The Gili Islands are a hidden gem just off of north Lombok with easy access to diving, snorkelling, fishing, and surfing. The waves tend to be a little finicky and it can be tough to time your visit with a swell. Gili Trawangan is the largest and most developed of the Gili islands. When it does break at Trawangan you can expect a fast-breaking right reef break with a square barrel section straight from the take-off at times. When the surf isn’t breaking, you’re still likely to find secluded snorkelling, incredible sunsets, and a true desert island experience. Read on for info on where to crash and when to surf!
As I mentioned above, catching the timing of surf at Gili Trawangan can be a tough nut to crack. Most of the island won’t have much surf but you’ll find the break on the southwestern tip of the island. Your best bet is the wet season, January – June when bigger south-west swells drag over a 300-metre shelf of live coral. You can expect an empty line-up with quick clear tube sections against a breathtaking backdrop. The drop is steep and pitches quickly so pick your line high and keep your speed up. Without much swell, you can expect a long clean open right shoulder great for beginner/intermediate surfers. Might even warrant a longboard? Aside from surfing, when the surf isn’t epic, there’s still plenty to explore and do around the island.
Live coral reef
Fish or shortboard
What’s a crowd? Not much of one here!
Low tide reef, fast waves, sea urchin’s
January – June
How do you feel about surfing by yourself?
The paddle out from the beach is short but stick to the channel. If you’re not staying on Gili Trawangan, it’s not a short boat ride from Lombok and worth it for an empty line-up for a day or two.
The beaches all around the island are white sand opening up to crystal clear water. The island is bordered on all sides by a stretch of reef before dropping off into deep blue water. Great for snorkelling, swimming, or SUPing.
Gili T is much more developed than its neighbouring islands Gili Air and Gili Meno and is known for a bit of a party scene. As a result, you can expect more options in the way of accommodation and nightlife. Check-out our recommendations for both below.
Kia Yazo Homestay is a great option for surfers travelling on a shoestring budget. A cheap and comfortable place to stay, Kia Yazo Homestay is, unfortunately, a short distance from the surf break. However, considering the size of the island you can get just about anywhere on foot or by bike. The break is about a 20-minute walk or 10-minute bike ride. Scooters aren’t allowed on the island so if you’re crashing at Kia Yazo and want to explore, rent a bicycle.
Scallywags Resort is far more than you’d expect from the name. Located directly on the beach on the south-west tip of Gili T, you can’t get much closer to the surf break than Scallywags Resort. A two-story collection of bungalows and simple comfortable rooms sit adjacent to a small pool and restaurant/bar. You can access partying, snorkelling, or diving, just as easy as the surf. For couples, groups, and single surfers looking for an upgrade without breaking the bank, Scallywags Resort is a great place to start.
You wouldn’t be mistaken if you thought you were staying at a 5-star resort at Hotel Vila Ombak. For a true resort level, luxury experience, check out the wide array of spacious modern bungalows to private traditional villas. Hotel Vila Ombak is located close by to the surf break at Gili T with a private dock, pools, restaurants, bars, and everything from dive instruction to bike rentals. Hotel Vila Ombak is a great place for families looking to hide away from rowdy partiers, couples looking for a bit more privacy, and anyone looking for an amazing surf accommodation.
The biggest difference between a surf accommodation like Pondok Santi Estate and Hotel Vila Ombak is price and space. At Pondok Santi, private, simple bamboo and thatch villas are spaced among grassy palm gardens. Located directly on the beach on the southwestern most tip of the island, and you won’t have to walk far for waves! A great place for families, couples, or single surfers looking for a taste of luxury on the Gili Islands.
Gili Trawangan Night Market is a great snapshot of local food and culture. With everything on showcase from fresh seafood, veggie, or meat dishes, you’ll have a chance to dive into Indonesian cuisine without breaking your budget. In addition to general staples, you’ll have a sneak peek into local pastries, fresh fruit, and live music on occasion. A great place to stock up on calories post-surf and pre-party.
Santi Lounge is the onsight restaurant for Pondok Santi Estate. With everything from fresh fruit smoothies and local cuisine to tacos and empanadas, Santi Lounge showcases a wide array of flavours. Open to guests and other travellers in the area, Santi Lounge is a great spot for romantic meals on the beach or families dinners.
Pearl Beach Lounge – Located just steps from the surf break at Gili Trawangan, Pearl Beach Lounge is a great option for filling hungry bellies after hours in the line-up. Decent food with cuisine inspired by local traditions and wayfaring travellers, you’ll find a mix of European and Asian dishes. As far as venue, you’ll have your choice of sipping cocktails on bean bags beachside or under the shade of the mix of beautiful bamboo and thatch structure. Pearl Beach Lounge is a great place to start out your evening with a nice meal and couple of bintangs before diving into the Gili T party scene.
Scuba & Snorkeling – There are about as many dive and snorkel guide services as there are places to dive and snorkel in Gili Trawangan. While you’ll discover that swimming straight off the beach just about anywhere on Gili T is a great option for snorkelling, if you’re looking for a more technical, or “wild” experience, it’s worth looking for a qualified guide service. The best part about so many available dive services is you’ll be able to shop around for an experience that suits your taste and budget. Take some time on the internet to explore or rent a bike and find your own service when on the island.
Bars, Boat Parties & Nightlife – When the surf is flat or you’ve surfed your brains out and need a rest day, there’s nothing wrong with a little indulgence. Gili T is a great place to stumble upon flat seas and find yourself partying. There’s a wide array of bars and beach clubs to check out across the island. Check out our recommendations on where to party during your stay on Gili T.
Paradise Sunset Bar is one of the many beachside bars where you can grab a cocktail on Gili T. The biggest difference is Paradise Sunset Bar, as listed in the name, is aptly located for taking in the amazing sunsets on Gili Trawangan. Be sure to hit up the swing located in the tidepools during mid and low tides. Great place to start your evening after a long day of surfing, snorkeling, diving, or partying.
Jiggy Boat Party is one part bar, one part swimming pool, and one part nightclub. The Boat is a sailboat turned party boat outfitted with two large nets that skim along the water near the back of the ship. Bikini and swim trunk clad backpackers, who populate the boat in high numbers, are often seen jumping overboard to cool off in the warm water. Whenever exploring somewhere new, be sure to be careful of your personal limits and bring a friend in tow, otherwise let loose and have fun!
Sama Sama Reggae Bar – Somewhere along the line, surfing and reggae crossed paths and they’ve been inseparable ever since. It could be Jeff Spicoli’s love for self-medication, and it could be Bob Marley’s desire to grow closer to nature, but somethings the world will never know. As a result, you’ll find reggae just about anywhere you’ll find waves. The same is true of Gili T with Sama Sama Reggae Bar. You’ll find a relaxed atmosphere with live music, like minds, and good times. A bit of a walk from the line-up Sama Sama Reggae Bar is a great option for your post surf Bintang.
If you are staying at any of the 3 Gili Islands in this area and are dead set on getting at least one surfing session in then your best chances of scoring surf is here at Gili T as the surf break is more consistent than the surf spots on the rest of the Gili islands. Also, take care in the water there are strong currents between the islands and with a huge amount of boats coming and going traffic in the water can be a real danger.
By foot or bicycle are the preferred methods of travel on Gili T. You can walk around Gili Trawangan in about 2 hours.
On Gili T you won’t have anything to park up except for your surfboard and thongs.
From Bali, the quickest way to get to Gili T is by fast boat from Serangan or Padang Bai. From Padang Bai it will take you approximately 1 hour 15 minutes and from Serangan it will take approximately 2 hours. Either option will cost you around 790,000Rp one way.