Stepping into paradise begins with a splash.

Moments after the high-speed ferry intentionally runs aground on Gili Air’s sand bar, its passenger’s hop into the warm water and splash onto its sun-bleached beach.

Three miles around with sandy roads and surrounded by turquoise waters sparkling with a kaleidoscope of fish and aquatic life, Gili Air is a dreamy, earthly heaven nestled between the touristy (but still amazing) island of Bali and the rugged island Lombok.

Accommodations are simple and Internet is limited to non-existent, both plusses in my get-off-the-grid paradise. Our cabana, with ocean views, set us back $15 a night and for dinner we’d explore the island and settle on which beachside restaurant offered the freshest fish. Our favorite: freshly caught red snapper, veggies and fries for $7.

The sun is strong near the equator and during the day, snorkeling to the reefs is a must, but only after renting a mask, snorkel and fins for $2.

When it’s time for a rest, grab a fresh coconut for a dollar or two, drink its milk and scoop out the succulent coconut meat.

Now, I’m not trying to sell this place as one of the most amazing places on earth, but it’s definitely in my top 3 most romantic, affordable and just all around “Holy shit. I better get back here some day!”

Check out the photos below and a few more stories about Gili Air here.