When I found out that a two-hour boat ride, my favorite form of travel, away from Bali you can head into Lombok and find tropical islands with the clear blue waters everyone dreams of, with no cars on the island and you can bike around the whole island. I knew I couldn’t skip a trip to the Gili Islands. So I hopped on a boat and made my way to Gili Trawangan.
Bali is a beautiful island but is also a volcanic island. This means you won’t find the crystal clear water and white sands that often come in mind to a tropical paradise. By no means is this a reason why to skip Bali, but it’s a great reason why to see a different set of beaches and offerings over on the Gili Island.
Gili means little, so head over to the little islands of Lombok. The Gilis are made up of three islands; Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Each island has its own personality. Gili Meno is the smallest, least developed and a great way to get away from it all. Gili Air is the only island with its own water supply and has defined itself as the sophisticated island. Gili Trawangan, on the other hand, is the social island filled with backpackers and scuba divers.
While I can’t wait for a chance to get back to Lombok to explore the other two, Gili Trawangan made an ideal hop over for two nights from Bali where I got to meet other travelers, relax on some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, scuba dive and eat amazing food right on the streets.
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Staying in a Social Environment
During my time over on Bali, I stayed at resorts and in an apartment. While there were similar options on GiliTrawangan the feel of the island made me want to be in a more social environment. At the same time, I have outgrown the traditional hostel environment. I found a great in between at Broken Compass where I was able to get a private room with a private bathroom but still have a great outdoor community space. While the accommodations are simple it was a nice change of pace from some of the isolation at other places I stayed on the trip.
There was a bar where you could order a cheap Bintang and sit and chat with travelers from around the world. One of the great things was since there are so many places to go out on the island when I crashed on the earlier side the night before I went diving everyone took off to the bars so it was nice and quiet. I’m sure if you were in one of the dorms with everyone coming back you may have heard them but in my private room, I wasn’t bothered at all. Book them through Airbnb and if it’s your first time grab a credit here.
Diving During Your Day
Other than the beaches, diving was the reason I headed over the Gili Islands. I’d recently gotten scuba certified over on Bali and wanted to get in a few more dives before I headed back to the cold waters of California. You’ll find what seems like endless dive shops on Trawangan and you do not need to book your dives ahead of your visit. Once you get to the island pop into one of the local shops or have one picked out ahead of time, and sign up for dives that day or the next.
I did two fun dives with Trawangan Dive. We went out to the Shark Point and Hallik dives sites. Both of which I greatly enjoyed. There was also a fun bunch of people on the boat both times. Snorkeling on the island didn’t do it justice to everything you could see once you dove under the surface.
Walk or Ride Your Way Around the Island
I mentioned about that there are no cars on the island. You will see a few scooters but for the most part, people are taking horse-drawn carts, riding bikes or just walking. You can easily bike around the island in an hour, although I’d recommend taking longer since then you can stop and enjoy the views, or the sunsets.
Most of the accommodations, but not all, are on the eastern side of the island where the boats drop off. Obviously, the sunset takes place on the other side, so you’ll witness a migration by people to the western side as you slide into the evening.
I walked about half way around the island and rented a bike another day. For less than $5 I had the bike for a handful of hours and it was the perfect way to explore the island.
Taking a Swing & a Sunset
It’s hard to pick a favorite sunset but there is no doubt the two sunsets I witnessed on Gili Trawangan both rank in my top ten. You take some of the most beautiful beaches you’ve ever seen, a clear night, long west facing beaches and the sky just rolls in with these lush colors. There are so many spots to enjoy the sunset from but my favorites were the hammocks on the beach at Le Pirate Resort and on the northeast side of the island, you’ll find little bungalows right on the water where you can pop up and have a drink while watching the sun come down.
And for a unique moment and iconic picture, don’t forget to stop by Hotel Ombak Sunset on your way to explore the west side of the island. Although I stopped to just get the photo, it really was inspiring to be swinging right over the ocean just looking out to the sea.
Eating at the Night Maret
There are hundreds of places to eat on the island, and many of them are good. At the same time, there is only one place you should go for dinner, the night market. As you walk around to the south on the eastern side of the island after dusk you’ll see a little courtyard that is filled with people and food stands that weren’t noticeable earlier in the day.
Wander around and check out what the different stands offer. You’ll find fresh seafood on the grill, along with chicken and beef. Plus, all the differentIndonesiann sides you could want for. Pick a line, from my experience they were all good, and an order. My one advice is it’s more food than it looks like, so it’s a bit of a waste if you let your eyes take over. A few of the stands offer mini-skewers which I enjoyed since I could still pick two types and not end up with way too much food.
Nightlife Around the Island
The thing I heard most about Gili Trawangan before going was it’s a party island. And this is true but it doesn’t mean you have to be a partier to enjoy it. At the same time, it was good to get a little out of my comfort zone and hang out at the hostel bar one night and go out to one of the popular spots another.
With so many different types of places, anyone can find a spot to grab a drink they’ll enjoy whether it’s a techno club, reggae bar or just a quiet drink on the beach. There is “the party” that rotates from different bars each night and depending on your style is the place to be or the spot to avoid. For the schedule and more tips on the nightlife on the island take a look here.
You Won’t Want to Leave the Paradise on Gili Trawangan
Okay, I might have left Gili Trawangan but only to hop over to explore one of the other Gili Islands. When my two days ended on the island I wasn’t ready to head back. The laid back nature, the energy of fellow curious travelers and breathtaking beaches would have been enough to keep me happy for awhile. I’m looking forward to a chance to head back and explore more of what Lombok has to offer.
Heading your way over the Gili Islands is a can’t miss side trip for anyone visiting Bali for more than just a couple days.
Have you visited the Gili Islands? If so what was your favorite part? If not where is your island paradise? Leave a comment below.