I’ve been travelling to the Gili Islands for 10 years now and it quickly became one of my favourite beach destinations. Three tiny islands packed with life. Bustling in parts and lonely in others, with white sand beaches, sunsets and clear blue water. I’ve compiled this list of the best things to do in the Gili Islands after many visits to these shores — hopefully, it’ll help you decide whether to visit or not!
The best thing to do in the Gili Islands, and the main reason for visiting for many, is the chance to relax on a quiet (except for parts of Gili T), car free island where your only worries are where to eat and when the sun is setting.
The Gili Islands offer up a far different beach experience to the popular spots on Bali. The beaches (especially the water) are way better and the congested streets of places like Seminyak and Kuta are a distant memory. There aren’t really streets, with sandy tracks criss-crossing around the islands. You might see the occasional motorbike, but for the most part it’s all bikes and horses.
All three Gili Islands are good for relaxing, with Gili Meno the smallest and quietest (and best for couples). Gili Trawangan is busier with a younger crowd (more partying in the bars) while Gili Air is somewhere in between.
READ MORE: Which Gili Island is Right for You?
Eat by the Beach
There are heaps of restaurants scattered around the Gili Islands either right on the beach or with views of it. There’s nothing better than spending an hour or two over a long lunch while enjoying the sights and sounds of the beach!
Again, all three islands are great for this. The food tends to be a bit hit or miss but a little bit of research on Google Maps should do the trick.
Cycle Around Gili Trawangan
Gili Trawangan (Gili T) is the largest of the three islands and to see it all it’s best to rent a bicycle. There’s a sandy track around the island which links up the various areas and it makes for a fun few hours of riding.
It’s hot work but there’s always a café or restaurant to stop off at or a beach to swim at. There isn’t a lot of shade in some areas and you’ll have to get out and push when the sand gets too thick — all part of the fun!
Walk or Cycle Around Gili Meno / Gili Air
The other two islands are a bit smaller, with Gili Meno in particular and easy one to walk around (maybe not easy — it gets very hot and there’s not always shade).
Even if you’re not going to walk around a whole island it’s good to explore a little bit as you’ll find some interesting places to eat and drink and some nice beach areas you would otherwise miss.
Hang out at the Beach
There are so many beach areas in the Gili Islands and it’s easy to find a patch to call your own. Bring a towel, find some shade under a tree and enjoy being in such a beautiful place.
There are great beaches on all three islands but also some not so nice ones. I circumnavigated all three islands and wrote about the best beaches — check out my posts about Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno.
Nightlife in the Gili Islands can be whatever you want it to be, just make sure you’re on the right island! Gili Trawangan appeals to the younger party crowd, with beach bars, clubs and restaurants catering to differing crowds. Nightlife on the other islands is a little different. On Gili Meno it often involves watching the sunset and some quiet drinks, often in resort bars. Gili Air attracts a more varied crowd with a bit more going on in the nightlife department.
Snorkelling and Diving
You can see turtles off the beach in some areas and there’s also the statues just off Gili Meno. You can also do snorkelling and diving trips and it’s a great place to learn to dive if you haven’t already.
Indonesia attracts a lot of travellers looking for spiritual enlightenment, or at the very least a good massage. Bali is the place to be for that kind of thing, but the Gili Islands (especially Gili T) has its fair share of spas, massage places, yoga classes.
Sunrises and Sunsets
Sitting by the beach while the sun goes down is one of the best things to do in the Gili Islands. You can enjoy a drink or a meal in one of the restaurants or just sit on the beach and bring your own.
Sunrises require a bit more effort but I reckon you should try and see one, especially if it’s happening just outside your hotel room!
Lombok is a short boat ride away from the Gili Islands — a trip there can be a lot of fun if you know what to expect. It’s a lot less developed than Bali but still has a tourist trail — a great place to explore for those who think Bali is too crowded. It’s kind of in-between the bustle of Bali and lack of tourist infrastructure of Indonesia’s less popular islands. Senggigi is close to the Gili Islands — you can even see all three islands from a viewpoint near town.
Kuta is another popular place to visit on Lombok. It attracts a lot of surfers, especially people wanting to learn. Mount Rinjani, the tallest volcano in Indonesia, is another one to consider. You’ll see travel agents advertising tours there from the Gili Islands – it could be a good option if you’re looking for adventure.
Are you planning a trip to the Gili Islands? Let me know in the comments below!
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