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Island Hopping in Bali & Beyond: Best Indonesian Islands to Visit

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By Amelia Bristow

Last updated: 14th June 2024

Life doesn’t get better than travelling, but Bali island hopping is on another level! Exploring Indonesia this way is the ultimate experience. Picture this: serene temples, stunning beaches, delicious food, and amazing wildlife. If this sounds like your kind of adventure, Bali island hopping is for you! Prepare to have your jaw literally drop as you tour the best islands and soak up the endless beauty. Let’s dive into the best Indonesian islands to visit, that are perfect for your vibes!

1. Nusa Lembongan 

White sandy beach in Nusa Lembongan

Best Bali Island for: Sunset views and great cafes

Arrive at the small pristine island of Nusa Lembongan after a quick 30-minute boat journey from Bali. Here, you can live your island life to the fullest with white beaches, clear waters and fantastic cafes. Chill out in the sun and make mates jealous of the paradise you’re travelling around; spend your days exploring by scooter and kicking back on uniquely beautiful beaches.

For activities, snorkelling will be your new best friend with these crystal clear waters. Spot all the beautiful fish close to the white shorelines. You might even get lucky enough to spot

manta rays! Check out our Bali Intro Plus for this included snorkelling activity and much more! Or if snorkelling isn’t your vibe, why not try out the different cafes here? The cafes offer tasty treats and Instagrammable spots for you and your mates to chill out in. Then, to perfect your trip, settle in with a refreshing cocktail or coconut water while watching the sunset over the sea. 

2. Nusa Ceningan

The Blue Lagoon in Nusa Ceningan

Best Bali Island for: Blue lagoons and cool bars

As the smallest and least touristy island of the three Nusa Islands, Nusa Ceningan offers a uniquely serene atmosphere.  Nusa Ceningan has fewer tourist attractions, but that doesn’t take away from the natural beauty of these beaches and the perfect spots to spend your days. Make sure to visit the Blue Lagoon, the Secret Beach and the Mahana Point Cliff Jump.  

For a fun day out, head to the Manhana Point Cliff. This area has a restaurant with two jump points for you to jump into the ocean! Spend your day here chilling and eating lunch, and when you’re ready, you can jump off into the blue waters from the 5-metre or 10-metre board if you are feeling brave enough! Nusa Ceningan just has to be on your best Indonesian islands to visit bucket list, if this sounds like your kind of day while travelling. If you're already falling in love with these islands and are desperate to go island hopping, why not check out our Indonesia trips for a pre-planned action-packed group tour?

Plus, getting around Nusa Ceningan is a breeze! The island is so tiny you can just walk everywhere, or if you're feeling adventurous, rent a scooter and zoom around.

3. Nusa Penida

Travellers at Kelingking viewpoint looking out with their hands in the air.

Best Bali Island for: Untouched landscapes, pristine beaches and unique temples

Nusa Penida is the largest of the three Nusa islands, meaning there’s more for you to explore! This wonderful island is simply breathtaking with its stunning landscapes and rock formations. It is becoming increasingly renowned for its perfect island vibes and idyllic scenery. It is super popular for the iconic landscape of Kelingking Beach, also known as T-Rex Bay, as the rock formation resembles the head of a dinosaur.

Spend your days uncovering mysterious temples scattered across the island. Or dive into the crystal clear waters, and you might be lucky enough to spot some magical creatures like manta rays, sunfish and whale sharks while snorkelling with friends. Then head back to hidden local spots surrounded by luscious nature, enjoy the local cuisine and reminisce on your picture-perfect travels while watching the sunset.

The roads here are pretty windy and bumpy, so if it’s your first time driving a scooter, it may be easier to hire a driver. Hiring a driver is pretty easy to do online! This will let you see more of the island, giving you the ultimate Bali island hopping experience.

4. Gili Gede 

Boats on the shore of a beach in Gili Gede

Best Bali Island for: Snorkelling 

Gili Gede is south of Lombok, known as one of the best Indonesian islands to visit around Bali, and it is certainly a slice of paradise. It is completely unspoilt by tourism with no cars and little scooters available; you’ll feel like a true backpacker! The island is also well preserved, with little resorts and hotels. Gili Gede has remained laid-back and chilled compared to the other Gili islands. Enjoy the unspoilt landscapes, explore the beaches, drink from coconuts and watch the beautiful sunsets… Can it get any better than that? Take this as your sign to visit this hidden paradise, and you’ll be getting all the Instagram story replies with these pics! 

5. Lombok

Traveller with surf board in Lombok walking out of the water

Best Bali Island for: Surfing, waterfalls and mountain treks

Travel to Lombok and expect to be transported to an island filled with lush tropical rainforests, secret waterfalls, jaw-dropping beaches and, of course, the breathtaking Mount Rinjani volcano! Lombok holds a charm that the other Indonesian islands don’t have. If you’re an adventurous traveller, then you need to visit here when Bali island hopping.

Lombok is one of the best Indonesian islands to visit and is completely underrated by other travellers. So, don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind island! It’s only about 45 minutes by flight or a 2-hour trip by ferry from Bali to Lombok. Head down to Kuta, Selong Belanak and Belongas for the ultimate time on this paradise island! But if you’re keen to visit this picture-perfect adventure, why not check out our Bali, Lombok & Komodo group trip? Spend four epic days in Lombok! Stay at a cosy mountain guesthouse, chase waterfalls, wander through lush rice paddies and traditional villages, and hit up the best beaches for a swim.

6. Gili Trawangan 

Looking over the beach in Gili Trawangan with boats parked up along the bay

Best Bali Island for: Beach bars and party nights out

Let’s take a trip to the famous party island! Are you ready for it? Combine the perfect island vibes of white sandy beaches with a fun night out filled with cocktails in buzzing bars. Your time here will be nothing but iconic! Let yourself recover from the night before by snorkelling around vibrant coral reefs just off the shore, filled with colourful fish and even turtles. There are plenty of places to do a diving course or join in with the endless options of water sports and activities.

Explore the fantastic beaches filled with independent restaurants and cafes, and grab a bite to eat to recharge for the upcoming night out. Plus, if you get a striking hunger from partying too hard, there are even night food stalls that will satisfy your drunken desires.

On Gili Trawangan, the only transport is horse-drawn carts and bicycles. Everything is walkable on this island, so we highly recommend taking a stroll or getting a bike. This island is a must-see, as it is one of the best Indonesian islands to visit! Take a ferry ride from Bali and arrive in Gili T in about 3-4 hours. If you want to tick off this destination from your Bali island hopping list, check out our Bali Intro group trip for a fun, action-packed 9 or 12 days of exploring! 

7. Gili Meno and Gili Air

Traveller swimming down to the Nest in Gili Meno

Best Bali Island for: vibrant coral reefs and diving

Gilli Meno and Gili Air are the smaller islands, a short boat ride away from Gili T, that aren’t as busy, but still have the perfect island scenery. There is plenty to see and do, but the island still holds a relaxed atmosphere. Wander and try out the different beach bars and restaurants and watch the sunset over these idyllic islands. Or maybe you want to embrace your inner backpacker on Gili Meno and imagine you've just crossed the finish line in your very own Race Across the World.

Gili Meno and Gili Air are perfect for snorkelling, with their boastful beaches. Have the ultimate diving experience in Gili Meno and swim down to the iconic underwater statues called ‘Nest’! Snap some amazing pics, explore around the statues and spot the different fish before heading back to shore for a fun evening. You should add these islands to your Bali island hopping itinerary if you’re looking to escape the buzzing nightlife of Gili T but still want to experience the renowned Gili islands. 

8. Menjangan Island

Photo of the beach in Menjangan Island with boat in the background

Best Bali Island for: Scuba diving and watching wildlife 

You need to add Menjangan to your Bali island-hopping list! Known as the “Island of Deer,” this place is home to the rare Javan deer, which the locals call “Menjangan” - that is how the island got its name. Trust us on this, it definitely is one of the best Indonesian islands to visit so don’t skip it!

Menjangan Island is a part of West Bali National Park and is accessible via boat from the National Park’s main port. This island is also government-protected, making it a remote and protected area. You’ll be sure to discover that the scenery is breathtaking, and the coral reefs off the shorelines are fantastic. Come and see it for yourself on our group trip Uncover Bali. Explore the best of Indonesia over 12 days, including a day trip to Menjangan Island!

Explore the shore and swim around the coral as you spot the variety of marine life. The waters are super clear so you are bound to see incredible fish while playing mermaids. Or, if you don’t want to swim, you can take a quick boat ride to the north shore. Admire the beauty of the Segara Giri Dharma Kencana Temple and watch the deer wander the island. The wildlife does not stop there as there are also wild pigs, monkeys and even peacocks!  

Tips for Island Hopping in Indonesia 

  • Boat rides are the best way to explore smaller islands
  • Download apps for hiring drivers or scooters
  • Buses are super affordable when on islands 
  • Learn small everyday phrases - Hallo = Hello, terima = thank you, Dimanakah = where is the, Airnya = water, berapa banyak = how much 
  • Sun protection (hat, sunglasses, suncream etc) 
  • Try to avoid travelling during peak times (6-8 am and 4-7 pm)
  • Pack some sickness tablets (travelling on boats can give you travel sickness)
  • Buy some bug spray
  • Hiking shoes
  • Bring some modest clothing for temples, restaurants, supermarkets 
  • Cash is king - no one wants to be short of cash when they don’t accept card
  • The easiest way around the smaller islands is by moped or bicycle 
  • Bring a reusable filtering water bottle, as the water isn’t safe to drink straight from the tap
  • Try to be flexible! If plans don’t work or you are delayed that’s okay. Stay positive!

So now you’re a Bali island-hopping expert and know what best Indonesian islands to visit that suit your vibe. If you need extra persuading, peek at our guidebook on Why Bali Makes the Perfect Island Escape. Or maybe you’re already desperately excited to go and want to book one of our Bali trips now (we don’t blame you!) Whether you’re going to party the nights away until the sun comes up on Gili T or want a wholesome and peaceful travel experience, there is something for everyone!  

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