You might be thinking, “Where exactly is Lombok? It sounds familiar but I can’t quite place it…” This slightly off-the-radar beach destination is just 40 miles east of Bali and accesible by boat or a short flight but it couldn’t feel farther away. Think Bali before mass tourism hit — lush and green, with miles of beaches mostly devoid of any large developments. Unlike Bali, however, which is predominantly Hindu, Lombok is Muslim. The vibe there is simple island living — all about surfing, sunsets, snorkelling, seafood. No fashion boutiques or trendy restaurants. Plus, prices are very reasonable.
Where to Stay:
Senggigi is the main tourist town on Lombok and most accommodations are centered in this area. But the best beaches are in the Southern part of the island and should not be missed! There are very few hotel chains in Lombok as most places are smaller, boutique style resorts.
- Qunci Villas: We stayed at this boutique resort just 10 minutes north of Senggigi in a two-bedroom pool villa. The villas are on a hillside separate from the hotel — but accessible to the hotel facilities via a one-minute drive up/down the hill. We loved the privacy and sea view from the villa and didn’t have to worry about shushing the kids to keep quiet. But there are a variety of family-friendly accommodation options including one and two-bedroom rooms with private pools. There are three swimming pools along the beachfront (one is adults only), three restaurants, and a nice spa. While the beach in front of the hotel is not ideal for kids, as there are some strong waves and not a lot of sand, there are many nearby beaches where the little can play on the beach and the hotel can arrange transportation there.
- The Oberoi, Lombok: Located on Medana beach, this large, luxury resort has both traditional rooms and villas. It is farther away from Senggigi but closer to the Gili Islands and the airport.
- The Lombok Lodge: More boutique but still posh, and also on Medana beach, this resort has just nine lodge suites. The Family Lodge suites have two or three-bedrooms.
- Seven Havens: This stunning villa is perched on a hill with expansive views of Selong Belanak beach, rice fields, and distant islands. There are 3 bedrooms (1 master suite slightly separate) and an infinity pool. Your stay here includes transportation to the beach, a chef, English speaking manager and it’s only a 30-minute drive from Lombok International airport.
- Sempiak Villas: Situated on a hill near Selong Belanak beach, this small villa resort does not allow children under 12-years old. The Villa Kesambi in the complex can sleep up to 4 people. There is buggy transportation to and from the beach.
- Novotel Lombok: One of the few large hotel chains in the area, it is situated near Kuta beach and offers a kids club (a rarity in Lombok).
What to Do:
- Gili Islands: You can’t leave Lombok without snorkelling around the three islands known collectively as the Gili Islands. Just a few kilometers off the northwest coast of Lombok, they are easily accessible from most hotels in the Senggigi area by a short boat ride. Stop at a snorkelling spot near each of the islands and you are sure to spot some sea turtles. Take a break for lunch at a simple beachside restaurant on one of the islands (where there are no cars or motorized transport — just horse carts!). My daughter said she felt like she was “back in time.” This is a backpacker hotspot (which made me feel old!) for its bohemian island living and simple accommodations.
- Hike Mt. Rinjani: If you have older, athletic kids (age 10+), a trek up this active volcano (the second highest peak in Indonesia) is a rewarding experience. There are trekking agencies that will arrange tents, guide, porters, food, etc. If you can pull yourself away from the gorgeous beaches, you will need to allow three full days of hiking plus an additional night in Senaru before the trek (and possibly at the end of the trek). Rinjani Lodge is a good pre and post-trek option. If you have limited time, you can start in Senaru village and hike to the crater lake, spend the night and then hike back down the following day. Needless to say, it’s a challenging hike.
- Autore Pearl Farm: Just 30 minutes north of Senggigi, this pearl farm offers a fascinating tour, with a step-by-step explanation of how pearls are cultivated. It was over-the-head of our three-year old, but the older kids were captivated by the process. And now we all understand why pearls can be so expensive — it’s very labor intensive! Our guide, Gibo, spoke excellent English and kept everyone riveted for over an hour. There is a fee for adults but kids are free. There is also a very pricey shop, of course, but no pressure to buy. The website is currently under construction but ask your hotel to call ahead and let them know you are coming. Generally, it is open from 9-5 pm everyday.
- Surfing: Selong Belanak beach is ideal for both beginner and experienced surfers. There are several surf “schools” on the beach with friendly, English-speaking instructors. You can rent a board with a private two-hour lesson for very reasonable rates. Try Bolo Surf School and ask for Dolo (no, that is not a typo!). You can also rent boogie boards.
- The “other” Gili islands: Situated in Southwest Lombok these small islands are easily accessible by outrigger boat. There is a turtle hatchery on Gili Nanggu where you can “adopt” a turtle and release it into the wild and receive a certificate. There are several snorkelling spots around the islands including starfish point where red and blue starfish are abundant. These islands are much less developed than their more famous sister islands in Northwest Lombok. There are a couple of small bungalow style accommodations and a few simple beach restaurants serving mostly local food.
- The Spa by Sempiak: Just steps away from Selong Belanak beach, the spa has several bungalows for a variety of treatments with reasonable prices. They book up quickly in the afternoons so, be sure to reserve in advance.
- Sukarara Weaving Village: This traditional weaving village is the center of production for traditional hand-woven fabric from the Sasak tribe. You can purchase the woven fabric directly from the craftswomen and try your hand at the weaving process. This is a good stopover on your way to/from the airport if you have time.
Where to Eat:
- Aura Lounge & Bar: Situated at the top of the hill with incredible views over Selong Belanak Bay, this casual chic spot does not fail to impress. Arrive before sunset for a cocktail at the bar. The menu includes both Western and local items and service is friendly.
- Laut Biru Bar & Restaurant: This beachy-cool restaurant sits directly on Selong Belanak beach. It serves a mix of a variety of dishes and is open all day. It’s the perfect place to take a break from the sun or to watch the sunset while listening to the crashing waves and feeling the ocean breeze.
- NuNulle Part Ailleurs: A small restaurant in a thatched hut within the Tiki Lodge — a boutique hotel with eleven rooms — serving up Western and Asian food with a French influence. It’s open for lunch and dinner but best to call ahead so they know you are coming.
- Ashtari Lounge & Restaurant: Positioned high on a hill overlooking Kuta beach, this lounge and restaurant offers all day dining. It’s a great stopping point for an afternoon snack or for sunset drinks.
How to Get There:
- Silk Air flies from Singapore with almost 2.5 hour flying time. This option is a great way to fly with a large airline and combine your beach escape with a city stopover in Singapore for a few days. There is a layover in Singapore on the way back but there is a lot to do in Changi airport to keep everyone occupied.
- Garuda and Lion Air fly to Lombok with about 20 minutes flying time — but be mindful of connections as flights are often delayed.
- You can also arrive in Lombok from Bali by ferry. There is a fast ferry (two hours) or public ferry (four hours) depending on sea conditions and where you are setting off from/disembarking.
When to Go:
- The best time to visit is during the dry season from April to October.
- It’s very humid during the rainy season but usually there is only heavy rain for an hour or two during the day.
- You will need a lot of Rupiah! Some places accept US$ but Rupiah is always preferred.
- Be sure to bring any medicines that you or the kids might need.
- Bring your own snorkelling masks and flippers for the kids to ensure proper fitting. Try them at home before you leave in the swimming pool so you don’t spend most of the time in the water making adjustments!
- Make plans to see this beautiful island before it is discovered by the masses! There are several villa developments under construction already in the Selong Belanak area so, change is coming!