Gili Trawangan is one of my favourite places in the world. It’s definitely changed a lot in the last few years as tourist numbers swell, along with new bars, restaurants, accommodation options etc. There’s definitely a concern there regarding waste management and sustainability as there is in Bali.
Having said that it’s a beautiful island and heaps of fun. There is plenty of great food, a surf break that can be pretty good on its day, nice diving and a good laugh at night, particularly if a barbequed lobster followed by vodka shots and a bit of a dance in flip flops is your thing.
There’s even great snorkeling just off the beach with plenty of turtles and other sea life!
Gili Trawangan also has some great pool rooms/villas at a very reasonable cost. Just to be clear, they’re generally not what you would consider five star properties. They don’t have the facilities, service standards or anything like that, that you would expect at high end resorts. That’s because they are mostly owned by expats and because the island doesn’t have the infrastructure of Bali. Some of the properties there are magic though. Really awesome for what they are, which is a clean, air conditioned room with a private pool on a beautiful tiny island in the Indian Ocean. And where else can you get a villa with a private pool for under $150 a night?
Here’s a quick run down of some of my favourite places to stay on Gili T.
The Beach House
Great central location in the middle of the strip. Very easy to walk to anywhere you are likely to want to get to on the island. They also have a fantastic four bedroom pool villa with a huge pool and awesome open air upstairs living area. The team that run the place are super friendly and the food is tasty as well.
The restaurant used to have one of the best BBQ dinners on the island, though recently the quality has slipped a little. The bar is a nice, fairly relaxed place to hang out and have a cold Bintang.
Some of the other rooms and villas at the Beach House aren’t quite as nice as at comparable properties in Gili T but they’re amazing value.
Ko Ko Mo
Ko Ko Mo is a bit more upscale and boutique than the other properties on the strip. It probably has the most polished service on the island and definitely my favourite restaurant. Wherever you stay on Gili T, you have to have dinner at least once at Ko Ko Mo.
It’s located towards the south end of the strip, which is handy for the sunset bar and the surf break but a bit of a walk to the more lively night spots. This can obviously be a blessing on big party nights when you want to get some sleep. In all fairness, the walk I’m talking about is only a few minutes so really not a big deal, although on hot days it can certainly feel longer than it is.
The pool villas are beautiful but not in and of them self necessarily nice enough to justify the premium Ko Ko Mo charges compared to other properties. The service and ambiance will definitely be worth the extra money to some though.
Scallywags is located right next to The Beach House in the middle of the strip. The BBQ dinners here are the best on the island in my opinion, with fresh seafood and an awesome buffet. The set up of the place is a bit different to most of the villa complexes on Gili T. They have a great shared pool, which is hidden from the strip and is probably the nicest of its kind on the island.
The rooms with private pools are a bit smaller than some of the other properties but are very nicely appointed. Scallywags is a great choice for the location and the communal pool. And they do an awesome breakfast.
Kelapa is the best by a significant margin as far as I’m concerned in terms of the villas and service. The big five bedroom villa is out of control, really stunning with a big garden and the private pool must be 25 meters long. Amazing place to have a party or function and the staff are incredible.
The only downside, depending on what you’re looking for, is the location. Kelapa is in the middle of the island surrounded by coconut trees and a good hike from the main strip. It’s also about the same distance to the new sunset strip on the west coast of the island. It really feels like the middle of nowhere.
That can certainly be a huge plus, as you really get the sense of being remote even though you’re just a ten minute bike ride from everything and Kelapa can definitely be the best place to stay as long as you’re prepared for the location.
The big resort towards the south end of the strip now has pool villas and they look amazing! I haven’t actually seen them in person yet but they do look the business.
These would without question be the best choice if you want more of the facilities that larger resorts have. They have several pools, several bars and restaurants, room service etc.
I have seen the hotel rooms there and wasn’t really impressed but the new pool villas look great. I’m still not rushing out to try them though as I’m just used to staying at the smaller places on the island and feel they’re more appropriate for a holiday in Gili T.
There are a bunch more properties with pool villas on the island that I haven’t stayed at, so can’t go into too much detail. I have had a look inside some though, so here are some quick thoughts on some of them, bearing in mind, having not stayed there these are pretty superficial thoughts.
Black Penny has a great location but the rooms are quite small. They do often have good rates as well but the common areas of the property aren’t all that inviting.
The Trawangan is close to Ko Ko Mo so a little bit of a walk from all the action but still pretty central. I’d actually love to try this place, the rooms are large enough and nicely decorated and it’s a great location for visiting the sunset bar for sundowners, Ko Ko Mo for dinner and the surf break at the south end of the strip.
The Gili Villas are just a half block back from the main strip right near the port where the boats arrive from Bali. The villas are nice and big with large pools. I had a look inside one once and thought it was awesome but I’ve seen a few photos recently and they made the villa look quite tired. I’ll have to go and have another look I suppose.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of options on the island. Just some thoughts on the properties I’ve seen on Gili T. There are always new places opening up, with most of the recent development towards the north end of the strip and on the newer “Sunset” strip on the west of the island.
Wherever you stay, it’s pretty hard to have a bad time.
Just remember to try Ko Ko Mo for dinner!