If you are planning to visit Bali, you should put Gili islands on your list as well. When saying islands I mean Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno. I have managed to visit only one of them but it was an amazing experience and I fell in love with this little paradise.
All these islands are located east from Bali next to Lombok island. If you are travelling from Bali you can take a speed boat from Padang Bai.
How to get there from Bali
There are plenty of shipping companies. Most of them offer free pick up and drop off from/to your hotel in case you stay in the main tourist areas like Seminyak, Kuta, Legian, Nusa Dua, Ubud etc. I would recommend to book your tickets on GiliTickets. The price was reasonable – we paid around 130 USD for return for 2 persons, which is 35 USD one way. I was really worried to take speed boat after a bad experience in Thailand but the boat seemed to be safe and they even had life vests for everyone. There are various routes but in general it takes about 2 hours to get to Gili from Padang Bai.
Why you should go
1) The beaches are incredible. I was very disappointed by the Seminyak beach in Bali so Gili was a great compensation. The sea here is quite calm and crystal blue with the softest white sand ever plus when exploring around the island, you can always find a spot just for yourself.
2) If you are coming from some busy part of Bali, you will find the island very peaceful. The only allowed inland mode of transport is bicycle, Cimodo´s (Gili T´s famous horse cart taxi) or your own feet.
3) It offers a great escape from the craziness of your life. I quite enjoyed being awake at 5am either by the prayers from the local mosque or by rooster´s crowning.
4) The street vendors were about 80% less annoying than the ones in Bali.
What to do there
1) Gili Trawangan is such a small island that you can cycle around within 45 minutes or walk in less than 2 hours.
2) You can find many diving shops on this tiny island. I opted for snorkelling. Literally, on every 10 meters there is a stand renting a snorkelling gear incl. flippers. To see the turtles or various species of fish, you don´t have to go far. Just follow the road north from the harbour and at the very last bar before turning left (see the picture below) make a stop. This is actually the spot where the travel agency would take you to snorkel if you would have booked a trip with them.
3) Yoga classes available! Check out GiliYoga and choose either the morning or afternoon class. You don´t need any membership, just show up.
4) Go and explore further. Snorkelling trips around Gili Meno and Gili Air are being offered in every travel agency and trip to Lombok as well.