Gili Trawangan is an Indonesian island near Bali and Lombok, once famous among locals and visitors for its party scene, but the destination has changed over the last few years. Backpackers who once partied on the beach a decade ago return to Gili Trawangan with children now to relive those glory days with children in tow. But is it really the best idea to visit Gili Trawangan with children?
Most families have a few basic requirements of their destinations, including:
1. A clean and safe environment. Dangerous streets filled with trash or even broken glass littering the beaches will keep parents caring for their children rather than enjoying the vacation as a family. They should be relaxing in lounge chairs rather than treating their children’s wounds.
2. Good food. The importance of good food can’t be overstated, as food poisoning is never fun, as we learned firsthand in India. The food should be mild enough to suit the children, with options beyond junk food.
3. Hotels with connecting rooms, or three beds in one. These always make it easier to travel with children. Three-year-olds suddenly require much more space than you might imagine, but are nevertheless still too young to have their own room.
4. Small waves. Many children aren’t fans of larger swells as they may get run over. Once again, the parents need to stay by their sidesthe whole time.
Gili Trawangan is still famous for its world-class parties and open-season atmosphere for drugs. Although you can find drugs on the island, they aren’t omnipresent, haunting every corner like some parents might fear. I wouldn’t bring a 16-year-old with me, but for children too young to go out yet, it’s definitely safe.
For me, the biggest advantage of visiting Gili Trawangan with children is: no cars! There are only bicycles and horsecarts to rely upon, so the chance of being run over is severely reduced.
In comparison to the beaches in Bali, the shore on Gili Trawangan is like paradise. The beachese are white, sandy and trash-free, characterized by gentle swells. They’re perfect for children to play in the water or build sand castles. Many beach-adjacent restaurants offer sun loungers, so parents can sit, relax, read and sip at tropical drinks while the little ones entertain themselves within shouting distance. The restaurants cater primarily to tourists. Accordingly, the menu is comforting for westerners far from home, offering salads alongside extensive Indonesian, European and Australian options.
In the southern part of the harbour, there are more family friendly hotels comparted to the party-centric region catering to backpackers in the north. We stayed at the Samba Villas, specifically built for families. The rooms are often interconnected or feature up to four beds. The homey family villas and the devoted service make the Samba easily one of best hotels on Gili Trawangan.
Gili Trawangan is still the island with the most tourists, so Gili Air and Gili Meno are more suited to travelers seeking quiet retreats. Decide which to visit based on your own preferences. For the widest range of shops, restaurants and activities, Gili Trawangan is the place to be. Gili Air is quieter, featuring fewer tourist-friendly hang outs but more remote, beautiful beaches ideal for snorkeling. Gili Meno is the quietest of them all, more for honeymooners than anyone else. Take a look at our guide to see if traveling to Gili Trawangan with children is right for you, or if you’d prefer another of the Gilis. It’s hard to go wrong.