Gili, which means “small islands” is simply the perfect haven to get away from the busy streets of their popular neighbors: Bali and Lombok. Known with many honorable names, including the turtle capital of the world and even the Maldives of South East-Asia, the Gili Islands have three main ports — Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. While all the three islands boast tranquil beaches, powdery sands, crystal clear turquoise water, rich marine life, kaleidoscopic sunsets, glorious food, incredible activities, and a laid-back vibe, each island also holds their own unique characteristics worth checking out.

Here is a simple guide to help with your travel plans to this exceptional slice of paradise:

Gili Trawangan (Gili T)

Gili Trawangan is the largest, liveliest and most developed all the three islands. Gili T is incredibly popular amongst a mixed crowd of tourists as it gives you the best of both worlds – the vibrant party life and laid-back tropical getaway. Head on the South-Eastern shoreline to experience the more upbeat scenes, where you can find rows of bars, entertainment hubs, restaurants and cafés dotting the white sands, or the North-Western coast for some peace and quiet. You can find all kinds of accommodations here – from beachfront properties to luxurious villas, budget hotels, and hostels. Gili T also offers many kinds of activities including water sports such as jet skiing, scuba diving, and snorkeling as well as a party boat! Be sure to take a snap on the notorious “Gili ocean” swing, while you’re here.

Below are some of the most popular accommodations based on travelers’ ratings:
– Pink Coco Gili Trawangan
– Pondok Santi Estate
– Gili Eco Villas
– Pearl of Trawangan
– Hotel Vila Ombak
– Aston Sunset Beach Resort 

Gili Meno (Gili M)

Sandwiched between two other islands, Gili Meno is the smallest, quietest and least developed of the trio but it is the ultimate destination for a total rest and relaxation retreat, away from all the noise. Gili M is a favorite amongst honeymooners, conservation travelers, wildlife spotters and divers, all thanks to the untouched nature and total seclusion. Some of the best things to do here are to walk along the coral sand beaches with hardly another soul in sight, check out the serene salt lake or explore the rich marine life, especially since the island houses a thriving turtle community. There’s a long upheld band on loud music and late-night partying here but you can always crack open a cold beer and enjoy the island’s enchanting sunsets or head to the other two Gilis for more.

Below are some of the most popular accommodations based on travelers’ ratings:
– MAHAMAYA Gili Meno
– Kura Kura Beach Resort
– Karma Reef
– Avia Villa
– Meno House

Gili Air (Gili A)

Photo: Begadang Gili Air

Gili Air is the perfect blend of the other two islands but with a more bohemian vibe. While it holds similar characteristics to its biggest sister, Gili T, with a great variety of beach bars, dining and nightlife options, it also has a strong sense of tranquility just as its other sister, Gili M, does. Attracting many kinds of tourists from couples to families, the free-spirited, retired souls and young lads, Gili A is the most ideal getaway if you’re looking for both rest and play at paradise on earth. Expect to find a variety of incredible activities here such as sub winging, kitesurfing, yoga, and of course, marine water sports too. From authentic villages to traditional huts, luxurious stays and budget hotels, Gili A has no shortage of accommodation options.

Below are some of the most popular accommodations based on Trip Advisor:
– Scallywags Smuggler Hideaway
– 7Seas Cottages
– Pink Coco Gili Air
– Hotel Ombak Paradise
– Senang Vila

How to get there:

The Gili Islands is easily accessible from either Bali or Lombok through a variety of options:

From Bali, it takes about an hour and half to reach the island by speedboat. There are five main ports: Padang Bai (the most popular one), Benoa Harbor, Serangan, Sanur and Amed. A speedboat from Bali can cost you about $50USD for a one-way trip. Check out some of these fast boat companies to get your tickets sorted: Blue-Water Express, Kuda Hitam Express, Gili Getaway, Ekajaya, and Scoot Cruise.

If you are on a tight budget, there’s a cheaper way to get there via a public ferry, but it will cost you five hours of travel time. This ferry, which leaves every 90 minutes, departs from Padang Bai, Bali and arrives at a port in Lombok before heading to Gili. You can easily get a ticket for the ferry, which is about $4USD per way, directly from the port. 

The fastest and easiest way to get to Gili, however, is via Lombok, which only takes about a maximum of 30 minutes. Make your way by car to either one of these three ports: Bangsal, Telur Nara or Telur Kode to get on a public or private chartered speedboat. Public speedboats from Bangsal run from 9 am to 5 pm every day. 

There are many speedboat companies that will take you to Gili from Lombok for a starting price of USD10 or more per way. Some companies to look out for include Rocksteady Speedboat, Gili Sea Express, Tempatku Lombok Tour & Travel, and Kuda Hitam Express.

If you’re in the mood to splurge, you could arrive in style with a helicopter via Air Bali. The 45-minute journey offers you a picturesque ride over stunning mountains and breathtaking islands.

Don’t leave your bookings till the last minute, especially during high season so get online or contact your trusted travel agents soon.

Next page: Getting around Gili