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.