The Gili Islands are the perfect getaway for any traveler that wants to be on a remote tropical island. You’ll find plenty of smiles here but there are no motor vehicles and no police either.
Don’t worry, the community acts as a local security force but, frankly speaking, many travelers come here to enjoy some of life’s more controversial substances and enjoy the lack of law enforcement.
There are plenty of ways to get the most out of the Gilis if you’re like me and not as interested in expanding your consciousness. After all, there are tons of beautiful beaches, dive spots and more. But before I get into all of that let me give you a rundown about each Gili Island and how to choose which one to stay on.
Which Gili Island to Visit
Gili Trawangan (Gili T)
Trawangan is the most popular Gili Island and is famous throughout the world for its full moon style beach parties late into the night. This island is great for young backpackers, travelers on a gap year and anyone who is down to get funky all night long. Especially popular for those wishing to expand their consciousness.
Meno is a honeymooner’s paradise with few people and long stretches of beautiful beach. The island is the least populated and least visited of the three giving it a much more remote feel.
Staying here might mean less choice for where to stay or eat but you will certainly have your own private patch of paradise!
Air is a happy combination of Meno and Trawangan and perfect for any couple traveling through Indonesia. Resorts on the island share the weeknights making sure there is a party somewhere every night but most of the island goes quiet by about 10 or 11 pm. You’ll find lots of families exploring Gili Air unlike the other two and it’s perfectly situated near the mainland in case you want to take a bigger excursion to Mount Rinjani!
For a more in-depth look at what to do on Gili Air check out my original post on my website, www.LiveTravelTeach.com
Alright, so hopefully that’s helped you pick which Gili island you want to visit. The good news is that all of these great activities are available on each island so wherever you go you can enjoy it all! Now, on to the good stuff. To get around the islands, you will need to catch boats.
We recommend downloading the Skyscanner App and using Bookaway or 12Go website to view bus, boat, and train schedules ahead of time. We’ve used these websites all over Asia and it saves us the hassle of lining up in travel agencies or bus stations.
Editor’s Note: If you’re looking for ideas on where to stay in the Gili Islands, check out our post to see our recommendations
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What to do on the Gili Islands
You’ve now picked the perfect Gili Island for you but you’re worried that you’ll miss out on the other islands. Not to fear, you can easily take a taxi boat from each island to the next. Head to Meno in the morning and spend the day relaxing on a remote beach or party the night away on Gili T. Whichever Island you are on you can easily experience all three!
Related: Guide to Indonesia’s Best Beaches
The Gili Islands are famous around the world for their diving hot spots. Beautiful coral reefs provide a rich ecosystem to the marine life in these seas. Whether you are an experienced diver or just a beginner you are sure to enjoy the plethora of fish and sea creatures here.
Many divers see sea turtles and I was lucky enough to watch one chow down on a bit of reef! More advanced divers can go deeper in search of sharks and stunning wrecks to explore.
Snorkeling tours are available along with all the diving trips but you can also grab a snorkel and head right into the beach by your hotel. This is a great way for anyone who doesn’t want to dive deep but still wants to see marine life and explore the underwater world.
You can go on the traditional tours taking you around the other nearby Gili Islands or opt to go for a lesser-known snorkeling tour which takes you to Gili Kondo, Gili Kapal, and other smaller pristine islands.
If you eat meat just bare with me for a second. If you don’t, well then you’re going to love the vegan and vegetarian restaurants throughout the Gili Islands. There is a high demand for vegan and vegetarian food throughout Bali and the Gili Islands which means that the restaurants provide top-notch, delicious food. Even a meat-eater like myself is sure to enjoy a vegan meal at any of these eateries.
Vegetarian/Vegan-Friendly Restaurants on the Gili Islands
- Gili T – Pituq Cafe
- Gili Air – Pachamama
- Gili Meno – Ya Ya Warung
The food in Indonesia is incredible so what better way to remember your trip by than by learning how to cook some incredible Indonesian meals? You can attend a cooking class in Gili T which teaches you the basics of how to make a few classic meals like Mie Goreng, steamed fish and more.
Sunset in the Swings
Ocean swings are all over Indonesia and the Gili Islands are no exception. Many resorts build their own while other swing sets are community-run and ask for donations to local schools or other charities. You’ll find some of the best swings in Gili Trawangan!
Head there during the day and they might be empty enough that you can relax on them for a while. At sunset, tourists often line up to take photos of these romantic swing sets.
It makes the perfect profile picture and will certainly get lots of likes on Instagram. Plus they are really cool! This particular sunset in Gili T is a favorite amongst tourists.
Whether you want to practice yoga by yourself on the beach or in a group class the Gili Islands are a great destination! You can find daily classes in a variety of different yoga styles often including meditation and even Reiki healing. Wake up and walk down to your favorite studio or book a longer retreat for a fully immersive experience.
Yoga Studios on the Gili Islands
- Gili T – Gili Yoga
- Gili Air – H20 Yoga
- Gili Meno – Seri Resort Amber Yoga Center
Party the Night Away
Remember in the beginning of this post when I said there are no police on the Gili Islands? Well, you guessed it. That means the party scene here is pretty amazing. Gili T really is the best of the three to party but you can easily enjoy some drinks or other substances on Air and Meno too.
Talk to your hotel about which night is having the party tonight and you’re sure to have a great time.
Glass Bottom Boats
These boats are perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to join all the fish but just watch them from above. They are great for a family or group trip and usually come with a snorkeling option in case you change your mind. They’ll take you offshore to the best reef spots where you can watch all the marine life from the safety of the boat.
Take a Horse and Buggy
As there are no motorized vehicles, this means that there are plenty of horse and buggies. They are cheap to hire and the drivers will happily load your luggage in and drive you straight to your doorstep in paradise.
These are also great for a romantic afternoon exploring the island or if you feet just get tired of walking. The drivers know the islands like the back of their hand and can easily recommend a restaurant or hotel for you too.
Bike Ride around the Island
Bikes can be rented from just about every hotel on all three of the Gili Islands. As mentioned, since there are no motor vehicles on the islands, the bikes are a great way to get around.
You can take it to your favorite yoga class or restaurant on the other side of the island. Better yet, ride it all the way around the island to get a full tour! But be careful if you’re riding all the way around because the trail often turns into deep sand and you might have to get off and walk the bike for part of the way.
Mount Rinjani is a famous volcano on Lombok, the nearby mainland. Treks can be arranged from all three of the Gilis or you can head to the mainland by yourself to find a cheaper option. Hiking to the top of this beautiful mountain takes a few days and require camping at least one or two nights so plan accordingly.
Trekking up to Mt. Rinjani is hard but is definitely worth it! If you’re interested in going on a Rinjani tour, you can check this one out.
So maybe you’ve enjoyed all the other activities I recommended and are looking for something else to do. You’re on a tropical island in the sun- go sunbathing! What else do you need?
Last but not the least, don’t forget to sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful tropical beaches that the Gili Islands have to offer!
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Safety in Gili Trawangan
Gili T is super safe- especially since they have the council imposing rules and regulations. However, like anywhere else in Asia, it pays to keep your withs on you at all times- especially in the evenings.