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The complete guide to Gili Air

Gili Air is the perfect island getaway. It’s small enough to satisfy your inner Robinson Crusoe, but still packs a punch when it comes to options of where to stay and eat.
Before heading there I tried to research where to eat, drink and chill but sadly couldn’t find much at all on the internet. It’s still very much an up and coming destination! After three months living on the island I definitely found my favourite spots, and because I’m such a lovely lady I thought I’d share them with you.

Accommodation

Slow Villas are perfect if you want to stay somewhere and chill out in luxury! It’s located in the quieter north end of the island, and is a great little piece of luxury.
The Oceans5 dive resort where I did my divemaster course had beautiful rooms and is the most central/best located place on the island. If you’re looking to spend time diving then this is a great option!
If you’re after lots of space then Sejuk Cottages might be your thing. They have sheltered roof terraces that you access by climbing up a ladder from your room and they’re also only 100m from the beach.
gili air guide sejuk

I wanted to live in a Sejuk treehouse

For a great mid-range option with access to some great food choose Mowies. You’re also on the sunset side of the island and so are a short stumble away from your bed if you indulge in a few extra cocktails!
If you want budget there are heaps of little Warung type places in the village – it’s best to walk around to find them and get prices as they seem to change names and locations all the time. Make sure to barter – we saw someone paying an extra IDR100,000 a night for the same room as us because they accepted the price they were told! We got a very basic room with saltwater shower and breakfast for IDR150,000 a night
When we first arrived we got a very basic room with saltwater shower and breakfast for IDR150,000 a night. Although, it did also have chickens living underneath it.
gili air guide oceans5

The Oceans5 resort isn’t just for divers – although you might share the pool with some!

Food

Western

Don’t judge me for the Western recommendations – when you live on an island for a few months you do start to crave something a little different! 

For the more health conscious, Mowies does a beautiful range of food including raw desserts and vegan options. It’s pricier than other options but the tuna burger in a charcoal bun is worth the extra dosh if you’re feeling fancy! They also do a great breakfast – the eggs benedict on bubble and squeak was a personal favourite.

If you’re feeling in need of a fruit injection then head to Gili Bliss near the harbour. Their bliss bowls and smoothies are not only delicious – they’re also extremely filling! Weirdly enough they also do a mean carbonara if you’re craving a western bite.

gili air guide vegan mowies

I could be a raw vegan if all my food looked like this…

Everyone at Oceans5 was a regular at Shark Bites where they sell a nice ‘lunchbox’ with a different meal each day. Their Beach Bun was also perfect for anyone craving a nice juicy bit of beef with some proper potato fries.

I was so excited to find out that the Blue Marine cafe did proper bruschetta towards the end of my stay! It’s the strange things you miss sometimes – like bread and tomatoes. The rest of their menu is equally as delicious, packed full of fresh and healthy offerings.

Okay, I know you didn’t come to Indonesia to eat tacos… But the Mexican Kitchen does absolutely fantastic food for those looking for a night off the rice. Just beware their tequila flashmobs!

gili air guide mowies eggs benedict

I did not expect to have the best eggs bennie ever on a tiny Indonesian island

Local

There were so many amazing local places to eat, but these were my tried and tested favourites. I’d fly back to the island tomorrow to get some decent nasi campur

Warung Bamboo was one of our go tos if we were craving curry. Their chicken curry is still some of the best food I had on the island! Be prepared to wait though, but don’t worry – the old chef is super friendly.

Despite giving me food poisoning I still ate regularly at Lemongrass. The tempeh chips were so good I couldn’t give it up. The food is fresh and well priced.

Warung Muslim is the best place in the world for nasi campur, or mixed rice. To find it, walk up the road towards the village and turn right at the cross roads. Don’t be put off by the chickens and cats running around, it’s delicious. My mouth is watering thinking about it.

warung muslim

$1.50 for a delicious cone of nasi campur – stroking of the cats at no extra charge

There is a lady who walks the island selling her chicken satay on a little portable BBQ. It’s absolutely delicious. You knew it was going to be a good day if satay lady was around.

If you want a great snack then keep an eye out for ‘Bakso man’. He’s got a portable stall where he sells the traditional soup which contains steamed meatballs. Great if you want something cheap, wholesome and authentic.

gili air guide bakso

Bakso – the best surface interval snack

Fish BBQs are a must, and the best ones are on the sunrise side of the island. Walk around in the evening and you’ll see various restaurants with huge platters of fish out the front. Check out how fresh they look before you make your decision!

My favourite for this was Chill Out bar. You can sit at a table right on the beach, with your toes in the sand as you eat. Oh, and make sure you look at the happy hour times because they do 2-4-1 cocktails.

gili air guide fish bbq

Getting a fish BBQ is a staple of the Gili experience. Yes, as a scuba diver it does feel weird to eat these fish!

Coffee

Caffeine addicts beware – most places serve up the traditional Balinese coffee. This interesting way of getting your morning fix involves stirring granules into hot water, waiting for them to settle (they don’t dissolve) and then making sure you don’t swallow them in your last gulp…

If you’re craving a ‘proper’ coffee then Coffee and Thyme is worth a little (a lot) extra. Located by the harbour they serve seriously delicious baked goods along with their signature espressos and lattes.

Yoga

For a small island, there really is quite a bit on offer when it comes to yoga. I’ve written a full post about Yoga on Gili Air (read that here) but my absolute favourite spot was H20 yoga.

gili air guide h20 yoga

My happy place at H20 Yoga

Activities

What – you mean you don’t just want to lay by your pool or swim in the sea all day?

On such a small island it’s easy enough to walk around it. Try to time it for early morning or late afternoon though as walking through sand in some parts can get a bit sweaty. You can also hire bikes to explore but make sure you get the ‘fat tyre’ bikes otherwise you’ll find yourself pushing through sand!

I used to love the twice weekly Salsa classes offered at Blue Marine. God knows if they are still running, but if you’re looking for some sweaty and fun cardio then make sure to check.

If you’re a bit of a party animal then you might have to hang up your drinking hat for a few days. Although the Gili Air Hostel has a bar that can get lively, you certainly won’t be dancing away until dawn every night. Some places do run beach parties on occasion (the one at Lucky’s is a bit legendary) so ask around when you get there, but don’t expect too much!

Of course, scuba diving and snorkelling are popular activities on an island fringed by reef. In most places it’s easy enough to grab a mask and snorkel, and swim out to find the fish yourself. However there are also lots of places offering tours on the island, so you’re best to walk around and find one you feel comfortable with. If you want to dive then check out my diving guide to Gili Air!

Gili air diving guide bounty wreck turtle scuba diver female

Scuba diving on Gili Air is a must do!

For those who dislike wearing equipment, you could sign up for a Freediving course. The sport is huge on the island and is becoming almost as popular as scuba! There are a variety of courses on offer, including tasters, and you can book fun trips out if you’re already qualified. I recommend Freedive flow – tell MJ I said hi!

Surfing is definitely available – if you have your own board. I saw plenty of locals and visitors alike hitting the waves each day and taking advantage of the famous Indonesian swell (I say this, I have no fucking clue. I am not a surfer) but no where offering boards for hire.

The best thing to do on the island though is just to chill out and watch the sunset. You can watch the sun slipping behind the volcanoes on far away Bali, and toast to a day well spent in paradise.

gili air guide mowies sunset

Gili sunsets are the best.


How do you like the look of my island home? I miss it so much! Is there anything else you’d like me to cover?

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