Heading to Indonesia and wondering which is the best Gili island for you? We’ve got you covered with this guide to the famous trio of paradise islands.
Whether you’ve been backpacking Bali and need a few days out of the buzz, or just want to fly directly to nearby Lombok and island-hop through your vacation, these islands are your perfect escape. A beach holiday, a diving adventure or a luxurious break away – these Indonesian gems all offer something unique…
For those seeking solace, head to Gili Meno. This little island is affectionately known as the ‘honeymoon island’, due to its stunning beaches and serene landscapes, as well as its popularity among newlyweds. Don’t worry if you’re travelling solo, however, as there are plenty of secluded sandy spots to enjoy.
Head here for some peace and quiet – there aren’t many distractions so you won’t be tempted to party into the wee hours. Grab an early night and hit the beach as soon as the sun rises! Meno’s beaches are the stuff of dreams – white sand and crystal waters laced with palm trees. The island offers a range of accommodation options, so don’t worry if you’re after more of a hostel-vibe than a private villa decorated with rose petals.
The waters around the three Gilis are perfect for divers, both new and advanced. This trio of islands is home to some incredible wildlife, including the much loved Green and Hawksbill turtles. Gili Air is the best of the bunch when it comes to diving – the island has a mid-range buzz of activity that makes it sociable without being too wild. Gili Trawangan (commonly referred to as ‘Gili T’) has some amazing dive opportunities, but its lively nightlife can make it all too tempting to be unproductive (read: hungover) and never quite get round to diving!
Gili Air offers diving for everyone, regardless of age or experience. There are plenty of dive schools on the island that will help you work towards you PADI diving qualification, as well as centres that offer Instructor training courses. If you’re an advanced diver, plan your own dive and enjoy being out in the water on your terms. Of course, Gili Meno and Gili T have lots of dive schools, too, so you don’t need to confine yourself to just one island!
Holidays can be exhausting, let’s be honest, and we all need a break-from-a-break sometimes. If you’re after some me-time and fancy a day of pampering, head to Gili Air and book into Slow Spa. Arguably the best spa on the island, and probably across all three, this is a true haven. This chapel-like bamboo spa is the perfect combination of welcoming and professional – expect a fresh drink and towel on arrival, skilled and friendly staff and a definite loosening in your shoulders when you leave!
There are dozens of spas dotted across the three islands, so you’re bound to find something lovely wherever you end up. Decide what you’re after and go from there. Places like Slow Spa and Wagwan Spa offer world-class service and will exceed any expectations you might have. Alternatively, pop into any of the street-side massage huts and enjoy an authentic Balinese massage. Air is the best Gili island for those after a pampering break.
Bear in mind that not all spas will be of the same quality you’d expect back home! My first Indonesian ‘spa’ turned out to be a mattress in a very small hut down an alleyway – the massage was amazing but the steady flow of traffic was pretty off-putting. Some spas don’t seem to have any policies in terms of noise, and I’ve regularly experienced staff gossiping between the curtains while giving massages. Remember that you get what you pay for – sure, $2 massages might seem incredible but you won’t be getting fancy oil, scented candles or a soothing soundtrack!
Spring Break (All Year Round!)
Those who are young, or at least young at heart, will want to spend their days over in Gili T. This lively little island is known as the ‘party island’, and for good reason. There’s a main beach-front strip lined with bars, all of which offer various Happy Hour deals.
Things tend to get a little rowdy on this island, but it’s the best Gili island if you fancy meeting new people. If you’re travelling on your own, find a new bunch of people to hang out with in one of the many hostels. Travelling to Gili T also tends to be pretty popular with big groups, and it makes a great alternative to places like Malia and Magaluf! This tropical paradise is every stag’s dream, as you get to sleep away the hangover away on a beach. R & R stands for ‘Rest & Rum’, right?
If you’re a long-term traveller, it’s pretty likely that you’ll be doing some kind of online work, or at least some blogging and ‘gramming. Gili Air makes the perfect base for those working from their laptops. The WiFi across the three islands is decent, although nowhere near the level we get back home, so be prepared. There are power-cuts every so often, but this island has various café and bars with back-up generators. Air is the best Gili island for getting work done, and there are some great little spots to crack on with your work.
Head to Coffee and Thyme for speedy WiFi, plenty of plug sockets and amazing coffee, Captain Coconuts for vegan brunches to fuel your work and Breadelicious for its pastries as well as its generator – this is the best place to be when there’s a power-cut on the island and you’ve got a deadline to meet! If you tend to work better in a busy atmosphere, Raja Bar has great WiFi and, as a water-front bar, has a lot going on in the background. If you’re short on money, take a trip to Fun Warung and enjoy cheap and tasty food while you work. We all know how expensive it gets when you have to order snack after snack in order to feel deserving of a table! Air makes the best Gili island for getting work done while enjoying a paradise setting.
Gili Meno is ideal for those wanting to escape it all. Gili T has its wild nightlife, Gili Air has a mix of beach bars and ‘club nights’ and Gili Meno is calm and serene. If you want a proper break and fancy doing a detox, head here as there is very little to be tempted by, other than napping and sunbathing! This island is wonderful for the fact that it just inspires a healthy lifestyle. You’ll find yourself wanting to steer clear of booze, and the early-closing of most places will really help you with this.
This is the best Gili island for those who fancy soaking up some rays, getting through their stack of holiday-reading and cramming in some downtime. If you were to imagine a holiday scene, it would probably look exactly like the white-sand beaches of glorious little Gili Meno.
Pick and Mix
Take a two hour boat ride from Bali, or fly directly into nearby Lombok’s international airport. These three islands are all close to each other, so you can always mix things up once you arrive. Boats between the three islands are very cheap, and the longest you’ll have to travel will be about 40 minutes. Despite being close in distance, they all offer something very different! Make the most of your trip and explore all that the islands have to offer, while keeping one as your extra-special base…