Welcome to the Gili Islands!
The epitome of the tropical island paradise with pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a laid-back island vibe. Nestled in the Indonesian archipelago just off the northwest coast of Lombok, these three tiny isles – Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, and Gili Meno – are easily accessible to help you live out those paradise vibes.
Whether you’re seeking a peaceful escape, underwater wonders, or a lively nightlife scene, the Gili Islands have something for everyone (and that is one of the reasons everyone does head there!) plus you can make everyone jealous when they see how idyllic this place is.
Each of the Gili islands, (Gili T, Gili Meno and Gili Air) all have a unique element to them but perhaps the ‘secret gilis’ (or maybe it’s not that good of a secret) or Gili Gede might entice you to make a trip to Lombok. See our Lombok blog post here.
Let me give you the overview of these islands to hep you discover secluded paradises, and reveal insider tips for an unforgettable island getaway. So, grab your snorkel, slip on your flip-flops, and let’s dive into the magic of the Gili Islands!
Beach Life on the Gili’s
There are a few activities you can do on all of the islands which are listed here, but for more specific activities for each island, continue reading.
- Snorkeling: The Gili Islands offer some of the best snorkeling spots in Indonesia. Take your kids on a snorkeling adventure to see colorful coral reefs and marine life. Shark Point and Turtle Heaven are must-visit spots. For smaller kids, consider taking your own snorkels.
- Island Hopping: Take a boat trip to explore the other Gili Islands or visit the Secret Gilis for a more secluded and serene experience. Each island has its unique charm.
- Island Bicycle Tours: Rent bicycles and explore the island with your family. The Gili islands are small and have minimal traffic, making it safe for biking with kids. There are not many child size bikes available so ask around or contact your accommodation to see if they can help.
- Sunset Views: Enjoy breathtaking sunsets with your family on the western side of the islands. It’s a peaceful and romantic experience for parents and an opportunity for kids to appreciate the beauty of nature.
- Beachfront Dining: Enjoy delicious meals at beachfront restaurants where kids can savor/refuse to eat Indonesian and international cuisine while watching the waves.
- Glass-Bottom Boat Tours: If your little ones are too young to snorkel, you can still explore the underwater world on a glass-bottom boat tour. It’s a safe and exciting way to introduce them to the marine ecosystem.
Gili Trawangan, often referred to simply as Gili T, is the largest and most vibrant of the three Gili Islands located off the northwest coast of Lombok. It has the reputation as the party island, and while it has earned a reputation as a backpacker’s paradise, Gili T offers something for every traveler, including families with kids. Here’s a closer look at some of the fantastic spots and activities on Gili Trawangan that are perfect for families:
Family-Friendly Spots and Activities on Gili Trawangan:
- Gili Trawangan Beach: The island’s gorgeous beaches are ideal for family relaxation and sun-soaking. The waters are usually calm, making it safe for kids to play and swim.
- Turtle Sanctuary: Gili Trawangan is famous for its sea turtle population. You can visit a turtle sanctuary where children can learn about and even interact with these fascinating creatures.
- Cidomo Rides: Cidomos are horse-drawn carriages and the primary mode of transportation on Gili T. Kids often love riding these unique carts to explore the island.
- Gili Trawangan Night Market: In the evenings, the night market comes alive with food stalls serving delicious Indonesian cuisine. It’s a fantastic opportunity for kids to try local dishes and enjoy a lively atmosphere.
- Gili Trawangan Swing: The famous beach swing on Gili Trawangan is a must-visit for a fun photo session. It’s a great spot for family snapshots with the stunning backdrop of the ocean.
- Bike Rentals: Exploring the island by bicycle is a popular activity. You can rent bikes with child seats or child-sized bicycles for a family adventure.
Gili Meno, often considered the quieter and romantic of the Gili Islands, doesn’t let kids on, just kidding of course kids can go but we thoughtfully considered the romantic element and decided we wouldn’t take our kids there to ruin that vibe (just kidding).
The pristine beaches, clear waters, and a slower pace, make it a great place for families, (even ours). Here’s a closer look at some of the fantastic spots and activities on Gili Meno that are perfect for families:
Family-Friendly Spots and Activities on Gili Meno:
- Gili Meno Beaches: Gili Meno boasts some of the most tranquil and secluded beaches in the Gili Islands. The calm waters and soft sands make it an ideal spot for family beach days and swimming.
- Gili Meno Bird Park: This small but charming bird park is a delight for kids. It’s home to a variety of exotic birds, including parrots and peacocks. It’s both entertaining and educational.
- Turtle Sanctuary: Just like Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno also has a turtle sanctuary. Your children can learn about the conservation efforts and even participate in releasing baby turtles into the sea.
- Gili Meno Saltwater Lake: Take a leisurely stroll to the center of the island to visit the saltwater lake. It’s a unique natural feature and a great opportunity to teach your kids about the island’s geography.
- Gili Meno Art Market: Located near the harbor, the art market is a good place to pick up local handicrafts and souvenirs. Your kids might enjoy browsing through the colorful stalls.
- Relaxation and Hammocks: Many beachfront accommodations provide hammocks, perfect for unwinding and reading a book while your kids play in the sand nearby.
Gili Air strikes a balance between the energy of Gili Trawangan and the tranquility of Gili Meno. This is where we headed. As the closest island to Lombok, it’s a short 20 minute boat ride.
Here are some activities, but the highlight for our kids was heading down to the port and watching the turtles (which were HUGE).
Family-Friendly Spots and Activities on Gili Air:
- Gili Air Beaches: The island boasts beautiful beaches with calm waters, perfect for swimming and building sandcastles with the kids. T
- Gili Air Cooking Classes: Take part in a cooking class and learn how to prepare delicious Indonesian dishes with your kids. It can be an enjoyable and educational experience plus you obviously get to eat it so make sure you pay attention.
- Gili Air Art Market: Explore the island’s art market where you can find unique souvenirs and locally crafted items. Kids might enjoy selecting their favourite trinkets/bits of random stuff you don’t want to take with you but they have to!
- Yoga and Wellness: Many places offer yoga classes and wellness activities.
- Stand-Up Paddleboarding: Try stand-up paddleboarding with the family. The calm waters around Gili Air make it an ideal place to learn this fun activity.
- Rockpooling: Head to the western beach at low tide and let the kids explore the rockpools for baby eels, star fish and other slimey things you don’t want to touch.
Gili Air’s a good mix of everything from relaxation to adventure, and family-friendly activities. It’s a good choice for families.
The Secret Gilis
The Secret Gilis are a secret so I can’t tell you about the collection of lesser-known islands off the south west coast of Lombok. These hidden gems provide a quieter alternative to the bustling atmosphere of their more famous counterparts.
With untouched natural beauty, pristine beaches, and a slower pace, the Secret Gilis are a perfect destination for families seeking a peaceful retreat. Here’s a closer look at some of the fantastic spots and activities on the Secret Gilis that are ideal for families:
Family-Friendly Spots and Activities on the Secret Gilis:
- Secret Gili Nanggu: Known for its unspoiled beauty and crystal-clear waters, Gili Nanggu offers a peaceful environment for families. The beach is perfect for building sandcastles and shallow water play.
- Exploration of Gili Sudak: With its serene beaches and lush landscapes, Gili Sudak is an excellent spot for a family picnic or leisurely stroll. The shallow waters are great for young children to wade in.
- Gili Gede Cultural Experiences: Gili Gede offers opportunities to interact with local communities and learn about Sasak (Lombok) culture. Kids can engage in cultural activities such as weaving and pottery and gain insights into island life.
- Gili Layar’s Tranquil Beaches: Gili Layar boasts tranquil beaches where families can relax, swim, and enjoy quality time together in a serene environment.
- Bird Watching on Gili Gede: Gili Gede is home to a variety of bird species. Birdwatching can be an educational and enjoyable activity for kids.
- Nature Walks and Hiking: Some of the Secret Gilis have walking trails through their interiors, providing opportunities for families to explore the lush vegetation and discover hidden gems.
Getting to the Gili’s
Boat Transfer to the Gili Islands:
Public Boats: There are public boat services from both Bali and Lombok to the Gili Islands. These boats operate on a rough version of a schedule, and you can purchase tickets at the departure points. For Lombok, the ticket booth is right by the end of the beach and you sit and wait until there are enough people and then you go. Get there in the morning so there is less waiting but they are pretty regular. It takes about 20 mins to the first island Gili Air (58,000IDR for a family of 4). The boat ride from Bali to the Gili Islands takes around 1.5 to 2 hours.
Fast Boats: Several companies offer fast boat services that provide a quicker and more comfortable journey. These boats are equipped with modern amenities and can get you to the Gili Islands in around 1-2 hours from Bali and around 10 minutes from Lombok, these cost a lot more. It’s advisable to book tickets for fast boats in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.
Arrival on the Gili Islands: Once you arrive on the Gili Islands, you can easily reach your accommodation by walking or using local transportation, such as horse-drawn carts known as “cidomos” or bicycles.
Top tips for families
Take water shoes. Beautiful coral beaches mean lots of coral on the beach, take water shoes to make the walk into the water much easier. We didn’t. It hurt!
Being such a short hop from Lombok and not too far from Bali, the Gili Islands are a great spot to live that tropical paradise life.
FAQ about Lombok and the Gili’s
Indonesian is spoken although English is widely spoken especially in more touristy areas
Can you drink the water?
No recommended. Drink filtered or bottled water.
Currency Used and ATM access
Rupiah (Rp) is the currency. Often prices will be displayed without the zero’s (ie, 55k). Word of warning if changing money or using the ATM, check the amount of zero’s you use! ATMs are easy to find on the island and you can access cash easily.
Most places will accept cards except small local establishments. Some will charge additional fees. Always check if they accept card payment if this is your only method.
Phones and Sim cards
Sim cards are easily picked up with the most recommended network being Telkomsel. Prices start around 10,000Rp. Or grab yourself an eSim to stay covered in South East Asia.
Bargaining is expected in local markets but not in supermarkets, restaurants and bars. Most services such as tours and accommodation can be flexible with price, always worth asking.
Mostly two rounded pins. 220-240V
Free wifi is common in most tourist areas. Cheapest date will be through a local sim or esim.
Most accommodation will have a laundry service or will be able to direct you to a nearby service.
Culture and Religion
Lombok and the Gili islands are predominantly Muslim. This means you should dress conservatively away from the beach. Be prepared to hear the call to prayer througho
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