Travel Guide for Visiting the Gili islands with Kids
The Gili Islands are a veritable paradise on Earth, from the white sandy beaches to the restaurants pied dans l’eau. There are as many friendly locals to greet you on land as there are sea turtles and vibrant fishes swimming with scuba divers. All of this and more are what make the Gili islands with kids what they are—a fantastic place.
The Gili Islands are located in the vast blue sea betwpartyboateen Bali and Lombok, only a one-hour boat ride from the Balinese city of Padangbai, or half-an-hour from Lombok. All three islands forbid motor vehicles, making each destination uniquely walkable and especially agreeable for children. Though each of the gorgeous islands vary in size, they’re frequented by the same crop of visitors, including families, couples and backpackers.
The largest island is Gili Trawangan, where you’ll find the most tourists. For years, it’s been heaven for backpackers, thanks to the sprawling white sand beaches, lively party scene and affordable accomodation. That isn’t to say there aren’t higher-end hotels on the island—honeymooners and families looking for luxury will find what they seek directly opposite the beach, located in front of the budget hotels of the second and third rows back from the sand. Many ex-backpackers return to Gili Trawangan with families to reexperience the one-of-a-kind destination.
The partyboat S.S.Vivian is a great way to spend part of your trip. The cruise ship makes it possible for parents to party without leaving their children at home. It’s an enormous shaded trimaran with an enormous dance floor to match, plus live music, delicious barbeque, and stunning views. The S.S. Vivian sails around the Gili islands once a week.
Gili Air is a happy medium between Gili Trawangan and the quiet, small Gili Meno, in terms of both land area and atmosphere. Here, you’ll find a wide variety of hostels and hotels but thankfully without the crowds to compete for lodging. Many lodging options are located opposite the beach and surrounded by wonderful restaurants. The Sunrise Hotel on Gili Air boasts a lovely pool area perfect for children and maybe the best location on the island, just opposite the island’s premiere snorkeling spot.
Gili Air has one main road, which takes roughly 90 minutes to walk on foot, 20 by horse cart or 30 by bike. There are several diving schools lining the road serving anyone who might wish to see seaturtles, mantas or sparkling swarms of fish swimming within inches. On Sundays, the Gili Air Divers diving school offers a free clean-up dive for low-budget travellers. It’s a great opportunity to do some good on your vacation—just grab a bag, dive in and get cleaning.
Gili Meno is the smallest of the three islands and, unsurprisingly, the quietest. Its the ideal spot for honeymoon, complete with crystal clear waters, smooth sand beaches, few crowds and endless chances for relaxation.
How to Get There:
There are several boat companies that bus visitors from Lombok or Bali (Padangbai) to the Gili Islands. Prices vary from boat to boat. Oddly enough, it’s far cheaper to book your tickets back to Bali or Gili on the Gili islands itself. Most boats travel first to Gili Trawangan, before heading to Gili Meno and finally to Gili Air. The ride takes around 30 minutes from Lombok and 70 from Bali.
Things to do:
Snorkeling is easily the most popular activity on the Gili islands for families with children, since children needn’t venture into deeper waters to see the stunning varieties of tropical fish frequenting the water just a few meters out from the beach. Children as young as three-years-old can try snorkeling, using lifejackets or floaties if necessary. When buying snorkeling equipment for kids, be careful to choose the snorkels with a valve—otherwise water may flood through the device and into your mouth. Gagging on saltwater isn’t what you want from your vacation.
Bike rentals are another option for families to make the most of their time on the Gili Islands. The ride will be rewarding but not too strenuous, since beautiful beaches encircle the entire islands. Lazier families, or ones with very young children to consider, can opt for the horsecart instead. It’s about 200,000 INR for one full trip around the island. Best of all, children love it—we encountered one couple whose one-year-old loved the horse cart so much they took the horsecart around the island every morning they were visiting!
The sea is warm year-round and always welcoming to even sensitive swimmers. The ocean here feels more like an enormous bath tub thanks to the remarkable lack of waves. If your children don’t like the the ocean, many hotels offer pools specifically for the young ones.
If you have the time, scuba-diving and fre-diving are enjoyable activities more exclusive for adults visiting the Gili islands alone. Nevertheless, braver children from ages seven and up are allowed to dive if they choose.
You could take part in one of the many yoga classes offered on the Gilis. Simply find a studio and start exercising! Alternately, the islands are also ideal for relaxation. The many spas throughout the islands invite you to enjoy a Balinese massage or any other variety of treatment.
Enjoy your holiday, with or without children. It’s hard to go wrong if your vacation on the idyllic Gili Islands with kids.
I visited the Gili island two years ago and absolute loved it! It has something for everyone and it’s the perfect place to unwind :)! Glad your kids had an amazing time!
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Love the detailed post all down to the “sea with no waves” I love the water but its also something that causes me anxiety. This definitely sounds like the place for me as I would love the option to explore an island on a bike without risking being square by cars and trucks which is a world of difference for my reality in London.
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it’s what we loved as well. So safe for kids and adults 😉
Beautiful pictures! Do you know if there are any yoga retreats available here?
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There are several Yoga studios there. I’m sure you’ll find one you like.
Sounds like a very fun place to enjoy and relax! Particularly the calm waters.
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Oooh look at the colour of the water!! Sigh. I hope we can afford a good luxury holiday there someday.
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Can you give an indication of accommodation pricing over there? I love the island life and these look like Islands I’d enjoy! We are off on our family adventure next year, travelling from Australia, so this would be one of our first stops. Awesome, I’ll enjoy following your posts 🙂
you can stay quite cheap in a hostel. If you want to have a proper hotel because of kids it’ll be around 30-50€ opposite the beach or only 20€ on the second row.
You will love it there! Much better than Bali 😉
We are planning on taking our 3 and 5 year old over to Gili Air mid March from Bali but I’m reading some pretty negative info on getting to the island by boat. Did you feel it was safe? Thanks
we actually felt very safe. The boats were equipped with huge engines, safety vests and only as many passengers as seats. If you drive to Padangbai by yourself (or let your husband do it) he can check the boats and get cheap tickets directly on spot. It’s a lot more expensive if you get them at the hotel or somewhere else and you can never know on which boat you’ll end up.
Gili Air is so beautiful! I’m a bit envious 😉 Do you already know where you’ll stay?
I am planning a trip there in August with my one year old and have been recommended to give her anti malaria medication but really do not want to give such strong medication to my baby, what did you do about this with your children? I think I would prefer to stay in Bali than give her medication, but I had the impression (when there before having a baby that) that they were very low risk islands? And as you say, child friendly! It would be great to know what others do,
we didn’t take any and I wouldn’t consider Gili and Bali as high risk countries. Though I’m not a physician and can’t give medical advice.
We are planning to travel to the Gili Islands via either Bali or Lombok from Perth, Australia and we have a 1 and a 3 yr old. We are looking at staying at the Gili Eco Villas on the west side of Gili T as its peak travel season (July!) and only booking now. 😳 We are considering also staying on Lombok for a few nights if we fly out of there afterwards.
My queries are:
Has anyone done this with really young children who don’t swim and advise for or against it? Boats an issue? Snorkelling with them would be out but nanny services available and they’d get a kick out of glassbottom boats, horses, turtles etc.
Also has anyone stayed at Gill Eco Villas and any recommendations on Lombok too?
We aren’t into big resorts for mass tourists but at the same time want a little lux and creature comforts especially with the young ones in tow.
Any suggestions would be so appreciated.