Lombok geographically is almost the same size as Bali and, just as there are popular tourist areas on Bali, so Lombok offers a variety of destinations to suit different holidaymakers' tastes. Following is an overview of the most popular areas to stay in Lombok.
Senggigi is the main tourist area on the mainland, with the town stretching along several fantastic bays on the west coast, and is only 20 minutes from the island's Selaparang airport. It is the ideal base from which to explore the island, and all major tourist attractions can be reached by day trips from Senggigi, including boat trips from Senggigi Bay out to the Gilis. There is a wide range of accommodations ranging from the five-star Sheraton Senggigi Beach Resort to elegant private villas to comfortable small hotels and home stays. The main street in town runs parallel to the beach and is lined with restaurants, shops, banks, moneychangers and other tourist facilities. Nowhere near as developed as Kuta in Bali, Senggigi is a delightful place to stay while relaxing, dining and exploring.
Senggigi Bay is a large clean beach around which Senggigi has developed, with resorts running from the beach to the main road. The beach is a great place to hang out, sunbath and enjoy a massage, or swim and snorkel in the clear waters. The Pasar Seni (Art Market) faces onto the beach, with restaurants and bars overlooking the bay and small shops selling souvenirs, clothes and handicrafts in the market behind. The beachfront hotels and restaurants are good places to watch the magical Lombok sunsets, when the sun sinks into the ocean behind Bali, silhouetting the volcanoes against the sky.
Slightly farther north, the resort areas of Kerandangan and Mangsit offer a variety of good accommodations, including the stylish Qunci Villas, Puri Mas Boutique Resorts, Windy Beach Resort and Holiday Resort. The beaches here have white sand and clear turquoise waters and are largely deserted.
At night, there is a great range of entertainment on offer, as well as fabulous dining in some of the Senggigi restaurants. There's international fine dining, cuisines ranging from Thai, Japanese, Mexican and Korean (to name a few), or spicy local Lombok fare all on offer. A number of restaurants and bars have live entertainment with talented local bands playing popular music at night; and there are several nightclubs and discos featuring top bands, DJs and guest stars from around the nation. Senggigi caters to all types of holidaymakers - there are budget options for travelers, romantic options for couples and honeymooners, and wonderful places for families with children of all ages.
The Gili Islands are one of the most popular destinations on Lombok; every year thousands of people flock to these three small islands just off the northwest coast of Lombok. With many fast boat options such as Gili Cat and Blue Water Express providing easy transfers between the Gilis and Bali, the islands have become a popular getaway not just for overseas travelers but for those living on Bali too.
Each of the islands has a distinctively different "feel", which makes them an ideal destination for any type of traveler looking for the tropical island idyll. Gili Air is the island closest to the mainland and has a good range of accommodations, ranging from comfortable hotels to small budget home stays. The pace is very laidback, with days spent sunbathing on the clean beaches, diving in the great locations around the island and snorkeling the reefs just off shore. At night, the mood is relaxed with small warung and restaurants offering fresh seafood barbecues and local cuisine, and live music at some of the bars. Gili Meno is the middle island of the three Gilis and the quietest of the three - perfect for couples and families. The beaches are beautiful and safe for swimming, with good snorkeling just off the beach. This is the best place to see turtles in their natural environment and the dive operators on the island can help you discover the fine dive sites nearby. There are some small upmarket hotels, as well as bungalows on the beach and budget places from which to choose. If walking along a deserted beach under the stars is what you are looking for, Gili Meno has loads of atmosphere. Gili Trawangan is the most famous of the Gilis and the farthest from the mainland, although still only 10 minutes away by speedboat. Here the feel is "tropical island meets Seminyak", due to the number of upmarket eateries and villa developments that have sprung up on the island over the past couple of years. There is such a wide range of accommodation now available on Gili T (as it's known) that you can choose anything from a simple thatched bungalow on the beach to a luxury villa with private swimming pool. Dive companies abound on the island and many people come to Gili T to learn scuba diving, although the snorkeling is good and there are a number of other water activities available, including sunset cruises and glass bottom boat trips. Originally the domain of backpackers, Gili T is definitely now a place for all people - from budget travelers, to honeymooners to families. Something for everyone!
Kuta, the main tourist area on the south coast of Lombok, is not to be confused with its famous namesake in Bali. Kuta, Lombok, is a peaceful beach destination that has found fame due to the great surf locations that surround the small town. The beaches of the south coast are sublime, with sparkling white sand and clear blue oceans stretching to the horizon. Many people come to the area just to view some of the most stunning landscapes in Indonesia. Many more come to challenge the waves that roll off the peninsulas of nearby Gerupuk and Tanjung A'an.
Most of the accommodations in the area cater for the surf crowd, with lots of budget places, although there are a couple of mid-range hotels and some nice small hotels dotted along the beach toward Mandalika. The Novotel Lombok (Mandalika Resort) is located on the pristine beachfront here, and features luxurious accommodation in traditionally designed bungalows and villas.
In town are a number of good restaurants with cuisine ranging from simple local dishes to international fare, while on the hilltop overlooking the stunning coastline is the popular Ashtari Restaurant, serving delicious organic cuisine in a truly delightful setting. If you are looking for a laidback holiday location with lots of sunshine, uncrowded beaches, awe-inspiring views and plenty of accessible local culture, Kuta is the place for you!
-- Barbara Lucas Cahyadi