Luxury Escapes Guide to Sabah

From the highest tip of Mount Kinabalu to the tranquil clear waters of Kelambu Beach and Danum Valley’s teeming forest land, Malaysia’s spectacular island of Sabah is natural wonders galore.

Selamat datang (welcome) to the enchanting realm of Sabah. Explore the second largest of Malaysia’s 13 states and unlock a treasure trove of captivating cities and regions like Kota Kinabalu, Tawau, and Sandakan, all residing on the wondrous island of Borneo.

Sabah’s allure lies in its abundant natural beauty, a blend of diverse ecosystems, distinct cultures, pristine shorelines and delectable cuisines – attracting travellers with a taste for adventure from around the globe. From the world’s largest floral type, the incredible Rafflesia, to Mount Kinabalu and the wonderous Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah is Malaysia’s best-kept tropical paradise secret.

Home to five-star resort stays and vibrant eat streets, Kota Kinabalu is Sabah’s capital city and offers ample opportunity for luxury, relaxation and discovery. Trek your way through Danum Valley’s dense, verdant mountains, taking in breathtaking vistas of the thriving jungle alive with native animals. Swim with marine life in crystalline turquoise waters and watch vibrant sunsets paint idyllic beaches with pink and orange hues.

Get up close to rare native flora and fauna when exploring the Kinabatangan River. Dive into the aquatic wonders of Tun Sakaran Marine Park where you’ll find some of the island’s bluest waters, ascend the Tip of Borneo, and venture into the tranquil rainforests of Kinabalu Park, Malaysia’s inaugural UNESCO World Heritage-listed site.

Follow your desire for adventure to Sabah and feel the warm embrace of Sabahan hospitality, the wonder of rare landscapes and biodiversity, and the beauty of untouched coastlines.

Things to see and do

Spot rare animals at Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary 

Experience the beauty of the 560-kilometre Kinabatangan River, the longest river in Sabah. From its source in the Crocker Range to its confluence with the Sulu Sea, this river is a paradise of diverse habitats, including dipterocarp forest, seasonally flooded riparian forest, and mesmerising oxbow lakes. As one of the top wildlife-watching destinations in Southeast Asia, here you can witness the wonders of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary including proboscis monkeys, orangutans, Bornean pygmy elephants, and a vibrant array of birds, protected by passionate conservators dedicated to the prosperity of the region.

Soak up a glorious sunset at the Tip of Borneo

See the world from a spectacular new point of view with a journey to the iconic Tip of Borneo, situated in Tanjung Simpang Mengayau, Sabah’s northernmost point. Explore the peak of one of the largest islands in the world at Tanjung Simpang Mengayau’s majestic headlands, a common meeting place for visitors seeking to explore the ‘Tip’. Take the easy stroll to the flagpole, the Globe and the pebbly outcrop and find a comfortable spot to relax as the sun sets over the ocean. For a truly immersive experience, consider staying overnight or joining an educational tour on your edge of the earth exploration.

Care for orphaned apes at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre 

Animal lovers will rejoice as they step into the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and meet the wildlife residents that call this sanctuary home. Housing orangutans, orphaned apes, sun bears, gibbons and elephants, the sanctuary is dedicated to the care of rescued animals. The sanctuary has a network of designated pathways for visitors to explore and admire the apes from a respectful distance. A visit to the sanctuary is your opportunity to not only learn about the conservation these beautiful creatures but also the devastating impact of deforestation, and future efforts to preserve Malaysia’s orangutan habitats.

Make the daring trek up Mount Kinabalu

Walk among geological wonders as you hike the majestic Mount Kinabalu. This vibrant region of Sabah is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed geopark, more than 4,500 km square in size and home to a unique variety of flora and fauna. Admire 90 exclusive orchid species or catch a glimpse of the crimson-headed partridge found nowhere else in the world. Mount Kinabalu’s ancient ultramafic rocks and marvellous granite formations are not only visually incredible but also stand as a testament to the remarkable geodiversity found worldwide. With more than 400 villages located across this flourishing landscape, from rice paddies to rolling valleys, a journey here promises an enlightening experience on a natural, cultural, and historical level.

Top places to eat and drink

Sutera Harbour

Take a bite out of Sabah’s culinary scene at Sutera Harbour. The restaurants and bars scattered along the harbour serve up succulent traditional Malaysian dishes and international favourites and provide visitors with a glimpse into the country’s most vibrant flavour combinations. Horizons Sky Bar and Cigar Lounge is renowned for its fresh menus and panoramic views of the glittering city and majestic Mount Kinabalu. Café Boleh serves diverse Western and Malaysian dishes, from comforting claypot asam pedas to flavourful nasi goreng kampung. Don’t miss the Peking duck at Silk Garden or the unmatched alfresco dining experience at Breeze Beach Club where you can enjoy fresh seafood dishes along the beachfront while watching thrilling fire-eating performances.

Todak Waterfront Hawker Centre

As the sun begins to set, Todak (Marlin Swordfish) Waterfront, also known as the KK Boulevard, nearby the buzzing Central Market in Kota Kinabalu, transforms into a lively hawker centre. Open 4pm to late, this unique destination blends the vibrancy of a hawker centre with the fare of a seafood market. It boasts an array of vendors offering local seafood dishes, such as like Sabah’s own version of ceviche, Hinava, a refreshing fresh fish salad. Explore the stalls, pick your choice of seafood, and watch as the skilled vendors it to perfection. It’s a delightful family experience, conveniently close to popular spots like KK Central Market, Segama night market and the Marlin Statue.

Api-Api Night Food Market

Located along the buzzing Gaya Street, the Api-Api Night Food Market comes alive every Friday and Saturday from 6pm to late. Expect an intense sensory delight, with delicious aromas filling the air as you stroll past buskers and beverage stalls. This food lover’s oasis offers local comfort foods, such hinava, a traditional fresh fish salad, as well as penjaram and UFO tarts, along with Malaysian classics like laksa, nasi lemak and satay. Grilled meats, seafood, loaded fries, corndogs, burgers, and bao buns may also tempt your taste buds. Top off the evening with a sweet Malaysian treat like apam balik, poopia and kuih, or even Korean bingsoo and buttery, flaky pastries. This local favourite has something for every palate, no matter how adventurous.

Oceanfront private dining

Few things rival the romance of a private beachfront dining experience, particularly for those staying at one of Sabah’s glamorous resorts. At Bungaraya Island Resort, opt to dine in the private Pavilion by the beach for a truly memorable evening. Feel the gentle sea breeze, bask in the moonlight’s romantic glow and savour exquisite cuisine in total seclusion. Similarly, Borneo Eagle Resort offers delicious meals, stunning wines and fantastic service on an intimate deck soundtracked by the sea. At Gayana Marine Resort, guests in the Ocean View Villa or Palm Villa can also enjoy the luxury of private dining on a private deck, perfect for sharing romantic moments.

Lux moments

Indulge in the height of relaxation at one of Sabah’s finest spas

Find heaven in the seafront day spas at Sabah’s sparkling luxury resorts. Seek out an oasis of tranquillity at Shangri-La Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu, where Chi, The Spa sits on an island connected to the hotel by a private causeway. This standalone spa village offers a distinctive ambiance and showcases traditional Borneo treatments, which are rooted in plant-based remedies and the rich multi-cultural heritage of the region. Equally as tranquil in its approach is Bungaraya Island Resort’s Echo Wellness Spa, another of Sabah’s dedicated temples of relaxation. This laid-back haven offers a variety of traditional Asian and Western treatments, utilising the restorative powers of indigenous plants, including remedial massages, full body scrubs, and reviving facials.

See the spectacular sunrise at the peak of Rasa Ria Reserve

Guests staying at Shangri-La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu can relish a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the UNESCO World Heritage-listed region from a bird’s eye view. Enjoy an inspiring early morning 98-metre hike to the summit of the pristine Timpak Pogimpaan forest reserve and watch the sunrise cast a golden glow over Mount Kinabalu. Refuel with light refreshments as you relax at the pinnacle lookout tower, and even opt to upgrade this magnificent experience to a premium package to enjoy a bottle of VCP Champagne as a cheers your adventure.