Last updated on January 21st, 2021
The Gili Islands are a stone’s throw away from Bali where many people come to escape the hustle and bustle of the mainland. Being the epitome of island vibes, Gili T has become a popular spot for backpackers, divers, and travelers in general.
There are so many things to do in Gili Trawangan and this travel guide covers all the best attractions on the island as well as practical information so you can start planning your vacation to Bali.
Psst… Planning your trip to Bali? These posts might help!
- 10 Best Beaches in Uluwatu, Bali
- Exploring Balian Beach: Bali’s Hidden Gem
- The Perfect 3 Day Ubud Itinerary
Where is Gili Trawangan?
The Gilis are made up of 3 beautiful islands nestled just off the coast of Lombok in Indonesia. They’re just a stone’s throw away from Bali and can be easily added to your travel plans if you’re visiting Bali for a few weeks.
White sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and palm trees line the small islands, with each of them having their own unique features and fun things to do.
Gili Air, Gili Meno, Gili Trawangan. Which island is best?
Gili Trawangan is the biggest and most developed of the three islands and is known as the party spot. Because of this, it attracts many backpackers and a wilder crowd. There are more things to do in Gili Trawangan compared to the other two islands below and despite the notion that it’s a party island, I didn’t find it to be as extreme as others would make you believe.
Gili Meno is the smallest and quietest of the three islands. Many people choose Gili Meno in search of peace and serenity and to escape the crowds that flock to Gili T.
Gili Air is a compromise for those people who want a more relaxed party scene than Gili T, with the tranquil atmosphere that Gili Meno is known for. With plenty of restaurants and beach bars, Gili Meno hasn’t quite reached the crazy party scene of Gili Trawangan.
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.
I spent a few hours cycling under palm trees, passing many local houses and following countless paths that lead to beautiful, quiet beaches.
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!)
If you’re the adventurous ype, check out this post on hiking Mt Batur in Bali!
2) Snorkeling off the northern beaches in Gili T
If you’re looking for the best thing to do in Gili Trawanagan, 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 a number of 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.
If you’re looking for untouched destinations in Indonesia, I highly recommend 17 Islands Marine Park. I spent 2 days snorkeling here and the vibrant coral and abundance of marine life was like nothing I’ve seen before.
3) Relax and unwind on one of the many beaches
Bali is filled with tourists left, right and center which I found quite overwhelming. After visiting Seminyak, Uluwatu, Canggu 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!
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 of the island 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) 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 over water 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.
Is that picture really worth it?
I’m not sure about you, but I had a 30-minute window to see and admire the sunset. Standing in a long queue to get that picture, and working myself up because people are taking their sweet time swinging back and forth, 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 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 spoiled 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.
5) Diving in Gili Trawangan
Indonesia is a tropical diving mecca! Diving with sharks and manta rays in the Komodo Islands was a highlight for me and has set the bar very high for all my future dives.
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, scuba diving is one of the best things to do in Gili Trawangan.
The best dive center in 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 ($35 per dive).
Each dive shop has a weekly dive schedule and you may want to look around and choose a dive company that’s visiting the sites you want to go to.
Diving spots around Gili Trawangan
- Bounty Wreck
My first dive site was Bounty Wreck just off the coast of Gili Trawangan.
It’s a floating platform which was abandoned many years ago and 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!
However, it was a beautiful dive, with great visibility in the crystal clear water.
6) Day trip to the other Gili islands (Gili Meno and Gili Air)
Gili Meno and Gili Air are both a short 15 min boat trip from Gili Trawangan. You can spend the day soaking up the sun on one of their many beaches or exploring the island by bike.
Local boats leave from Gili Trawangan every morning and you can buy tickets from the harbor.
7) Making friends whilst sipping on cocktails at the Trawangan Dive pool bar
Sitting at the Trawangan Dive pool bar with a drink in one hand and a book in the other was definitely one of my favorite things to do in Gili Trawangan.
My 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.
This pool bar is open to the public, so if you have some time, pop over and have a drink!
8) Gili Trawangan Booze cruise on the Jiggy Boat Party
The Jiggy Boat Party is one of the biggest attractions in Gili Trawangan.
After spending my first 2 days appreciating my new-found paradise, I was reluctant to leave the island to spend an afternoon on the Jiggy party boat! But, it did include day drinking after all, which is quite possibly my favorite thing to do.
The tickets 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.
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’ll 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 as well.
Check out this post for more information on Ubud and the things to do there.
10) Partying on Gili Trawangan
Gili Trawangan is bustling with young travelers all 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. 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 as well.
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.
How to Get to Gili Trawangan from Bali
The Gili Islands are not actually part of Bali, but they’re so close that you can add them to your Bali itinerary.
Fast boats leave every morning from Padang Bai harbor and take about 1.5-2.5 hours to get to the Gili Islands.
Most hotels and backpackers will be able to arrange a transfer from anywhere in Bali to Padang Bai, as well as your boat ticket, so it’s not necessary to book these before you arrive. However, ensure you notify your hotel at least a day before you need to be there so that they can make the necessary arrangements.
My overall thoughts of Gili Trawangan
When I first arrived in Gili T 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!
I wouldn’t say it’s a hidden gem in Bali, but it’s certainly off the beaten track and well worth including on your Bali itinerary.
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.
- How to get there: Take a 2-hour ferry from Padang Bai in Bali to Gili Trawangan.
- What to expect: A small island getaway with beautiful beaches, weak wi-fi, no motorized vehicles and an overall relaxed atmosphere.
- How many days you need: 3 days.
Looking for more Indonesia travel information? Check out my other posts!
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