Where to Stay in Lombok

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Updated: September 21, 2020

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The Best Areas to Stay in Lombok

Kuta in Lombok

Kuta (Lombok) features an untouched beach and a village vibe.

Even though it has the sort of rice fields, volcanoes, and beaches found on Bali, Lombok is, however, significantly different in numerous ways: the indigenous culture and language are unique; the people are predominately Muslim (but no less welcoming and friendly); and there are far, far fewer tourists. In spite of being hindered by a lack of direct international flights, Lombok offers so much – from museums and palaces in the likable capital to postcard-perfect tropical beaches, many remarkably devoid of mass tourism.

In early August 2018, however, much changed dramatically and, in parts, perhaps irreversibly for tourism. An earthquake shattered the island, including the tourist hotspots of the Gili Islands, killing over 500 people, injuring more than 1,300, and making tens of thousands homeless. Countless buildings were destroyed, many poorly built of wood and tin, and major aftershocks continued for days. The number of tourists plummeted by two-thirds, but by late 2019 much of the tourist regions – especially Senggigi and the Gili Islands – had mostly recovered, with little evidence of the past tragedy and no subsequent tremors. With far fewer tourists these days, prices for everything have often been slashed, so Lombok is great value, especially compared to overpriced, overbuilt, and overcrowded Bali.

Delightfully dissimilar and less than a mile or so apart are the Gili Islands – known simply as the Gilis (although gili means ‘small island’ in the local Sasak language). Gili Trawangan is justifiably regarded as the ‘Party Island’ where sections of the east coast are reminiscent of Kuta in Bali. The closest island to the mainland of Lombok, Gili Air offers a more authentic village vibe while on the smallest, Gili Meno, there is little to do but snorkel and snooze, which appeals to most but may bore some.

On the mainland about 20 miles south of the Gilis, Senggigi features a decent selection of amenities but nothing like those found on Bali. Most resorts there are actually dotted along isolated bays further north in Mangsit and beyond. And the likable island capital, Mataram, is certainly worth a day trip by taxi from Senggigi or even as an alternative place to stay.

Confusingly sharing the same name as the prime tourist region on Bali, Kuta (sometimes spelled ‘Kute’) is being developed as a major destination like nowhere else on the island. Magnificent untouched beaches stretch east (and west) of Kuta as far as the surfing mecca of Gerupuk. The more adventurous may detour to Gili Gede, an idyllic island hanging off the southwest peninsula and reminiscent of the Gili Islands before the onslaught of mass tourism. And absolutely worth visiting even if not hiking around or trekking up the omnipresent Gunung Rinjani volcano are two charming mountainside villages: Senaru on the northern slopes and Tetebatu to the south.

The Best Places to Stay in Lombok

The Oberoi Beach Resort, Lombok

The luxurious Oberoi Beach Resort, Lombok near Senggigi.

Where to Stay in Lombok for…

  • Best Area in Lombok for Sightseeing: Mataram
    The island capital is far more agreeable than most Indonesian cities. It is home to several attractions, including the State Museum; Pura Mayura water palace; Pura Lingsar, Lombok’s most revered temple; Taman Narmada park, built nearly 300 years ago and dedicated to the mighty Rinjani volcano; and Taman Wisata Suranadi, a forest packed with birds and monkeys. The huge markets, historic port, and city streets also provide a genuine slice of Indonesian life. Although only a few miles from Senggigi by taxi, there are also a surprising number of decent and well-priced hotels in Mataram.
  • Best Area in Lombok for Beaches: Gili Meno
    Each of the Gili Islands is completely surrounded by sand, but not all beaches are perfect for swimming or even sunbathing – some are rocky, dirty, and/or choked with seaweed – especially those distant from the upmarket hotels. Even residents of rival islands, Gili Trawangan and Gili Air, grudgingly admit that the finest beaches in the Gilis are on Meno. The sand is often powdery-white; there is less trash from tourists; the beaches are generally uncrowded and, sometimes, deserted; and most of the angled palms have not (yet) been cut down for development.
  • Best Area in Lombok for Hiking and Mountain-Climbing: Senaru
    Dominating Lombok is the colossal Gunung Rinjani volcano, surrounded by the vast Taman Nasional Gunung Rinjani (national park). Treks for up to 5 days can be organized from the 2 main villages on the slopes: Tetebatu (or more commonly known as Senaru) and Senggigi (with transport included). Day hikes in the countryside can also be done independently or with a guide in the national park from Senaru, a cool, charming village with several family-run guesthouses along a ridge north of the volcano. Note: the park closes (and trekking is prohibited) from December/January to March/April.
  • Best Area in Lombok for Surfing: Gerupuk
    Without the crowds and prices found on Bali, canny surfers head to the magnificent waves along the south coast, especially at Gerupuk about 6 miles east of Kuta. The village of Gerupuk is nicely geared towards surfers, e.g. cheap guesthouses as well as lessons, rentals, and repairs. The downside is that most waves are up to 200m offshore (but accessible by chartered boat) and Gerupuk can only be reached by rented motorbike or chartered vehicle (with a driver) from Kuta.
  • Best Areas in Lombok for Water Sports: Senggigi and Mangsit
    The range of fun activities on and above the water across Lombok is far more modest than at major tourist regions on Bali. Paddleboards and kayaks can be rented at Senggigi and especially from the major resorts further north in Mangsit and beyond, but motorized sports like jet-skiing and parasailing are rarely offered anywhere because of local regulations and lack of demand. As Kuta in southern Lombok becomes more developed, an array of water sports to rival parts of Bali is likely.
  • Best Area in Lombok for Scuba Diving: Gili Trawangan
    Under the warm and clear waters surrounding the 3 Gili Islands are about 3,500 species of marine life that includes harmless sharks and giant protected turtles among shimmering reefs – and there’s even a submerged pier encrusted with coral to explore. Diving trips and courses can be arranged on any of the islands but international-standard agencies offering the best facilities and most competitive prices are on the most popular and developed island, Trawangan. The Gili Eco Trust implements a tax on all divers to help protect the underwater delights across the islands.
  • Best Area in Lombok for Boat Trips: Gili Trawangan
    Even getting to the Gili Islands is an adventure in itself, though other boat trips are also available. These include cruises for admiring the sunset, boats for spotting dolphins (not guaranteed), or swimming and snorkeling among coral reefs in boats with glass bottoms. All trips need a minimum number of passengers before leaving, which is much more likely to be possible on Trawangan. Numerous travel agencies sell tickets but it’s better to book directly with one of the boat companies near the terminal. Chartering a boat with a boatman for a private cruise is also possible but fares are fixed and outrageous.
  • Best Area in Lombok for Snorkeling: Gili Meno
    Some of Indonesia’s most pristine coral and remarkable marine life (including giant turtles) is just offshore from all 3 Gili Islands, but be very careful of tides and currents which can be surprisingly strong. With fewer tourists and, therefore, less trash and development on the beaches, the snorkeling in Meno is especially impressive and includes a submerged pier encrusted with coral on the west coast. Masks, snorkels, and fins are easy to rent from stalls where owners can also suggest the prime locations. Otherwise, join a trip on a glass-bottom boat from any of the islands. These provide easier and superior access to reefs and include snorkeling equipment.
  • Best Area in Lombok for Nightlife: Gili Trawangan
    The range of things to do after dark on Trawangan is truly impressive for such a small island – from casual beachside bars with Bob Marley on 24-hour rotation and Irish pubs offering rollicking bands playing passable Western music. It’s also easy to stumble across an open mic show, quiz night, or outdoor movie. Thankfully for those staying along the more serene north and west coasts, these bars and clubs are jammed into a compact area along the foreshore and lanes near the boat terminal.
  • Best Area in Lombok for Food and Restaurants: Gili Air
    The range of places to eat and the choice of food across the 3 tiny Gili Islands is quite amazing. Either side of a classy Italian bistro may be a casual eatery selling tasty tacos and a European-standard restaurant specializing in seafood. The variety is widest on Trawangan but many restaurants insist on loud background music, while dining on the quieter island of Meno is often marred by slow service. What makes Gili Air special is the chance to try authentic Indonesian and local Sasak food such as ayam taliwang (marinated chicken) and beberuk terong (eggplant in tomato sauce) at traditional warungs (food stalls). Learn more at Gili Cooking Classes.
  • Best Area in Lombok for Vibe and Culture: Mataram
    Much of the Gili Islands is overdeveloped and quite touristy while places in Lombok outside of Senggigi and Kuta are not that easy to reach. The agreeable capital of Mataram, which offers many decent hotels and is only a short taxi trip from Senggigi, is worth visiting for a genuine slice of Indonesian life. The sprawling markets (see later) are enthralling and several historic temples, mosques, gardens, and palaces can be easily visited. Adding to the appeal are the friendly people and lack of tourists.
  • Best Area in Lombok for Cycling: Gili Air
    With no vehicles (except some electric bicycles) or public transport (other than overpriced horse-carts), cycling is often the best way to get around any of the 3 Gili Islands. Bike rentals are easy to arrange on Gili Trawangan and Gili Air (less on Gili Meno), but paths on Trawangan can be overcrowded with walkers and often too sandy on Meno. With the largest population of local people, Gili Air offers many paths around the coast and among the village.
  • Best Area in Lombok for Markets and Malls: Mataram
    The enjoyable capital of Lombok (and the province) offers the best of both worlds: sprawling old-style markets and modern malls with a size and choice to rival Bali. For all sorts of fruits, vegetables, and meats, as well as handicrafts and clothes, visit the markets at Cakranegara and Mandalika – tourists are almost non-existent at both. The Lombok Handicraft Centre is a little touristy but the Lombok Fish Market is always fascinating. For air-conditioned comfort, try the Mataram Mall (with a games arcade) or Lombok Epicentrum Mall (with a cinema and food court).
  • Best Area in Lombok for History: Mataram
    The main tourist regions – the Gili Islands, Kuta, and Senggigi – were sparsely populated before the onset of mass tourism, so they offer no historical attractions. Virtually all of Lombok’s old buildings, temples, and palaces – some hundreds of years old – are conveniently in one place: the island capital, Mataram, which is just a short taxi trip from Senggigi. Refer to ‘Sightseeing’ above for ideas about what to visit.
  • Best Area in Lombok for Serenity: Gili Gede
    The number of tourists in Lombok is far lower than on Bali, although the main areas – the Gili Islands, Senggigi, and Kuta – can still get quite busy, especially during the peak seasons of July, August, and mid-December to late January. To escape the crowds, stay on Gili Gede, a petite island off the isolated southwestern peninsula of Lombok. Resembling the Gili Islands of Trawangan, Air, and Meno from 30 years ago, Gede is far off the tourist trail and thus not easy to reach. Serenity is guaranteed but facilities are limited.
  • Best Areas in Lombok for Families: Senggigi and Mangsit
    Not a common destination for families, Lombok cannot possibly compete with Bali, home to numerous mega-resorts with kids clubs, playgrounds, and children’s pools. Also, unlike Bali, Lombok has no zoos, adventure parks, and other fun activities to keep the young ones occupied. The Gili Islands are too small and, perhaps, idyllic to interest children, but along the southern coast of Lombok, Kuta may develop in future years as a fabulous place for families. Currently, the finest area for families is Senggigi and the larger resorts to the north in Mangsit and beyond.
  • Best Area in Lombok for Value: Gili Gede
    The major regions of Lombok can be overpriced – the always-popular Gili Islands, soon-to-be-developed Kuta coastline, and long-established Senggigi, especially the resorts further north in Mangsit. Far from crowds of free-spending tourists are the cheap guesthouses and simple restaurants on Gili Gede, a quiet, undeveloped island that’s not easy to reach.
  • Best Area in Lombok for Transport: Senggigi
    Unlike other tourist regions in Lombok, bemos (old minibusses or newer pick-up trucks) ply the road between Senggigi and the nearby capital, Mataram (but they rarely venture north of Senggigi). Metered taxis are common and useful for reaching remote resorts north of Senggigi and the many attractions in Mataram. Perama, the major shuttle bus company that covers Bali, has an office in Senggigi and provides services to Kuta, Lombok’s airport at Praya, and Bali.
  • Best Area in Lombok for the Airport: Kuta
    In 2001, Lombok’s only international/domestic airport shifted from the center of Mataram (handy to Senggigi) to Praya in the south (convenient for Kuta). With no public transport or metered taxis in the area, the only way to/from the airport is by Perama shuttle bus or a private car with a driver. These hang around the airport or can be pre-arranged through your hotel.
  • Best Area in Lombok for First-Timers: Senggigi
    The crowds on the Gili Islands, especially during the peak seasons of July, August, and mid-December to late January can be overwhelming, and even getting there on crowded speedboats is a little daunting for the inexperienced. Along the southern coast, Kuta is undertaking considerable development and facilities may not yet be adequate for the expected influx of tourists. So, those visiting Indonesia and Lombok for the first time may consider staying at Senggigi, a compact and long-established tourist region that’s easy to reach and get around by metered taxi.
  • Best Area in Lombok for Romantic Holidays: Gili Meno
    Surrounded by turquoise waters and bleached-white sand, the Gili Islands are ideal for a honeymoon or romantic getaway. The ‘Party Island’ of Trawangan may overwhelm some visitors (especially during the peak seasons of July, August, and mid-December to late January), while the more authentic island of Gili Air, with its mosques, markets, and schools, may not be the tropical paradise some are searching for. As Meno is the smallest and, therefore, the least developed and the least crowded island of the Gilis, the cozy resorts and clusters of bungalows can offer the sort of seclusion, intimacy, and beach frontage usually not possible at the other two islands.
  • Safest Area in Lombok: Gili Gede
    Many possible dangers are self-inflicted, e.g. drug-taking and excessive drinking, while other major potential hazards are linked to motorbikes, surfing, scuba diving, and other adventure activities. Physical and sexual assaults in and around the nightclubs and bars of Senggigi and Gili Trawangan are possible (but very rare), and several years ago some tourists suffered and even died from illegally-made alcohol on the Gili Islands, but this has virtually stopped. (Always take care, however.) Well off the tourist trail and with no nightclubs, water sports, or traffic, safety is maximized on the remote island of Gili Gede.
  • Least Safe Area in Lombok: Gili Trawangan
    Lombok is probably far safer than where tourists have come from and most dangers are avoidable (see above). As explained earlier, be careful on the Gili Islands, especially at the many nightclubs and bars on Trawangan. On all 3 islands, street lights are usually inadequate or often absent, particularly along village lanes and remote coastal areas, so carry a torch after dark and don’t walk alone in unlit areas. With no police station on any Island, security is usually under the auspices of local community ‘guards’.

The 11 Best Areas in Lombok for Tourists

Senggigi in Lombok

The pristine beaches a few miles to the north of Senggigi are deserted.

1. Gili Trawangan

The largest of the 3 Gili Islands, Trawangan is geographically and culturally the closest to Bali. Most activities revolve around the water during the day and the bars after dark. As the most visited and accessible island, with frequent speedboat connections to Bali and the mainland of Lombok, Trawangan offers far more facilities than the other 2 islands combined. Most hotels, restaurants, shops, and, especially, bars are along the east coast near the boat terminal. This area is very crowded and noisy but provides the finest choice of accommodations across the 3 islands. Trawangan is popular with the younger set, so those older and seeking some peace and authenticity may consider staying on the other 2 islands or, at least, far from the boat terminal on Trawangan.

2. Gili Air

The second-largest Gili Island was the first to be permanently settled because of its proximity to the mainland of Lombok and source of fresh water. (Oddly enough, air means ‘water’ in Indonesian.) Despite increasing development, Gili Air retains a genuine village vibe not found on Trawangan and Men, and the range of food is arguably the finest in Lombok. Most developed and convenient to amenities is the area along the south coast near the boat terminal, while many hotels elsewhere (even those moderately priced) offer beach frontage. No hotel is recommended for families, however.

3. Gili Meno

Many visitors to the Gili Islands prefer the party action on Gili Trawangan or convenience of Gili Air, so Gili Meno, the smallest, is comparatively very peaceful despite recent construction of boutique resorts and bungalow complexes. The beaches are particularly delightful and pleasantly uncrowded, and snorkeling just offshore is possible. The downsides are the poor cycling paths and lack of direct speedboats from Bali and Lombok (often necessitating an overnight connection on Trawangan or Air islands). And note: some cheaper hotels may not have air-conditioning and/or hot water.

4. Senggigi

Compared to the main tourist regions on Bali, the facilities around Senggigi are very modest, but the main attractions are the lack of tourists, convenience for transport, modest array of water sports, and access to the Gili Islands just up the coast. While ideal for families and first-time visitors, Senggigi has an unremarkable beach that does, nonetheless, become impossibly crowded with locals on weekends. The range of accommodations is decent enough but be warned, many hotels in central Senggigi are within earshot of at least one very noisy nightclub. Most resorts and boutique hotels listed as being in Senggigi are, however, in Mangsit or beyond (see below).

5. Mangsit

Most hotels and resorts claiming to be in Senggigi are dotted among coves along the coast to the north between Senggigi and Bangsal (the terminal for public boats to the Gili Islands). The beaches at places like Mangsit are often an unappealing grey, but they are usually deserted and very scenic. The main attraction is the seclusion, which does mean, however, a lack of nearby facilities for tourists and lengthy taxi trips: up to 25 minutes from Senggigi and over an hour from the airport. A few cheaper places are spread up the hills, but most accommodations are luxury resorts and boutique hotels accessible along the main road.

6. Mataram

An easy day-trip by metered taxi from Senggigi, the provincial capital of Mataram is home to numerous worthwhile attractions (refer to Sightseeing earlier). The streets and extensive markets offer an authentic slice of Indonesian life, while the malls are as big and brash as those on Bali. The range of hotels is surprisingly impressive, too, but caters mostly for business people.

7. Kuta

Facing a delightful beach along the south coast, Kuta (sometimes spelt Kute) has been scheduled for major development for many years. The multi-million-dollar Mandalika Project includes resorts and theme parks as well as a golf course and motor-racing track. The backstreets retain a village feel and, hopefully, the vast weekly market will survive, but the days of bamboo huts on the sand selling beers and renting snorkeling gear have long gone. Within 20 minutes by taxi of the international/domestic airport, Kuta is gradually replacing Senggigi as the prime tourist region on the mainland, and only a few miles to the west and east (see below), perfect coves of white sand remain untouched.

8. Coast East of Kuta/Bumbang

Several almost-circular coves of white sand with islets just offshore are only a few miles east (and west) of Kuta. Despite major development in Kuta itself, these beaches remain pleasingly untouched (so far). Reaching them, however, is problematic, and limited to a rented motorbike or chartered car/van with a driver. Perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling, the secluded beaches of Pantai Seger and Pantai Tanjung Aan are actually quicker to reach from Kuta via the sand rather than the road. Further east is the chilled-out surfer enclave with guesthouses at Gerupuk, and another road east of Kuta stops at the fishing village of Awang with its mangrove bays and abandoned port.

9. Gili Gede

In the indigenous Sasak language, gili means ‘small island’ and doesn’t only refer to the more renowned Gili Islands of Trawangan, Air, and Meno. Gili Gede is probably what Gili Trawangan looked like 30 years ago and parts of Bali did in the 1960s. Just off the coast of a remote peninsula in the southwest, reaching Gede is half the fun. Amenities are limited but the family-run guesthouses and eateries are very good value.

10. Senaru

Along the northern slope of Gunung Rinjani volcano which absolutely dominates Lombok, Senaru is the main place to organize a trek to and around the volcanic peak. The main road which ends at the trekking center near the start of the trail is lined with delightful family-run guesthouses offering million-dollar views. So much quieter and cooler than the sticky coastal regions, Senaru is also worth visiting just for easy hikes to thunderous waterfalls and rice-terraced valleys. But note: amenities are very limited and the village can only be reached by chartered vehicle with a driver.

11. Tetebatu

Spread across the southern slope of Gunung Rinjani volcano, Tetebatu is (like Senaru – see above) set on a lush mountain ridge. Along the main road through the village and a side street leading to the majestic Jeruk Manis waterfalls are about a dozen rustic homestays with simple restaurants attached. Tetebatu is a popular place to finish a trek starting in Senaru (beginning in Tetebatu is less common). Guided day hikes are also easy to arrange among rice fields and plantations of vanilla, coffee, and tobacco. But note: amenities are very limited and the village can only be reached by chartered vehicle with a driver.

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