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10 Best Things To Do In Sabah, East Malaysia - Updated 2020

things to do in sabah
Diana
Diana
Updated

Sabah is located in East Malaysia, occupying the northern part of Borneo island. It’s famed for its approximately 4,000 metre (13,123.4 foot) tall Mount Kinabalu, the country’s highest peak. Sabah is also known for its tropical green rainforests, azure blue beaches, colourful coral reefs and abundant wildlife, within its reserves and parks. Tourists flock here to immerse themselves in the food, culture and people of Sabah, especially those from China, due to their current high spending power.

1. Hike up the tallest mountain in Malaysia - Mount Kinabalu

Subsidiary peak, Mount Kinabalu
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Peripitus used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Mount Kinabalu is the highest peak in Malaysia and a favourite hiking destination, amongst health enthusiasts. A caveat though: just follow the rules and be dressed at all times, even once reaching the peak for a snapshot. The rules in conservative Malaysia are that one should not expose one’s private parts and share on social media, upon reaching the peak. You could be jailed for it.

Mount Kinabalu

Address: Mount Kinabalu, Ranau, Sabah

Website: Mount Kinabalu

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia

2. Visit the night market in the capital of Kota Kinabalu

In the night market of Kota Kinabalu - Sabah - Borneo - Malaysia
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user diego_cue used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The night market, locally known as the ‘pasar malam’ in Malay, is a place where you can sample different foods, like satay, which is meat, like turmeric or saffron-marinated chicken, beef and mutton on skewers, barbequed on a charcoal fire. Satay is eaten with peanut sauce, for a delicious feast, all year round. At the night market, you can also find 'roti canai’, or flour mixed with eggs and onions and fried to taste. It is eaten with 'dhal’ or lentil curry. There is also 'beef rendang’ or curry, amongst other dishes found here.

Kota Kinabalu Night Market

Address: Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia

3. Immerse yourself in Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

Sandakan Sabah Sepilok-Orangutan-Rehabilitation-Centre
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user CEphoto, Uwe Aranas used under CC BY-SA 3.0

At Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, you can find orangutans or bigger monkeys, high up in the treetops, swinging from tree to tree or just resting on a branch, with a baby. Just don’t stand directly beneath where the orangutan is, just it decides to go to the bathroom! Watch them in the wild from afar and observe their movements. They are an endangered species.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

Address: Sabah Wildlife Department, W.D.T. 200, Sandakan, Jalan Sepilok, Sepilok, 90000 Sandakan, Sabah

Website: Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia

4. Sipadan National Park

Sipadan island
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user [Unknown] used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Sipadan National Park is a scuba divers’ paradise, with almost untouched, colourful coral in their natural state. Sea animals and plants in a plethora of colours can be found here and don’t forget to bring along your waterproof digital camera to capture some memorable shots and videos of the creatures swimming. Sipadan National Park is touted as one of the top diving destinations of the world.

Sipadan National Park

Address: Celebes Sea, right off Sabah’s east coast

Website: Sipadan National Park

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia

5. Turtle Islands National Park

Turtle Islands National Park
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user PatrickVanM used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Turtle Islands National Park is located within the Turtle Islands that lie in the Sulu Sea, some 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) north of Sandakan, in Sabah, Malaysia. It consists of 3 islands - Selingaan, Little Bakkungan and Gulisaan. The park is famous for its green and hawksbill turtles, which lay their eggs on the beaches of the islands.

Turtle Islands National Park

Address: Turtle Islands Park, north of Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia

Website: Turtle Islands National Park

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia

6. Visit Sabah Cracko Art Gallery

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Art Gallery
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user CEphoto, Uwe Aranas used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Comprising of a group of brilliantly talented Kota Kinabalu artists, high up on the 3rd floor, you’ll find a vivid working studio of abstract and figurative art, stunning jewellery, and sculpture, from Manga-style figurines to mannequin-art. Affordable and original work, a visit here makes for a great hour. Be on the look out for the Cracko sign, outside on the street,

Sabah Art Gallery

Address: 88300 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Website: Sabah Art Gallery

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia

7. Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Sepilok Sabah Bornean-Sun-Bear-Conservation-Centre
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user CEphoto, Uwe Aranas used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is a research and wildlife conservation centre, designed to improve animal welfare and for the rehabilitation of the Malayan Sun Bear. It is located in Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia and covers about 2.5 hectares (6.2 acres). The Sun Bear has been hunted by poachers for its paws and inner organs and sold in the illegal market.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Address: Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia

Website: Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia

8. Sandakan Memorial Park

Sandakan Sabah Sandakan Memorial Park
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user CEphoto, Uwe Aranas used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Sandakan Memorial Park is a memorial site, built on the grounds of the former Sandakan camp, in the Malaysian state of Sabah. The site is constructed as a memory for all prisoners in the camp, who died during the Sandakan Death Marches, and to those were martyred during the march to Ranau. It also recognises the sacrifice and suffering of the native population.

Sandakan Memorial Park

Address: Mile 8, Jalan Labuk Utara, Taman Rimba,, 90702 Sandakan, Sabah

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia

9. Sabah State Museum

KotaKinabalu Sabah Sabah-State-Museum
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user CEphoto, Uwe Aranas used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Sabah Museum sits on 17 hectares (42 acres) of land, in Bukit Istana Lama, Kota Kinabalu, the state capital. The complex contains not only the museum proper but also a garden, a zoo and a heritage village. The main building also houses the Sabah Art Gallery. The mission of the museum is to collect, preserve and document historical, numismatic, ethnographic, archaeological, art-historical, botanical, zoological and mineralogical collections, from throughout Sabah.

Sabah State Museum

Address: Jalan Muzium, 88300 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Website: Sabah State Museum

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia

10. Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

Labuk Bay Probiscus Monkeys
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Annette Teng used under CC BY 3.0

The Proboscis monkey gets its name from its large, fleshy nose. Both males and females have the large noses and the juveniles have small, upturned noses. The males noses are so large that they hang down over their mouths. The Proboscis monkey is found only on the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia. It prefers to live in the mangrove and lowland forests, near fresh water and rivers.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

Address: Off Jalan Labuk, 90000 Sandakan, Sabah

Website: Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Kota Kinabalu - Sabah (state), Malaysia

Visit Sabah for a multitude of amazing things to do

KotaKinabalu Sabah Sabah-State-Mosque-00
Source: Photo by user CEphoto, Uwe Aranas used under CC BY-SA 3.0

This sums up the list of best things to do in Sabah, from visiting nature and animal reserves to the Sabah State Museum, for the more laid back tourists, who prefer to find out about a place at their own slow pace. Sabah also caters to the adrenaline seeker, with activities like scuba diving in Sipadan National Park.

It is famed for holding the tallest peak in South East Asia, Mount Kinabalu - a favourite amongst hardcore hikers. Just adhere to the rules and you should do fine. There are many parks, forests, beaches and night markets for the foodie on the cheap. Finally, there is something for everyone here and Sabah caters to tourists from all walks of life.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Diana works as a secretary in a small local company for a friend in Penang, Malaysia for the past 13 years and moonlights as a part-time virtual assistant and article writer when free. She also...Read more

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