Bali & the Gili Islands with Kids!

Guest post and photos by Nana Luckham,Travel Writer

My family adventure: Unwinding in Bali and the Gili Islands

 

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A laidback family holiday in Bali

My family adventure: Unwinding in Bali and the Gili Islands

 

Bali’s fertile interior and laid-back beaches seemed the perfect foil to our busy lives in London and the hectic week we’d just spent in Singapore. It was an added bonus that the island is excellent value and easy to navigate. We also discovered lots of great family-friendly accommodation options in Bali as well. We wanted to pack in contrasting experiences into a ten-day trip and chose the lush greenery and artistic vibe of Ubud, the desert island beauty of Lombok’s Gili Islands and resort life on the beach in Jimbaran, back on the mainland.

 

Ubud

My family adventure: Unwinding in Bali and the Gili Islands

 

Ubud, a town enveloped in hills and rice terraces and well known for its cultural life, was our first stop. It’s very touristy but that doesn’t detract from the laid-back atmosphere, and there was plenty for both kids and grown-ups to enjoy. There are also some lovely family-friendly villas in Ubud that are ideal for families and friends.

We loved the architecture of the Hindu temple Pura Taman Saraswati, whilst our boys were taken with the expansive fishponds in front of it. The Museum Puri Lukisan was a great introduction to contemporary Balinese art for us, and its grounds and galleries provided perfect toddler gallivanting space. During an afternoon of ambling round Ubud’s boutiques and galleries we placated the kids with stops for ice cream at Café Gelato Secrets.

 

My family adventure: Unwinding in Bali and the Gili Islands

 

Another major attraction that’s fun for kids is the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, a pocket of jungle south of town that’s home to three holy temples and a bunch of brazen Balinese macaques.

Our hotel, Mathis Retreat, (formerly Kenanga Boutique Hotel) with its infinity pool hovering above the rice fields, felt like the quintessential Bali holiday experience. The boys loved walking through the grasses, which came up to their shoulders and turned a simple walk into an adventure in the “jungle”. At night, with lanterns floating on the pool and dotted throughout the fields, the atmosphere was truly magical.

 

Gili Islands

My family adventure: Unwinding in Bali and the Gili Islands

 

Gorgeous Gili Air (think golden sands, palm trees and vibrant waters) is one of three Gili Islands and a fantastic place to relax with kids. Its desert island serenity is enhanced by the fact that there are no dogs or motorised transport, and the waters are calm, clear and perfect for paddling. There’s a reef a short swim offshore so one of us could play with the kids in the shallows while the other went out snorkelling. Green turtles regularly appear here though unfortunately we weren’t lucky enough to see any. If you’re interested in diving, then this post has some great tips on diving in Indonesia.

 

My family adventure: Unwinding in Bali and the Gili Islands

 

It takes about an hour and a half to walk around the island but you can also hire bikes and plenty of places will rent you child seats. The cidomos (horse and cart taxis) were a huge hit with the boys. For a small, low-key island, there’s an impressive selection of accommodation, from simple beach huts to boutique hotels with kid friendly pools and family rooms. Eateries range from basic wooden shacks selling noodles and satay to trendy restaurants offering international menus. At night many places offer fresh fish barbeques under the stars.

 

Jimbaran

My family adventure: Unwinding in Bali and the Gili Islands

 

After our simple beach hut on the Gili islands we headed for the large, amenity-laden Keraton Resort in the Balinese beach town of Jimbaran. There are several large hotels here but the beach – a beautiful champagne coloured sweep of sand – never felt busy. The sea was rougher than in the Gilis so we had to keep a closer eye on the boys as they jumped in and out of the surf, but they were more interested in watching planes landing – Jimbaran is so close to the airport that the airstrip is clearly visible from the beach.

Our absolute favourite thing about Jimbaran was eating at one of the many seafood restaurants that line the beach. Watching the sunset with a cold beer in hand and a massive seafood platter on the table, while our boys played in the sand at our feet was a highlight of our trip.

In general we found Bali extremely child-friendly. Most hotels and restaurants had high chairs and many had children’s menus (though this wasn’t necessary as the boys went mad for satay and mie goreng). It was easy to get around, and taxis are cheap and plentiful. The only downside was the amount of heavy traffic and the narrow, uneven pavements. We had a buggy with us, and did manage, but wished we had brought a baby backpack instead.

 

The Best Part

My Family Adventure: Bali and the Gili Islands

 

We all loved the lazy days on Gili Air: playing in the shallow water, saying hi to the cows that grazed in a palm grove outside out guesthouse, eating satay and drinking fruit shakes while lounging on the sand. When the kids were dozing my husband and I could almost imagine we were back in our carefree backpacker days.

 

The best time to visit Bali & the Gili Islands

My family adventure: Unwinding in Bali and the Gili Islands

 

The best weather is between April and September. The busiest periods are July and August and Christmas/New Year.

 

Three Things You Should Definitely Do

My family adventure: Unwinding in Bali and the Gili Islands

 

1) Relax on the beach in the Gili Islands

2) Visit the rice terraces in and around Ubud

3) Eat seafood at sundown on Jimbaran beach.

 

[Tweet “Unwind in #Bali and the #GiliIslands…with kids! #FamilyTravel”]

 

[author] [author_info] About the author: Born in Tanzania to a Ghanaian mother and a British father, Nana Luckham has lived all over the world, including Australia, France, the US and Zimbabwe. Now based in London she works as an editor and travel writer and has co-authored numerous guidebooks for Lonely Planet and Rough Guides. In a previous life she worked as a press officer for the United Nations in both New York and Geneva. Say hello @NanaLuckham.[/author_info] [/author]

 

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My family adventure: Unwinding in Bali and the Gili Islands

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31 thoughts on “Bali & the Gili Islands with Kids!”

  1. I was in Bali over 15-years ago (pre kids) and I’m dying to go back. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of the Gili islands. These look fantastic for families. Glad you mentioned no dogs or motorized vehicles. Must be so tranquil there! Sold!

    1. The lack of motorised vehicles and dogs was one of the things that attracted us! It is wonderfully laid back, lots of families there too – but gaining popularity all the time so get in there quick 🙂 – Nana

  2. This just looks stunning – I’ve seen a few things about the Gili Islands and they sound like paradise. Would love to go there with my daughter, if only we were a bit nearer! #mondayescapes

  3. Oh my goodness this looks absolutely idyllic and has me wavering over my summer plans!! Beautiful photography too. Thank you for linking up to #GlobalKids

  4. Oh gosh… this looks so idyllic and the perfect way to relax in the sun with the kids. Gili Islands have now gone right to the top of my list. I went to Bali many years ago, but didn’t spend hardly any time there, which is such a big regret! Gorgeous photos too. Thanks for sharing on #MondayEscapes

  5. This looks perfect for families, I love the idea of eating dinner on the beach with the kids playing in the sand at my feet. An idyllic place to visit. 🙂

  6. Absolutely amazing!!! I have a friend going to Bali…I will send her your link. I found you through #Mondayescapes. 🙂

  7. Glad to have found you through #MondayEscapes..I always thought I’d somehow make it to Bali pre-kids, but it never happened. I was just saying yesterday actually that I want to plan a trip with the kids in the near future, so will remember your post!

  8. So peaceful and it looks ideal for children, Bali has always intrigued me I love the culture aspect but also the relaxation.

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