The Insider's Guide to Bali's Lesser Known Cousin- Lombok, Indonesia

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. 
~Martin Buber

What do you do when you discover paradise? Do you run around telling everyone? Or do you keep it to yourself? Lois and I took a lot of time to think about whether we should share our little paradise of Lombok to the world. We felt such a connection with the land and its locals that we kept it to ourselves for so long.

But the secret is out and we're sharing it with you!

Lombok is a predominantly Muslim island east of Bali. It's only half an hour away by plane but what a world of difference! It's so much more laid back that locals say this is how Bali was a few decades ago before it became such a popular tourist spot. So we just had to see it!

I first traveled to Lombok with another friend, Sarah, after our week long preview of Bali. We didn't know what to expect of Lombok. People told us there was nothing to do there but surf or party at the Gilis. We had energy for both so we bravely flew over with little plans and played it by ear.

Indonesia Guide GiliAir

Gili Islands

Take a shuttle from the shiny new Lombok Airport to Bangsal Port early in the morning. We made the mistake of hiring a car that ripped us off and took us to a private boat that wanted 500,000 IDR (52 USD) for a 15 minute charted ride. The standard price is no more than 10,000 IDR ( 1 USD) to any of the three Gili islands on a public boat. Just bear with the other passengers that may include a few chickens and goats.

Indonesia Guide GiliMeno

Cimodos or horse drawn carriages welcome you as motorized transport is not allowed on any of the islands. Eco-conscious Gili Trawangan has also been likened to Ibiza. With no police anywhere, tourists party beyond their limits! When you've recovered, take a half day tour to snorkel around Gili Meno and Gili Air and choose to stay in these smaller islands if you want to scuba dive or just want to get away from it all.

Everyone on Gili Trawangan settles down on Rainbow beach to watch the pink sunset. And this is where I met some friends from Seychelles. We ended up spinning poi and doing tipsy yoga on the beach before heading to a buffet dinner. We grooved to the band at Sama-Sama Reggae bar and they played the best live music I've heard in all of Indonesia with all its 7 band members.

Indonesia Guide Kuta Beach

Kuta Beach

Most of the accommodations and restaurants are on the main strip, Jalan Pantai Kuta. Check out Kuta Baru Homestay for cozy rooms and a new pool for about 200,000 IDR (21 USD) per night. Wake up at 9am for yoga (the legit kind) at Solah and enjoy a healthy filling breakfast. Bond with the local kids selling bracelets and a few other things that might shock you. Kite boarders will enjoy solitude on its kilometers long white sand bay. If you're renting a board, there's a lot of variety here. Just make sure you screw the surf fins the right way.

Indonesia Guide Ashtari Restaurant

Have lunch at Ashtari, just up the hill for the most delicious organic food and breathtaking views of the entire south coast. It's only open till 6pm so be sure to drop by before that. Everyone gathers around the beach bonfire at night while listening to old reggae. Liquor will be passed around and watch out for that deadly bottle of  arak, the local brew.  It tastes like vinegar to the uninitiated.

Indonesia Guide Tanjungan


We were breezing past Tanjungan beach on a motorcycle when I had to dig for my iPhone in my bag at the risk of falling off. I simply had to take a video for I haven't seen anything like it. This place is paradise! I was filled with emotion as I took my first few steps on the powdery white sand! Lono, our local tour guide/surf instructor brought us to a secluded spot. I kept telling him this was the best beach I've ever seen.

I couldn't help but run to the water!

On another trip here, I hitched a ride with Änsa, a friend from the Netherlands and parked our motorcycle at the usual entrance. We had smoothies and pancakes from the warung (small local restaurant) while he and South African Marki tried to catch up to my tan. If you can get up at 5am, trek up the hill and witness turtles hatching!


Indonesia Guide Gerupuk

A narrow boat passes through a lobster farm to take you to a surf break called Gerupuk, Lois' favorite surf spot for its consistent rights. You'll know you've reached it when you see small boats anchored on the far right and the head high right hand break a short paddle away. A lot of beginners come here to surf and there are 3 spots to choose from in the area depending on your level of expertise. It gets crowded after 10 AM though so get there early because the tide gets too low by noon.

Segar Beach

Indonesia Guide Segar Beach

For sunset, hitch a ride with a scruffy backpacker to Segar and enjoy the scenic ride. Pass through gorgeous fields, rivers and a few goats and cows. Novotel, a luxury resort with its own private beach is also on the way. I have yet to try their famous yet pricey BBQ buffet.

There are a few hills in the area you can choose to climb. I recommend the small one nearest to the store selling food and refreshments. The Swedes I went with one time wanted to climb every hill in the area, of course. We went up my favorite mound and were immediately awestruck by the endless ocean. This is my favorite place on earth to meditate.

Photo enthusiasts should come to this place at least an hour before sunset. Grab your tripod and take as many panoramas and time lapse videos as your SD card would allow!

Indonesia Guide Mawun

Mawun Beach 

The panoramic views en route to Mawun make you forget how dangerous the motorcycle ride is! I've never seen such a perfectly shaped crescent beach. This place is often deserted, but you're lucky if you find someone selling batik sarongs, about 50,000 IDR (5USD) after bargaining. Pick your spot for a siesta or read a book while enjoying a healthy coconut. No straws please!

Indonesia Guide Mawi


Gather your new beach buddies and split the cost of a hired van for about 300,000 IDR (31 USD) per day to take you all the way to Mawi. The bumpy hour long ride takes you through some villages, mountains and all sorts of plantations. It might be difficult to navigate especially if you're a first timer so be sure to hire a guide. There is a tiny island across the beach that has quite an interesting shape. If you're a kamikaze surfer, try the fast overhead left.

Indonesia Guide Selong Belanak

Selong Belanak

Just a short drive away from Mawi is Selong Belanak, yet another stunning white sand beach that's perfect for just chillaxing. Catch a few waves on a long board, have a mi goreng (local noodles) and pineapples at the warungs. And be sure to wait for the magnificent sunset before heading back home.

I haven't met anyone in Lombok who hasn't extended their stay or wasn't already planning their next trip back. A lot of foreigners like my Spanish friends actually settled down here and built a home stay. I also found myself scouting around and being amazed at how cheap the land still is. The southern coast of Lombok is heaven for surfers, vast and undiscovered. It's the kind of island you only thought existed in movies and you end up daydreaming about a long time after you've left.

If you have a few more days and a lot more stamina, climb up Mount Rinjani with a guide, find out what Tete Batu is or take the long drive to a surfer's piece of heaven called Desert Point which I have yet to see.

These are just a few insider tips from the last visits I've made to Lombok. If you've had enough of the crowds of Bali, Lombok offers a quiet retreat but also the possibility of making new friends.

Come visit before everyone else discovers it!

Indonesia Guide GiliTrawangan

How to make this trip happen:

-Roundtrip flights from Bali cost about 291,000 IDR (30 USD) and would take around 30 minutes. If you're on a budget, you can take the public ferry from Padang Bai to Lembar which runs every hour, 24 hours a day. The ride takes 4-5 hours though. It would cost you about 36,000 IDR (4 USD) and you still need to get take a van or motorbike to wherever you need to go in Lombok. We just saved ourselves the hassle and booked a flight.

-Don't forget to ask for a seat on the left side of the plane to see Mount Rinjani in all its glory.

-Public transportation is almost non-existent. The cheapest way around the island is on motorbike. Look around for the best motorbike rates and rent them daily. Check the tires, locks and brakes before driving off. There have been reported incidents of motorbike theft so take extra precautions.

-There are a lot of ATMs right on the beach so don't fret if you didn't bring enough cash.

About the author:

Adi Zarsadias was a corporate yuppie before she discovered she's happier spending everyday surfing, practicing yoga and traveling. Her passions have awakened her and at the same time continue to force her out of her comfort zone. She is currently completing Antigravity Yoga teacher training, a workout that uses a silk hammock through therapeutic poses and inversions. Her dream is to travel all the best beaches in the world while encouraging people to practice yoga. Adi's projects also include Secret Spot, a rustic surf resort in beautiful Baler, Aurora. Follow her adventures at Love the Search.

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3 sole trails

  1. Perfect place to chillax. From LIFE NOTES:

  2. Hope you do make it out to beautiful, peaceful Lombok and discover your own side of paradise!


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