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

Related articles:
Guide to Gili Air, Lombok – What to do and Accomodations
Top 10 Things to do on the Gili Islands
Lombok and Gili Islands Travel Guide

Mentawai Islands, Sumatra Travel Guide

The beautiful Mentawai Islands are a small archipelago that sits off the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. They are famous for their surfing conditions, being on of the top 10 surf spots in Indonesia. It even rivals those found in the surfer’s paradise of Bali.

As such, many surfers come to the Mentawai Islands after the surf season in Bali has finished. But surfing is not the only activity on offer here. Many of the islands provide delightful opportunities for trekking as well as fishing and snorkeling. If none of these appeals, then you can also spend time relaxing on the beaches here or learning more about the Mentawai culture.

Beautiful view at Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

Beautiful view at Mentawai Islands. Photo by Warm Winds Surf Shop

Where is it

The Mentawai Islands are located around 150 kilometers off the west coast of the island of Sumatra. They consist of Pulau (island) Siberut, Pulau Sipura Pulau Pagai-utara and Pulau Pagai-selatan. To visit here, you will have to first go to Padang in West Sumatra before making the journey across by boat.

Fishing village at Bintan Island, Indonesia

Map of Mentawai Islands

Why go

If you are a surfing aficionado, then the Mentawais offer some of the best surfing in the country. These islands are not to be missed as part of your wider surf trip in Indonesia. If surfing is not your thing, the Mentawais still offer you the chance to see a far less touristy side of Indonesia, with a fascinating culture that many visitors don’t get to see. With relatively good travel links to Padang, the Mentawais are also quite easy to visit, especially for intrepid travelers looking for some adventures a little off the beaten track.

Surfing the waves of Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

Surfing the waves of Mentawai Islands. Photo by Colm Walsh

When to visit

The best time to visit the Mentawai Islands is after the rainy season, which starts around November or December and then runs until approximately March or April. During this time it can rain every day, and if you want to spend time surfing or sunbathing then, this can be a rather damp time to visit. Months like September and October are good picks as the weather is pleasant and this is also low season after the summer holidays and before the winter rush for Christmas and New Year. The flight tickets and accommodations are often discounted during this time. The overall general best time to visit the Mentawai Islands is during the dry season of May to October.

People of Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

People of Mentawai Islands. Photo by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

What to see

The Mentawais are islands of sand and surf so bear in mind that most of the things to see here are focused on beach life.

Siberut Island – the biggest of all the islands and where most of the population lives. Most of the island is made up of tropical rainforest, and for this reason, it is a UNESCO reserve. It is also the spot where you will find Siberut National Park where you can go trekking and explore the unique flora and fauna of these islands.

People of Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

River at Pulau Siberut Island. Photo by viajar24h.com, via Wikimedia Commons

Sipora Island – If you want to see a more developed side of the Mentawais then head over to Pulau Sipora. It is the home of the ‘capital’ city of the Mentawais called Tua Pejat. The local government offices are also located here and it is the urbanest of all the Mentawai Islands.

Pagai Islands – separated into Pulau Pagai Utara in the north and Pulau Pagai Selatan in the south. Travelers hardly ever make it out that far, but you can charter a boat and cruise around the waters here if you want to explore further afield.

What to do

If you like islands and beaches then you will find much to do on the Mentawais.

Surfing – the top activity here with consistent surf breaks. Some of the popular surfing spots here are E’bay, Beng-beng, Nipussi and Pitstop. Here you can get many islets and flawless reef with sun blue waters, and also offshore winds and spitting tubes.

Fishing – the usual fishing using a rod, or spear fishing using a spear gun are both popular on the Mentawais. You will find a huge number of fish living in the shallow reefs around the islands.

Snorkeling – also a great activity on the islands and the visibility here is excellent. You can rent snorkeling equipment easily from many guesthouses and hotels.

Boat for surfing and snorkeling Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

Boat for surfing and snorkeling. Photo by Warm Winds Surf Shop

Trekking and hiking – For anyone who prefers to stay on dry land, these are the best activities to do on the Mentawai Islands. There are treks to suit all levels of ability and you can either take a guided tour that lasts for a full day or go for an easy hike independently for a few hours. One of the popular trekking places is the Siberut National Park

Shaman traditional ceremony – If you are looking for a bit of local culture then make sure not to miss out on this. The indigenous people of the Mentawais are the Sikerei tribe. You will find the traditional performances information in hotels and guesthouses on the islands.

Where to stay

The most choices of places to stay on Mentawai Islands would be on the big island of Pulau Siberut *. You may also find some remote and luxurious choices at Sipora Island, for example, the Simakakang Villa *.

Mentawai Islands at night, Indonesia

Mentawai Islands at night. Photo by Bruno Ahlgrimm

How to get around

The Mentawai Islands are easy to get around. You may be able to walk around on foot if you are just going from your guesthouse to the beach. If you want to explore further, however, then it is a good idea to rent a scooter or a bicycle which can be easily arranged from a local hotel or guesthouse.

How to get there

To get to the Mentawai Islands, you first need to travel to the city of Padang in West Sumatra. There are flights from Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta to Padang. There is also a range of domestic airlines that make the journey from other parts of Indonesia. Some of the local airlines that travel to Padang are Garuda Indonesia, Air Asia Indonesia and Lion Air.

Local fishermen returning at Padang beach Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

Local fishermen returning at Padang beach. Photo by Fadillah Jafar, via Wikimedia Commons

Once you have travelled to Padang, you will need to get a boat to the Mentawai Islands. One of the best ways to do this is to take a fast ferry that leaves every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Note that the ferry leaves at 7 am from Padang Harbor, so you will need to come to Padang the night before. The ferry will then travel to Sikabalua Port arriving at 10 am and then on to Siberut at 12 pm where the majority of hotels and guesthouses are.

Where to go nearby

Padang – a coastal city with Dutch colonial buildings and fishing boats
Pekanbaru – the capital of Riau and well known for its modernity and cleanliness while maintaning the many of its unique heritage architectures.

Related articles:
Sumatra Travel Guide
Top 10 Places to Surf in Indonesia
Pulau Weh Island, Sumatra

Karimun Island: Hidden Paradise in Java

Karimun Island, also known as Karimunjawa and Karimun Java, is a hidden paradise of Java, is an archipelago of 27 islands north of Semarang and off the coast of Central Java. The main island is Karimun and the second island is Kemujan. The two islands are like twins, just side by side and often mistaken one of another. Karimunjawa name literally means a stone’s throw from Java in Javanese.

This place is well known by savvy travelers of Java that would like to find some beautiful beaches and sea without needing to leave to other parts of Indonesia. Many locals will also introduce you to this place, the pride of Central Java for having their very own white sand beaches and clear blue sea.

-> Jump to Best Acommodations on Karimunjawa Island

White sand beach at Karimunjawa, Java, Indonesia

White sand beaches at Karimunjawa, Java

Where is it

Karimunjawa islands are about 80 km northwest of Jepara, a small town in Central Java. It can be reached by a ferry boat from Kartini Port in Jepara for about 3 hours.

Karimunjawa Map, Central Java Indonesia

Karimunjawa Map, Central Java

Why go

A beautiful sea getaway from the hustle and bustle of the inland of Java, though Java mainland does bring a lot of charms, this is the answer to your cravings for sun, sea and sand. Also this place is not swarmed with tourists yet unlike the famous Bali of Indonesia. Therefore you can find yourself enjoying the serenity of secluded and tranquil white beaches. Travelers come here to have a fix of snorkelling or diving as well, where the coral reefs are well protected.

Tanjung Gelam Island, Karimunjawa, Java, Indonesia

Tanjung Gelam Island, Karimunjawa, Java

When is the best time to go

As the rest of Java, Indonesia of a tropical climate, the best time to go Karimunjawa would be during the dry season of April to October where the weather would be consistent sunny but humid.

What to do

Island hopping for snorkelingRent a boat and go hopping from one island to another, exploring the sea and the beaches as you go. Snorkelling is a must here where the corals are aplenty and the sea clear and blue. There are many small islands to explore, the popular ones being Pulau Tengah, Tanjung Gelam and Menjangan Besar (touted most beautiful).

Clear sea at Karimunjawa, Java, Indonesia

Clear sea at Karimunjawa, Java

Diving
Having 35 types of corals, sponges, mixtures of fringing and barrier with depths of 15 to 40 meters, Karimunjawa can be another diving haven, where you can meet a large variety of marine life and even shipwrecks. Good local diving spots here are Taka Panyawangan and Gosong Cemara.

Swimming with the sharks
Many sharks have been sighted around the Karimunjawa islands and if you are into adrenaline rush, go to Menjangan island and try to find some sharks to swim with. The guides will ensure your safety so do not worry.

Village at Karimunjawa, Java, Indonesia

Village at Karimunjawa, Java

Fishing in the deep sea
Another interesting thing to do here in Karimunjawa is to go fishing. You can rent a boat and go out to the various good fishing spots nearby to catch some lunch or dinner and finish it off with fresh coconut found easily around the islands.

Hike around the islands
Ask the locals and hike or trek around, you may just find yourself from places with a beautiful panoramic view of the islands and the sea.

Where to stay in Karimunjawa

Being one of the best beaches in Java, Indonesia, Karimunjawa is not short of places to stay *.

Breve Azurine Lagoon Resort
If you are looking for your own private beach and exclusivity, this hotel is the one for you on Karimunjawa Island. This is a real hideaway with amazing views over the ocean and horizon from your rooms.
Check out the latest prices and reviews on Booking.com *

Ayu Hotel Karimunjawa
This specialty lodgings are top rated by independent travelers to this island. Quickly booked out, this hill-top hotel is well known for its friendly service and stunning views.
Check out the latest prices and reviews on Booking.com *

The Coconut House
If you are on a budget, this friendly and bright guesthouse is the one. Designed with traditional Indonesian motives mixed into modern clean rooms, this hotel is also well located with walking distance to the night fish market.
Check out the latest prices and reviews on Booking.com *

-> Look for more hotel deals in Karimunjawa at Booking.com *

How to get there

From Semarang, take a bus to Jepara town, which takes about 2 hours. Then from Jepara take a ferry boat from the port. The fast ferry will take 1 hour 45 minutes at the cost of 70,000 Rp and it departs from Jepara every Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. And if you are feeling in a pinch and having a lot of time on your hands, you can take the 6 hours slow ferry boat that goes off on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.

If you have money to spare and tight on time, you can actually charter a flight from Semarang to Dewandaru Airport in Kemujan Island.

Fishing at the sea in Karimunjawa, Java, Indonesia

Fishing at the sea in Karimunjawa, Java

How to get around

On islands itself, as they are relatively small, you can walk around on foot or rent a motorbike to go around.

Where to go nearby

Semarang – Famous for batik, the second city of Java
Wonosobo – for more village life in the heart of Java
Dieng Plateau – the rolling greens of highlands with ancient temples, lakes, and craters
Yogyakarta – Springboard to Borobudur and Prambanan temples.

White beacheas of Karimunjawa, Java, Indonesia

White beaches of Karimunjawa, Java

Travel Tips

Don’t forget your sunblock, this place can be burning hot! Sunglasses and sun hat are good additions too!

Photo credits from top: Azwari Nugraha, Burmesedays, Azwari Nugraha, Azwari Nugraha, georgedarroch, Azwari Nugraha and Don Merwin

Related articles:
Top 10 Best Beaches in Java
Top 10 Things to Do in Java Island
3 Weeks Itinerary for Islands of Indonesia