Lots of people come to Bali to spend their vacation on the beach. Unless you stay in the Bukit peninsula, you won’t get much of a chance to enjoy deserted white sand, clear blue water beaches. Areas like Canggu (located south-western & east Bali coasts) famous for its black sand beach. More popular destinations like Kuta/Seminyak tend to be more crowded filled with tourists more suitable for beach bumming then surfing.
What do people here do for a perfect getaway to find beach paradise? Head to Gili Islands!
Gili Islands! Where is that?
“Gili” – is a word locals call a very small tiny island. An island you can stroll from one side to the other in about 30 minutes or less. There are several islands like this not far from Bali.
The most famous of these small islands are three islands next to each other called Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. You can get there by speedboat in one hour. There are other lesser known islads such as Gili Gede, or Gili Naggu. It takes a bit longer to get there, but is a very desolate place.
One special thing about Gili Islands is the lack of cars and motorbikes with absolutely no traffic. The islands are small and everything is within walking distance. If you truly feel lazy and absolutely do not want to walk, renting a bicycle, or hitching a ride on a horse carriage is an option.
There is nothing to do on the islands, so its a perfect place to lose track of time and be completely free of the daily grind of life. It encourages laziness and spend your days sun bathing, swimming, or snorkeling. Maybe even take up scuba diving lessons if you’re looking for more activities. In Gili Trawangan, (aka Gili T) nightlife is quite active. There are a few bars right on the beach, so you can spend the night away drinking and dancing.
How do I get to Gilis?
There are several speed boat operators that sell tickets. You can also purchase tickets from most travel agencies located throughout Bali. Prices vary, but the cheapest you will find for a round trip ticket is about $60-70. Most hotels & agencies will try to rip you off by selling a one way ticket for $100 and find yourself riding in the same boat with people who paid much less. ;)
All tickets include a transfer to Padang Bai harbor where the speedboats to the islands take off from. If you have an open schedule and don’t want to feel the pressure of having a set return date, purchase tickets with an open return date.
All boats go to Gili T, where you can get on another boat to island hop for about $2.
Speedboats from Balo to Gilis leave early in the morning daily at 8 AM. Going back from Gilis to Bali, boats leave around noon time.
Which of the three islands to choose?
Although all of the three-islands are very similar, Gili T is the busiest of the three. If you worry about getting bored, Gili T will have the most activities to offer. It has a vibrant party scene and a variety of scuba diving schools to choose from.
Gili Meno is considered the most remote, and also a great place if you are looking spend a romantic time with your special someone. Gili Air is a mixture of the two islands.
If there is a good swell, Gili Air attracts surfers with perfect barreling right-handed reef break.
Where to stay?
Gili islands offer all kinds of accommodation to suit your needs. Simple bamboo huts on the beach is $15 per night. For a fancy villa and more upscale hotels, typically cost on average around $100, or more.
Gili Air and Gili Meno have lots of cheap and affordable accommodation. What is especially nice is staying at a place a few steps from the beach for $15. A standalone tropical bungalow with a roof made of grass and a private balcony with a hammock. What more can you ask for when it comes to truly experiencing a tropical vacation?
I personally don’t like Gili T, since accommodation are more expensive starting at $30 per night and with no seclusion. If you find more comfort in having westernized hotel accommidations, you probably wouldn’t enjoy staying in a hut on the beach.
You can book accommodation ahead, or find something when you arrive.
I really love Gili Air because of my fond memories hanging out at Legend bar, sitting on bean bags at the beach. Sipping on pina colada’s and fresh pineapple juice.
What to do during your stay.
Swim in the ocean! The islands are surrounded by crystal clear blue waters. With white sand beaches not just for sun-bathing. Enjoy serene views that you normally find in travel magazines. Most of the bungalows and cafes are situated right on the beach, so you won’t fall short of enjoying calm beauty while drinking your coctail, or fresh juice.
If you are into diving, courses are available in Gili T. If you don’t want to go that far, rent a mask & snorkel (available almost in every cafe or hotel) and go for a lazy swim around corals. You can also hire a fishing boat for few hours ($20) and go to remote coral reefs.
Watch sunsets. There is a serious ritual every Gili visitor have to attend. Sunset watching from the beach! Just kidding…. ;-) Since there is not much to do, you will probably be heading to one of the cafes on the beach to watch a the sunset around 6 pm.
Surf in Gili Air. Perfect barreling right hander for advanced surfers. Breaks when swell is really big everywhere.
Dance on the sand in one of Gili T bars. Every fullmoon there is a big party on Gili T, so if thats your thing, don’t miss it!
When to go?
Any month of the year is a perfect time to go to Gili Island to escape from bustling Bali. I remember the first rainy season I spent in Bali when it rained non-stop in Kuta for over a week. Only to be greeted by sunshine upon arriving on Gili Island.
Video about Gili Islands:
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Maps of Gili islands with hotels, restaurants and other attractions: