Gili Islands, Indonesia
Like three drops in the ocean, the Gili Islands sit just off the northwestern tip of Lombok, Indonesia. The warm, crystal blue waters are inviting to any visitor looking to get away. Each island is packed with a different personality. Guests can party on Gili Trawangan, feel like a castaway on Gili Meno, or plan a romantic getaway to Gili Air. All three neighbor one another, making island hopping an added element to your beach bum adventure.
When we first arrived, a three-day trip to Gili Trawangen was on the schedule, after which we'd eventually make our way further east to Flores. But after our first night – spent meeting expatriates who had lived on the islands for years – we were green with envy and couldn't help but extend our sandy love affair. The largest island out of the three, Trawangan, is also the busiest, and there is definitely something for everyone. With hiking trails, a delicious and cheap night food market, surfing, snorkeling, bars, and some of the best sunset views, it's easy to get lost here, filling up your day with time in the sun. We stayed at Bukit Bungalows for about $15 a night. Tucked away from the main strip, this hippie enclave is run by a group of locals whose hospitality settles you in with ease. Also, scuba diving is big here. Along the main road are many diving guesthouses where visitors can take classes and get certified on the cheap.
Just across the ocean is Gili Meno, and behind that is Gili Air. Each is so close it looks like you could swim there, but don't kid yourself: The tides can be strong and aren't safe. There is definitely a sleepier vibe on the sister islands, where books, snorkeling, and ice cold beers keep you busy. Sporadically placed throughout each island are restaurants and bars decorated with coral, nestled along the coastline. Check out Diana Café on Gili Meno: For about $5 a dish, enjoy a sunset view and a great snorkeling spot nearby (keep a lookout for sea turtles).
More information: The best way to reach the island is to fly into Bali and catch the Blue Water Express. ATMs can be found on Gili Trawangen and Air, but not on Meno so grab some cash in Denpasar before you go.