Fiery sunsets, turquoise waters, peaceful vibes, and snorkeling with sea turtles. Welcome to Gili Air – the smallest of the three Gili islands, located just off the coast of Lombok and 2 hours away from Bali by boat.
Gili Air is the perfect place for a getaway from busy Bali. The island has no motorized vehicles and the best way to get around is either on foot or by bicycle. We’ve visited this quiet little paradise twice and each time felt like a vacation, in a vacation. So, what are the best things to do on Gili Air? Read on!
Which Gili Island is the best? What to choose?
If you’re planning to head to the Gili’s and aren’t sure which is best for you then have this in mind:
Gili Trawangan is the largest of the three and very popular amongst younger people who love to party. While you’ll still be able to find calm corners, the island is definitely not as peaceful as Gili Meno or Gili Air. If you want to party every night, then I suggest you stay on Gili T. You can still take day trips to Gili Meno and Gili Air and have more relaxing experiences away from the island.
Gili Meno is the middle island that doesn’t have as much going for it as the neighbors, so the majority of people visit the island on a day tour but don’t really tend to stay there overnight.
Gili Air is the smallest and while it does have some nice places to eat and drink, the primary purpose of staying here is to relax, snorkel, sunbathe and take it easy. If you only want to party once or twice (or nothing at all), then I suggest you book your stay on Gili Air and head to Gili T for a night once. Gili Air is the best for honeymoons, families, and couples who are over partying. Singles tend to prefer Gili T though.
Getting to Gili Air
The best and fastest way to get to Gili Air is by Ekajaya fast boat from Padang Bai. Adult tickets cost us 700,000 IDR ($48) per person and children below 5 travel for free. If your kid is 6 years old you can still get by saying they’re 5.
I highly suggest you get your fast boat tickets via an agent. They always manage to get a lower price than what you see online, especially if you’re traveling in a group!
The journey from Padang Bai to Gili Air takes about 2 hours.
Just before you board the boat they will also charge you for something called ‘harbor tax’, so make sure you have change ready. It was 10,000 IDR when we were there for the second time in 2022.
Best things to do on Gili Air
1. Turtle Bay
Regardless of which hotel you’re staying at on Gili Air, everyone from the receptionist to the bartender will have a contact for someone who can take you on a snorkeling trip around the three islands. It doesn’t matter what boat takes you there, so just opt for the cheapest one! We paid 700,000 IDR for three adults and one child. Pick up was at 8am right in front of the hotel and we asked the guys on the boat to take us to Turtle Bay first. We saw lots of sea turtles during our snorkeling tour!
TIP: convince them to take you as early as possible. Everyone wants to start the tour at 9.30, but we opted for a private tour and went at 8 am. The reason you want to go as early as possible is to see as many turtles as possible. The later you come, the lower the chance of a sighting.
2. Underwater sculptures
After Turtle Bay, we went to see the underwater sculptures just off the coast of Gili Meno. The underwater world here is absolutely stunning – beautiful sculptures and lots of fish make for the perfect photos! If you’re early enough.
If snorkeling with the turtles isn’t your highest priority then I’d suggest coming to the sculptures first, and then to Turtle Bay. We took our sweet time observing all the turtles so by the time we made it to the sculptures there were already a few more boats out and about.
3. Get a diving certificate
Our first trip to Gili Air was in 2019 and that was when we spent 4 days on the island getting our SSI Open Water Dive Certificate at Gili Air Divers. I can highly recommend getting your diving certificate on Gili Air. This was the first time we swam with a sea turtle and loved the underwater life here, which made the diving experience more fun.
4. Swing, swing
Gili Air, similar to Nusa Lembongan and Ceningan, has lots of swings placed in the sea by the different restaurants and cafes. They won’t charge you for swinging there, so just go ahead and get wild!
For the best sunset swing photos head over to Island View or Pink Coco.
5. Cycle around the island
The best way to see Gili Air is by renting a bicycle. Since there are no motorized vehicles on this island, you’ll be able to explore the beachside and the middle of the island in just a couple of hours.
You can rent a bicycle at the harbor or at your hotel. I recommend renting a bike with thicker tires to not get too stuck in the sand.
6. Party on Gili T
If you want to take a break from the chill Gili Air and are in the mood for some partying, then make sure you head to Gili T. It only takes 15 minutes by speed boat to get from Gili Air to Gili T and you can travel there from the harbor. Book a place to stay on Gili T and return by speed boat the next day to relax on Gili Air.
7. Sunsets and live music
If you happened to book a hotel that’s not on the West side of Gili Air, then make sure you go there in time for sunset. Grab a cocktail or a Bintang, a beanbag, or a chair, and listen to live music and watch the sun go down. On a lucky day, you’ll even see Mt Agung!
8. Horse ride on the beach
Is there anything more romantic than riding horses at the best during sunset? Make sure you book the activity via your hotel at least a day in advance.
9. Local cooking class Gili Air
Check out Gili Cooking Classes that are located on both Gili Air and Gili T. Choose your dish and the number of courses and get ready to learn some new cooking skills. No cooking experience is needed for the classes.
10. Get a massage
If you want to take your relaxing holiday to the next level, then make sure you book a massage session in one of the island’s many massage places. They come as cheap as $7 USD or are pricier at more upscale SPAs.
Restaurants in Gili Air
Island View Bar – Delicious grill with fresh fish and meat
Gili Bliss – Smoothie bowls and veggie dishes
Warung Sunny – Local food
The Mexican Kitchen – Mexican food
Cheeky Monkey – Simple lunch
Mama Pizza – Pizza
Frozen Gili – Frozen Yoghurt
ATM on Gili Air
I always suggest bringing cash with you on the smaller islands, but if you happen to spend it all, then you’ll have three (irregularly stocked) ATMs on Gili Air. The majority are by the pier where you’ll arrive and one is on the north side.
Where to stay on Gili Air Island?
Island View Bar & Bungalow
Cheap, right on the beach, and with a great vibe. It’s not the fanciest of places, but we loved it. It’s also located on the good side of the island, so you’ll be seeing some beautiful sunsets every night.
Located right next to Island View, but a little more upscale. I only recommend booking here if you really want a pool and have a higher budget or for a special occasion.
Best time to visit Gili Air
I would recommend visiting Gili Air any time of the year. The rainy and dry seasons don’t make a huge difference on the island. Our first visit was in February and the second in July and both were great.
I hope you enjoyed reading this guide to the Gili Air island!