The Gili Islands with Kids: Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok’s Amazing Islands

This post may contain affiliate links. Please visit our Disclosure page for details.

The Gili Islands with kids. You’ll be surprised at just how many great things there are to do with children here. If you’re thinking about exploring the Gili Islands with kids, then I hope our Gili Island guide can help!

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands Gili T night market gili air gili air dock

Our Ultimate Guide to the Gili Islands with Kids

Out of Indonesia’s thousands of islands, Bali may be its most well known to traveling families. However, only a few kilometers to the east of are Lombok and the Gili Islands. There are fantastic places for family travel as well.

We highly recommend visiting the Gili islands with kids, and hope that this post will help you plan your trip!

Related Posts (Indonesia & Beyond)

** Save & Share on Pinterest! **

Things to do in the Gili Islands with kids PIN 2

Contents

What’s a Gili? Where are they?

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands

First off, let’s define the word “gili.” In the language of the local Sasak people of Lombok, “gili” simply means “small island.” Therefore, you will also often hear them referred to as “the gilis.”

The most famous of these are Gili Air, Gili Meno, and Gili Trawangan. These three gilis are just off Lombok’s northwest coast, but they are by no means the only ones.

There are gilis in the south, in the east and elsewhere. In fact, we had a great island hopping trip in the gilis to the east of Lombok. That said, Gili Air, Gili Meno, and Gili Trawangan are the most developed and accommodating to tourism. You can see them below.

The Gilis have few paved roads and almost no motorized transport. What they do have is bicycles and horse-drawn carts called cidomos. Cidomos act as the island’s taxis, dump trucks, and every other duty that automobiles would otherwise do. Some locals now have electric scooters, but no cars or trucks.

Each of the three gilis mentioned above has its own distinct personality:

  • Gili Trawangan is the largest and most developed. It’s also home base for young backpackers ready to party, but as we discovered, there’s much more to the island than house music and beer pong.
  • Gili Air is closest to Lombok and is a hub for scuba and snorkeling tours. There are hotels, restaurants, and bars here too, but far fewer than Gili Trawangan. After traveling to both Gili Trawangan and Gili Air, we found the money exchange rates on Gili Air to be considerably (and surprisingly) higher than Gili Trawangan. If you plan to exchange your money at the currency changer,  do it on Gili Trawangan or on Lombok to save some money. Or ask around first to see if this info is still accurate.
  • Gili Meno is sandwiched between Gili Air and Gili Trawangan and is the smallest and quietest of the three. It is sometimes called the “honeymoon island” as it’s a place to get away from it all. Gili Meno is also where you’re most likely to see sea turtles.

Need Luggage? Read About the Best Backpacks,  Carry-on Bags and Check-in Suitcases 

Things to Do in the Gili Islands with Kids

There are so many things to do in the Gilis with kids. Each island offers its share of unique attractions and activities, but there are a number of things to do in the Gilis with kids that you can find on all three islands.

Bike rides

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands boat charter bike rental gili air

As I mentioned above, when you visit the Gili islands with kids, you won’t see any cars because they’re not allowed. It’s all about the foot, the hoof or the pedal here. You can walk, you can take a horse cart, or you and the kids can jump on bicycles. I can tell you this is what we certainly prefer.

Each island is small and flat enough to see almost entirely by bicycle in a single day — and that’s with plenty of stops to eat, nap and swim, as well.

Keep in mind, however, these are not flat, paved roads. They are often bumpy, rocky, and depending on when you visit, possibly full of puddles.

Beaches

No visit to the Gili Islands with kids would be complete without some time in the sand. Gili beaches vary from volcanic sand to crushed coral and tidal pools.

Snorkeling

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands best beach sunset snorkel gili air

The waters are clear, the sea is turquoise, and there is plenty of sea life to follow around under the surface. Snorkels are for rent all over, and some hotels, resorts, and guesthouses may offer them to you at no extra charge.

Surfing Lessons

Kids love surfing. I know mine do. They had their first lessons in Mexico. Then they surfed in Northern Spain. Then took surfing lessons in the Canary Islands. Their next lessons were at Nayaka Surf School nearby in Lombok. The Gilis offer plenty of surfing opportunities as well. Most lessons can be found on Gili Trawangan and Gili Air.

Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP)

This is another kid favorite. Standup paddleboarding in the Gilis with kids can be nice because there are a number of easily accessible beaches with calm bays and few waves.

Scuba Lessons

Divezone: Scuba Lessons in the Gilis and Diving Gili Air 740 divezone equipment 6

If you enjoy snorkeling in the Gilis with kids, why not take it a step further? You can find everything from starter dives to PADI certification in the Gilis with kids. Most introductory dives start in an on-site pool, then you move into the ocean.

Our kids loved their first diving lesson in the Canary Islands and took scuba diving lessons at Divezone on Gili Air, and there are dive operators on all three islands. Gili Meno is famous as a “turtle heaven” because of the number of sea turtles in the area.

The three most famous Gilis have their share of scuba opportunities but don’t discount the Gilis in the south and east. As a local told us: “In Gili Trawangan, you see the fish, but in the east Gilis, the fish see YOU.”

I think he meant that you were more outnumbered over there, but interpret it as you will.

Sea Kayaking

You’ll see these out along the main drag of Gili Trawangan and in various other places on the other gilis. Kayaks for two are also available.

If you go sea kayaking in the Gili islands with kids, make sure to know their endurance level. We’ve been river kayaking in Borneo and sea kayaking in Spain, and sea kayaking requires much more endurance. It really wore out our 10-year old and Keiko had to paddle the two of them most of the way back.

Sunsets & Sunset Cruises

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands best beach sunset

Who doesn’t love a sunset? They can be quite spectacular in the Gilis, and on islands this small, they’re also easy to reach. Just remember that sundown is when the mosquitoes come out, so bring your spray of choice. The islands aren’t covered in street lamps either, so bringing along a torch/flashlight might be a good idea. You’re safe walking the Gili Islands with kids, but you don’t want to step in the occasional horse poop, do you?

Another way to see the sunset is to buy tickets to a boat heading out to sea for that exact purpose. You’ll find it fairly easy to book sunset cruises but shop around as the packages vary.

Glass Bottom Boats

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands boat charter

Instead of looking out to the sun, try looking below the ocean’s surface. Taking a glass-bottom boat tour can be a great way for your smaller ones to glimpse what’s under the sea before they can operate snorkel equipment properly.

If you have kids of varying ages, many glass-bottom boat tours in the Gilis have snorkeling with kids as part of the package.

Fishing

No matter your skill level, there’s a fishing trip for you if you visit the Gilis with kids. Some tours go deep and overnight, while most are just for a morning or afternoon and then you grill up your catch at the end. We’ve been fishing in Thailand and fishing in the Canary Islands, and now we wish we booked one of these trips after we saw pictures of the catch the day before.

Island Hopping

Continuing with our boat-themed activities in the Gili Islands with kids, another great thing to do in the Gilis with kids is book an island hopping trip. You can book trips of varying lengths on any of the three Gilis, as well as other trips to smaller islands, or even longer trips to Flores and the Komodos.

Ride a Cidomo

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands cimodo gili T

The horse-drawn carts and carriages you see on the roads of the gilis are called Cidomos. You may take these merely as a convenience in getting your luggage from one place to the next, but you can also hire one for a tour if you like.

Horseback Riding

Who needs a cart? It’s time to jump straight on the horse! Numerous locations on the Gili islands offer horseback rides. But keep in mind that many of these are your typical carnival ride and photo op — not a dramatic gallop down the beach.

Yoga

Want to keep yourself limber while in the gilis with kids? You’re in luck. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to practice yoga. There is also paddleboard yoga as well if you’re good enough not to fall in the water.

Spa Treatments & Massages

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands Gili T night market gili air spa

If you’re ready to pamper yourself, then you’ll have no problem doing it in the gilis with kids. The types and packages of massages and spa treatments are far too many to list out here. But it’s safe to say that they are plentiful and available at rates far lower than you’d see in North America, Japan or Europe. Most are accustomed to serving families, as well.

More Things to do in Gili Trawangan with Kids

Should you visit Gili Trawangan with kids? Many people think of Gili Trawangan as just one big full-moon party.

To be honest, we did too and almost decided against spending much time there when our plan took an unexpected turn. We were so glad we stayed because we learned Gili Trawangan is so much more than parties and magic mushrooms. Yes, that scene is somewhere on the island, but not everywhere. And it can be avoided if you wish to. There are lots of fun things to do in Gili Trawangan with kids too. Here are a few.

Ride in a Swing

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands Gili T swing gili trawangan swing at sunset

Along the west side of the island, you’ll find several old-school swings a few meters into the water. At low tide, these can be a unique photo opportunity — especially at sunset.

The Exile at Sunset

Near the southern point of the island is The Exile. This is a restaurant, café and bungalow operation, and at sunset, you can find drummers banging out a rhythm as the light fades.

There you’ll also find some of the most unique swings here hanging above the ocean. This is also a place to look for horseback rides.

Read what other’s say about the Exile

Peresean Tournament

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands

The local martial art form is called peresean and it’s fighting with a stick and a leather shield. Fighters are chosen at random and it’s pretty fast and brutal, so judge carefully if this is something you want to do on Gili Trawangan with kids. For example, when in Chiang Mai, I wanted to see a muay thai match, but I went alone.

Cooking Classes

Learning to cook a few Indonesian dishes together can be a great way to spend time in Gili Trawangan with kids. We’ve enjoyed them in Thailand, Vietnam, and elsewhere. Just keep in mind that much of Indonesian cooking uses chili peppers, and that will likely be reflected in the menu of your class.

Read what other’s say about Gili Cooking School

Jewelry Making Class

Making jewelry together is a great activity to try in the Gilis with kids. Children get to use tools and then wear the results! The jewelry making classes at Yin may be just the ticket for you.

Read what other’s say about YIN Silver-Making Class

Our experience of making jewelry in Ubud, Bali was fun!

More Things to do in Gili Meno with Kids

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands gili air sea turtle

This may be the least developed of the three main Gili Islands, but that may be the exact reason to go there? The main things to do — snorkeling, beaches, naps — can be just the ticket for some families exploring the gilis with kids.

Turtle Sanctuary

When visiting Gili Meno with kids, you really should make time to see the area’s wildlife. The most lovable, perhaps, is the sea turtle, and there are a number of places to see baby sea turtles before they are released into the wild.

Read what other’s say about Gili Meno Turtle Sanctuary

More Things to do in Gili Air with Kids

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands sunset gili air fishing

For us, Gili Air will always mean scuba training, but there is much more to do on Gili Air with kids. Out of the three islands, this may be my favorite for simply walking around, but if you’re looking for more, here are a few things we can recommend.

Scuba PADI training with Dive Zone/Two Fish Divers

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands

Our kids have taken scuba lessons in Spain, but at Dive Zone in Gili Air, they started their certification. Great instructor, great experience. Our kids kept talking about how fun and patient the instructors were, and how they helped make long and complicated instruction easy to understand.

Check out for more details on Dive Zone Official Website.

Read what others say about Dive Zone Lombok

Cooking Classes

Located right near the harbor where you arrive, here you can take lessons to learn how to make many yummy Indonesian dishes.

Read what others say about Gili Cooking Class

Where to Stay in the Gili Islands with Kids

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands

From luxury resorts to budget guesthouses, there are many options for family accommodation in the Gili islands. When choosing the best place to stay for your family, keep in mind that the Gilis are small islands, and they aren’t as developed as some tropical locales. There are no cars. The toilets and/or showers in many hotels and villas are private but may be open air (no roof). Some have limited  — or no — hot water. Most include breakfast, although quantity and selection vary.

Perhaps most importantly (to me anyway): even if wifi is listed as part of the service, expect it to be quite weak, slow, or totally unreliable. Even in many of the high-end luxury resorts. Plan on it, and enjoy stepping out of cyberspace for a while.

Where to stay on Gili Trawangan with Kids

Baruna Villas: check the rate at Baruna Villas or the reviews about Baruna Villas

Martas Hotel: check the rate at Martas Hotel or the reviews about Martas Hotel

Pink Coco Gili Trawangan: check the rate at Pink Coco or the reviews about Pink Coco

Meisya Cottages: check the rate at Meisya Cottages or the reviews about Meisya Cottages

Little Elephant: check the rate at Little Elephant or the reviews about Little Elephant

Pondok Linda: check the rate at Pondok Linda or the reviews about Pondok Linda

Where to Stay on Gili Meno with Kids

Kura Kura Beach Resort: check the rate at Kura Kura Beach Resort or the reviews about Kura Kura

Avia Villa: check the rate at Avia Villa or the reviews about Avia Villa

Rose Bungalow: check the rate at Rose Bungalow or the reviews about Rose Bungalow

Kampung Meno Bungalows: check the rate at Kampung Meno Bungalows or the reviews about Kampung Meno Bungalows

Where to Stay on Gili Air with Kids

Scallywags Smugglers Hideaway: check the rate at Scallywags Smugglers Hideaway or the review about Scallywags Smugglers Hideaway

Grand Sunset Gili Air: check the rate at Grand Sunset Gili Air or the review about Grand Sunset Gili Air

Kaluku Gili Resort: check the rate at Kaluku Gili Resort or the review about Kaluku Gili Resort

Lucy’s Garden Hotel: check the rate at Lucy’s Garden Hotel or the review about Lucy’s Garden Hotel

Aza Zil Bungalows: check the rate at Aza Zil Bungalows or the review about Aza Zil Bungalows

Salabose Cottages: check the rate at Salabose Cottages or the review about Salabose Cottages

Where to Eat in the Gili Islands with Kids

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands best beach

Just like with family accommodation, there are loads of choices cafes snacks and restaurants in the Gili Islands. Many of them are well-designed and on the beach. Many others are scrappy little shacks with good grub. Almost all of them are accustomed to having kids.

IMPORTANT TIP: Food may not arrive as quickly as you (or your child) might want. We’ve waited 20, 30, and once 45 minutes for our food to arrive. Have snacks ready for your kids who get “hangry” (translation: hungry + angry) if they can’t eat soon enough. Go to restaurants earlier than you think you need to, and bring a board game, playing cards or books to utilize while waiting for your food.

Here are a few options for where to eat in each Gili Islands with kids.

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands Gili T night market gili air dinner

Where to Eat on Gili Trawangan with Kids

The Banyan Tree: Vegetarian food(with better-than-average wifi) – click to see the reviews on The Banyan Tree

Pizzeria Regina: Italian – click to see the reviews on Pizzeria Regina

Wilson’s Bar and Cuisine: Mix of European and Indonesian – click to see the reviews on Wilson’s Bar and Cuisine

Dream Divers Burger House: Burgers, Indonesian – click to see the reviews on Dream Divers Burger House

Night Market: Our favorite — cheap local eats – click to see the reviews on Night Market in Gili Trawangan

Where to Eat on Gili Meno with Kids

Mahamaya Boutique Resort Restaurant: Asian fusion – click to see the reviews on Mahamaya

Ya Ya Warung: Indonesian – click to see the reviews on Ya Ya Warung

Little Bali Restaurant: Pizza, Burger, Asian – click to see the reviews on Little Bali Restaurant

Where to Eat on Gili Air with Kids

Warung Parida: Cheap & cheerful Indonesian cafeteria-style – very close to Warung Bambu Gili Air

Ruby’s Cafe: Indonesian, Asian, Burgers, Thai – click to see the reviews on Ruby’s Cafe

Mowie’s Bar: International – click to see the reviews on Mowie’s Bar

Scallywags Beach Club: Seafood BBQ, International – click to see the reviews on Scallywags Beach Club

Breadelicious: Bakery, Cafe (with better-than-average wifi) – click to see the reviews on Breadelicious

Know better places for food? Comment below or Contact us!

How to Get to the Gili Islands with Kids

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands gili air local boat

Boats leave regularly for the Gilis from both Bali (via Padangbai Harbor) and Lombok (via Bangsal Harbor).

There are three main ways to get to the Gilis with kids: charter your own boat, take a speedboat, or buy tickets for the local boats.

Prices vary depending on whether you’re coming from Bali or Lombok and which island you’re going to. Charter and speedboats are the more expensive options, of course.

We took the local boats, which was perfectly fine with us and a fraction of the cost. The local boats are a little slower, and they leave only once they reach 40 passengers. This wasn’t a problem for us and the price is much cheaper.

For example, the speedboat from Gili Trawangan to Lombok was approximately USD $40 for our family. Not that much, of course, but the local boat? About six dollars. For all four of us. The people working the ticket counter usually speak English so no worries there.

When our destination was Gili Trawangan, we waited about 10 minutes for a boat. Our ticket numbers were 26, 27, 28, 29, so we needed to wait for another 10 people. However when we were heading to Gili Air, we just missed one boat, so our ticket numbers were 4, 5, 6, and 7. Therefore, we needed to wait for another 33 people. We waited long enough to look for and eat lunch.

In short, the local boat option is for those who don’t mind waiting. We waited about 40 minutes to head back to Lombok from Gili Air.

Once you buy your ticket, just wait under the trees or wherever staff points you. Listen for the announcement of your boat. If the PA speakers are blown and it’s hard to understand, don’t worry. Someone will probably point you in the right direction. Just pay attention.

Don’t Wear Shoes on Boat Day

Why? Because you’re probably going to take a few steps in the ocean when you get on and get off. The speedboats sometimes have a ladder to avoid this, but the public boats don’t.

The boat can pull in only so far, so you may have to walk as far as knee-deep before getting in the boat.

Pack Light / Store Your Stuff

Another tip: pack light. If you’re carrying a lot of stuff or using a rolling suitcase, then consider leaving some of your stuff on Bali or Lombok until you return. I know this isn’t an option for some of you, but lots of people go to the Gilis for a few days and then return to Bali or Lombok for a while longer.

That’s what we did. We contacted the guesthouse we were staying upon return and asked if we could leave our suitcases there until we came back.

They said yes, and it was so much better to travel light to the islands. No carrying suitcases onto a boat. No dragging them down dirt roads or hauling them into a horse cart, which adds more expense (horse cart drivers may need to be haggled with).

 Interested in Bali? Read more on visiting Bali with Kids

Getting Around Gili Islands with Kids

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands bike rental gili air 1

If you go to the Gili Islands with kids, you won’t need to worry too much about traffic. There are no cars on the Gilis, and everyone gets around by bicycle, on foot, or in the back of a cidomo, which is a horse-drawn cart. You may see the occasional local puttering around on an electric scooter.

Gili Trawangan is the largest of the three main Gili islands. You can circumnavigate the entire island on foot in less than three hours. Gili Air and Gili Meno for even shorter. Gili Air is around 90 minutes walking or half an hour on a bike.

Bike rental shops are plentiful and many accommodation options throw bikes in as a bonus. I didn’t see many kids’ bikes, however.

Wet paths

Keep in mind many of the roads will flood during the rainy season. You can still walk around, but you may be ankle deep in water the color of café latte every so often. Because of this, I don’t even recommend bringing shoes with you to the Gilis with kids. You won’t wear them. Sandals and flip-flops are enough.

You won’t hear car horns on these islands, and it’s a welcome relief. But I would listen for the sound of bells approaching in the distance. Most of the horses are adorned with lots of tiny bells so you can easily hear them coming. In contrast, most bikes on the island that we saw didn’t have well-functioning bells. So you may here riders calling out “ding! ding!” If you hear this, then step aside for a bike (local or tourist) that is probably approaching.

When to Go to the Gili Islands with Kids

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands rainy bike

Expect the biggest crowds during the summer months and Christmas holidays, as many Europeans escape the winter here. Weather-wise, spring to fall is recommended.

We caught the end of the rainy season during the last week of April. It usually rained for 60-90 minutes and then stopped for the day. It’s easy to see the storm coming just by the temperature drop and the color of the sky. If you watch carefully enough, then you’ll usually have enough time to get to shelter.

On the Gilis, the rainy season also brings huge puddles and flooded streets. Not so bad on a bike for an experienced rider, but a challenge for young riders or any germophobes in the family when walking.

The Final Word: Lombok with Children

Things to do in the Gili Islands with Kids. Our Ultimate Guide to Lombok's Amazing Islands

We can highly recommend visiting the Gili Islands with kids. If you’re considering visiting the Gilis with children, then we say go for it, but remember that Lombok and the Gilis are still developing, so don’t expect things to run as smoothly as they might in a beach town in Europe or the Caribbean.

  • Sometimes the power goes out
  • Sometimes the roads become giant puddles in the rainy season
  • The wifi won’t work…and when it does, it may be….really…..really……..slow.

That said, we had a great time in the Gilis with kids and can’t wait to come back.

Have you been to the Gili Islands with Kids?

Where did you go? Where did you stay? What did you eat? We want your advice on things to do in the Gili Islands with kids! Let us know!

Further Reading:

** PIN THIS!! **

Things to do in the Gili Islands with kids PIN 1

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you,  we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help your travel. We loved visiting the Gili Islands with kids and hope you will too. 

Image credits: #9, #12#23

Comments

  1. Thank you very much for this great post, Jason! It’s timely for us, as we’ve just been brainstorming places in Asia we’d like to visit. The Gilis are now firmly on the radar as a possible future destination for our family’s travels.

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

css.php