The Best Eco-Friendly Hotels to Book in Borneo

Stay at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort for an ecofriendly holiday
Stay at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort for an ecofriendly holiday | Courtesy of Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa / Expedia
Sam Bedford

Borneo, one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth, is an ecotourism haven. With an abundance of habitats and wildlife, including endangered species, sustainable tourism should be everyone’s priority. Discover the top eco-friendly hotels in Borneo, from isolated bungalows to hotels built using recycled materials to help conserve this beautiful environment. All can be booked through Culture Trip.

Experience the best of Borneo in the company of a Local Insider and a small group of culturally curious travellers on our exclusive 10-day Borneo trip.

1. Borneo Nature Lodge

Eco Hotel, Lodge

Borneo Nature Lodge_be4b9c0d
Courtesy of Borneo Nature Lodge / Expedia

Strung out along the Kinabatangan River in the eastern part of Sabah, this eco-sensitive lodge was built with the original inhabitants of the forest in mind. As much as possible, all 12 chalets were constructed with biodegradable or recyclable materials. Plus, they were built in and around existing trees. An elephant path was left undisturbed, so don’t be startled if you encounter a gentle giant lumbering by. The hotel runs mostly on solar power, with glass features in each room to allow natural light to pour in, while rainwater is collected for use in the toilets. You can join a jungle trek, or a river cruise, during your stay here to learn more about the diverse local flora and fauna. Alternatively, lend a hand in the tree-planting efforts of the resort staff.

2. Paganakan Dii Tropical Retreat

Eco Hotel, Resort

Paganakan Dii Tropical Retreat
Courtesy of Paganakan Dii Tropical Retreat / Expedia

Shrouded in trees and perched on a narrow ridgeline, this sustainability-minded resort is the perfect base for when you want to explore the surrounding rainforest. Use that perfect locale to get close with indigenous wildlife, such as proboscis monkeys, orangutans and estuary crocodiles. Drawing on principles of vernacular design, the three duplexes (six rooms) and three longhouses (36 beds) are built with mostly reclaimed wood and local bamboo, and with as little interference to the natural landscape as possible. While there is air conditioning, you might just want to enjoy the cool breeze as you sip on a freshly squeezed fruit juice on your private balcony.

3. Gayana Marine Resort

Eco Hotel

Gayana Eco Resort, Sabah
Courtesy of Gayana Eco Resort, Sabah / Expedia

Gaya is the largest of five islands in Kota Kinabalu’s Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. A total of 52 overwater bungalows sit inside Malohom Bay on the eastern shores. Inside this eco-friendly resort, you’ll have views of either the mangroves, the jungle or the South China Sea. But, the luxurious experience isn’t the only factor driving tourism. The on-site Marine Ecology Research Centre focuses on regenerating and preserving the coral and endangered giant clams of the region. Expect the ultimate relaxation, pampering at the spa, world-class food, all combined with the chance to learn about critical conservation efforts.

4. Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa, Sabah

Eco Hotel

Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa, Sabah

For a relaxing retreat to a secluded beach resort near Kota Kinabalu, head to Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria. Located along Pantai Dalit, or Dalit Beach, the resort offers home comforts and nature activities. Expect the highest level of service from the professional and attentive staff who are passionate about their guests and protecting the environment. The beach here is pristine, the golf courses are ecofriendly, and you can visit the nature reserve or join night treks in search of the rare pangolin. You can stay here with Culture Trip on our specially curated 10-day Borneo adventure, led by our Local Insider.

5. Kapalai Sipadan Dive Resort, Sabah


Water bungalows in Kapalai Island
Courtesy of Sean Lean/Shutterstock

Sharing similarities to a Sea Gypsy floating village, Kapalai Sipadan provides an ideal location for a secluded island getaway. Outside, a sandbank stretches in both directions forming a turtle nesting ground. The nearby dive spots rate among the best in the world. Non-divers, don’t despair; snorkelling in the surrounding waters reveals a plethora of vibrant coral and fish. Kapalai Sipadan provides eco-friendly accommodation for a romantic getaway, diving enthusiasts and anyone who wants an experience like the incredible beauty of the Maldives in Sabah.

6. Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Sabah


Terrace and Restaurant at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley Conservation Area, Borneo, Sabah, Malaysia
Courtesy of Genevieve Vallee / Alamy

With 30 individual eco-sensitive chalets and catering to a maximum of 60 guests at any one time, the Borneo Rainforest Lodge near Danum Valley offers the ultimate jungle getaway. A long drive along trail roads is the only way to access one of the most eco-friendly resorts in Borneo. Each chalet has an outdoor bathtub providing a place to relax while enjoying views of the surrounding rainforest. Lucky tourists might spot some of the 320 species of birds or 124 types of mammals from the comfort of their room or bathtub.

7. Tabin Wildlife Resort, Sabah


Tabin Wildlife Resort, Sabah_75543efe
Courtesy of Tabin Wildlife Resort / Expedia

For a minimalist and eco-friendly hotel in Borneo, check out Tabin Wildlife Resort located inside Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The reserve, the largest by area in Malaysia, on the eastern tip of Sabah near Lahad Datu provides 20 simple bungalows and chalets with just the necessary facilities for a comfortable and green stay. Tabin Resort offers a range of activities including tracking orangutans and hiking.

8. Borneo Highlands Resort, Sarawak

Eco Hotel

borneo highlands resort
Courtesy of Borneo Highlands Resort /

Sarawak has its fair share of eco-friendly resorts, and the Highlands Resort is one of the best. Promoting itself as a wellness sanctuary and offering 30 rooms and 10 jungle cabins, the resort caps guests at 60 each day. With a prime location at 1,000m (3,281ft) above sea level in the Penrissen Range, the accommodation doesn’t just provide a relaxing getaway; it also offers a cooler and more comfortable climate. Chefs cook meals using ingredients from the resort’s organic farms while the expert horticulturist staff educate diners.

9. Permai Rainforest Resort, Sarawak


Permai Rainforest Resort
Courtesy of Permai Rainforest Resort /

Covering 44 acres (18ha), the Permai Rainforest Resort provides an ideal spot for a retreat near Kuching. Just 25km (15.5mi) north of the capital, the resort sits at the base of Mount Santubong. Carefully designed rooms and facilities reduce their environmental impact while the back-to-nature approach encourages conservation. You can marvel at the surroundings, or go birdwatching, stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking.

10. Damai Beach Resort, Sarawak

Eco Hotel

Damai Beach Resort, Sarawak
Courtesy of Damai Beach Resort / Expedia

Against the backdrop of Sarawak’s Mount Santubong and offering views of the South China Sea, Damai Beach Resort provides a luxurious retreat within 40 minutes of Kuching. The hotel has a total of 242 modern rooms and chalets, and promotes itself as one of the top eco-friendly resorts in Borneo. But, don’t take their word for granted; spend a few nights and enjoy the seclusion, views of the lush jungle and the sprawling green landscapes on its doorstep.

11. Samboja Lodge, Balikpapan, Kalimantan


Samboja Lodge
Courtesy of Samboja Lodge /

Samboja Lodge in Kalimantan is built from recycled materials, has traditional handicraft decorations and uses hand-made cosmetics from local Dayak communities. Each room in this resort 35km (22mi) north of Balikpapan comes with a balcony overlooking the rainforest. But, the biggest highlight of this eco-friendly hotel in Borneo is the ongoing orangutan project. You have the chance to learn from expert conservationists about how to protect the rainforest wildlife. Visiting Orangutan Island’s sanctuary is a highlight too.

Vanessa Smith contributed additional reporting to this article.

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