The Gili & Nusa Islands seem very similar at first glance, so which one should you visit?

Let’s compare each characteristic factoring in time, cost, and quality.

Why should I visit the Gili Islands?

  • The Gili Islands are a popular destination for foreigners, and easily reached from several locations.
  • The Gili Islands offer a wide range of accommodation, variety of cuisines, diving/snorkeling, beaches, and a chance to relax with no vehicles besides horse drawn carts.

Why should I visit the Nusa Islands?

  • It takes virtually no time to reach Nusa Lembongan from Kuta, and is worlds apart from mainland Bali.
  • The Nusa Islands offer a wide range of accommodation, variety of cuisines, diving/snorkeling, beaches, and a chance to explore the entire island on foot.
Schools of Fish at Gili Air

Schools of fish


#1: Nusa Islands

For travelers with limited time or budget, Nusa Lembongan wins hands down. From Kuta, it is possible to take a Perama bus and public boat to arrive on Nusa Lembongan by noon for 135,000 IDR. Getting to Gili will either cost 213,500 IDR and take two days, or 685,000 IDR and take an entire day.

Bangsal Harbor vs

Slow Boats to Gili Air Await at Bangsal Harbor

Sanur Boat Departure vs

Sanur Slow and Fast Boats to Nusa Lembongan


#1: Nusa Islands

The range of accommodation on the Gili Islands is far greater, but increased value is definitely attainable on the Nusa’s. Comparable hotels will be 100,000 IDR cheaper on Nusa Lembongan, and restaurants may be 10-15,000 IDR less expensive. On Gili Air, 180,000 IDR gets you a fan bungalow with ensuite; while, on Nusa Lembongan 175,000 IDR gets you a large, modern fan room with ensuite and a communal pool.

Gili Air Bungalow 180,000 IDR

Gili Air Bungalow
180,000 IDR

Nusa Lembongan Hotel 175,000 IDR

Nusa Lembongan Hotel
175,000 IDR


#1: Gili Islands

Both chains of islands have a plethora of hotels, but the Gili’s are more developed for tourism. This also leads to more cuisine variety as restaurants have opened to cater to the large influx of foreigners and their taste buds.

Gili Food

Gili Air Fish Steak 55,000 IDR

Nusa Food

Nusa Lembongan Chicken w/Mushrooms 30,000 IDR

Snorkelling & Diving

#1 Snorkelling: Gili Islands

#1 Diving: Nusa Islands

Walk-in snorkeling is much better around Nusa Penida, but difficult to get to. Mushroom Bay is your best bet on Nusa Lembongan and comparable to Gili Air, but not as centrally located. For this reason, the Gili’s are your better snorkeling destination for beginners but if you want to learn to dive, Nusa Lembongan offers cheaper PADI & SSI Open Water courses, even though we did our PADI Open Water on Gili Air.

Diving on the other hand is best at the Nusa’s as you get the rare chance to spot Mola Mola (Oceanic Sunfish) and Manta Rays. Both locations have good diving, and tend to get better at deeper levels.

Something to keep in mind is that Nusa Lembongan requires two dives around Nusa Penida (400-500,000 IDR each), while the Gili’s tend to do one dive at a time (490,000 IDR). This allows you to sample the diving with little investment, but really breaks up your day when doing multiple dives.


Gili Air Mantis Shrimp

Mola Mola

Mola Mola Around Nusa Penida


#1: Nusa Islands

The beaches are better on Nusa Lembongan since the beachfront resorts are set back from the water. On Gili Air, restaurants tend to span all the way to the water with the exception of Chillout Café, which has an easily accessed beach.

Gili Beach

Gili Air Developed to Water’s Edge

Nusa Beach

Nusa Lembongan Resorts Set Back

Local Life

#1: Nusa Islands

The main difference between the groups of islands is that the Gili’s are predominantly comprised of tourists, while the Nusa’s are dominated by locals. This creates a different vibe for each island, but also creates other attractions for the Nusa’s. The biggest draw for Nusa Lembongan is the Seaweed Farms but you can also find mangroves, waterfalls, and desolate roads to cruise nearby.

Nusa Lembongan Seaweed Lady vs

Nusa Lembongan Seaweed Farm

Gili Garbage

Gili Air Garbage from Tourists

Getting Around

#1: Gili Islands

Traffic noise may be slightly more on the Nusa’s since motorcycles/vehicles are allowed. However, Gili Trawangan may have more late night noise from tourists depending on where you are staying.

Getting around both island chains is straightforward, but you can easily walk the perimeter of Gili Air and Meno within two hours. You can technically walk everywhere on Nusa Lembongan, but a motorcycle makes things handy.

Gili Trans

Gili Islands’ Horse Carts


Nusa Islands’ Motorcycles

The Final Verdict

#1: Nusa Islands

Which island chain to visit ultimately rests in your hands, and depends on what you want from your travels. Hopefully the above comparison gives you a better idea what to expect from each.

For us, the Nusa Islands are the better choice for the range of amenities, attractions, vibe, and overall value.

Let us know what you think…

*** The Final Word: Nusa Islands win hands down! ***

Do you agree? Or do you think the Gili Islands are better than Nusa?

Gili Air Sunset Over Bali

Sunset over Bali from Gili Air

Nusa Lembongan Sunset

Sunset from Nusa Lembongan


Visited in October 2015