The Gili Islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air – are a string of islands that have increasingly featured on Indonesia travel itineraries. These small islands only take a few hours to get around but a lifetime to forget, proven by the amplitude of foreign tourists making their way to this exotic destination every season. Each island brings its own set of charms and adventures for every taste – here’s Culture Trip’s guide on the best things to do in the Gili Islands.
Gili Trawangan, the biggest of all the Gilis, takes less than two hours to circle with a bike – assuming you don’t stop at every corner to take pictures (which you most likely will). Motor vehicles are not allowed in the Gilis, so bicycles are the main transportation to explore the islands at your own pace. Fret not, the wonderful views will distract you from your blissful exhaustion.
Avid divers will most likely have allocated some underwater time on their itinerary to Gili Islands. After all, they’re home to some renowned diving spots such as Shark Point and Deep Turbo. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never worn a wetsuit before, so don’t deprive yourself of Gili’s undersea beauty. Over the years, numerous reputable diving schools have set up camp in this archipelago, offering anything from full PADI certification courses to one-time lessons.
Things rarely get more cinematic than this; you are in a small tropical archipelago, tracing the pristine coastline on the back of a horse. With the mesmerizing view and wind blowing through your hair at the end of a day of adventure, there’s no better way to ride off into the sunset (quite literally).
Stand-up paddling or SUP is one of the most popular water sports in Gili Islands. You’ll see tourists young and old rowing freely across the water just because they can. Don’t worry, SUP is relatively easier to master than surfing, and it’s as much fun. Once you get a hang of it, it means freedom to roam the clear blue waters at leisure.
You’ve probably seen one of these in some hip globetrotter’s social feed – stylish swings that get you ankle-deep into the waters, swaying breezily, all the while presenting you a sweeping view of the clear blue ocean. All three Gilis have some of these sea swings dotting the shoreline, and several of them have gorgeous ocean hammocks, too.
Gili T used to be a wild, unrestricted party island back in the 1990s. A lot of things have changed since then, but the island has not forgotten how to throw a great bash. One unmissable embodiment of Gili’s youthful vigour is the boat parties, which have everything you could ever need to let loose – with a bonus of a cool ocean vibe and wonderful views.
Sure, snorkelling and exploring are fun, but don’t forget to carve out some time to kick back and admire the view. Gili’s beachside cafés have mastered the art of intensifying the island’s laid-back vibe with cosy and chill bohemian spaces and designs. Swings, hammocks, or beanbag chairs on the sand; cold Bintang beer or young coconut water? Take your pick.
Thrill-seekers rejoice, Gili Islands is the place to have water adventures you’ve always wanted to try. The clear water is excellent to have a boat towing your subwing at full speed, and the waves are perfect for kitesurfing. Tamer activities such as banana boats and kayaks with glass bottoms are also fun to try in the Gilis.
A lot of tourists find their way to Gili Islands for the vibrant nightlife. Whether or not you belong to that group, singing and dancing at a beachside bar is still a remarkable experience to have in such an energetic island destination. Sama Sama Reggae Bar and Tir Na Nog are among the best places to enjoy live music and DJs in Gili Trawangan.
There’s a reason Gili’s beachside bars are busiest when the sun starts going down. Witnessing the bursts of reds and oranges with the mountainous backdrop of Lombok has been an unmissable event for many, no matter how long they’ve been on the islands. Sink your toes in the sand and take it all in.