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 to 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 music 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 10pm, 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…

Gili Trawangan Accommodations – Best hotels and resorts

Most people choose to stay on Gili Trawangan when they come to Gili Islands as there are more accommodation choices here. The demand is higher than the supply here and the prices tend to be higher than its counterparts of Bali and Lombok.

The accommodation choices are your usual from villas and resorts to backpackers inns and guesthouses. Also do pre-book during peak season too, which are July-August and December-January.

Booking.com * is a good choice because most of its booking allow cancellations to the day before, allowing flexibility.
Agoda.com * is another good alternative as it has the most extensive listing in Asia.

Here are our recommended accommodations:


Mid-range prices 100 – 150 USD

Pearl Trawangan

A beachfront resort with its own outdoor pool and bar, this place is ideal for those who want to relax in style. Styled with rustic designs, the individual huts are unique and inviting. Themed with a tropical island feel and filled with lush gardens, it is truly a dream to stay here.
Check out the latest prices and reviews at Booking.com *
Check out the latest prices and reviews at Agoda.com *


Desa Dunia Beda

Another beachfront hotel, this one features spacious standalone bungalows and villas with a traditional wood interior. Each villa has its own private terraces and there is also an outdoor pool.
Check out the latest prices and reviews at Booking.com *.
Check out the latest prices and reviews at Agoda.com *


Low Mid-range prices 50 – 100 USD

Wilson’s Retreat

Offering a tropical oasis retreat at the beachside, this resort comes with a good mix of modern and traditional design. The rooms are cozy yet clean and full of natural lights and high ceilings. The outdoor pool and the French restaurant bar is a plus.
Check out the latest prices and reviews at Booking.com *.
Check out the latest prices and reviews at Agoda.com *


Pink Coco

One of the famous hotel chains in the scene of Bali and Lombok, PinkCoco delivers yet again a fresh and stunning place to stay on this island. With its signature pink theme coupled with Balinese inspired designs, this hotel comes with its very own private beach. Definitely one worth to reckon with, considering its success.
Check out the latest prices and reviews at Booking.com *.
Check out the latest prices and reviews at Agoda.com *


Belukar

Located at the quieter area of Gili Trawangan island, this place is a gem to find. It is located only 5 minutes walk to the beach and 15 minutes cycle to the hip and happening bar areas of Trawangan. The rooms come luxuriously decked with teak furniture and surrounded by a tropical garden. There’s also your very own private pool and a beautiful sunset view to complete it.
Check out the latest prices and reviews at Booking.com *.
Check out the latest prices and reviews at Agoda.com *


Related articles:
Where to Stay in Lombok – Best Places and Accommodations
Guide to Gili Islands
Top 10 Things to Do on Gili Islands
Best Hotels, Resorts and Villas on the Beach in Bali

Top 10 Things To Do on the Gili Islands – Trawangan, Meno, Air

The stunning Gili Islands are a group of islands that are located off the coast of Lombok. They are perfect for anyone looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Bali. The Gili Islands consist of three main islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Each of them has a different atmosphere and range of activities depending on your preferences.

You need to keep in mind that whichever island you choose, you will not find a lot of ‘tourist attractions’ like temples, museums, or monuments to visit. The whole point of coming to the Gili Islands is to enjoy a slice of island living. While you may still find some interesting activities here, you should also be aware that this is one of the most laid back holiday destinations in Indonesia.

Here are our recommendations of top 10 things to do on the Gili Islands.

-> Jump to Where to Stay on the Gili Islands

Gili Islands, Indonesia

Birdeye’s view of the islands. Photo by yeowatzup

Go diving

The Gili Islands have some of the best dive spots in the country as the conditions here are clear and calm. Most people choose to dive off the coast from Gili Trawangan as this island has the best variety of dive shops and diving packages. Although not one of the top sites to dive in Indonesia, Gili Islands still offer quite a diving experience with some (harmless) sharks, rays, turtles and more.

Visit a turtle hatchery

Talking of turtles, Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno both serves as a turtle hatchery, where you can get up close with some of these cute creatures. The hatchery serves to protect the baby turtles and take care of them till they are old enough to be released again into the wild. You can visit here safely knowing that you are supporting a good cause. You may also give some donations at Gili Meno, to have a hands on experience releasing the turtes back into the sea.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

Releasing the turtles from the hatchery at Gili Meno. Photo by Charlie Sedanayasa

Cycle around the islands

One of the best activities around here are cycling, as there are no cars on any of the islands. Cycling is also one of the most enjoyable ways to explore the land. You can easily rent a bicycle here in any of the three islands and you can circumvent them in just a few hours.

Boats at Gili Trawangan beach, Lombok, Indonesia

Rental bicycle at a bungalow on Gili Air. Photo by Tanel Teemusk

Enjoy the viewpoint from Gili Trawangan

Gili Trawangan is known for its highest point which is aptly named ‘The Viewpoint’. It takes around half an hour to walk there from the central hub of the island but it is well worth it for the views over the sea and towards the other islands in this part of Indonesia like Lombok and Bali.

Sunrise at Gili Air, Lombok

Sunrise at Gili Air, Lombok. Photo by brian

Go snorkelling

Gili Trawangan has the monopoly on dive centres but if you are staying on Gili Air or Gili Meno, you can still enjoy the gorgeous azure seas. The best way to do this is to go snorkelling, which will allow you to spot turtles, colourful fish, and maybe even a baby shark for far less than the price of a diving excursion from Gili Trawangan.

Boats at Gili Trawangan beach, Lombok, Indonesia

Boats at Gili Trawangan beach, Lombok. Photo by yeowatzup

Take a boat tour

A boat tour can be arranged no matter which island you are on and it can be a great way to check out the other Gili Islands without actually staying overnight. Many operators on the islands offer boat trips and they range from a simple trip between the islands to a luxurious glass bottom boat tour of the surrounding seas. If you charter a boat to island hop, it can coast around IDR 300,000 depending on your haggling skills. But if you want to check out the other islands more cheaply, you can also get the local ferry for IDR 30,000.

-> Find places to stay on Gili Islands at Booking.com. Free cancellation. *

Eat some seafood

As the Gili Islands are surrounded by sea you can probably guess that the staple food here is seafood and fish. Every night the local restaurants here will display the day’s catch on the pavement. There are no better ways to enjoy the fresh seafood than having them simply grilled over coconut husks and served with steamed rice.

Grill seafood at Gili Trawangan Gili Islands, Indonesia

Grill seafood at Gili Trawangan. Photo by Marie

Visit the local night market

The local night market is located at Gili Trawangan and it is something not to be missed if you choose to stay on this island. Every evening a night market will be set up in the main square at around dusk. This is also one of the best places to grab some dinner on the island. Local stalls sell traditional bites like grilled satay and spicy corn on the cob. You can also go for simple fried noodle or rice dishes. The food here is typically less expensive than the restaurants or cafes on the island but it is equally if not more delicious.

 Night Food market at  Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Night Food market at Gili Trawangan. Photo by Henrik Palm

Dance parties or live bands on Gili Trawangan

Gili Trawangan is known for being the ‘party island’ but don’t expect this to be anything like the nightlife scene in Kuta in Bali. Still, you will find a range of beach bars here that play music well into the night. Some venues even have special themed nights and dance parties. If you prefer a more relaxing evening, then head to Evolution Bar for live bands music.

 Live Band at Evolution Bar, Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Live Band at Evolution Bar, Gili Trawangan. Photo by Reinardt Gilfillan

Go to an open air cinema

This may not sound like an activity you thought you would do on a paradise island like Gili Islands, but it is really an experience itself. Across the different islands, there are a few places that offer open air movie nights, where you can sit on bean bags and enjoy a movie on a big screen under the stars. The most famous open air cinema takes place on the main beach on Gili Trawangan. But many other guesthouses and hotels on Gili T and the other islands have noted how popular this is and have set up their own open air cinemas too.

Bonus – Gili’s famous swing on the sea

Find the famous swing on the sea and get a beautiful picture with the romantic sunset as backdrop. This swing can be found on the west of Gili Trawangan at Ombak Sunset resort hotel *.

The swing at Gili Islands at Ombak Sunset, Indonesia

The swing at Gili Islands at Ombak Sunset resort hotel *. Photo by Dennis Keller

A trip to the Gili Islands can be a highlight of a visit to Indonesia for many travellers as it is covered with beautiful sights. They are also a nature lover’s dream thanks to its turquoise waters and white sands. Part of the charm of the islands is that they still retain a relaxed feel and a slower pace of life, therefore one of the best things to do here when you visit is to slow down and appreciate the chance to relax and unwind in one of the most beautiful spots in Southeast Asia.


Best Accommodations on Gili Islands

Gili Trawangan

Most of the good hotels to stay are on Gili Trawangan * as it is also the largest and the most popular. Here are few of the best ones:

-> For more read Gili Trawangan Best Accomodations

Gili Meno

For somewhere quieter yet not too quiet, Gili Meno is where you want to stay *. It is like a mix in between the vibrant Gili Trawangan and the serene Gili Air.

Gili Air

If you are looking more of a local bungalow style and homestay kind, then stay at Gili Air * where you can find the ultimate peace and quietness of a village life.


Related articles:
Gili Islands
Lombok and Gili Islands Travel Guide
Top 10 Things to Do in Lombok
Top 10 Things to Do in Bali

Best way to get from Bali to Gili Islands

Can you suggest the best way to get from Bali to Gili Islands, in terms of fastest way and also the cheapest? Thank you for your suggestions.
– Hamilton

From Bali to Gili Islands, you may take a fast boat such as Gili Cat or Blue water Safari (http://www.bwsbali.com/) from Padang Bai to Gili Islands.

Or you can also fly from Bali to Gili Islands which many travelers say it is worth it to save time and sometimes it can be cheaper than the boat. Airlines that fly this route is Merpati, Indonesia Air Transport and Trigana.

Author: Pearl

Living in Jakarta for more than 20 years now, she still have not manage to cover the tip of Indonesia’s diverse destinations, people and even food! Pearl loves shopping as much as enjoying luxury but she knows all these have to be done sensibly and on a budget. Therefore you may find the best scoop and offers in Jakarta and beyond with her.