There’s more to Indonesia than just the island of Bali. Last month we spent a week and a half exploring things to do in Lombok, an island directly east of Bali. We were pleasantly surprised at how many family-friendly things there were to do during our Lombok trip. And we can’t recommend enough this island to any family visiting Indonesia.
Coming to Indonesia and only visiting Bali is like coming to Italy and only visiting Venice. These cities are actually not accurate representations of their countries. To really understand Indonesian culture, you need to explore some of the other islands. And in the case of Lombok travel, I think families miss out by not going to this island.
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Why you should consider a Lombok trip
Visiting Lombok gives families a chance to learn about a different side of Indonesia. Unlike the crowded tourist island of Bali, this island is quiet, with a more laid-back pace. Part of this is due to the earthquakes the island experienced in 2018. The island is still recovering from the decrease in tourism. This is a shame because the culture of the island is absolutely worth experiencing.
Lombok is a Muslim island, so you’ll see many mosques around. While this means that you will need to dress more conservatively if you’re doing a Lombok trip, you won’t really need to change your behavior too much. Families can still have fun experiencing the things to do in Lombok.
Basics of Lombok travel
Planning Lombok travel is fairly simple. From Bali, you can get to Lombok by taking either a two hour fast boat or a five hour public ferry. The fast boats cost between Rp. 150,000-175,000 per person (roughly $10.50-12.50 USD), depending on the company. The ferry boat costs Rp. 46,000 per person (less than $4 USD), and the ride is a lot smoother since it’s a bigger boat.
Once on the island of Lombok, there are several transportation options for your Lombok travel. Cars are available to rent in the big city of Mataram. Gojek, Grab, and taxis also exist in Lombok. And for short distances during your Lombok trip, they can be convenient options. We rented motor scooters during our stay, and that allowed us to do all the things to do in Lombok with relative ease.
In terms of where to stay, most travelers tend to stay either in the town of Sengiggi in western Lombok or in Kuta in the southern part of Lombok. Many of the things to do in Lombok are centered around those two cities. Our family stayed at an Airbnb near the city of Mataram during our Lombok trip. So most of my suggestions for activities are on the western part of the island. You can read about suggestions for things to do in the other parts of the island in the Lonely Planet Bali, Lombok, and Nusa Tenggara guide book.
Our favorite things to do in Lombok
While the island of Lombok has a much more laid back vibe than Bali, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t many things to do in Lombok. On the contrary, there were so many things to choose from, we didn’t have time to do it all during our stay! Here are our favorite Lombok travel activities that families can do on the island.
#1. Watch the sunset
The island of Lombok has plenty of great places to watch the sunset. The beaches along the west side of the island are prime spots for sunset watching. You can also drive up to some cliffs to catch a glimpse of the sunset. One of the best places to watch the sunset is at Malimbu Hill or on Senggigi Beach.
#2. Have dinner on the beach
Having dinner on the beach is a must for your Lombok travel itinerary. The popular beach side restaurants for tourists are along Senggigi Beach, behind the art market (Pasar Seni). However, our family found a set of beachside restaurants near the town of Meninting that was popular among the locals, with prices almost half of what we would pay in Senggigi. The street is called Jalan Nelayan.
#3. Release baby turtles
One of the things that Senggigi Beach has to offer, though, is a chance to release baby sea turtles into the ocean. In a small kiosk on the beach, a group of men offer visitors a chance to release baby sea turtles for the price of a donation.
Speaking to the men, I learned that the sea turtle eggs are laid on the beach by the mother sea turtle, and then the men bring them to their kiosk so that the eggs are safely in one place. The men wait for the turtles to be a few weeks old before they are released, so that they can have a better chance of survival. Our kids loved releasing the baby sea turtles!
#4. Indulge at a resort for the day
From time to time, we do enjoy pampering ourselves. When we were in Bali, we spent a day relaxing at some Bali hot springs. And in India, we splurged on a night’s stay at the famous Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai. During our recent Lombok travel, we decided to pamper ourselves with an afternoon of swimming at a nice hotel pool.
Several of the hotels in Lombok provide resort day passes, which allow you to come for the day and have access to the pool. The Jayakarta, just north of Mataram, offers day passes for Rp. 60,000 per person. The Sheraton, located in Senggigi Beach, also offers day passes for Rp. 120,000. Their passes include a snack and a drink.
#5. Visit a local beach
One of the things to do in Lombok that we enjoyed was visiting places frequented by locals. There are plenty of local beaches to choose from, but our favorite was Nipah Beach. Unlike Senggigi Beach, which is popular for tourists, Nipah Beach is almost exclusively frequented by locals. We spent a relaxing afternoon there, playing in the water and eating freshly grilled fish at a local warung on the beach!
#6. Hang out in Ampenan
Another local hang out to visit during your Lombok trip is the Ampenan board walk. Ampenan was the former port for Lombok. These days, it has a decidedly sleepy feel. But the boardwalk along the water is still fairly hopping, especially during the evenings. Food vendors line the board walk, selling a variety of food, like satay, grilled fish, grilled corn, or local iced drinks. There are also games and activities for kids to do.
#7. Sample local food
Speaking of food, the cuisine in Lombok is much different from the cuisine in Bali. The local food in Lombok is spicier, and utilizes a lot of the seafood that’s available around the island. We stumbled on a seafood restaurant near Senggigi called Sasak Seafood Restaurant. They serve seafood cooked in the traditional style of the local ethnic group of Lombok, the Sasak. Alternatively, you can sample some of the street food around Mataram or along the beach.
#8. Take a day trip to the Gili Islands
Many travelers skip Lombok travel altogether and go directly to the Gili Islands, a set of three islands located off the northwest coast of Lombok. While I think it’s a shame to miss out on Lombok, visiting the Gili Islands is certainly a must on my list of things to do in Lombok. The Gili Islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air) are known for their beautiful beaches and snorkeling.
From Lombok, you can opt for a private boat or day tour. They cost around Rp. 250,000 per person, and includes your own private boat for your group. Alternatively, you can go to the Gili Islands via a public boat. We took the public boat to Gili Trawangan, and only paid Rp. 22,500 per person each way. The dock for the public boat is located in the village of Bangsal, to the northwest of the island.
#9. Experience some of the historical and cultural things to do in Lombok
While Lombok doesn’t have as rich of a culture or history as Bali, it’s still worth getting to know and exploring. The island’s local ethnic group are the Sasak, but because it used to be a colony of Bali, there are also Balinese who live there as well.
One of the sights we visited was Taman Narmada, which is a park that was created in 1727 by the Raja of Mataram. The layout of the park is meant to resemble Mount Rinjani, the island’s highest volcano. There is a pool there that is supposedly full of water from the fountain of youth. But we just opted to splash around in the wading pool with our kids. Entrance to Taman Narmada is Rp. 15,000 for (foreign) adults.
We didn’t have a chance to do any other cultural or historical activities during our trip. Visitors often enjoy visiting the Sasak village, where they can learn about the local culture. The Islamic Center in Mataram is also worth visiting, from what I hear.
Making the most of the things to do in Lombok
We wish we had more time to explore the island. There are so many things to do in Lombok, we couldn’t fit them all into our short time there.
If you’re planning a Lombok trip, I invite you to try out some of the things to do in Lombok that I listed in the post. And let me know in the comments how your Lombok travel went!
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