While Bali may well be an island utopia in itself, there are paradisiacal clusters of smaller islets that surround it. Easily accessed by boat, these tropical wonders are each infused with an alluring castaway ambience and offer a definitive desert island experience. Get ready to island hop, Indonesian-style, as we introduce the best islands around Bali.
East of Bali, the Gili archipelago is a scatter of tiny islands that appear to be cast from larger neighbouring island Lombok. Gili Trawangan is the largest of the trio and the most popular—it’s easy to see why. A tropical paradise with a luxurious bohemian feel, it’s a lively spot with buzzing seaside bars and stylish cafés. For keen divers, there are plenty of scuba schools offering trips out to swim among the turtles. You can walk around the island in a couple of hours but the best way to explore Gili Trawangan is by hopping on a bicycle.
Gili Meno is the most peaceful and undeveloped of the Gilis. Offering pure, unadulterated escapism, the island’s entire circumference is formed by powdery white beaches, which in turn are hemmed by beautiful coral reefs. The best way to spend a day on Gili Meno is unwinding in a hammock with a good book before tucking into a tasty beachside lunch of grilled fish as the waves lap nearby.
Not as sleepy as Meno or as developed as Trawangan, Gili Air strikes a perfect balance between barefoot minimalism and sumptuous sophistication. For sublime snorkelling in its aquamarine waters, head to Gili Air’s east coast. It takes about two hours to walk around its perimeter, and if you head inland you’ll be greeted with rustic scenes of free-roaming cows and hens.
East of Bali, Moyo Island sits north of Sumbawa and is accessed by boat from Lombok. The sparsely inhabited island’s natural landscapes are utterly beguiling. From the colour-popping blue pools of Mata Jitu Waterfall to pristine jungles, it’s a remote corner of paradise. Undoubtedly one of the best islands off Bali’s coast, don’t miss Moyo Island’s nature reserve with wild deer and exotic birds.
Hop on a boat from Sanur Beach at the end of Jalan Hang Tuah in Bali and in half an hour you’ll arrive at the far-flung shores of Nusa Lembongan, an island off the southeast coast. Thanks to slow but sympathetic development, Nusa Lembongan has emerged from being a sleepy surfer-magnet to a haven of yoga retreats and quality eateries. Be sure to visit its mangroves, incredible beaches and smaller neighbouring island, Nusa Ceningan, connected by a suspension bridge.
Lembongan’s protective bigger brother, Nusa Penida is all rugged beauty with jagged, foliage-covered cliffs and sweeping bays. It’s a large island so hire a scooter or car to explore. If lazing about is on your agenda, take your pick from Instagram-worthy sandy stretches like Kelingking Beach or Crystal Bay. Still under-developed and off the tourist trail, Nusa Penida lets you write your own desert island story.
Discover Jumeirah Bali opening in 2019.