The best things to do in Borneo

Welcome to the jungle…

Borneo, the third largest island in the world, is a living Eden where wild adventures unfold in epic proportions. Discover our top picks for things to do in Sabah, the crown jewel of Borneo, from exploring vivid underwater worlds and untamed beaches to trekking through biodiverse rainforests home to rare wildlife and indigenous communities.

Shangri-La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu

Watch the sunrise over Mount Kinabalu

Sabah is home to Malaysia's highest peak, which casts a striking silhouette over Kota Kinabalu, the lively gateway city. If the challenging two-day trek to the summit isn’t on your agenda, there are some less strenuous ways to appreciate the mountain’s majesty. Take in the spectacular vista from Shangri-La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu, a luxurious resort set on a private beach within the 64-acre Rasa Ria reserve. Better yet, rise with the sun for an early morning walk to the top of Timpak Pogimpaan to see Mount Kinabalu bathed in golden sunlight – a truly breathtaking sight.

Meet orangutans in Sepilok

Experience the magic of encountering orangutans on this unforgettable day trip from Kota Kinabalu. You’ll begin at the renowned Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, a sanctuary set up in 1964 to help orphaned orangutans, where you’ll have the chance to observe these captivating creatures up close. In the afternoon, learn about the world’s smallest bears at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre and watch the antics of playful primates at the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. Beyond checking off your wildlife bucket list, this heart-warming day will deepen your appreciation for the vital role of nature conservation.

Try the street food of ‘KK’

It’s not all about jungle wonders in Sabah. In Kota Kinabalu, Sabah’s vibrant state capital, you’ll find an explosive street food scene. The markets spring to life after dusk; try authentic cuisine like hinava (raw fish salad) and apam balik (sweet pancakes filled with peanut butter and corn) at the buzzing weekend Api-Api Night Market or tuck into grilled fish straight from the ocean at Todak Waterfront Hawker Centre. For something a little fancier, check out Oitom, one of Malaysia’s best fine dining restaurants or indulge in dainty macaroons and scones during an oriental high tea at Shangri-La Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu.

Mari Mari Cultural Village ©Tourism Malaysia

Step back in time in the Mari Mari Cultural Village

Go through a cultural time warp at the rural Mari Mari Cultural Village, a living museum that celebrates Sabah’s rich heritage. Explore intricate indigenous houses representig five distinct cultures and engage with the welcoming locals who eagerly share stories of their ancestors' lifestyles. You’ll dive headfirst (and feet-first) into age-old customs like warrior jumping, shooting blow darts and bamboo fire lighting, while sampling local delicacies like wild honey and rice wine. This immersive trip ends with a lively cultural performance and a hearty buffet banquet.

Unleash your inner Attenborough: The Danum Valley

Head on an extraordinary adventure into the deep wilderness of the Danum Valley with our three-day or four-day Borneo Rainforest experience. With the eco-luxe Borneo Rainforest Lodge as your base, you’ll spend days trekking through ancient rainforests, keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife like orangutans, wild cats and Borneo pygmy elephants. Later, unwind by the pool and listen to the eerie calls of the jungle. Combine this Tarzan-esque retreat with a few nights in Kuala Lumpur and beach relaxation in Kota Kinabalu on our Highlights of Kuala Lumpur & Borneo Suggested Itinerary.

Explore the coral kingdoms of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

Nestled within the Coral Triangle, a region of high marine biodiversity and colourful coral reefs, Sabah is known for its incredible diving opportunities. Along the east coast lie world-class dive sites such as Sipadan and Mabul, while on the west you’ll find Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, a stunning marine sanctuary just a stone's throw away from Kota Kinabalu. Stay at the PADI 5-star Gaya Island Resort, right on the shores of this aquatic wonderland, where the expert dive team can organise everything from guided snorkelling tours to open-water dive courses.

Go on a river safari

While places like the Kinabatangan River are well-known, the lesser-known Klias River is easily accessible, just a couple of hours from Kota Kinabalu. On our half-day tour, you'll navigate through lush mangrove forests, keeping your senses sharp for sightings of proboscis monkeys, stealthy crocodiles and a variety of birds, from kingfishers to hornbills. After the sun sets, marvel at the enchanting display of fireflies lighting up the riverbank.

 Shangri-La Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu


From stunning natural landscapes to cultural gems, luxury hotels and adrenaline-pumping adventures, Borneo has something for every type of traveller. Discover more about our Malaysia holidays and chat with us to start crafting your dream trip.

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This feature was created on 5th April 2024. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of print. Feature by Heather Flanagan.

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