There are 3 islands that make up the Gili Islands in Indonesia - Trawangan, Memo + Air. Gili Memo is a very low key "honeymooners" destination, Gili Air is in between with a chill vibe and a social atmosphere + Trawangan is the party island...
If you're planning to stay in a hostel there's no need to book before arriving on this island (or on Air), when you get off the boat it's really easy to navigate the main roads and get the feel for the different spots, as well as compare rates. Here are some favorite picks that you should definitely checkout!
- Gili Castle (formerly Gili Backpackers): Extremely social party hostel within walking distance to everything. There is a swimming pool with a rock climbing wall for some epic jumps, also plenty of spots to relax around the entire common area and bar. Downsides: The rooms are a little pricey and there is an Islamic Mosque less than 100m away from which there is a loudspeaker blasting a call to prayer 5 times a day - starting at 6am... Even earplugs did not help.
- La Bohème: A very vibrant hostel that resembles a tree fort/house. Great social area with hammocks upstairs and the downstairs has a full kitchen (free breakfast which you make for yourself). The dorm rooms are standard with comfortable beds and the communal bathrooms are nice enough. The 2nd floor private room was amazing, like a real tree house - the open wood slats throughout the entire room gave a cool view above the surrounding buildings.
- Gili Divers: A really well run dive shop. The owners also own Gili Castle (mentioned above), so if you dive and stay at the Castle you receive 10% off. Their dive boats are pretty visible while you're on the island as they are bright yellow and very nice. The dive shop offers a swimming/training pool, classrooms, equipment for sale, SSI certifications and a small restaurant and bar - the whole package. Oliver Jessop (OJ), certified me: Easy on the eyes + a really knowledgeable instructor.
- The Exile: The best spot for sunset, but arrive early! There's a swing and hammock in the water for the perfect Instagram moment ;) Each night there are people waiting in line to take pictures. Definitely rent a bicycle for this trip and also make sure you bring a torch (flashlight) as the road back is not well lit.
- Turtle Hatchery: Diving and snorkeling in the Gilis is sure to expose you to a ton of turtles, but the hatchery is a must-see. They have 2 large tanks with hundreds of baby turtles. You can't pet them, but it's so great to see and support these endangered underwater friends.
A very small yet quiet island, mainly couples. Accommodations were either very expensive and amazing or expensive and shitty. The cost to value ratio wasn't awesome, but this island is a great place to chill, relax and get away from the craziness of Gili T. Itinerary? Wake up, paddle board yoga at 9am, get a tan, drink a beer and read in a hammock.
- The Mexican Kitchen: A great little Mexican restaurant in the middle of paradise. The food was great (offering meat + vegan options - even fresh juices with chia seeds, etc.), and it sits directly on the ocean. At 9pm the live music started and there was a band playing traditional Indonesian music with a modern blend (lead singer was in an authentic headdress and boxer briefs).
- We ended up at Star Bar & Bungalows, plain, simple, and for about $20/night we had a clean bed, shower, no aircon, but breakfast was included.
- Another place to check out is Pachamama Organic (which seemed to be linked to one of the dive shops) - I ate here each day for lunch and loved their signature salad. Also awesome was the Colombian SUP yoga/salsa teacher who offered free salsa at night and 9am yoga on the SUP.
- Try the mushroom shakes, she said. They will be fun, she said.