a place you’ve probably never heard of: The Gili Islands!