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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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.

Related articles:
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