Despite their different spiritual essence, the Gili Islands are united by a single geophysical feature. On the western side, they usually have a wide shallow area, while on the eastern side, it's narrower.
This is precisely why, in most cases, swimming on the eastern coast is possible almost always, except during periods of very strong low tide, whereas swimming on the western side is better during high tide. The tide schedule for the Gili Islands can be found in the smartphone app called "Gillis."
Furthermore, the beaches on the eastern side are predominantly sandier with occasional coral debris, while on the western side, they are coral-filled with the presence of sand.
If you swim on the eastern or western side of the islands, you might notice a southern current. Depending on weather conditions, it flows at varying speeds. Just avoid swimming into the shallow coral zone where it abruptly drops off, and don't attempt to swim across the straits between the islands. There are boats available for that :)
Among the safest islands in terms of potential theft is Meno. It's the safest place to leave your belongings on the beach. Nonetheless, if you're heading to the beach and plan to snorkel or swim without keeping an eye on your stuff for an extended period, avoid bringing anything that you would be really upset to lose.
If you're still planning to snorkel or swim during low tide, don't walk barefoot on the coral. Wear coral shoes or go in fins. Coral shoes are sold on all three islands at dive centers, snorkeling and diving equipment stores, and sometimes even in supermarkets.
1. Eastern beach - north
On Trawangan, the most comfortable and convenient beach for swimming is considered to be the one on the eastern side and north of the port. If you walk about 200-300 meters away from the port, you can already enjoy soft white sand and an easy entry into the water.
Usually, trees grow along the beach line, allowing you to find shelter under their shade. However, this can be a downside as dry leaves might be scattered on the beach. Along the beach, you'll also find beachside cafes and restaurants, and you can use their loungers if you purchase something from them.
On this same beach, a variety of water sports and activities are available. There are several dive centers: Gili Divers, Trawangan Dive, Blue Marine Dive, Mango Dive, Laguna. The boats from all these centers depart from the beach to the dive sites.
Yes, there are boats on the beach, but you can always find a spot to swim between them, and the boat captains are attentive enough to ensure that nobody gets hit.
Along the main beach street, snorkeling equipment is available for rent at 50,000 Indonesian rupiahs per day for a set of mask, snorkel, and fins. Additionally, at numerous kiosks, you can book snorkeling tours around the islands.
At some spots, you can rent kayaks, sign up for yoga sessions on paddleboards in the sea, try parasailing, ride an inflatable donut, go wakeboarding, and experience underwater flight with a subwing.
In the northern part of the beach around Turtle Bar, while snorkeling, you can encounter turtles, and in the same direction lies the Trawangan Slope dive site.
2. Eastern beach - south.
South of the port, the beach on the eastern side remains suitable for swimming, but the shallow area widens, and as you move south, more corals become present.
Here, you'll find upscale resorts with elegant clubs and beachside restaurants.
Here, there are also dive centers: Manta Dive, Blue Marlin, Dive Central. Snorkeling kits are available for rent.
Further south towards the shallows, picturesque spots emerge, where you can relax in the shade or take photos against the backdrop of intricate trees.
Opposite the Ombak Hotel, about 50 meters from the shore and at a depth of approximately 3 meters, there's a diving and snorkeling site called Biorock. It's an artificial reef where corals are grown at an accelerated pace. Right there are the famous underwater bicycles, beloved by Instagrammers.
Behind The Pearl of Trawangan hotel, there are two spots where you can rent surfboards because there's a surf spot on this side of the island. It operates rather unpredictably, so there's no need to specifically travel to Gili for surfing. However, if the waves do come, why not ride them?
The southern side is not very suitable for swimming. However, during low tide, it can become an interesting location for photoshoots.
On the western part of Trawangan, there are numerous stylish and enjoyable beach bars perfect for sunsets. Among the most interesting are the very stylish Casa Vintage Beach, Excile where drum concerts occasionally take place, Aston which hosts movie screenings in the evenings, and Window Bar which is popular simply because it's right by the beach road exit through the island's center.
In the evenings, pleasant music is played here, DJs ride horses offering rides, and beachgoers take photos on the swings in the water - there are definitely more than 7 swings on the beach.
During high tide in the daytime, you can swim and snorkel here. In some places, seaweed can get washed up near the shore in strong winds, making entry into the water less pleasant. Look for swimming spots in front of the larger resorts and beach clubs. These beaches are well-maintained and cleaned, not only from trash (which is relatively minimal here, by the way) but also from corals.
Between the hotel beaches, some areas might appear wild and untidy. With fallen leaves, piles of coral, and dropped branches. On this side of the island, you can spot many pine trees by the beach, locally referred to as "chemara," and enjoy their fragrance.
You can snorkel right from the shore. Just look for the dive center and snorkeling tour boats during the day; they usually go to the most interesting spots. In the northwest part of the beach, there are two points: Shark Point and Halik.
The beaches in the northern part of Trawangan are generally quite similar in conditions to the beaches on the western side. Sunset bars are no longer present there, but it's still peaceful and quiet. Swimming is better during high tide. There are far fewer deciduous trees here and more coniferous trees.
1. East, north of the port.
The water in the port is splendid, but people don't swim there due to the presence of boats.
Right from the port area, you'll find the grounds of the Karma hotel. People don't swim there, and it's currently not well-maintained. Beyond the pier, a mangrove area begins, with dried logs lying on the sand. The beach isn't particularly comfortable for lounging, but you can take very impressive photos there.
But from around Seri Resort and further north, heading northwest, there's a pleasant stretch of sand where you can both swim and snorkel.
Opposite the Seri Resort, you can see many boats in the distance during the day because they bring tourists there for diving and snorkeling trips to show them turtles. However, the corals in this area are very interesting and colorful. Snorkeling equipment can be rented, but there aren't many such places, so try to get it at your hotel or on the way to the beach. There are no shops where you could buy drinking water. Only beach resorts and eco-hostels.
The northern beach maintains the same character as the previous one. There are also coral gardens and dive sites where you can see turtles. The infrastructure is much more limited on the northern beach, although there are a few rare beachside restaurants.
On the northwestern part of Gili Meno, you'll find the dive center Divine Divers. You can stop by and talk to them to learn about the current situation with dive sites, marine life, currents, and gather interesting information.
Opposite the Mahamaya Resort, you can enjoy a pleasant swim with fish. They start right from the shallows, about 7-10 meters from the shore. Around 20 meters out, in the coral area, you might even encounter turtles. The beach is clean but predominantly coral-covered; the sand starts right at the water's edge. So, if you're not using a lounger, bring something soft to lay on.
In this part of the island, the sands on the circular road are quite sticky, so you might have to manually push your bicycle if you arrive on one.
Further south, there's the pleasant beach cafe Diana Cafe, where many people gather during sunsets since it's situated along one of the roads connecting the west and east. Bougainvillea grows at the cafe, loungers are set up, tables are placed, and bean bags are available. This makes it one of the most popular sunset spots on Meno.
Right after the cafe, the construction site of the future Bask Resort begins. It's enclosed by a white fence, a smooth concrete path is laid in front of it, and the beach remains clean and pleasant despite being coral-covered.
By the way, here you can find the most beautiful beach corals on the island.
Coral enthusiasts, make sure to come here. But of course, the highlight of this place is the viewpoint with the statues "Nest" or "Haven." You can find it by moving forward from the hotel's central sign towards Travanagan. The statue will be about 50 meters ahead.
Bicycles on Meno are not usually locked up, and even the guys heading out for snorkeling leave their belongings right in the bicycle's trunk.
In the same area, you'll find the dive site called Meno Slope.
This beach is suitable for swimming during high tide. Because during low tide, you'll have to walk through sharp shallow corals to reach the water, then navigate around soft but tall corals. In general, download the Gilis app and monitor the tides.
Although this beach is undeveloped, sunset enthusiasts occasionally come here to bid farewell to the sun in wild, untouched conditions rather than in a busy beach club setting.
But for sunset lovers who prefer developed locations, there's the restaurant of the Mahamaya resort, Cafe Diana, Cafe Sasak, and a couple of other slightly less popular spots.
Sunset at the restaurant of Mahamaya resort.
Further to the south, there's the same shallow area that's suitable for swimming only during high tide. There's also the dive site "Sunken Ship" Bounty located there. It's visible from the water's surface. However, there's only the wreckage and a couple of staircases at a depth of around 16-20 meters.
In the south of Meno, there's very little infrastructure. There, a very long shallow area stretches out.
That's why the southern beaches are very sparsely populated and might be more suitable for romantic photoshoots.
5. East to the south of the port
In the area of the former Kontiki resort, the shallow area ends and a great, pleasant beach with easy access to the water begins. There are corals there, but they are not predominant; they simply lie beautifully on the sand. The water is perfectly azure, and you can see the picturesque mountainous Lombok across the strait.
The sand is very soft and gentle, it's comfortable to lie on it even with just a sarong.
The only difficulty is that shade can only be found under the trees. They are coniferous, and under them, besides sand, there's dry pine needles.
This doesn't add to the picturesque view, but it also doesn't add any problems. Swimming on the beach is possible almost up to the port.
And in the northern part of the beach, right by the port, there's the Blue Marlin dive center.
There are a couple of kiosks in the port area where you can arrange a snorkeling tour, rent snorkeling equipment, or book a horseback riding tour.
It's considered that Gili Air has the most beautiful beaches. But, in reality, it's a matter of preference. Some might prefer the more deserted beaches of Meno, where you're left to yourself. Or the western beach of Gili Trawangan, where the sun sets behind Bali. However, Lombok probably contributes greatly to the beauty of Gili Air's beaches. Since Gili Air is the closest to its mother island, you have the best view of the cloud-covered mountains.
In the south, you'll find the port.
It's quite bustling here, so nobody swims at the Air's port. There are numerous kiosks at the port where you can book snorkeling trips, excursions to Lombok. Right near the port is the 5 Oceans dive center.
Approximately from Scallywags Resort, a magnificent beach begins.
With white sand, easy access to the water, beach bars, lounge chairs, and a view of Lombok. Several fish restaurants are located here where you can enjoy a pleasant dinner. Along the beachfront, there are tables, gazebos, bean bags, and the opportunity to relax in the shade of the trees.
Around Sunrise Resort, the beachfront narrows, and swimming is no longer possible. However, a good spot for snorkeling begins. Along the shoreline, there are several dive centers: 3W Dive, Blue Marine Dive, Gili Divers. Visit them and inquire where you have the chance to encounter the most beautiful fish and the largest turtles.
Moreover, right opposite the Manta Dive center, about 30 meters from the shore, there's an artificial coral reef. Divers from the center highly recommend diving there!
In the north, you'll find not only a strip of pleasant white sand that widens and narrows, but also a wide reef. Choose the time to swim during high tide.
During high tide, the incoming water forms crystal-clear, shallow, and warm lagoons where it will be pleasant and safe to swim with a child.
In this part of the beach, you'll find very vibrant and colorful restaurants and beach cafes where you can not only delight your eyes but also please your taste buds. Among the most interesting ones are the Spanish restaurant "Pura Vida" and "Camilla."
Here, you'll find plenty of beloved swings in the water, swings on the shore, hammocks, and other objects of beachy Instagram-worthy decor that tourists adore.
Coniferous trees frame the beach, so it's always pleasant to relax in their shade during the heat.
The beach is very strongly affected by tides.
Keep an eye on the schedule and come to swim at high tide if you don't want to encounter a long shallow area covered in seaweed.
Although it will be interesting for those who enjoy wandering through shallow waters and exploring marine life. Make sure to wear sandals. There are small sea urchins.
The sunset side is adorned with pleasant beach bars where tourists go to watch the sunset and relax to pleasant and usually soft music.
One of the most picturesque spots on the sunset beach is Pink Coco.
As sunset decorations in the water, there are pink swings and a pink boat with an umbrella. In general, Pink Coco is a very stylish place where you can enjoy taking Instagram photos.
Another beautiful beach sunset spot is the beach bar of the Lumbung Hotel. There are swings here, and there's a small cape.
And thanks to its fortunate location during sunset, you have a view to the south, where the Lombok mountains dominate and can look very impressive at sunset, as well as a view to the west, where the sun sets.
Moreover, towards Lombok, the seabed relief slightly deepens. And if, for example, you arrived at the beach during low tide and there's a long shallow area extending from the west, you might encounter a mirror-smooth surface of shallow water from the south.
By the way, in Lumbung, live music concerts with very talented musicians are held periodically.
Among other interesting beach evening spots on the western and southwestern sides, you can mention the beach club "Ombak Paradise," where they screen movies in the evenings, and "Mowies," where the brightest beach lanterns light up in the evenings.
We look forward to your updates, photographs, and discoveries. Keep enriching this topic and helping us rediscover the beaches of the Gili Islands.