The Best Hotels to Book in Sandakan, Malaysia, for Every Traveller

Sabah Hotel Sandakans rooms are decorated with calming, contemporary hues
Sabah Hotel Sandakan's rooms are decorated with calming, contemporary hues | Courtesy of Sabah Hotel Sandakan / Expedia
Austin Bush

The second-largest city in Borneo’s Sabah state, Sandakan is a jumping-off point for those who want to venture into the island’s wild areas. You can head straight to its sanctuaries for animals such as orangutans and turtles, or to its national parks. These attractions tend to draw a younger crowd, so in addition to the standard business-class hotels of a city in Malaysia, you’ll also find a handful of welcoming hostels. Whatever your preference, the best hotels in Sandakan are here.

1. Hotel Sandakan

Hotel

Two adjacent single beds face a wall-mounted TV in a room with cream curtains, a table and chair at Hotel Sandakan
Courtesy of Hotel Sandakan / Booking.com

Located just north of Sandakan and practically looming over the town, this multi-storey hotel block features rooms that are neat and inviting, decked out in calming tones of stained woods and teal. It’s the kind of place where your bath towel will be lovingly folded into the shape of a swan and where you might consider sending a postcard to the staff after you leave.

2. Sabah Hotel Sandakan

Hotel

Palm trees stand over the shaded entrance to Sabah Hotel Sandakan under blue skies
Courtesy of Sabah Hotel Sandakan / Expedia

Although it’s situated a little over 1km (1.6mi) north of town, the Sabah Hotel Sandakan has an overtly rural feel. Surrounded by lush vegetation verging on jungle, the rooms couldn’t provide more of a contrast with their calming, contemporary cream and grey hues. The pool has a pond-like feel, and lobby and communal areas also make an effort to let nature in.

3. Sandakan Backpackers Hostel

Hostel

Mattress with cushions next to doughnut-shaped chair, a sofa and table made of wooden pallets at Sandakan Backpackers Hostel
Courtesy of Sandakan Backpackers Hostel / Expedia

This charming structure along Sandakan’s waterfront strip is the home of this cheery budget crash pad. Accommodation spans both beds in a dorm and private rooms (including larger family rooms), and the staff here will assist you in your excursion, whether it be inland to Sabah’s jungle or along the coast. Public areas are inviting and offer breezy sea views.

4. Borneo Sandakan Backpackers

Hostel

Double bed and single bed in room with red and white painted walls, plus plug sockets at Borneo Sandakan Backpackers
Courtesy of Borneo Sandakan Backpackers / Expedia

The bold red-and-white theme here makes Borneo Sandakan Backpackers easy to find among the many budget hotels in Sandakan, often found along the waterfront. The colours continue inside to the communal areas, dorms and private rooms, the facilities get good feedback, staff can help with excursions into the countryside, and it’s a short walk to the town’s street vendors and budget-friendly restaurants.

5. Harbourside Backpackers

Hostel

Three bunk beds in salmon-toned room with thin curtains over two windows at Harbourside Backpackers
Courtesy of Harbourside Backpackers / Expedia

This modern shophouse has been converted into inviting budget accommodation. Opt for a bed in a dorm or one of several private rooms, then take advantage of the communal TV room, or kitchen, and perks such as free luggage storage and lockers. Service-minded staff have lots of experience in pointing visitors in the direction of Sabah’s rural destinations.

6. OYO 1026 Hotel Lutana

Hotel

Two adjacent single beds in room with cream and brown painted walls, plus a TV at OYO 1026 Hotel Lutana
Courtesy of OYO 1026 Hotel Lutana / Expedia

A stay here feels less like a stint at a hotel and more like crashing at the house of a relative. Housed in a block of shophouses just west of central Sandakan, the rooms here are cosy and functional if somewhat tight, sporting flashes of colour in the form of blue carpets and bright-red throw pillows and bed runners.

7. Sepilok Forest Edge Resort

Resort, Hotel

Wooden lodge with tiled roof on stilts above green tress at Sepilok Forest Edge Resort
Courtesy of Sepilok Forest Edge Resort / Expedia

You can visit Sabah’s wild areas for the day or you can stay there overnight. The latter is more or less possible at Sepilok Forest Edge Resort, located just north of the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, outside of Sandakan. Sleeping options range from beds in a dorm to free-standing chalets, with rustic woods, puffy beds and colourful throw pillows as a common design thread. There’s an on-site restaurant and a brick-lined pool, and staff can arrange all manner of tours and excursions.

8. Sepilok Jungle Resort

Resort

Outdoor pool with rocky water feature and several wooden loungers amid towering palms at Sepilok Jungle Resort
Courtesy of Sepilok Jungle Resort / Expedia

Obsessed with orangutans? Then there are no hotels in Sandakan better for you than Sepilok Jungle Resort. Located a five-minute walk from the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Sepilok Jungle Resort is as close as you can get to the creatures without scaling a tree. Opt for a bed in a dorm or one of the simple but handsome rooms, and leave some post-orangutan time for a dip in the pool.

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