The best things to do on the Gili Islands, including Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno!
Each with their own individual beauty and charm, the Gili Islands have become an incredibly popular destination, and I totally see why. Offering an abundance of unique experiences, there are so many amazing things to do on the beautiful Gili Islands!
The Gilis are made up of three islands, just off the coast from Lombok, Indonesia. The atmosphere on each of the islands varies, and I’d recommend visiting all three if you can. Typically, each island is known for:
- Gili Trawangan: As the largest island, this attracts the largest crowd, and with the largest crowd comes the biggest parties.
- Gili Air: Think yoga, beautiful boutique hotels and sunset cocktails.
- Gili Meno: The quietest of the three islands, with possibly the most beautiful beaches.
How do you get to the Gili Islands from Bali?
Travelling to the Gili Islands from Bali is very easy. Once you arrive in Bali it’s easy to book an open return ticket from any local tour operator. This should include: pick up from wherever you’re staying on mainland Bali (Ubud, Canggu etc); transfer to the ferry port; a boat to your chosen Gili Island, and then all the same on the way home. Note: An open return fare allows you to come back from a different Gili Island than where you first started, making it easier to visit all three.
Tip: The waters between Bali and the Gili Islands can be quite rough. If you suffer from sea sickness, come prepared with motion sickness tablets. Occasionally, boats back to Bali from the Gili Islands won’t run as a result of bad weather, therefore always plan to return to Bali at least 24 hours before any scheduled flights.
So here’s what you’ve been waiting for, the top things to do on the Gili Islands!
Party on Gili Trawangan
It would be impossible to write a post about things to do in the Gili Islands without talking about the party scene on Gili Trawangan. Nightlife here is always going to be good fun, and for a lot of travellers, it sometimes seems like it’s the main reason they’re on the island (but read on as there is SO much more to the Gilis than that!!!). It attracts a wide bunch of travellers, and there’s something to suit everyone. A different bar hosts each night of the week, and things get pretty rowdy.
If you’re wanting to experience this, by far the best place to stay is either Gili Castle or Gili Mansion. As sister hostels just 150m apart, and in a great location just a few minutes from the beach, these places have it all. Gili Castle is traditionally the wilder of the two, whereas Gili Mansion has slightly nicer rooms. Both have swimming pools and bars, great free breakfast, and the best part – they run weekly pool parties and boat trips for everyone staying at the hostel. You can’t get much better than that! Be prepared for Bintangs by midday and free shots in happy hour.
Diving from Gili Divers on Gili Trawangan
So onto the more wholesome of the things to do on the Gili Islands. Diving is worldclass around these three sandy paradises. The best renowned dive centre is Gili Divers, locataed on Gili Trawangan. They offer fun dives along with open water, advanced, and dive master certificate courses. Not only have you got the opportunity to dive here with amazing fish and corals, there’s an area with an abundance of turtles, another with lots of reef sharks, and an awesome opportunity for wreck diving too.
Hiring bicycles to explore around Gili Trawangan
This was my favourite thing to do on Gili Trawangan, and gave me my best day on the island. Expect to pay between 30 000-50 000 IDR (USD$2-4) for the day, and go exploring! The infamous Gili Trawangan swings are to the South, and the best sunset points are to the West. The other sides of the island to the main drag in the East are so much quieter, and have a totally different feel. Head over to Pink Coco in the South or Le Pirate in the North for some beautiful beach club vibes.
Explore the underwater sculptures with a snorkel
One of the most epic things to do in the Gili Islands is to grab a snorkel and find the underwater art installations. The two main ones are the ring of statues, and the submerged scooters.
How to find the underwater statues
The underwater statues are located just off the shore from Gili Meno, but there are a few ways in which you can visit them.
- Go on a snorkelling trip. Visiting the underwater statues is always a key stop on snorkelling trips departing from any of the three Gili Islands. The good thing with doing this is that the boat will take you right to the statues so you don’t have to worry about trying to find them, but the downside is you’re then looking at them with the twenty other people from your boat, and the forty from all the others. A lot of fins in face!!
- Find the statues yourself if you’re staying on Gili Meno. Head down to the Western side of the island early in the morning (before 9am) and stand exactly opposite the white minaret from the main mosque over on Gili Trawangan. This should mean that you’re stood in front of a big white sign for a resort called Bask. Swim out from here approximately 50m and you’ll see the statues!
- Head over to the statues in a kayak from Gili Trawangan. Rent a kayak from one of the stalls near Gili Divers (early in the morning if you want to beat the crowds!), and kayak for 15 minutes over to Gili Meno. Head straight across and park your kayak on the beach. Then follow the directions from point number two above
BE CAREFUL: the current near the underwater statues is very strong. Do not try and snorkel here without hiring fins.
How to find the underwater scooters:
On Gili Trawangan, head to a hotel called Villa Ombok and walk out along their jetty. About 50m out from here is a small yellow floating pontoon, with solar panels on the top. Swim out to this, and you’ll find the scooters and a whole host of cool metal work below.
Find your inner zen on Gili Air
One of the best things to do on the Gili Islands is stay in a boutique hotel on Gili Air. Captain Coconuts is without a doubt one of my favourite places I’ve ever stayed. With the most beautifully relaxed atmosphere, stunning garden and pool, they cater for all budgets. Either stay in one of their beautiful poolside bungalows, or up in their open air dormitory, complete with swinging beds and outdoor garden showers. Their health food café is excellent too. Cannot recommend this gorgeous place enough!
Once you’ve checked into your slice of paradise, either hire bicycles to explore on wheels, or just walk to the beach to watch sunset on a beanbag with a backdrop of live music at Gili Lumbung. After, head to Scallywags Seafood Restaurant (there’s a gorgeous one on Gili Trawangan too) for their seafood BBQ – great value and DELICIOUS. Finsh off your perfect evening with a Balinese massage at any one of the many spas (expect to pay 120 000 IDR (USD$9) for a one hour massage).
Enjoy these beautiful paradise islands! And as always, give me a shout if you have any questions.