Nusa Lembongan, Bali – What to Do, Where to Stay

Nusa Lembongan is tucked away in Indonesia, despite being relatively unknown to tourists, it has lots of things to do and beautiful places to stay.

Whether you’re looking for amazing surf, stunning views or just some downtime, Lembongan is the perfect destination. Nearby Nusa Ceningan is definitely worth a visit, too.

-> Jump to Where to stay in Nusa Lembongan

Ride around and explore Nusa Lembongan

You can easily rent a moped and zip around the island. I’d definitely suggest doing this for a day if you can, as there is so much to see and explore. Half of the island’s charm, for me, at least, were the hidden spots; the places with no names. One of the joys of traveling is finding your own way, so hop on a bike and ride until you want to stop. There are some modern roads here that are great for beginners. Build up your confidence and head up the hills, along dirt paths and between towering trees to find the best views over the island. Make sure you have plenty of petrol before you head off on an adventure. There are plenty of roadside spots to fill up at – keep an eye out for old alcohol bottles full of yellow liquid! It is also polite to return your bike with at least half a tank left, so bear that in mind when you’re riding home.

 pont vers Ceningan, Nusa, Lembongan,
61 pont vers Ceningan, Nusa, Lembongan, Indonesia. Photo by Patrick Chabert

Drive on to Nusa Ceningan

This nearby island is pretty tiny, and very beautiful. It is home to great diving, yoga studios and plenty of nature to immerse yourself in. Take the bridge across from Lembongan and explore by moped. Not all of the roads here are perfect, but that just adds to the fun. Friendly locals will point you in the right direction of the main viewpoint here, so make sure your camera is fully-charged and heap on up and up.Blue Lagoon is one of the most stunning little bays you will ever see, with bright aqua water. Make time to visit this spot and bask in the glory of nature here. Secret Beach in Nusa Ceningan is likely to be empty, unsurprisingly, and offers great snorkelling and swimming water.

-> Read Guide to Nusa Ceningan – What to do and Where to Stay

Secret Beach in Ceningan, Indonesia
Secret Beach in Ceningan, Indonesia. Photo by Aussie Assault

Amazing view and sunset at Devil’s Tear, Dream Beach

This is a stunning area of natural beauty right near Dream Beach. Expect lots of tourists but don’t let that put you off. This can be a dangerous area, so pay attention to the warning signs and be sensible. The Devil’s Tear itself is a little inlet into the land where waves get sucked into holes in the cliff face. They are then jetted out and shoot up into the air and across the cliff. Don’t get too close, but make an effort to visit this spot. The power of the waves here is stunning. Just a few minute’s walk from here is the best sunset spot on the island. Rocky cliff juts out into the ocean and gives you a stunning view of the island, as well as all the colours in the sky.

Devil's Tear, Nusa, Lembongan, Indonesia
Devil’s Tear, Nusa, Lembongan, Indonesia. Photo by Aussie Assault

Outdoor activities at Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan

Surfing at Nusa Lembongan

Lembongan is famed for its surfing, and the beaches here are truly designed for it. The waves around the island are generally for the more experienced surfer, but there are some good beginner beaches, too. Playgrounds is the ideal beach for surfers and gets busy without being crammed. Head to Coconut Bay and paddle out from here to the waves. You can rent boards and have surf lessons here, too. Dream Beach isn’t for swimming but is a lovely beach to hang out at. The surf can get pretty good here as well, and is better suited to experienced surfers. Head over to Ceningan for great breaks, too! Wherever there are good waves, there’ll be a shack on the beach with boards to hire out.

Playgrounds in Nusa Lembongan
Playgrounds in Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia. Photo by Mike Sutherland

Stand-up Paddle Boarding at Mushroom Bay

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding is such a fun activity, and this island has some amazing beaches to try it out at. Some waves tend to be too strong or high, and these beaches tend to be reserved for surfers. If you fancy a swim, snorkel or SUP session, head to the calmer beaches. Mushroom Beach is the place to head for a relaxing afternoon of lazing on the beach and trying out water-sports. This is a really easy beach to get to and is surrounded by cute restaurants and road-side warungs (local eateries). Expect some tourists here, but don’t worry about it being crowded. Hire out a paddle board from one of the stalls on the beach, just don’t forget your sunblock!

Beach in Nusa, Lembongan
Stand-up Padding in beaches in Nusa, Lembongan, Indonesia. Photo by Scott Pham

Diving at Nusa Lembongan

Indonesia’s underwater world is beyond beautiful and is peppered with stunning marine life, including majestic turtles and colourful coral. Diving is one of the best things to do here, and the island’s schools cater to all levels of experience. Get up early or spend an afternoon diving amongst the island’s oceans. The dive sites around Lembongan are full of amazing underwater marine life, such as manta rays, which people travel here just to see. Diving is taken seriously, and there is a duty to the dive centres to be professional and respectful of the waters. Nusa Ceningan also offers beautiful underwater views and great diving opportunities.

Marine Life, Nusa, Lembongan
Stunning marine life, Nusa, Lembongan, Indonesia. Photo by 究及

Cliff Jump

Don’t attempt this on your own! Make sure you go with a company who know when and where it is safe to go out, and who will look after you. Cliff jumping is one of the most exhilarating things you can do in Nusa Lembongan, and is the ideal way to spend an afternoon if you’re an adrenaline junkie. You’ll basically jump off a cliff into the ocean and can snorkel and swim to your heart’s content in lovely, clear waters. You can find companies that offer this in Lembongan, and some that will take you to Ceningan. Lembongan Cliff Jumping comes very highly recommended, and offer a number of packages for those seeking adventure.

Fly High

Abyss Zipline company over in nearby Ceningan offer one of the most fun activities around! If you fancy zipping through nature and taking in stunning views of the island, add this to your to-do list. The staff here take safety very seriously, which is good considering you’ll be swinging across the ocean! Make time to head here and reward yourself with a dip in their infinity pool afterwards.

Relax and unwind at the Nusa Islands

Massage

Take some time to really relax and make the most of the local spas. They may not be big or fancy, but they’ll be full of local ladies who’ll pummel the knots out of your back. Traditional Balinese massages can get pretty heavy but will do wonders for a well-travelled body.The prices of massages here tend to be very low. Despite being on a small island, prices haven’t been driven up by tourism too much. Grab yourself a bargain and get some me-time in.

Flowers at Desa Sini
Vibrant Flowers at Desa Sini. Photo by Insiya Rasiwala-Finn

Yoga

If you fancy taking some time out from all the water-sports and hiking, head to a yoga studio and chill out. The studios here tend to be pretty affordable, and there’s a really lovely, relaxed vibe to the island, in general, that’s reflected in the studios. Many of the studios here offer amazing views over the ocean, or are set up in the forest. Either way, you’re guaranteed a beautiful experience!

What to Eat at Nusa Lembongan

The food here tends to be pretty local, although there are some lovely Western joints. Head to the beach for fresh seafood, or wander down side alleys to get an authentic experience. Indonesian food focuses on fried rice (nasi greng), fried noodles (mie goreng) and tasty curries. Desserts aren’t huge here, but make sure you try banana pancakes at least once while you’re on the island. They’re pretty popular across Indonesia and are delicious!


Where to Stay on Nusa Lembongan

Most popular place to stay here on Nusa Lembongan is this beachfront resort Batu Karang Lembongan Resort and Day Spa *. These spacious beachfront villas come with its own pool and spa services.

For those who are looking for villas with a good environment for family, Jingga Villas * is the place, with its own pool and just a minute walk to the beach. Its services are also well rated by guests.

A good mid range choice here is Sunset Garden Nusa Lembongan * at Mushroom Bay with beautiful garden and sunset view. Just 9 minutes walk from the beach, the price from just 89 USD is well worth it!

If you are looking for a more cozy environment, The Akah Cottage, only 3 minutes walk from the beach, is the place for you. It comes with bike rental facilities and an outdoor pool. It is also good for value with prices starting only at 35 USD. Water Blow Huts * is another well-loved choice in this range to stay near Dream Beach in Lembongan.

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Which Gili Islands is for you? – Gili Air, Gili Meno or Gili Trawangan

Each of the Gili Islands offers something unique, so this guide should help you decide which one is for you before your visit. There is something for everyone here, from quiet luxury to remote relaxing to upbeat beaches.

This trio of islands are nestled in Indonesia and they are home to some of the most beautiful beaches, reef and people I’ve come across on my trip.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

Birdeye’s view of the islands. Photo by yeowatzup

Gili Meno

This is the quieter of the three islands, and is often referred to as ‘the honeymoon island’. Its stunning white beaches make the perfect setting for all things romantic, but it’s also a family-friendly destination.

This teeny island doesn’t have as much to offer in terms of restaurants and bars as the others but is ideal for anyone on a honeymoon or quiet break. That said, the food here is pretty special, and the beautiful setting only makes dinner more exciting. The beaches here are probably the best out of the trio and are normally very quiet. If you like secluded, serene spaces – head here.

If you’re someone who gets bored quite easily, this isn’t for you. This island is better suited to couples who want to get away from the crowds. Solo travelers may find it hard to meet other people, as there isn’t a huge backpacker scene.

Gili Meno, Lombok, Indonesia.
Gili Meno, Lombok, Indonesia. Photo by Blue Barnacle

There aren’t all that many activities to do here, so you do not need to feel guilty about doing nothing! This island is devoted to sunbathing and relaxing. You can rent bicycles and cycle around, or hire a snorkel and spend the afternoon submerged in the crystal clear waters here.

Accommodations on Gili Meno * are pricier among the Gilis, but don’t let that put you off. There isn’t much of a backpacker scene here, as the focus tends to be on boutique hotels. If you’re heading here for a romantic break, treat your loved one to Gili Meno’s Eco Resort * for around 60 USD per night. If you’re feeling flush, book a private bungalow on the beach at Seri Resort *, which comes in at roughly 115 USD for a night.

Gili Meno is perfect for lazing around on stunning beaches, romantic breaks and enjoying the silence.

Gili Meno Beach, Lombok, Indonesia
Gili Meno Beach, Lombok, Indonesia. Photo by Eduardo M. C.

Gili Air

My favourite of this trio, Gili Air is the most locally-populated island. The beaches here and lovely and clean, and the water is incredibly clear. If you like sunbathing on white sand, soaking up the sunshine and chilled vibes, this is the island for you.

There are dive schools all over the island, designed to help you get your PADI or enjoy fun dives with other experienced divers. Head to Oceans Five if you’re a beginner or Gili Pilih for a fun dive if you’re an advanced diver. Snorkelling is also very popular here if you want to see some underwater nature without having to train first!

There are lots of yoga studios on the island, as well as in the ocean! Try your hand stand-up paddleboard yoga, if you’re brave enough. I love this island for how good it makes your mind and body feel. There are a number of fantastic healthy-food cafes and vegan-friendly places to dine, which really help with the ‘feed your soul’ vibe.

Bungalow in Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia
Bungalow in Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia. Photo by Patrik M. Loeff

The food here is a great blend of local warungs (little family-run places offering cheap local food and a break from WiFi) and Western offerings. There are plenty of beach-front restaurants with barbecues laden with fresh seafood, if you fancy eating with your toes in the sand.

Gili Air takes about an hour to walk around and, as with the other two islands, there are no motorized vehicles (aside from a couple of mopeds!). This makes the island incredibly chilled, making it feel a bit like a wellness retreat. While there is nightlife if you seek it, most places close pretty early. This is a great spot for detoxing if you’re someone who gets led astray easily!

There’s a really lovely mix of accommodation styles at Gili Air *. For backpackers, Begadang * is the go-to spot, and I’ve met people all around the world who stayed here when they visited this island. A space in their outdoor dorm will set you back just over 10 USD a night. There are some lovely villas, such as Gili Air Escape or Captain Coconuts Gili * starting from just 80 USD. If you really fancy splashing out, treat yourself to a private pool with Villa Slow *, and nip to their next-door spa for an afternoon of ultimate luxury. Your own haven, complete with villa and pool, will set you back about 200 USD each night.

Gili Air is the perfect island for relaxing, eating and getting spiritual.

Gili Air Diving, Lombok, Indonesia
Gili Air Diving, Lombok, Indonesia. Photo by Gemma i Jere

Gili Trawangan

Affectionately known as ‘Gili T’, this island has a reputation as a party spot for a reason. Half the island is dedicated to late-night bars and loud music. If you’re travelling alone and tend to make new friends while drinking in your hostel, head here. There are heaps of hostels around the main ‘strip’, designed for those who enjoy going out and staying out.

The far side of the island, however, is just as beautiful as its two sisters. The beaches are clean and beautiful, and make a great base for a day of swimming and snorkelling. Again, there are lots of opportunities to dive, be it your first or hundredth time.

The night market here is well worth fuelling up at before a big night out. The smells alone will guide you there, and there are many local delicacies to try. Gili T is designed for socializing, and your hostel will probably organize a night out or two each week. This is a great place to soak up the atmosphere, enjoy the buzz and meet new people.

Gili Trawangan, Lombok, Indonesia
Gili Trawangan, Lombok, Indonesia. Photo by Luis Medina

If you want to mix it up and give your liver a break, there are lots of lovely spas on the island, too. Wander away from the main strip by the port (the island can be walked around in about two hours), and find a quiet spot to relax in.

Gili T brags a hub of places to stay *, so there’s something to suit everyone. My Mate’s Place * is arguably one of the most popular destinations for budget travellers, and it’s not hard to see why with luxurious dorms at just 15 USD inclusive of a good hearty breakfast. If you fancy something in the middle, book a bungalow with Lievera * for about 20 USD and share it with a partner or close friend. Else splurge and go for the bests on the island – Jadi Resort * or Kaleydo Villas *.

Gili Trawangan is perfect for meeting new people, getting into ‘holiday mode’ and letting your hair down.

Gili Trawangan Paradise, Lombok, Indonesia
Gili Trawangan Paradise, Lombok, Indonesia. Photo by Phil Palmer

Don’t worry if you can’t make up your mind! These islands are very easy to travel between, with regular boats running between them all. You can reach the Gilis very easily from mainland Bali, or from nearby Lombok.

-> Check out the Best hotels and resorts on Gili Trawangan

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Best Seminyak Restaurants – A Foodie’s Guide

Seminyak is Bali’s hip hot spot and is home to many good restaurants, beautiful beaches and plenty of trendy boutiques. This is a city of relaxation and indulgence, in every sense of the word. Food is one of Seminyak’s main attractions, so follow our guide to finding the best brunch, lunch and dinner restaurants.

Seminyak is one of the main stop-off points for anyone exploring Bali and is a firm favourite with all of the ex-pats who have set up camp (and businesses) there. The food in Seminyak is some of the best on the island, and there are plenty of opportunities to load up on smoothie bowls, seafood on the beach and Western spreads.

Brekkie and Brunch

Café Organic

Cafe Oragnic is a Bali-based chain restaurant that offers incredible brunch options, as well as plenty of dishes to carry you into the afternoon and evening. This is one of my top picks for any vegans and veggies out there – their menu is crammed with natural goodness! If you’re into sustainability and leading a conscious life, this is the place for you.

This little haven of plant-based goodness is based in the heart of Seminyak, and serves up amazing coffee, fresh juices and raw deserts if you fancy something sweet. This café has an Aussie vibe to it, which ties in perfectly with its comfy seating areas and friendly staff.

Cafe Organic, Bali, Indonesia
Cafe Organic, Bali, Indonesia. Photo by cafeorganicbali

Café Moonlight Bali

This has to be one of my favorite brunch places in Seminyak – a quirky little spot tucked just outside of Seminyak’s centre with a really chilled vibe. The WiFi here is super speedy, making it the perfect place to get lots of work done, or just update the ‘gram. If you’re as much of a caffeine-fiend as I am, you’ll definitely be satisfied here. Café Moonlight Bali is all about looking after your body and nourishing your soul – something I can get behind! Their menu is designed to be healthy, as well as delicious, so you can expect to find plenty of smoothies, fresh juices, hearty brekkies and sweet treats here.

Lunch

Sea Circus

Sea Circus is a colorful restaurant is located in the centre of Seminyak and is a must-visit place for any foodies! Their menu is focused on ‘balance’, as they say, themselves, so there are plenty of options ranging from super-healthy vegan meals to all-out indulgences. Go for tapas, tacos or opt for a liquid diet and enjoy the Margaritas.

The décor here is amazing, so make sure you get photos of everything. I love Sea Circus for its fun side, as well as how seriously it takes good food. There’s a slight Aussie edge to this place (a bit of a recurring theme in Seminyak!), and it’s a really welcoming and friendly place. Head here for funky cocktails and get ready to factor a nap into your afternoon plans.

Sea Circus, Bali, Indonesia
Sea Circus, Bali, Indonesia. Photo by seacircus

Kultar restaurant

If you’re after local food, head to Kultar. It’s recommended that you book first in order to guarantee a seat – it really does get that busy! Don’t let that put you off, though, as it’s actually a super friendly, chilled place to relax and enjoy delicious Indonesian food. They also offer an all-day brekkie menu for anyone else who’s too lazy to get up early.

You’ll be eating amongst the rice paddies, and can take in all traditional decorations dotted around the place. I’d suggest trying some of the local dishes here, just to get a really authentic experience, but they do have other tasty options. Mie Goreng (fried noodles!) will always be one of my favourite Indonesian dishes and makes a great benchmark when trying a new food spot. The Rendang gets really good reviews, too, so order a few dishes and experience as much as possible.

Dinner

Motel Mexicola

So, as you may have guessed by the name, Motel Mexicola isn’t all that focused on local food! If you fancy a break from Nasi Goreng, feast on Mexican deliciousness instead. The vibe here is pretty whacky, which is what makes it such a great place to head to in the evenings. Everything here is fun, loud and quirky, so dress up and get ready for a night of pitchers, guac and dancing in your seat.

They have delicious meat and seafood options, as well as tasty veggie options. If you’re after a quiet, intimate dinner, move along, please! Motel Mexicola is all about celebration and enjoyment, so round up your friends and head down for a night of festivities.

Mojito at Motel Mexicola Bali, Indonesia
Mojito at Motel Mexicola Bali, Indonesia. Photo by motelmexicola

KILN Petitenget

Just off the main Seminyak beach, KILN Petitenget is a lovely restaurant to visit in the evenings. Their menu focuses on Mediterranean delights in a stunning setting. This is a lovely place to visit for a romantic dinner, or a relaxed get-together with close friends. It’s the ‘grown-up’ spot in town, so expect great service, an extensive wine menu and incredible food.

Lovingly-cooked skewers of tender meat, tasty falafel and spiced kebabs (the fancy kind, not the 3 am kind!) make this place any foodie’s heaven. There are veggie options available, and a large evening menu with a range of sharing dishes for anyone who can’t make up their mind. Try and save room for their Banana Tarte Tatin.

KILN on Petitenget, Bali, Indonesia
KILN on Petitenget, Bali, Indonesia. Photo by kilnbali

Explore, Enjoy, Eat
Seminyak has so much to offer to a foodie that it’s impossible to fit it all into one guide. There truly is something for everyone in this lively city – whether you’re after tasty local dishes, vegan health-food spots or Aussie-owned burger chains! Follow your heart, and your nose, and make room for five meals a day. It’s the Bali way.


Where to stay in Seminyak *

Stay at The Legian Bali for a well located beachfront villa with modern and high class style. Or go for minimalist Balinese villas overlooking the Indian ocean at Alila. A famous hotel here is The Oberoi especially with the honeymooners and luxury seekers. Not to forget is also the Resort Courtyard by Marriott Bali with its own private terraces.

-> See Top 10 Best Area to Stay in South & Central Bali
-> See Best Luxury Hotels in Seminyak and more

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Guide to Gili Air, Lombok: Accommodations, Things to Do and more

Gili Air is a little paradise island nestled in Indonesia and surrounded by white sand beaches and palm trees. The accommodation choices at Gili Air * are great while there are still plenty of things to do besides chilling on the best beaches of the world. If you’ve never been, add it to your list of places to visit now!

I first visited a year ago, but have recently moved back and settled into a routine of lazy days, sunset-Bintangs and even lazier evenings.

The Overview

Gili Air is part of a the trio Gili Islands in Indonesia, near Bali and Lombok. Gili Air is the smallest of the three and has the highest local population, making it great for a holiday as well as an exploration into Indonesian culture. Neighbouring Gili Meno is a quiet, honeymoon-retreat, while Gili Trawangan is known for being a ‘party island’. If you fancy something in the middle, Gili Air offers an ideal mix of reggae beach bars, local food and perfect beaches.

Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia
Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia. Photo by Tyler Ingram

How to Get There

There are many boat companies offering trips from mainland Bali to the Gili islands. The main ports include Sanur (ex-pat central!) and Padang Bai, which is near the famous hotspots of Kuta and Seminyak. The boats run regularly throughout the day, and prices vary depending on company and port. Most boat companies offer a free pick-up service from your hotel or hostel, but you will have to organise your own transport when you arrive. More on this later…

Alternatively, you can fly into Lombok International Airport and get a boat from Lombok to Gili Air. The drive from the airport to the main harbour in Senggigi takes a few hours, and the boat across takes around 20 minutes. Prices vary – fast boats are more expensive, but local, slower boats can be taken from Bangsal, another port close to Senggigi, for a lot less money.

Travel between the three Gili islands is very easy, giving you the chance to head over to one of the other Gilis for a day trip if you’re short on time. Most boat companies offer good rates for open return tickets from mainland – just check in with your local company representative two days before you leave in order to book a seat!

traditional house gili air lombok
traditional house gili air lombok. Photo by Gemma i Jere

Where to Stay

There’s plenty of accommodation available on Gili Air * to suit every budget and desire. Grab yourself a beach-front resort or bungalow, sleep on a mattress under the stars (and a mosquito net, don’t worry!) or opt for a traditional ‘lumbung’ home. The island has everything from basic hostels through to luxurious hotels, mixed in with friendly homestays and beach huts.

Prices vary depending on the month, so book ahead during high season. When it’s less busy, you can just turn up and wander around, find something that suits you and negotiate prices. If you’re planning on sticking around for a while, mention this when you arrive and you might be offered a nice little discount.

Head to Gili Air Escape or the more affordable Manusia Green Lodge * and enjoy a traditional Lumbung-style bungalow or fully-equipped villa alongside their beautiful pool. If you’re craving room-service and a swim-up bar, Villa Ombak * is the main big hotel on the island and boasts a huge pool, too. For a more budget stay in Gili Air, go for Balengku Homestay * has a range of accommodation styles, all with access to their huge pool and relaxed hang-out (and hangover) area.

Dive Shop in Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia
Dive Shop in Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia. Photo by Mikaku

What to Do

Gili Air is the perfect spot for not doing very much! This island is a little haven of peace and quiet – there are no cars and only a few mopeds, making it a calm, fume-free spot. I love this island for its slow pace and relaxed vibes.

That said, this island hosts some of the best dive spots, and is perfect for newbies as well as experienced divers. The island is dotted with dive shops, so wander along the beach until you find one that you like. The main schools include Seven Seas and Oceans 5, while places like Gili Pilih offer fun dives for those with more experience who want to plan their own trips.

The reef here is full of beautiful coral, tropical fish and turtles. There are plenty of places to try your hand at the wonder, and wobbliness, of SUP – stand-up paddle boarding! Grab your Go-Pro and head out into the ocean.

Reef with beautiful corals, Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia
Reef with beautiful corals, Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia.
Photo by Sitoo

If you’re after a more spiritual retreat, head to one of the yoga havens and find your bliss. There are plenty of places to practice your downward dog, and a lot of the studios have cute little whole-food cafes attached to them. Handy!

Gili Air has one of the best beaches around, head there and soak up the sunshine! The beaches here are clean and are full of snorkelling opportunities. There are lots of places to grab a beer or snack while you enjoy the rays.

-> Read Things to Do on Gili Air, Meno and Trawangan

What to Eat

Indonesian food is some of the best in the world, in my opinion, and Gili Air doesn’t disappoint. Small ‘warungs’ offer local food at very low prices and are often family-run. They often won’t have WiFi or air-conditioning, so take a book or practice your Bahasa with staff.

My favourite local dishes include olah-olah – vegetables cooked in coconut milk and spices – and pumpkin curry. Alternatively, gado-gado is a delicious meal for anyone who likes peanuts – skewers of meat, tofu or tempe (soya beans) smothered in peanut sauce and served with veg and rice.

This is a variation of Gado Gado!
Variation of Gado Gado. Photo by Victoria Benstead-Hume

Luckily for any vegetarians and vegans, lots of Indonesian food is meat and dairy free. There’s a big focus on coconut milk and fresh vegetables, making it pretty easy to get your five a day and stay plant-based. The Western-style restaurants and cafes often have dairy-free options, but local places are unlikely to. Head to Mowies for an almond milk flat white, or Coffee and Thyme for a delicious soya matcha latte, and a cheeky slice of cake.

There is, of course, a huge array of beach-front restaurants all boasting seafood barbecues and happy hours. While they may not be all that ‘authentic’, it can be pretty fun to spend an evening with your feet in the sand, listening to live music and enjoy ginormous grilled prawns! Gili Air is not a party island, but there’s still enough going on each night to keep you entertained.

The open-air cinema offers up something new each night, and the cost of your ticket also includes something from their huge barbecue (fresh seafood, veggie options or big slabs of meat) and bottomless salad bar. Happy days. Head to Ombak Paradiso on the beach to enjoy a movie night, just remember to take some buy spray!

Stars on Gili Air
Stars on Gili Air. Photo by Reef with beautiful corals, Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia. Photo by Robert-Jan van der Vorm

Most of the bigger restaurants on the beach host live bands every night, so wander around and follow your stomach and your ears. There are few ‘big’ nights on the island that change regularly, so ask around to find the hot spot. Legend Bar is famous on the island for its trance nights, and tends to fill up with ex-pats and travellers alike. Pura Vida offers up Spanish tapas and live musics a couple of days a week. Zipp bar gets pretty lively on a Friday night, so be prepared for plenty of tourists and off-duty divers.

Most places tend to close relatively early here – evening meals are best enjoyed before 9.30pm before kitchens start closing. There are a few late-night options, but these are limited so I’d suggest eating earlier if you want a bit more choice. Shops close around 10 pm, so stock up on drinking water and snacks if you get the night-munchies.

If you’re still craving something more exciting, get a boat over to Gili T for the night and come back the next morning. Make sure you book a hostel or place to sleep for the night as it gets pretty busy over there.

Sunset in Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia
Sunset in Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia. Photo by Gemma i Jere

General Advice and Safety

Gili Air is a safe place to explore, whether you’re a solo traveller, honeymooner or taking a trip en-masse with the family.

Many people advise against drinking local alcohol, or ‘arak’, but I’ve never had any troubles with it. Most bars and restaurants will offer you the choice of local or imported spirits in your drink, the latter being more expensive, of course. If you’re worried, opt for imported spirits – everything here is pretty cheap anyway.

There are severe penalties for drug possession in Indonesia, so stay safe and be sensible. Don’t do a Bridget Jones and become an accidental drug-mule! Pack your own bags, don’t offer or agree to transport goods for anyone you don’t know and use your common sense.

Islam is the main religion in Indonesia, and Gili’s beautiful mosque sits near the harbour. Whilst the beaches are fine for bikinis, stay respectful if you’re wandering around the central village areas, as this is where most of the locals live. While you don’t have to cover up at all times, it’s a friendly gesture to cover your knees and shoulders if you visit the villages.

Gili Air Beach, Lombok, Indonesia
Gili Air Beach, Lombok, Indonesia. Photo by Robert-Jan van der Vorm

Tap water is absolutely not safe to drink! The water in most taps and showers here comes from the ocean and is often unfiltered. While it’s okay to shower in saltwater, I’d suggest using bottled water to brush your teeth with. Many restaurants and bars will have notes in their menus telling you that they use clean, ‘gallon water’ to make ice and wash any fruit and vegetables. If you feel uncomfortable, just ask – you won’t be the first!

Cidomos are the traditional way to get around the island and are the horse-drawn carriages you may have seen photos of. While many tourists use these when they initially arrive at the harbour, I would suggest steering clear of them. When I first arrived here, I was overwhelmed and bombarded by the ‘local taxis’ and was advised that everyone here uses them to get around. Not so!

It turned out that my hostel was only a 20-minute walk away – not worth the money or the hot, bumpy journey for the poor horse carrying me and my heavy luggage! This is totally up to you, of course, but do a bit of planning and try and screenshot a map or download Maps.Me before you arrive so that you have the option to walk if you choose to.

Welcome to Paradise

All in all, Gili Air is the perfect paradise spot for anyone who enjoys relaxing in beautiful surroundings. Serene and spiritual, this little island is the ideal destination for anyone who fancies a bit of a wellness retreat with the added bonus of endless sunshine.

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Top 10 Things to do on the Gili Air, Trawangan and Meno
Travel Guide to the Gili Islands
Best hotels and resorts in Gili Trawangan