Read in: Dutch

Latest update: 21 January 2023

If you only have limited time, which of the three Gili’s should you go to? Will you choose the party island of Trawangan, the almost uninhabited Meno, or something in between, Gili Air? I visited Trawangan and Air, and ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got a winner.


I’m on the Gili’s (by the way: those are islands of Lombok, not Bali) when the rain never seems to stop. The dirt roads are filling up, and I maneuver along the puddles. I can tell you that a tropical island in the rain is a pretty dreary affair. Still, I think the rain is easier to deal with in Gili Air than in Trawangan. Gili Air is more aimed at the relaxed traveler: I can still read a book on a beanbag in a sheltered spot at many beach bars. So I feel less out of place here.

Gili Air – Gili Trawangan: 1-0

Tour around the Gili islands

Gili Air and Gili Trawangan are small islands, and you can tour around them in a day. In fact, you can walk around Gili Air in an hour. So I don’t think it’s necessary to rent a bike. But on the slightly larger island of Trawangan, a bicycle is practical. That is: assuming you also want to lie on the beach for a while. Gili Air also wins this point. You’ll see the whole island in no time, leaving plenty of time to do other things.

Gili Air – Gili Trawangan: 2-0

Hip coffee cafes

A popular coffee cafe in Trawangan is Kayu cafe. It is located directly on the beach, but unfortunately, the beach seating area is only sometimes present. The entire beach is swept clean every now and then, including the bars and restaurants. That gives a basic and unkempt image. Fortunately, you can still go inside for coffee, breakfast, and lunch. Everyone seems to gather there: what a bustle. I visit twice, and the coffee is fine twice, but lukewarm. I don’t know what’s happening, but the service here is extremely slow. Such a shame. It has such potential.

How different of an experience is Pachamama on Gili Air. Almost immediately, someone gives me a menu, and my coffee and cheesecake are served in no time. Pachamama is in the middle of the island, and you can also spend the night if you like. It is a wonderfully light place, surrounded by greenery. At Kayu, I felt they wanted me to leave quickly to make room for the next guest, but at Pachamama, I want and can stay for eternity. You must have guessed who wins this round…

Gili Air – Gili Trawangan: 3-0

Powered by 12Go system

Sleeping on the Gili’s

On Gili Trawangan, I fancy a private room. That’s why I choose Good Vibes Bungalows, which has a small bar to meet other travelers. The bungalows are close together, but there is plenty of privacy. The bed in the wooden cabin sleeps wonderfully. The shower literally becomes a rain shower when it rains: the bathroom is partly outside. That’s not so bad for the shower, but going to the toilet in the rain… mwah. Unfortunately, one night, a guy thinks it’s necessary to make a fuss. For an hour, he runs around the bar and the bungalows, screaming and kicking. Of course, Good Vibes Bungalows can’t help idiots from existing. But, at such a moment, the importance of security staff becomes apparent – or lack thereof. The bungalows seem to be temporarily or permanently closed in 2023.

On Gili Air, I choose a dormitory. You would say: that’s an unfair comparison. But gosh, what an amazing hostel Captain Coconuts is! The beds are tied to the ceiling with ropes, so I sleep in a hanging bed. The space is open, so all the outside air blows wonderfully through the area. The relaxed atmosphere spreads to all visitors; everyone acts as quietly as possible and considers each other. There is a lovely swimming pool surrounded by private bungalows. They are a bit overpriced for my backpacking budget, but they look cute. Every morning I eat a delicious, nutritious breakfast in the accompanying café. And I joyfully return for lunch because it is so tasty and the service is so friendly. Can I come and live here please?

Gili Air – Gili Trawangan: 4-0

Yoga on the Gili Islands

Finally! This one Gili Trawangan wins. During my stay on Air, I can only find one place that offers yoga classes: H2O Yoga. Somehow I can’t find time in my relaxation schedule and between rain showers to fit in the lessons. There are also only so many in a day, so I miss out. No yoga for me on Gili Air. But today, there are more yoga options in Gili Air. In Trawangan, there are many more possibilities to follow a lesson. Just google it, and you will find plenty of options.

You can also try a yoga retreat on the Gili’s. Then you’ll definitely have enough yoga! These are your options on Gili Air.

Gili Air – Gili Trawangan: 4-1

Supper on the islands

Both Gili’s are well prepared for tourists. There are a ridiculous amount of restaurants that mainly offer Western food. On Gili Air, I eat excellent Italian food at Classico Italiano but also terrible Mexican at another restaurant. I prefer to eat local food when traveling, which is usually the tastiest and the cheapest. The night market in Trawangan is ideal for me. I stroll along the stalls with fresh fish, have my food prepared on the barbecue and join strangers with my plate for a good conversation and a new friendship.

Gili Air – Gili Trawangan: 4-2

The atmosphere

Well, it’s just what you’re looking for. For me, the party vibe on Trawangan is too much. As soon as I set foot ashore, I am offered mushrooms by eager sellers, who won’t stop. That happens to a lesser extent on Air, and there also seem to be fewer people using that offer.

I think Gili Trawangan is ruined: everything revolves around booze, parties, and magic mushrooms. On Gili Air, I find more peace without getting bored. I also really enjoy visiting an open-air cinema and then having a drink. It all feels more relaxed and authentic. Both islands are Muslim-oriented, so I regularly hear prayers echoing from the mosque’s loudspeakers. That’s why the party atmosphere in Trawangan feels very out of place. As if the tourists have taken over the island.

Gili Air – Gili Trawangan: 5-2

My favorite Gili: Gili Air

The result is clear: Gili Air is my favorite. I am curious which Gili is the place to be for you and why. Tell me! Oh, and while you’re here… a few more Gili Air photos:

More Bali inspiration

Useful links for your Bali trip

Some of the links on this site are affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, I might receive a small commission – at no extra costs to you of course!

First published: March 2017 The article has been updated since.

Write A Comment