The Gili Islands are a stone’s throw away from Bali where many people come to escape the hustle and bustle of the mainland. Known for its reputation of being the partying island, Gili T has become a popular spot for backpackers, divers, and travelers in general. Being the epitome of island vibes, there are many things to do in Gili Trawangan. Below are my top 10 activities to include in your Gili Trawangan itinerary.
Gili Trawangan – The party island
I traveled to the Gilis in January 2017 and was shocked to see that Gili T wasn’t as busy as I’d read it to be. I was expecting an island with a similar vibe to Phi Phi in Thailand and was pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t.
However, I think the severe hangovers were a reason for the lack of human presence during the day as the night-time was buzzing! Having said that, Gili Trawangan is a balance of everything. It’s crazy-partying meets relaxed-beaching, so don’t be put off from visiting this island if drinking isn’t your main priority.
Things to do in Gili Trawangan
1) Cycle around the island
With tiny paths leading to many untouched corners of the island, Gili Trawangan is best explored by bike. Although the island is very small, it is easy to take one of the many unknown trails and end up in the middle of nowhere. I spent a few hours cycling under palm trees, passing many of the local’s houses and following countless paths that lead to beautiful, quiet beaches. A morning well spent!
Full day bike rental will cost you $5-$8 and it should take about an hour to cycle around the entire island (if you don’t get lost, that is!) I’d recommend that you hire a bike for the duration of your stay, and negotiate a lower rate.
If you’re one for adventure, check out this post on hiking Mt Batur in Bali!
2) Snorkeling just off the northern beaches in Gili Trawangan
Head over to the northern part of the island and you’re sure to feast your eyes on a variety of tropical marine life. Turtle Cove is known to attract many turtles close to the shoreline. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any, but we did spot countless tropical fish. Snorkeling gear can be rented almost everywhere around Gili T so be sure to have this on you before you make your way there.
3) Relax and unwind on one of the many beaches
Bali is filled with tourists left, right and center and some may find it a bit overwhelming, as I did. I managed to find a bit of peace and serenity in Uluwatu. However, after leaving Seminyak and Ubud, I began to lose hope that I would find the tropical paradise I was looking for.
Enter Gili Trawangan. A small island lined with white sandy beaches, palm trees, and weak wi-fi!
I only had 3 days in the Gilis and so my Gili Trawangan itinerary was jam-packed in search of the next best beach. There is an abundance of sun loungers and beach huts all along the island where you can spend hours doing absolutely nothing. I have Gili T to thank for the AMAZING bronzed bod I left with, and my new-found lease on life!
I personally preferred the northern side which was surprisingly quiet. But I must warn you, although the water may be a sparkling turquoise color, the surface is not as I had expected. There is a lot of coral and rocks so rather stay afloat if you decide to take a dip.
4) Making friends whilst sipping on cocktails at the Trawangan Dive pool bar
Disclaimer: I am in no way getting paid to promote Trawangan Dive. I talk about things I love and sitting at their pool bar with a drink in my one hand and a book in the other was definitely something I thoroughly enjoyed doing!
The one requirement my friend and I had when looking for accommodation in Gili T – a pool bar overlooking the beach. Ok, so it actually overlooks a road, with the beach infront of it, same thing! Oh, and it had to fit our tight budget, so immediately our options were scaled down to single digits!
Our afternoons were spent alternating between swimming and drinking or doing both at the same time whilst saying hi to just about everyone who walked past the dive center. The barmen were fun and the drinks strong. Day drinking = happy Carryn!
This pool bar is open to the public so if you have some time, pop over and have a drink!
5) Sunsets on the west side and the Gili T swings
The Gili islands have recently become famous for the thousands of images floating around Instagram of overwater swings at sunset. Getting THIS picture in front of a vibrant sunset backdrop was on my “to-do” list of things to do on Gili Trawangan. So, I got on my bike in search of THAT swing.
When I arrived on the western side of the island, I saw one swing, then another, and another! Scores of tourists lined the beach waiting for their chance to take a picture on the swings. All of which were branded with hotel names as part of their marketing strategy.
I’m not sure about you, but I had a 30-minute window to see and admire the sunset. Standing in a 30-minute queue to get that picture, and working myself up because people are taking their sweet time swinging back and forth trying to get the perfect snap, is not exactly my idea of a good time.
So instead, I decided to take advantage of the happy hour specials and found myself a prime spot overlooking the Bali sea. Yes, my view may have been hampered by the queues of people waiting at the swings, but I was quite content with lounging on my beanbag whilst sipping on cocktails.
There are many beach bars along the western strip, so you’ll be spoilt for choice. Regardless of whether you want the picture or not, heading to the western side of the island to watch the sunset should definitely be on your list of things to do in Gili Trawangan.
6) Day trip to the other Gili islands (Gili Meno and Gili Air)
A 15 min boat trip will take you to Gili Meno or Gili Air where you can spend the day soaking up the sun on one of their many beaches or exploring the islands by bike. Local boats leave from Gili Trawangan every morning and you can buy tickets from the harbor. Although this is something I wanted to do, I only had 3 days on Gili T and so I never got around to it adding it to my Gili Trawangan itinerary.
7) Booze cruise on the Jiggy Boat Party
After spending my first 2 days appreciating my new-found paradise, I was reluctant to leave the island to spend an afternoon on a party boat #granny! But, it did include day drinking after all, which is quite possibly my favorite thing to do.
Along with my friends, we bought tickets to the Jiggy Boat Party. These cost $19 for the girls and well, sorry guys, $26 for you. This only includes 1 drink but the price is totally worth it for the few hours we got to spend on a catamaran sipping on cocktails, whilst taking in the picturesque views.
The crowd was great, and the music even better. The catamaran made its way toward Lombok where we stopped and took a dip in the water. After appreciating yet another beautiful sunset, we headed back to Gili T.
With many aggressive drinkers clearly overestimating their alcohol tolerance level, people dropped like flies as soon as we reached Gili T. Those who were left stayed and kept the party going at Jiggy Bar.
8) Diving in Gili Trawangan
The Gili’s are known for their vibrant underwater life which attracts beginner and experienced divers alike. With over 20 dive sites, and turtles galore, I sure wasn’t going to give this tropical diving mecca a skip.
Which dive center to use on Gili T
There is a pricing agreement between all the dive centers in the Gilis. Because of this, you don’t need to shop around for a bargain as their costs are very much the same. However, each dive shop has a weekly dive schedule. You may want to look around and choose a dive company that’s visiting the sites you want to see. I did my first dive with Trawangan Dive and the second with Gili Divers. Both were great and I would recommend diving with either of them.
Scuba diving refresher course
I completed my PADI Open Water course in 2010 and unfortunately haven’t put it to much use since. After doing a few dives in Thailand many years ago, I decided that I needed to do a refresher course before diving the Gilis.
This course consists of some basic theory and a few practical exercises which are done in a pool with all your diving equipment. Initially, I was reluctant to do it as my budget was pretty tight. However, the worst is having one tank of oxygen on you, and spending most of it trying to remember how to work the darn thing! So, I decided to book my refresher with Trawangan Dive, which also included a dive to Bounty Wreck.
Price for diving in Gili T:
- $4 reef tax is charged when you sign up for your first dive. This is a once off cost that all divers have to pay
- $65 for a refresher course which includes one ocean dive
- $37 for a single dive
Diving spots around Gili Trawangan
- Bounty Wreck
My first dive site was Bounty Wreck. This is a floating platform which was abandoned many years ago. It has since sunk into the ocean and is now fully covered in coral. It was a great dive where I saw plenty of tropical fish as well as turtles. The current was quite strong during my dive, but the visibility was clear and the ocean spotlessly clean.
- Shark Point
One of my ultimate fears… sharks! However, I was ready to take them on. After psyching myself up and mentally preparing to come face to face with this creature, I was left disappointed after only seeing a few turtles. Don’t get me wrong, turtles are amazing, but the build-up to possibly being confronted by sharks had been torture! And I had to go through all of that to see cute and pretty turtles! However, it was a beautiful dive, with great visibility in the crystal clear water.
9) Night market at the market square
This night market in Gili Trawangan is located just off the main road near the harbor. It’s popular among locals as well as tourists. You will be spoiled for choice with a variety of Indonesian street food as well as meat skewers and fresh fish on offer. The food is absolutely delicious, and great value for money. The market is open daily from 6-10pm so be sure to include it in your Gili Trawangan itinerary.
Despite the amazing variety of food available on Gili Trawangan, nothing will beat the flavors and tasty meals I had in Ubud so be sure to add that to your Bali itinerary aswell. Check out this post for more information on Ubud and the things to do there.
10) Partyingon Gili Trawangan
I imagine that Gili Trawangan is similar to how Phi Phi island was 10 years ago. It’s bustling with young travelers who are excited to spend a few days disconnecting from the outside world and finding pleasure in many of the local beers (and other substances) on offer.
The hostels in Gili T are notorious for attracting a devout partying crowd and if you stay at one of them, it could quite possibly lead to you switching between being intoxicated and hungover your entire trip.
The main strip near the harbor is home to numerous beach bars where you’re sure to meet like-minded travelers. These bars take turns hosting the party for the night, with most of them closing at 1 am and only one staying open until around 3 am.
Having said that, this is not the Gili T I came to know. Again, one of the reasons I absolutely love Gili Trawangan. If you want to party, it’s there. But if you choose to spend your days catching a tan, diving and relaxing, then you’re able to do this aswell. Many people have said it’s overrun with drunken backpackers, but I don’t agree with this. Yes, if you stay at a backpackers then this could be true, so rather find yourself a quieter spot away from the crowds.