Crystal blue water, white, sandy beaches, delicious food, beautiful sunsets and romantic bliss. What could be better? Every year, millions of tourists venture to the exotic and beautiful island of Bali. But travelers have started heading out further east for a more deserted island, authentic, tropical vibe.
East of well-known Bali lies Lombok and the surrounding islands known as the Gilis. These islands include Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air and are slowly becoming what some say “the next Ibiza” and “honeymooner’s paradise.”
Not to worry though, each island has its own identity. Honeymooners retreat to Gili Meno while party animals indulge in sin on Gili Trawangan.
But what about the third Gili?
Kevin and I recently traveled to Gili Air and we were beyond impressed. This particular island seemed to have it all. It was everything we were looking for in a honeymoon destination. However, as we strolled along the beaches of this secluded and relaxed island, we saw at least 7 bungalows in the making. This laid back island won’t be considered off the beaten track much longer as the construction we witnessed only means one thing: more tourism.
Check out why you can’t waste anymore time and need to get to Gili Air NOW!
1. Best Beaches
With its turquoise blue waters, clean, white sand and small tourist crowd, Gili Air is known for the best beaches of the three Gilis. Whether you’re looking for a dreamy sunset, a psychedelic party or a little peace and quiet, you’ll find the perfect beach for every occasion. Personally, we found the beaches along the north and northwest to be the best. The sand wasn’t quite as pebbly and the crowds lost interest in walking past the snorkeling scene on the eastside. And for the most epic sunset scene of your life, head to the west coast of Gili Air. Many restaurants and bars have great beachside spots to enjoy the setting.
2. Tasty Food
Looking for some local fare? Boutique, expat cuisine? Maybe fresh fruits and vegetables? Gili air has something for everyone. Our favorite spots were Sharkbites, a gourmet sandwich shop, and Gili Bliss, Gili Air’s first health food bar. Both located in the heart of Gili Air and less than a 5 minute walk from the pier. But local authenticity isn’t too far away! Upon arrival, you will be greeted with cheap, fried, Indonesian food stalls. For a few extra bucks, there’s some great restaurants along the beach. The nicest two we found were on the southeast side and the northwest at Scratch Bar.
3. Animal Fix
Ok, this isn’t a zoo or some lush jungle. But if you’re missing your pets back home (ahem), this is a good way to get your domesticated animal fix, with a few other exotic animals! Small kittens and friendly dogs roam the island and there are also cows, goats, horses and an occasional turtle to spot while snorkeling!
4. Diving and Snorkeling
I might be too scared to go diving, but I can put my whimpiness aside for some snorkeling. Gili Air boasts famous reefs a mere 10 feet from the shore. A variety of fish and coral can be spotted quite easily. And you won’t have a hard time finding any gear. Snorkeling equipment is located every 10 feet on the main path ranging from 25,000 RP – 40,000 RP. There are also plenty of diving schools and getting your diving certification is a lot cheaper on the Gili Islands than other parts of Indonesia.
5. All Types of Budget Options
Luckily, Gili Air has the most affordable accommodation compared to the other Gilis. But that doesn’t mean you need to rough it either! The east side of the island is a bit more expensive, with nicer boutique bungalows and resorts. The west side has a lot more of a local scene and affordable, budget prices. We stayed on the westside and while it was a bit far removed from some of the happenings, it brings me to my next point…
Not only are the Gilis very easy to get to, but Gili Air in particular is quite small. Kevin and I were able to walk the circumference of the island in 1 hour! Even traveling to the other Gilis is quite easy, with 80,000 RP roundtrip from one to the other. However, there is no motorized transportation on Gili Air. The only way to get around is walking and bicycling (a great source of exercise if your main diet staples consist of Bintang and mie goreng).
Of course, there are also ponies that can cart you around via carriage, but I do not recommend this mode of transportation as there has been many reports of abuse towards these animals. (Please join me in fighting against this animal cruelty and boycotting the horse carriages on the Gili Islands!)
7. Friendly Locals
With a population of about 1,800, Gili Air has the highest indingenous population compared to the other Gilis. The Gili vibe, in general, is so much different than Bali. Not only are there less tourists and crowds, but the hustle from the locals is much less aggressive. Our bungalow was located closer to the Gili Air neighborhoods and locals would often wave, say hello, and ask how we were doing. Restaurant owners and staff would do the same, not for tips, but for genuine conversation.
Contrary to the temples and Hindu culture of Bali, Lombok and its neighboring islands belong to the Muslim faith. If you have yet to visit a country that celebrates this religion, be prepared for a bit of a culture shock! In addition to a much different attire, you will hear the Call to Prayer several times a day and is quite beautiful to listen to amongst this tranquil setting.
9. R and R
While Gili Trawangan has quite the party reputation, Gili Air is known for being a lot more relaxed. Only slightly more expensive than its Balinese neighbor, spas are in abundance on the island. Unless you’re at a nice hotel, expect a little more of a lax service, like no A/C, a more intense massage and less privacy.
More locals and less tourists mean a more authentic experience, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any fun to be had. There are several bars touting live bands and dance lessons. There’s also the occasional full moon party. Gili Air is also known for its… psychadelic partying… With signs like “Magical mushroom pizza! Never know, never try,” you might be tempted to try some of these shrooms. And with a lack of local police, you might be even more daring. The following bars are our personal favorites on the island:
- Zipp Bar
- Scratch Bar
- Mowie’s (Best Sunset!)
Have you visited Gili Air? If not, what are you waiting for??