There are few travelers in Indonesia who don’t visit at least one of the three idyllic Gili islands: Gili Air, Gili Meno, and Gili Trawangan. These traffic free paradise islands offer some of Indonesia’s best opportunities for diving and snorkeling. If you’re on a tight budget you can rent a snorkel and mask on the beach for less than $5 US and find beautiful coral and plentiful marine life off any beach on any of the Gilis (walking in and out of the water can be painful due to sharp rocks and coral, but it can be done). Each of these islands has a unique traveler vibe and no matter what kind of traveler you are, if you like beautiful beaches, you’ll find what you’re looking for on one of the three Gili islands.
The closest of the Gilis to the mainland of Lombok, Bali’s neighbor to the east, is Gili Air. With it’s relaxed atmosphere and many romantic beach restaurants, Gili Air is a lovely island for families, couples, groups of friends, and solo travelers who like to chill out on the beach. There’s a strip of bars and restaurants along the south east beach, which is the best for swimming, but the rest of the beaches surrounding the island are left mostly untouched and there’s plenty of space for love birds to find some privacy. There’s also a handful of classy spas on the island. If you have the funds to spoil yourself (or your significant other), this is a great place to do it. But if not, you can still enjoy Gili Air’s post card beauty for cheap. It’s easy enough to find affordable accomodation, there’s a hostel called ‘7 Seas’ on the main road where you can get a bed for less than $10 US, and an abundance of bungalows throughout the island for as little as $15 US per night. Gili Air is a great place to kick back, relax , and enjoy the sun.
Gili Meno is the second farthest from Lombok, and the least visited of the three Gili islands. It’s more quiet than Air, and budget accomodation is harder to find so many backpackers skip it. It’s left to those who are really seeking their privacy. Some honeymooners choose Gili Meno over Gili Air for this reason. Once again, the islands perimeter is lined with gorgeous beaches and ‘Gili Meno Divers’ dive shop will bring you out to the reef to see the abundance of marine life just below the surface. Gili Meno is complete with a small inland salt lake that’s perfect for a late afternoon stroll. Book a classy beach bungalow on Gili meno for the perfect romantic getaway.
Gili Trawangan, the third and largest of the three islands is the main attraction for most backpackers. Gili T, as it’s called for short, is known as the party island and it lives up to it’s reputation. Cheap accommodation is plentiful and can be booked upon arrival when you step off the boat onto the perfect white sand. Traditional Indonesian food can be found a few blocks inland from the beach at little restaurants where you’ll spend the equivalent of 2 US dollars and leave feeling satisfied no matter how big your appetite. There’s also a night market wedged between expensive beach restaurants where you can get cheap food and cheap beers before hitting the clubs. There are many bars and clubs along the beach with varying degrees of appeal, but the most fun and popular spot is the reggae bar, ‘Sama Sama’. They have an energetic live band, affordable cocktails, and even more affordable Bintang beers, an Indonesian beer that will be hard to resist drinking all day, every day. Sama Sama gets packed every night of the week and will satisfy your urge to dance, meet other travelers, and make the most of the warm nights. And hey, you might even get lucky. If you do come to Gili T with the intention of getting some action, opt for a private room rather than a dorm. You might spend a few bucks more but you’ll thank me later, and the rest of the dorm dwellers will appreciate your discretion.
The Gili islands are a must see for any traveler in Indonesia. Whether you’re a couple on a getaway, a chiller who likes to read a book on the beach, a seasoned diver, or a rowdy backpacker, you’ll find what you’re looking for on one of the Gili islands. If your 30 day Indonesian visa allows it, why not check out all three? Start on Gili T to meet the backpacker babe of your dreams, bring them to Gili Meno to live out your summer lovin fantasy, and when you and your fling part ways you can write them love letters on the beach on Gili Air.