There are many wonderful islands near and around Bali that will take your Balinese vacation to the next level. Going off the shore from Bali can plunge you into exotic islands full of untouched beaches, dramatic cliffs, and mysterious caverns. After all, Indonesia is home to some 17,000 islands, although only 922 are populated by humans.
But you might wonder – why would anyone want to leave Bali when the region is so full of beautiful beaches, temples, rice fields and even party towns? The best reason is to explore the unknown; not too many tourists venture beyond Bali and so, the surrounding islands are virgin territory, with pristine beaches and temples that aren’t dotted with people.
Our top picks for island hopping around Bali –
The ‘Nusa’ Trio
The three ‘Nusa’ islands are fairly close to Bali, and the first choice when it comes to island hopping around Bali. Nusa Penida has a mysterious history of black magic, while Nusa Lembongan is famous for cock fights!
How far from Bali: 66 km
How to get there: You can get a ferry to Nusa Penida from Sanur Beach. Alternatively, go to Nusa Lembongan and then get a local boat from there.
Must do: Go snorkelling at Crystal Bay and Gamat Bay and scuba diving at Manta Point to see manta rays
Far away from the hustle and bustle of Bali, Nusa Penida offers solitude and privacy, which can be just what couple travellers seek on a honeymoon. Given its proximity to Bali, you can even explore Nusa Penida on a day trip, but if you extend your stay, you will have the opportunity to explore the neighbouring islands as well.
Make sure you visit Kelinking Beach, which is enveloped by oddly shaped rock cliffs topped with verdant greenery. Don’t miss Angel’s Billabong either, which is a natural rock pool that leads directly to the ocean. You can get a great view of Angel’s Billabong and the arched tunnel on top from Broken Beach. Other attractions include Attu Beach, Tembeling Beach, Seganing and Peguyangan Waterfalls, Pura Dalem Ped, and Pura Goa Giri Putri.
How far from Bali: 55 km
How to get there: You can get a boat from Sanur Beach or Benoa Harbour. A fast boat will get you to Nusa Lembongan in just half an hour, while a slow boat may take around 90 minutes.
Must-do: Learn about seaweed farming and go surfing on those beautiful waves!
You will find many hotels and restaurants at Jungut Batu. In the evening, the beach offers glorious views of the sunset. Also head to Bukit (the hill) to enjoy sweeping panoramas of the ocean as well as numerous luxury retreats. If you’re looking for a quieter spot, Mushroom Bay on the south-western point of Jungut Batu won’t disappoint. The sheltered bay is home to a beautiful stretch of white sand beach and a smattering of restaurants.
There is an outcrop on the island known as ‘Devil’s Tear’, and this is where you’ll find the truly spectacular beaches such as Dream Beach and Sunset Beach. Low-lying cliffs made of limestone dot the area, as do remarkable caverns. In the north of the island, you’ll find a dense mangrove forest.
How far from Bali: 57 km
How to get there: Take a ferry to Nusa Lembongan and then cross the bridge to Nusa Ceningan.
Must-do: Get into the water and surf, scuba dive, or free dive. Also visit the lookout point and go zip lining over the lagoon!
Nusa Ceningan is the smallest of the three islands but still worth a visit. A beautiful surf break rivals more crowded spots in neighbouring Nusa Lembongan. Riding on the island is particularly enjoyable, as there are many scenic vistas to be enjoyed. There are three excellent surfing spots on the island, and one can indulge in the activity all year round.
When you go diving into the water, prepare to encounter manta rays, oceanic sunfish, nurse sharks, reef sharks, and sometimes even whale sharks and hammerheads. If exploring on foot, follow the trail from Dream Beach to Sunset Beach for gorgeous scenery.
The Gili Islands
The Gili Islands are further away from Bali and located off the north-western coast of Lombok Island. So you can combine a visit to these islands with the larger Lombok Island. The Gili islands are known as Bali’s ‘turtle capital’.
How far from Bali: 104 km
How to get there: Take a boat from Padang Bai.
Must-do: Go diving or snorkelling and even take a cooking class! You can also play golf and go fishing.
Gili Trawangan is the largest of the three main Gili Islands, and has a reasonably healthy population of locals. Turtles, tiny purple jellyfish, and trigger fish roam the waters, which are also abundant with colourful corals. There are notable coral reefs off the main beach as well as in the north-western part of the island.
From the beaches of Gili Trawangan, you can watch the sun descend over Mt. Agung, and come to life again from Mt. Rinjani, which is on Lombok Island. All motorized vehicles are forbidden on this island that used to be a magnet for hippies. An interesting alternative is to ride horses.
How far from Bali: 106 km
How to get there: You can reach Gili Meno from Menjangan Island.
Gili Meno may be the smallest of the three main Gili Islands, but it has a unique charm due to its untouched nature. You can explore the entire island in just two hours; so a day excursion might be a good idea. The island has a ‘castaway’ air about it, and you can laze on the beaches or enjoy some freshly caught fish.
For nature lovers, Gili Meno is a veritable paradise. There is a bird park on site with over three hundred denizens including hornbills, macaws, pelicans, parrots, eagles, pheasants, and peafowl. You can watch baby turtles being released into the sea at the turtle sanctuary, or encounter leatherback and hawksbill turtles on diving sojourns.
How far from Bali: 106 km
How to get there: Get a fast ferry from Seminyak or Kuta to reach Gili Air in a few hours. Alternatively, you can take a public ferry from Lombok, and then another boat from Bangsal.
Gili Air is not as popular as Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno, but it is actually the nearest to Lombok Island. It would be advisable to carry your own food and water as you explore this compact and relatively underdeveloped destination. You would only need two-three hours to see all the main sights. Go swimming, surfing, or diving – the choice is yours.
How far from Bali: 103 km
How to get there: Menjangan Island is your gateway to Gili Gede.
Many online searches for ‘Gili Islands’ will throw up only three names: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. But in truth, there are actually 26 Gili islands and Gili Gede is particularly lovely. Although it means ‘big island’, it’s just a little larger than some of the other Gili islands. Don’t expect any amenities or too many restaurants as this is truly unexplored territory.
A visit to Gili Gede feels very ‘authentic’, as you hardly see any tourists and encounter locals going about their daily lives. You can also see fishermen at work. Pearl farming is also a major source of livelihood on the island. There is a mosque on this majorly Muslim island, along with beaches studded with interestingly shaped shells.
How far from Bali: 212 km
How to get there: You can drive down from Lembar or take a boat from Padang Bai.
Must-dos: See the crater lake at the top of Mount Rinjani and go surfing at Senggigi Beach
Lombok Island’s secluded beaches are a draw for many tourists. There are many towns worth a visit on the island. There’s a ‘Kuta’, just like in Bali, Senggigi on the western coastline, which is where most of the hotels are to be found, and the capital city Mataram. Lombok’s best known attraction is Mount Rinjani, which is the second highest volcano in the country.
You can get stunning views of the Gili Islands from the top of Malimbu Hill 1 and 2. Nipah Beach and Sentangi Beach are some of the gorgeous beaches in the vicinity. Pusuk Monkey Forest is also close by. There are beautiful beaches in Kuta as well, including Mawun and Selong Belanak. In the north, you can marvel at stunning waterfalls like Tiu Teja and Sendang Gile.
How far from Bali: 479 km
How to get there: Take a ferry from Lombok Island or Flores.
Must-dos: See the komodo dragons and go scuba diving
Komodo Islands actually consist of three primary islands: Komodo, Padar, and Rinca, along with a few smaller ones. They are one of Indonesia’s most breath-taking tourist destinations due to their unique biodiversity, stunning scuba diving sites, and of course, the iconic komodo dragons, which are the world’s largest lizards and sadly, on the brink of extinction. The best place to see them is at Komodo Island National Park.
If you have the physical stamina for it, hiking to the top of Padar Island is highly recommended for the spectacular views. Pink Beach on Mawan Island is a must visit for its pink-hued sand, which is caused by the tiny red corals on the beach. Go snorkelling at Manta Point to see manta rays, see more monitor lizards at Rinca Island, and hike up to Gili Lawa for paradise-like vistas.
How far from Bali: 613 km
How to get there: You can get a ferry to Java from Bali.
Must-dos: Go shopping at Bandung, take a breather at Malang, and watch the sunrise over the volcanic Mount Bromo from a nearby mountain
Java Island is the central island of Indonesia, and home to its capital city Jakarta. If you’re flying into Jakarta Airport, why not head east and explore the variety of natural and historical attractions? At Baturadden, you will be confronted by beautiful waterfalls descending into cool green pools that are perfect for dipping into. Lush green forests surround these cascades.
At Dieng Plateau, you can trek through rolling highlands and plantations that seem to be straight out of a postcard. The 9th century Buddhist temple at Borobudur is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while Yogyakarta is home to the Mount Merapi ruins and the Royal Palace and Water Castle. Nearby Candi Prambanan is a stunning Hindu temple. If you fancy snorkelling or diving, make sure to visit the Karimunjawa islands.
How far from Bali: 280 km
How to get there: Take a seaplane to Moyo Island or take a flight to Sumbawa Besar from Lombok.
Moyo Island is one of those secret destinations that few people know about, let alone visit. The island is home to a nature reserve with wild boar, deer, oxen, and numerous birds. Elsewhere on the island, you will also find monitor lizards, wild pigs, crab-eating macaques, and lots and lots of bats! In fact, there is a cave full of bats. You can also visit many beautiful waterfalls and go snorkelling among the beautiful corals.
How far from Bali: 1067 km
How to get there: You can take a flight to Labuan Bajo from Bali.
Most people pass through Flores on their way to Komodo Island, but it is worth exploring for its dense forests and untouched villages. The island is huge, and its name means ‘flowers’.
Top things to do in Flores include diving at Labuan Bajo, see the Hobbit Cave at Ruteng, and go trekking through picturesque Bajawa to see the hot springs, waterfalls, and volcanoes. Also don’t miss the three crater lakes at the top of Kelimutu Volcano in Moni. Finally, you can go beach hopping at Maumere and Ende if time permits.