What are the Gili Islands?
The Gili Islands are made up of three tiny tropical islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno) off the northwest coast of Lombok in Indonesia. These islands are a quintessential tropical paradise, without the hefty price tag of other tropical destinations!
The Gili Islands are the ultimate tropical escape. These islands are tiny (Gili means small) and are home to everything we love about the tropics including pristine white sand beaches, stunning sunsets, sea turtles, world-class diving, crystal clear water, laid back local lifestyle and of course a bunch of coconut trees! There are no motorised forms of transport, not ever scooters. The only way to get around is by walking, cycling or a horse-drawn carriage.
If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of mainland Bali and are after a true tropical paradise to relax, unwind and even party hard, then the Gili Islands may be the perfect place to add to your Indonesia itinerary.
In this guide to Gili Air, we are sharing everything you need to know about Gili Air. After reading this post, you should have a crystal clear idea of whether this beautiful tropical island is a destination for you!
Click here for our guide to Gili T
Gili Air is a beautiful relaxed island, nearest to the coast of Lombok’s mainland. Gili Air has a distinct atmosphere that is very different to Gili T. Gili Air is more laid back, with more hippy yoga vibes, yet still has a buzzing scene (without the all-night raves!). It is a beautiful mix of Gili T (party vibes) and Gili Meno (very quiet).
Gili Air has a wide range of options for activities, accommodation and dining across the whole island, meaning this is a great place to come and experience the Gili Island life if your days of partying are behind you. Gili Air is also the island with the largest population of permanent residents, giving the island a more authentic feel. Here you can see how the locals live!
When this post was written (October 2022) there were many yoga studios, accommodations and restaurants on Gili Air that were starting to reopen. Always double-check before you go that a place mentioned is in fact open. All places mentioned in this post are currently listed as open.
Things to do on Gili Air
Gili Air is becoming well known for yoga and yoga retreats. While Covid certainly paused the momentum, the daily yoga classes are starting to come back! Really step into the laid-back, hippy vibe of the island by getting on your mat. Whether you are an advanced yogi or a beginner there will be the perfect class for you.
There is nothing quite like starting your day with a beautiful yoga class followed by a healthy brunch and a sea swim on a tropical island. Paradise!
At the moment, daily classes are being held at Flower and Fire Yoga Garden. They also facilitate yoga retreats, check their website for any retreats coming up.
Mandala Blue, located at Blue Marine Dive, has also just started up its drop-in yoga class schedule. Start your day here with a class right on the beachfront! In November 2022, regular classes at H20 will start up again. When you are on the island you can ask around to see if any other hotels or studios are offering drop-in yoga classes when you are there.
Image Credit: Fire and Flower Yoga Garden
You simply cannot go to Gili Air without snorkelling! There are some amazing reefs around Gili Air. The best spots are just off the east coast of the island. The east coast is a beautiful place to spot sea turtles before sunbathing on the beach with beautiful views over Lombok's coastline.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding
On a calm day, Gili Air is a wonderful place to try SUPing. Make your way around the island and take in all of its splendour.
Gili Air is a great place to take a cooking class and learn how to prepare some Indonesian dishes. This is the perfect activity on a cloudy or rainy day. Cooking classes are located at the harbour and are offered multiple times per day.
Explore the island by foot or bicycle
Just like Gili T, Gili Air has no motorised vehicles on it. Therefore the main form of transportation is walking and cycling. One of the best ways to explore all corners of the island is to bike around. Gili Air is smaller than Gili T so can be explored in as little as 30 minutes by bike.
If you prefer to explore by foot, it will take around 2 hours to walk around the entire island. It is best to explore by foot early in the morning before it gets too hot!Take your time to scope out the coastline to find the best beach spots. Stop off for swims to cool down and refresh yourself with a cold coconut on your way.
Or go inland and experience the way the locals live. On the inland of the island expect roaming cows, chickens and cats (there are no dogs on Gili Air), an abundance of coconut trees and local warungs. Gili Air is a Muslim island so it is best to cover your shoulders and knees when away from the beach to respect the local culture.
Try a Subwing trip
Subwing is a new innovative way to snorkel which is on offer on the Gili Islands! How does it work? All you do is hold on to the Subwing board and a boat will pull you through the water. You are in control of diving down to experience the underwater world or if you prefer you can stay gliding along the surface, inspecting the marine life swimming past.
A 3 to 4-hour trip will set you back around $ 30 USD.
Image Credit: Tripadvisor
Make watching the sunrise and sunset your daily ritual
When you are living the island life, taking the time to watch the sunrise and sunset is one of the most magical and memorable experiences you can have. The Gili Islands have some of the most beautiful and colourful sunsets and sunrises on offer.
Along the east coast, wake up and start the day with a sunrise swim before going to a yoga class or breakfast. There are many accommodation options on the east coast, so you will likely already be staying there!
The west coast has an abundance of amazing restaurants and beach bars to enjoy the sunset with a cocktail or Bintang! There are plenty of iconic swings in the sea on the west coast to get the perfect snap for Instagram.
Lucky’s Bar and Mowies Gili Air are two sunset beach bars & restaurants that are perfect for watching the sun go down.
When relaxing on a tropical island, why not take it further by pampering yourself while you are there? Indonesia is well known as one of the best places to go for a massage a day, due to the affordable prices of massages on offer!
There are several spas offering a variety of treatments on the island including massage, reflexology, flower baths, body scrubs, facials and so on. Recommended spas include Slow Spa, Zone Spa and Coco Breeze Spa. Plus many more are spas available on the island which you will stumble upon when you are there!
Image Credit: Slow Spa
Movies On The Beach
For a more relaxing evening, watch a movie on the beach. There are two venues on Gili Air every night from 8 pm offering movie screenings on the beach. Ombok Paradise on the southwest coast and Bel Air on the east coast offer moves on the beach.
Go Island Hopping
One of the best things about the Gili Islands is that even if you choose to stay in one place, you can still see all the Gili Islands by island hopping. Gili T and Gili Meno are each a short boat ride from Gili Air. There are public boats that run twice a day between all three islands, leaving in the morning and returning in the afternoon. Half a day is plenty of time to explore Gili T and Gili Meno. Purchase your ticket from the ticket office by the jetty.
Where to eat
There are many incredible eateries on Gili Air to keep you happy and satisfied. There is plenty of local food as well as Western food and options for vegans and vegetarians. Here are our recommendations
- Barefoot Blondie (healthy & vegan cafe)
- Pituq (vegan food with a mission for sustainability)
- Mowies (sunset restaurant)
- Dolcemare Italian Restaurant
- Legend Bar
- Burger Lady
- Warung Sunny for local food
Save these spots on Google maps so you can easily find them when you are there and make eating out easy!
Image credit: Barefoot Blondie
Where to stay
There are plenty of accommodation options on Gili Air for every budget and every taste. You’ll find bungalows, luxury villas, beachfront resorts as well as affordable homesteads and hostels.
The western side of the island has more luxury villas and resorts. This side of the island is quieter so perfect for a romantic getaway with an emphasis on beautiful sunsets. North Gili is also quiet with great snorkelling.
South and East Gili Air are more bustling. Accommodation here is closer to the port and is full of options for accommodation and restaurants and cafes. This is the place to stay if you want to be amongst the action.
PinkCoco Gili Air is a luxury accommodation on the west side of the Island. Tipsea Turtle is a great place to stay for social hostel vibes. They have dorm rooms & private rooms & bungalows. If you like to wing it, you can just show up on the island and find a local homestay to call home!
If you are booking in advance, we recommend always reading the latest reviews for an up-to-date picture of the quality of the accommodation. Many places have been neglected and not well maintained over the pandemic, so read new reviews to avoid disappointment. Agoda is a great place to find deals on accommodation!
Image Credit: PinkCoco
Image Credit: Tipsea Turtle on Booking.com
Who’s it for
- Yoga lovers
- Solo travellers who love their own space and relaxed vibes
- Group of friends who aren’t into partying
- Beach bums and turtle lovers
- Chilled people who want to relax
How long to stay
You could see and do everything on Gili Air in 2 days. However, if you love the beach and don’t mind repeating your days then 4 days or even more is perfect. If you aren’t limited on time, stay until you’re ready to leave (it could be a while!).
How to get to Gili Air
There are no airports on any of the Gili Islands so the only way to reach there is by boat. Luckily there are plenty of ferries that travel to Gili T and Gili Air every day from Bali and Lombok. Each ferry that goes to the Gili Islands will usually make a stop at each one. You can get to Gili Air by boat from Bali or Lombok or from one of the other Gili Islands.
Overall Nusa Lembongan is an amazing place to enjoy some of the best beaches that Bali has to offer while having the adventures of Nusa Penida at your fingertips.
Bali is the most common place people travel from to reach Gili Air. There are many direct fast boats from Bali’s PadangBai which will take 1.5 - 3 hours. There are also other ferry services from Sanur and Serangan further south. For detailed options and routes check here!
There are many third parties selling ferry tickets. You can also book directly with the boat companies. Shop around and look for the best price. Many fast boat providers such as GiliGili Fast Boat, Ekajaya and BlueWater Express offer transfers to the port from all of the popular Bali spots either for free or for a fee.
Once you arrive at the Gili Air port, you need to get to your accommodation! Since there are no cars, the only option is to walk or hitch a ride on a horse-drawn carriage. If you don’t like the idea of the horse-drawn carriage for animal welfare concerns you may like to consider choosing accommodation close to the port or packing light in an appropriate backpack. This ferry ride will set you back between $30-$50 USD.
You can also take a slow public ferry from Padang Bai, but this isn’t recommended as it will take all day (goes via Lombok) and won’t be the most comfortable journey. Use it as a last resort! You can also hire a private charter to take you to the Gili Islands. For this, it will be best to try and find someone at the port to take you and negotiate the price. This is the most expensive option.Another option is to fly to Lombok and get a ferry from Bangsal Port, around 2 hours from the airport.
If you are already in Lombok this is where you will go (Bangsal Port) to get the ferry to the Gili Air. Gili Air is the closes island to Lombok and so the journey is nice and short. There are frequent fast boats from Lombok to Gili Air.There is also a public ferry that runs daily from Bangsal Port to Gili T, which is a better budget option than from Bali as the journey is shorter. This boat ride can be overcrowded and fully booked in peak season
From Nusa Lembongan
The last way to get to the Gili Islands is from Nusa Lembongan. If you are spending time on the Nusa Islands and want to head to the Gili Islands, this is a great option to save you from going back to Bali’s mainland. There are a few ferry operators running this route with options every day.
These ferry rides come with a warning!
It’s important to note that these ferry rides to the Gili Islands, particularly from Bali have a bit of a bad wrap, especially in bad weather and the busy season. Some companies are known to overbook the boat which means it can be very crowded and uncomfortable and also very delayed at times. It also means you may not even be able to catch the ferry at all. Many of the fast boat companies that are guilty of this are the ones with the bigger boats and lower prices.
However, in bad weather the bigger boats are more stable, feel safer and you will be less likely to get seasick. Whereas in the smaller fast boats, their service is generally much better and runs on time, however, if the water is choppy it may be unpleasant. If you’re prone to seasickness make sure you take some sea sickness tablets with you.
When to go to Gili Air
There are 2 peak seasons on Gili Air. The first is May-September during the dry season. The second is December and January due to Christmas and New Year. Note that the December and January peak season it is also the wet season. If you plan to go during these times, book ferries and accommodation in advance.
The low season coincides with the wet season and runs from October to November and then again from February until April. During this time everything remains open, there are fewer crowds and great deals. It will usually rain at some point each day but you should also have some fine weather and warm temperatures to enjoy. The ferry is also unlikely to be overcrowded.
Visiting during the shoulder months of the wet and dry season (September/October & April May) are great times to take advantage of the best of both worlds. Fewer crowds, better prices and less rain!