7 Stunning Hidden Gems In Sabah To Tick Off Your Bucket List


Cheng Sim •  Jul 24, 2020

[Updated 19 May 2021]

There's so much beauty to discover in Sabah. You may be enchanted by the majestic Mount Kinabalu and scenic Kundasang, but there are other parts of Sabah that are worth exploring. Whether you're a nature or island lover, scroll down our list to see stunning hidden gems in Sabah to tick off your bucket list!

1. Danum Valley Conservation Centre, Lahad Datu

Situated in Lahad Datu, nature lovers would make their way to Danum Valley Conservation Area to get up close to this lowland dipterocarp forest. A misty rainforest that is said to be 130 million years old, trekking through the towering ancient trees is a must-do. Besides jungle trekking, there are many things to do at Danum Valley including early morning birding, exploring the jungle trails at night, catching the sunrise and more. Since Danum Valley is very remote, it's best to arrange a private transfer with your accommodation before arrival.

2. Maliau Basin Conservation Centre, Sandakan

Maliau Basin Conservation Centre is so remote that it was dubbed the Lost World of Sabah. It was only explored in the 1980s, and that means everything you see remains untouched. Part of its name derived from its natural formation that mimics a basin, similar to a bowl that acts as a water catchment that flows to the Maliau River.

There are many natural sights and sounds to discover at Maliau Basin. Besides enjoying a trekking adventure and taking snapshots of the diverse wildlife, Maliau Basin has a 7-tier waterfall that's great for a refreshing dip. However, the waterfall is known for its very strong current after a heavy rain, so check with your guide to see if it's safe to swim.

3. Bukit Piniapat, Pitas

There are many scenic hiking trails in Malaysia and Bukit Piniapat in Sabah is one of them. Situated in Kampung Dingai, Pitas, this scenic hill requires a 3-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu, but it's worth the long drive. Depending on your speed (and the number of times you stop to take a photo), it can take up to 15 minutes to reach the top. It also has a very clear but steep trail, which is doable for beginners. You'll also love taking snapshots together with the colourful wildflowers along the trail.

4. Lasau Podi, Kota Belud

Lasau Podi is one of Sabah's best-kept secret, so it's very unlikely to find tourists in the area. Situated in Kota Belud, Lasau Podi is better known as one of the best stargazing sites in Sabah where you can spot the Milky Way on a very dark night. While the roads leading to this place is accessible, there are almost zero facilities available, so prepare to rough it out in the wild.

Since camping is the next best alternative if you want to spend the night, prepare to wake up to an amazing view of the rolling hills - and you won't find a view like this anywhere else in Malaysia. If you can't live without modern necessities, there's a riverside camping area called Polumpung Melangkap that's an hour drive away and you can read all about it here.

5. Hounon Ridge Farm, Bundu Tuhan

If you're looking for another scenic camping area in Sabah, you're going to love the view at Hounon Ridge Farm in Bundu Tuhan. Complete with an incredible view of Mount Kinabalu, which is more visible in the morning, you can pitch a tent on the soft carpeted grass.

Don't worry about sacrificing your creature comforts because Hounon Ridge has a common bathroom, dining and kitchen area. If you have a friend who is not so keen on camping outdoors, they also have a dormitory and room with ensuite bathroom.

6. Maragang Hill, Kundasang

Another hiking spot in Sabah that's worth checking out is Maragang Hill. Officially opened in 2017, this hiking trail is steadily attracting nature lovers thanks to the stunning view of Mount Kinabalu at the summit. Depending on your fitness level, you can choose between the normal trail (1.5 hours/one-way) and loop trail (3 hours/one-way).

The first half of the trail may be steep and muddy, but you know you're almost there when you come across a wooden walkway. Don't forget to take a photo with the famous Maragang Hill signage too!

7. Timba Timba Island, Semporna

There are many beautiful islands in Malaysia and one of them is Timba-Timba Island. It may not be as famous as Gaya Island or Sipadan Island, but it remains a hidden gem that is perfect for divers who want to go off the beaten path.

Situated in Semporna, the best way to appreciate its crystal clear water is through snorkeling. If you have the chance to do so, keep an eye out for diverse marine life like blue ribbon eels, barracudas, and snappers.

For travellers who want to see a different side of East Malaysia, we hope you'll have the best time exploring these stunning hidden gems in Sabah! To make the most of your future getaaway, check out our recommended reads below.