Family Trip to Gili Air – 5 factors of success

We took a family trip to Gili Air, complete with grandparents and our two children, ages three and five, first departing for Bali in January 2015. We imagined our trip consisting primarily of the kids and grandparents lounging on the beach while we explored the local shops. We were wrong. Upon arriving at the beach in Seminyak, our oldest said, “I’m not gonna stay here. It’s so dirty.” “It smells,” the little one complained. The well-being of our trip was suddenly in jeopardy—how can we make everyone happy for the entire month-long vacation?

We escaped into Spas, instead of going to the beach. - Copyright by

We escaped into Spas, instead of going to the beach. – Copyright by

We booked two villas in advance, one in Seminyak the other in Sanur. We did all we could to help the kids enjoy the pool, in between visiting noteworthy local sights like the Monkey forest in Ubud. After the first two days, we headed directly to the harbour in Padangbai to catch a speedboat to Gili Air.

Fast drive to the Gili islands - Copyright by

Fast drive to the Gili islands – Copyright by

Why take a family trip to Gili Air? I had read that, of the three Gili islands, Gili Air is a healthy middle-ground—not quite so calm as Gili Meno, but also not as rowdy as Gili Trawangan.

On Sunday we arrived to the island without any sort of booking in place. Figuring we shouldn’t have much trouble with only six people, we simply checked two days before arriving. There were plenty hotels still available—no need to fret. My husband found a horsecart and drove along the main drag to visit the hotels he liked.

Horse carts on Gili - Copyright by

Horse carts on Gili – Copyright by

We waited for him in a charming cafe opposite the harbour. He soon returned, boasting of a lovely hotel with a pool nearby. Good news, since the kids insisted they’d only stayed at a hotel with a pool. I guess they were scared of sitting on a dirty beach again.

A few things that make a family trip to Gili Air an ideal vacation:

1. No cars allowed—only horsecarts and bicycles. It’s perfect for parents, who need not worry about their children’s safety here. They can’t even get lost, since there’s only one main road.

I've never seen smaller main roads - Copyright by

I’ve never seen smaller main roads – Copyright by

2. Snorkeling

We arrived at the Sunrise Hotel via horsecart. We didn’t know it initially, but our Travelguide later informed us that the hotel is directly in front of the best snorkeling spot on Gili Air. The Travelguide was soon proven right. Every morning three boats arrived at the beach to drop off snorkelers eager to explore the exotic underwater world. We walked into the water on our own. Surprisingly, we saw an enormous variety of colorful fishes almost immediately, hardly five meters from shore. Luckily, we had swimming shoes with us to protect against the seaweed and small stones underfoot.

Even our 3 year old started snorkeling - Copyright by

Even our 3 year old started snorkeling – Copyright by

3. Very good hotel

The Sunrise Hotel itself belongs to a nice man who purchased the piece of land several years ago. He began building bungalows in the local style. Ours was very convenient, with one bedroom and bathroom downstairs, plus a sun-lounging area upstairs, whereas some bungalows have an opposite floorplan. While the kids slept, we sipped glasses of wine and relaxed after our long days

The kids quickly fell in love with the hotel pool, complete with a deeper area and a kids‘ pool. Gili Air proved to be child-friendly at every corner. The staff was lovely, always cracking jokes to delight our children, the ocean was shallow, and there were, of course, no cars around.

We had breakfast in the restaurant while the kids got an early start playing in the sand, only meters away from us.

The frood salad each morning was the best! - Copyright by

The frood salad each morning was the best! – Copyright by

4. Dining on the beach

In the evenings we dined directly on the beach. Our go-to pick was often Scallywag‘s, where they offered fantastic meat and fish always freshly grilled on their BBQ. The Sunshine Restaurant was also a great option; clown sausages with mashed potatoes were the kids‘ favorite whereas we loved the tuna.

Family trip to Gili Air

Romantic atmosphere on the beach – Copyright by

5. Scuba diving

In the mornings and afternoons, we went diving with Gili Air Divers several times. There are countless diving spots to choose from, offering visitors the chance to see sea turtles, manta rays and even whale sharks. One afternoon, my daughter decided to come with me on the boat. The boaters told her to take her snorkel equipment with her, so she could go snorkeling with them while I dove deeper. If that isn’t paradise, I don’t know what is.

Gili Air, Family trip to Gili Air

My first lesson for the Open Water Diver took place in the pool. – Copyright by


Have you ever been to a similar island? Please share your experiences!

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13 Responses to “Family Trip to Gili Air – 5 factors of success”

  1. Awww wow this looks like so much fun. I sadly didn’t have enough time to go to the Gilis when I went to Bali for my honeymoon last year. Definitely gonna try to go before I leave Asia.

  2. Love this! Went to Bali last year for Christmas and wanted to visit one of the Gili Islands but didn’t have the chance. Hope to go there again one day and make time for this island. Pictures are lovely :)’

    • Make sure you have enough time next time you’re visiting Bali. We were very surprised to find paradise there.

  3. cool tips for a family trip!!!

  4. This looks incredible, we’re off to Bali next year & you have truly inspired me! Thank you & that water looks so inviting!!
    Simone recently posted…Tips for Aussies moving to the UK: Part 1 – Deciding to move!My Profile

  5. It’s so nice to have a family vacation together. Glad it turned out to be fantastic, looks like a lovely place to visit with lots to see and do but also relaxing too.
    Nic from Roaming Renegades recently posted…Exploring the creepy abandoned Theme Park: Camelot!My Profile

  6. While scuba diving and snorkeling wouldn’t be my thing (jeez I have to learn to swim already!), the beaches look so tempting, especially the beach at sunset. I’ve always wanted to go to Bali, hopefully it will happen soon enough.

  7. Looks lovely. We are planning to go later this year with 2 kids. Was just wondering if you needed to get any vaccinations/malaria protection for your kids? Were Mosquitos a problem? Thanks

    • Hi Louise,

      no problems at all. We put anti repellent on the kids when we went out for dinner, but during the day everything was fine. Also no special vaccinations or malaria protection.

      Enjoy your time there! it’s beautiful!

  8. Hi Louise,

    My husband and I sede in Bali some years ago, Btt nos we Ant to return as a family! We’ré planning to go next year, when our girls willl be 2 and 4. Is it safe to go by speed boat frota Bali, especially with the younger one?
    thank you!
    Joana (from Portugal)

    • Hi Joana,
      I would say it’s safe to take the speedboat. You just need to check the boat before. There are modern and old ones. Luckily it’s not a long drive.

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