If there’s one destination in Asia that enjoys unadulterated attention and adulation from travelers across the globe, it has to be Bali. There’s also no denying that all that attention has turned this once pristine island into one of the busiest tourist hubs in the region. So should you chuck Bali off your travel wishlist? Absolutely not! Bali still manages to hold a special place in our hearts and for very good reason. If, like us, you can’t wait to be in Bali but you’re also looking to get away from the crowds, here’s a cool little idea – island hopping!
Bali is one big, popular island in this part of Indonesia, but it is also surrounded by numerous smaller islands that are not only easily accessible but are equally gorgeous, if not more. Be it crystal clear water with unparalleled snorkeling opportunities, or glorious sunsets worthy of multiple Instagram posts, these tiny islets offer the perfect opportunity to explore beyond the usual haunts in Bali. If that sounds like a plan, here’s a peek at some of our favorite island hopping destinations around Bali.
Bali’s best kept secret: Menjangan Island
Located just 8 Km away from Bali’s northwestern coast, close to the West Bali National Park, Menjangan Island is one of a kind. Known for its unmatched underwater diversity, this is where you should head to for the best in class scuba diving and snorkeling experience. While you won’t be able to spend the night on Menjangan Island, it is perfect for an island-hopping day trip from Bali.
Hop on a ferry from Labuhan Lalang port in northern Bali and spend the day exploring the spectacular coral reefs, visiting ancient temples, or simply enjoy the island’s serenity minus the touristy crowds. When planning a trip to Menjangan Island, do keep in mind that you’ll need to pay for a permit (US$ 1.50 per person) and a park guide (US$ 26) before you can enter and explore this region. A small price to pay to enjoy the untouched natural beauty!
Bali’s quieter cousin: Nusa Lembongan
Love the vibe in Bali but want to escape to someplace quieter? Nusa Lembongan is the island you’re looking for. It has the best of both the worlds – beautiful places to stay overnight and no hawkers and four-wheeler traffic that Bali is notoriously known for. That’s not all though.
A quick 30-minute ferry ride from Bali, Nusa Lembongan is surrounded with exceptionally blue waters and flanked by pristine white sand beaches, a treat for your sore eyes. Typical activities on this island include surfing, snorkeling and exploring the native mangrove forest on local boats.
The rugged beauty: Nusa Penida
The largest of the Nusa Islands lying to the southeast of Bali, Nusa Penida’s rugged shoreline and emerald blue water are probably its biggest draws. But the fact that it’s only an hour away from Bali by high-speed ferry doesn’t hurt either, making it a great island-hopping destination.
You can choose to stay overnight at a local homestay or head back to Bali after spending an exciting day of bird-watching at the FNPF Bird Sanctuary, exploring ancient rocky caves, and of course, relishing some of the best views you can find in this region. Even if you cannot stay overnight, stay back to at least watch a sunset on Nusa Penida Island and we promise you, you’ll wish you didn’t have to leave!
Finding volcanic trails in Lombok
Probably the biggest island to visit from Bali, Lombok has turned out to be one of the most popular places for those looking to explore further. Known for its distinct volcanic landscape, Lombok is home to Indonesia’s second tallest volcano, Mount Rinjani.
Although Lombok is no more secluded and untouched, it is still very much worth the trip, especially if you can spare a day or two to spend here. If you have more than a day to explore Lombok, it is one of the best places to chase hidden waterfalls like Tiu Teja and Tiu Kelep while mixing it up with world-class surfing on its beaches. When in need of a break, head to one of Lombok’s cool cafes for a bite, and watch the world go by.
Live it up in Gili Trawangan
Popularly known as Gili T, this is one of the three Gili Islands located off the northwestern coast of Lombok. With ferries running to Gili Trawangan from Bali as well as Lombok, this little gem in the Bali Sea makes for a great island hopping spot along with Lombok. Often overshadowed by its bigger cousins, Gili T offers a unique experience, very different from what you would find in Bali or Lombok.
While thanks to its no motor vehicle policy, life seems to slow down on this paradisiacal land, Gili T also knows how to help you live it up with its famous backpacker parties and exciting nightlife. Idyllic in its own way, this island is unmissable on your next trip to Bali.
Connect with nature and your own self in Gili Air
If Gili T seems too upbeat for your liking, hop over to Gili Air, another small island in the Gili cluster. Take a ferry from Bali or from Lombok, and find your way to this tropical paradise, far away from the buzzing streets of Bali. The island is small enough to be explored on foot, but there’s always a beachside bar near at hand if you want to stop and take a break. Perfect for a romantic getaway with your significant other or for a soul-searching solo trip, Gili Air is serene and peaceful, just how you would imagine exotic islands to be.
Island hopping from Bali is our favorite way to explore the many islands scattered around this region. Club a few together to hop on the same day or spend a few days on each – whichever way you prefer to visit, there’s going to be a lot to look forward to on your next trip to Bali!