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First Timer's Guide To Sabah, Malaysia

29 May 2018

Hew Lee Yee

Klook Travel Curator

Home to the majestic Mount Kinabalu, Sabah is a nature lover’s paradise with its lush rainforest, idyllic beaches and exotic wild animals and birds. Located in East Malaysia, you can also get amazing seafood and unbelievable vibrant-hued sunsets in Sabah!

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Klook activities in Sabah

Mantanani Snorkeling & Kawa Kawa River Cruise


  • Visit the magical Mantanani Island for some of the best snorkeling in the world
  • You may get a chance to spot the island's cutest attraction – dugongs or "sea cows"
  • Choose between two packages: Snorkeling Only and Snorkeling + Kawa Kawa River Cruise
  • Discover coral reefs, enjoy a buffet onboard the cruise, watch fireflies and so much more!
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Sunset and City Dinner Cruise


  • Enjoy a two-hour cruise across the west coast of Sabah
  • Take in the stunning views of the South China Sea while enjoying the breathtaking sunset
  • Feel the cool breeze and marvel at the sight of the starry night sky during the nighttime cruise
  • Feast on an international buffet spread while you are entertained by the live musicians onboard
  • Can't be bothered to drive to the marina? Get a transfer service and enjoy hassle-free transportation with an added fee!
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Kinabalu Park & Poring Hot Spring


  • Explore Malaysian nature at one of its most beautiful parks, Kinabalu Park
  • See the exotic flora and fauna in Malaysia's first UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Dip into a hot sulphur bath in Poring Hot Spring and relax as you gaze up at giant bamboo trees
  • As an optional extra, visit the Desa Cattle Dairy Farm, Kundasang Vegetable Market and more
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Sapi and Manukan Islands Adventure


  • Explore 2 of Malaysia's most beautiful islands Manukan and Sapi
  • Take a dip in the transparent waters of Manukan Island with its sandy beaches and great recreational facilities
  • Use your free time well: go kayaking, parasailing, jet skiing, try Sea Walking and more
  • Enjoy a delicious barbecue lunch by the beach
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Things to do in Sabah

1. Mount Kinabalu

The prized treasure of Sabah, Mount Kinabalu is synonymous to this East Malaysian state and is the tallest peak between the Himalayas and New Guinea. Many hiking enthusiasts travel from all across the world to scale the heights of Mount Kinabalu which stands at over 4,000 metres.

Conquering the Mount Kinabalu do require some pre-planning from booking a slot to training for the actual hike. Do note that due to its popularity, sometimes it can take wait 6 months to a year for the slot to be available!

2. Kinabalu Park

Don’t worry if you’re not able to take a hike up to the top of Mount Kinabalu because there’s still lots to experience at the base. The Kinabalu Park surrounds most of Mount Kinabalu and is the main starting point for the summit trail leading up the mountain.

Located over 1,500 metres above sea level, you can find a wealth of flora and fauna at the Kinabalu Park. With stunning natural environments and views all over, it’s no wonder that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and was also the first ever park in Malaysia to receive that title!

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3. Mari Mari Cultural Village

Away from the buzz of the city, you will find Mari Mari Cultural Village. Set in a remote forest in Kionsom, this is an excellent place to about the culture and lifestyle of five ethnic Sabah communities - the Bajau, Lundayeh, Murut, Rungus and Dusun.

You will get to experience firsthand some unique traditional activities like blow-pipe making, fire-starting, tattooing, amongst other things. There are also a variety of authentic local cuisine that you are able to enjoy. This surely is the place for an authentic look into the ethnic tribes of Sabah.

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4. Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

This marine park in Sabah is comprised of 5 islands - Pulau Gaya, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Sulug and Pulau Mamutik. Located just 3km to 8km from Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, these islands can easily be accessed through the town’s jetty, Jesselton Point.

Not just popular amongst visitors, locals also enjoy making day trips to one of these islands. The Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park is a must-visit for a day frolicking in the clear waters and to witness a view of stunning sunsets!

5. Tanjung Aru

Located in Kota Kinabalu, Tanjung Aru is known for its beach, Tanjung Aru Beach. Stretching across a distance of 2km, you can find restaurants, beachside cafes, and boundless activities all day long.

Buzzing with excitement during the day and coming alive with eateries till late at night, Tanjung Aru is a great spot for all kinds of travellers. Make sure you get there before evening time because the sunset is a sight to behold!

6. Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

A protected endangered species native to Indonesia and Malaysia, the orangutans are among the most intelligent primates. In the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, you can meet the world-famous orangutans in their natural habitat while learning about their life as well as participate in feeding them.

Serving as a center to help rehabilitate orphaned or displaced orangutans, you can find the happy animals roaming around freely. Located in Sepilok, a remote area in Sandakan, it may not be the easiest to get to. So it’s best to join a tour that picks you up and drops you off at your hotel conveniently.

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7. Desa Cattle Dairy Farm

Located at the foothill of Mount Kinabalu in Kundasang, the Desa Cattle Dairy Farm is commonly referred to as the New Zealand of Sabah. The view from the farm is unparalleled and on a clear sky day, you can even see a full view of Mount Kinabalu!

A great family-friendly place, you can feed the calves and the goats as well as learn about the milk trade. As you watch the happy cows graze in the fields, make sure to enjoy some ice-cream made with fresh milk right from the farm!

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8. Poring Hot Spring

If you’ve made the trek up to Mount Kinabalu and you’re starting to feel the effects on your body, it’s time for a relaxing dip in the Poring Hot Spring. Considered as one of the top must-visit in Sabah by visitors, the sulphur hot spring baths will melt your troubles away.

Even if you haven’t done any strenuous activities, there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself with a nice soak in the healing waters of a hot spring!

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9. Filipino Market

True to any major cities in Asia, Sabah also has a famous market that is well-known amongst locals and visitors alike. Located in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the state, the Filipino Market is also known as Pasar Besar (Central Market).

Open daily from 9am to 10pm, you can find everything from fresh poultry to daily catches, dried seafood, fruits, barbecued seafood, local delicacies and many more.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

10. Gaya Street

Initially named Bond Street, the popular Gaya Street has a market every Sunday morning. Located in the CBD of Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, this busy street has all sort of things for sale from batik sarongs to arts and craft, antiques and souvenir items, food, flowers and many more.

It’s best to visit the market early in the morning as everything closes in the late afternoon. Open at 6am onwards, Gaya Street is great on Sundays for a stroll and also to shop for interesting souvenirs.

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Must-try food in Sabah


Since Sabah is surrounded by the sea, you can count on it to have the freshest seafood you can get. It’s a sin to visit Sabah and not have any seafood! Choose to have it grilled, steamed, fried, or whichever your preferences are.

A recommended spot for local seafood dishes is Welcome Seafood Restaurant. There are 2 branches, and the one in town is easier to get to for visitors. You can pick your own fresh or live seafood and how you want them prepared!

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Tuaran Mee

Arguably the most well-known noodle dish in Sabah is Tuaran Mee. The key to a good bowl of Tuaran Mee is the special yellow egg noodles that are fried before being topped with the dish’s signature sauce and ingredients. The common toppings that you’ll find are barbecued pork, egg rolls and green vegetables.

They can be found in many local coffee shops and restaurants across Sabah but of course the best ones are in Tuaran town. A few places you can look out for are Tuaran Mee Restoran, Lok Kyun Restaurant and Seng Hing Coffee Shop.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Sang Nyuk Mian

Deemed as one of the top signature dishes of Sabah, Sang Nyuk Mian or Sang Nyuk Mee is a favourite amongst visitors and locals alike. You can have the noodles one of two ways, in soup or dry. For the soup style, pork slices are cooked in a broth and then served on top of the noodles. The dry noodles, on the other hand, are tossed in dark soy sauce with the same soup served on the side.

A few of the coffee shops in Sabah that specialise in Sang Nyuk Mian include Kedai Kopi Kim Hing Lee, Kedai Kopi Jia Siang, and Sinsuran Sang Nyuk Mee.

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