Welcome to the Gili Guide.
Since the last stop, Ubud, it was a 3 hour journey from our Airbnb there to our accommodation in Gili Air. We took a GoJek on mainland Bali to Serangan Harbour to catch our fast boat to Gili Air. We went with Bluewater Express, a high-speed boat that journeys from Bali to the surrounding islands, including Gili Trawangan, Nusa islands and Lombok to. I highly recommend for the ease of travel, it’s reasonably priced and very reliable to. They also provide land transport for those islands that have it, which saves you hassle and money. The prices range depending on your route (single, return or multi) and if you book a ticket in advance, you save money and hassle. Find tickets here.
Gili is actually made up for 30 islands which I definitely didn’t know before my trip. Did you? The main 3 are Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno. We decided to visit two of them (Gili Air and Gili Meno) on our 5 day visit and chose where to visit according to what we wanted to gain from our experience. It would’ve been great to visit all 3 but we didn’t want to rush anything. Anyway, it’s always great to have any excuse to go back.
Gili Air is known as ‘the balance’ between Gili T and Gili Meno. It has night-life and good restaurants , beach bars and vibe like Gili T, it’s just not quite so busy and party-like. However, it’s also quite calm and peaceful at the same time, especially during the day, similar to Gili Meno. Gili Air is a the perfect balance if you’re looking for somewhere quiet and peaceful whilst having places to see and also have a good meal/wine at the end of your day. It’s super cheap and cheerful to, even more so than mainland Bali and the perfect way to get the real feel for island life.
We based up on Gili Air and took a day trip to Meno to snorkel and experience its tranquility. There is accommodation on Meno and restaurants, it’s just not as built up as we’d like and it’s so easy to jump on a boat and back in a day. The boat takes around 10 minutes each way.
Gili Air a pretty small island, being able to walk around it in under 2 hours (which is worth doing if you have the time) and pretty quiet. Gili Meno on the other hand is even smaller and you can walk from one side to the other in 15 minutes.
We stayed at 2 places on Gili Air, not so far from each other. If you’re looking for somewhere a little more rustic, boho, eco-friendly and island-life-like then Captain Coconuts is the spot. It offers private rooms, a family villa as well as floating bed Bamboo dorms, catering for all. Captain Coconuts is very aware of it’s surroundings and environment, using a hot water solar powered system as well as being very plastic-free. There is a cafe that serves daily breakfast to guests and an all day menu to anyone who wishes to visit. For brekkie I recommend the apple pie oats if you have a sweet tooth, oh wow are they amazing. The all day menu offers delicious cocktails and nutritious food, catering for all concerns. The vegan selections are so different to anywhere else I’ve eaten in Indonesia to, with vegan lasagnes and nachos! The pool is a great touch allowing guests to come together to relax an unwind.
The rooms at Captain Coconuts are so well designed with a clear consciousness about the enviroment. Everything is rustic and wooden, so pleasing to the eye as well as the environment. There is a refillable fresh water system and a room so large you can dance away the day. Loved our stay here and can’t recommend the rooms and restaurant enough.
For the other half of our Gili Air stay, we were on the opposite side of the island – still only a 10 minute walk – at Koho Air. This was yet again a beautiful eco-friendly boutique, focusing on small lifestyle changes to make a difference. Gili Air is known for being environmentally friendly and it was so promising to see.
Koho Air is a little slice of tropical island paradise with it’s white wash walls, beautiful flowers and peacefulness. With 18 rooms, a bar and 2 pools, it’s a super peaceful place. Its rooms vary in size, ours was a standard double and the perfect size for a couple. With a huge outdoor shower and a comfy bed, you can’t go wrong. All amenities are provided and on-site laundry is offered if you need it, which came in so helpful.
The rooms come with daily breakfast, with a choice of avo on toast, cooked breakfast or smoothie bowl with fresh juices and tea/coffees. The breakfast was truly divine. The perfect start to a day by the pool, snorkelling or exploring.
WHERE TO EAT:
1. Mowie’s – a bar/restaurant with outside seating on the beach. They have wine happy hour everyday from 4-7pm which is a must. 35K IDR for a glass of wine equals just £2. Yes, I was in my element. The jackfruit tacos are yum. We ate here 2 out of 4 nights.
2. Pachamama – a boho inspired cafe serving up amazing bowls, cakes & coffees.
3. Musa Cookery – offering up inventive and delicious vegetarian dishes, juices & more in a relaxed Javanese home.
4. Captain Coconuts – a nutritious feel-good cafe offering lots of gluten/dairy free & vegan alternatives. Great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
5. Coffee & Thyme – with a beachfront cafe and a restaurant around the corner, this has a great foodie presence on the island. Offering delicious bowls, salads and nutritious wraps. This place has a great menu.
WHERE TO ENJOY:
1. Frangipani Spa – a beachfront spa offering daily deals on massages. A 55K (£3) IDR 30 minute back massage – how could you resist? I went back twice!
2. The beach at sunset – in front of Mowie’s you can watch the most incredible sunset. If the tide is out you can walk as far as the reef and watch the sun go down. Absolutely insane.
3. Walks along the beach – it doesn’t take long to walk around the entire island itself, but walking along the beach doesn’t take much time at all. A walk from Pink Coco to Scallywags is a great way to see the beautiful beachfront. Take a dip along the way.
4. Pink Coco – if you’ve looked into Gili Air, you would’ve come across this place. Known for it’s all pink interior/exterior and swing, this place shouldn’t go a miss.
A DAY ON GILI MENO:
As previously mentioned, we decided to spend a day here after realising how easy it is to jump on a boat over. So glad we did! We took the standard boat over one morning at 8am, which only runs twice a day. You can easily buy the tickets at Gili Air Harbour for 35,000 IDR each (roughly £2). It was a very good price but we didn’t need all day there and would have to wait until 4pm to return. So we decided to get a fast boat, a little more expensive but worth it. This cost around 80,000 IDR each (roughly £4.50). The fast boat takes 10 minutes instead of 15-20 and they run every 30 minutes. Worth it if you finish early for the day and don’t want to wait around!
When we got to Gili Meno the first thing that hits you in the peacefulness. It’s known to be the honeymoon island, so you can just imagine. We walked from the harbour to the other side of the island known for its snorkelling spots and beautiful white sand beaches. Finding a peaceful spot on the beach is super easy and you can hire snorkel gear along the entire stretch of beach. We paid 100K IDR (£5.40) for 2 sets and you can use them all day long. You can snorkel to see the coral, beautiful fish and the main spot, the underwater sculptures. The sculptures can get pretty busy with daily boat trips coming in so you can pick and choose your moment when to snorkel. Besides, you have the entire day.
There are a few spots we saw to eat but not many, so I suggest bringing some food and drinks for your day there. We did end up caving and getting an ice cold Bintang from a bar on the beach.
TIPS FOR THE GILI ISLANDS:
Take some cash as the Gili islands don’t have many ATM’s around. There is one right by Gili Air harbour which is what I used when I needed to.
Wear clothes/shoes you don’t mind getting dirty. The island is all sand, even the alleyways and paths and it can get very dusty.
Book a place with breakfast. There isn’t much for breakfast on the islands in terms of restaurants/shops so booking a place with breakfast included is ideal.
Take your own snorkel gear. If you can fit it, or if you already own it, take your own equipment for snorkelling. We had to hire it as we can’t fit our own in our backpacks, but taking your own would be ideal as some places try to overcharge you. They also don’t hire out fins.
If you don’t like walking, hire a bike. They’re cheap as chips.
Plan to relax. The islands are very tranquil with not much going on, so if you’re visiting be ready for lots of R&R. It’s ideal for a bit of peace and quiet.