The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Borneo

Beautiful sunrise over rainforest in Danum Valley Conservation Park in Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Beautiful sunrise over rainforest in Danum Valley Conservation Park in Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia | © Nokuro / Alamy Stock Photo
Sam Bedford

Thick jungles. Long stretches of tropical coastlines. Picturesque islands. There’s no doubt that Borneo is a stunner. You won’t be hard-pressed to find a photo-worthy landscape here, but some are more worth visiting than others. To help you find your bliss, here are the most beautiful places to visit in Borneo.

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Head into the Danum Valley rainforest

Danum Valley, a protected area since 1995 in East Sabah, combines wildlife and biodiversity in a rainforest undisturbed by logging and deforestation. The 438sqkm (169sqmi) conservation area consists of a 130-year-old dipterocarp forest and houses thousands of flora and fauna, including orangutans. Stay overnight in a hostel or comfortable bungalow and take part in jungle treks, canopy walks and night safaris. Few things beat waking up in the heart of the jungle more than two hours from the nearest settlement. Danum Valley leads the way with the most beautiful places in Borneo for the rainforest experience.

Climb giant Mount Kinabalu in Sabah

Mount Kinabalu in Sabah holds many titles, including the tallest peak in Malaysia at 4,095m (13,345ft). In fact, it’s the highest between Papua New Guinea and the Himalayas. But Kinabalu – which features on the state emblem – also combines rich flora and fauna, stunning vistas and has strong cultural links to the indigenous Kadazan-Dusun. Climbing takes two days and you need to book months in advance to secure a spot.

If you’d rather admire the natural beauty from afar, however, follow our Local Insider up Maragang Hill as part of Culture Trip’s epic 10-day Borneo adventure and watch the sunrise over Mount Kinabalu.

A hiker at the top of Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, East Malaysia

Enjoy a luxurious break on Pulau Tiga

Picture a desert island covered in palm trees. Now combine this image with white beaches, dense jungle and hardly anyone else around. That’s Pulau Tiga – or Three Islands – off the coast of Sabah near Kota Kinabalu. The 158sqkm (61sqmi) island hosted the first series of the TV show Survivor, where 16 contestants stayed on the island for 39 days. Today, it offers some of the most exclusive accommodation in Borneo and the ultimate desert island experience.

The Archipelago of Tujuhbelas, Pulau Tiga island in Borneo

Go diving off Sipadan Island

Sipadan Island lies approximately one hour off the coast, in the Celebes Sea in East Sabah near Semporna. The small protected oceanic island consists of a sandy atoll with a jungle core. Apart from giving the appearance of a desert island, Sipadan offers some of the best diving in Borneo. Expect an unspoilt appearance and colourful marine life – but just be aware only 120 diving permits are available each day.

Admire the Bohey Dulang lagoon from above

Bohey Dulang is a small mountainous island – around 23km (14mi) from Semporna in East Sabah – which formed after an ancient volcanic eruption in the Celebes Sea. It’s part of the Tun Sakaran Marine Park and only a small channel separates it from the neighbouring Bodgaya Island. Here, you can marvel at the white-sand beaches and jungles housing rare plants. But the highlight is scaling the 353m (1,158ft) high peak for a panorama of the sapphire-blue lagoon below. Other highlights include waterfalls, streams, rock pools and snapping photographs of the Bajau Laut – or Sea Nomads – living in their floating wooden villages.

The scenery on top of Bohey Dulang Island near Sipadan Island, in Sabah, Borneo

Experience the five-star treatment on Lankayan Island, Sabah

For a luxurious island retreat in Borneo, head to Lankyan Island – located 90 minutes by boat from Sandakan. The remote island in the Sulu Sea is part of a protected marine park with just one resort: Lankayan Island Dive Resort. You can stay in beach-side chalets overlooking the soft sand and gentle sea. Turtles nest and hatch nearby between June and September.

The wooden pier at Lankayan Island

Watch the sea glow at Tusan Cliff Beach, Sarawak

Tusan Cliff in Sarawak sits around 39km (24mi) south of Miri on the South China Sea. Apart from the stunning views of the coastline and rock formations – including the Horses Head, which resembles a horse drinking from the sea – the beach also hosts a rare natural event. Occasionally, when the conditions are just right, small dinoflagellates accumulate in the shallow waters. When agitated, they release a glowing light transforming the sea into a neon-blue. Known locally as the Blue Tears, this phenomenon is mesmerising. Just picture the last orange-yellow glows on the horizon after the sunset while the darkness surrounds the glowing blue water along the shore.

Discover natural beauty at Bako National Park, Sarawak

Bako National Park is among the most beautiful places in Borneo, combining a jungle experience with deserted beaches and islands. Around one hour north of Sarawak’s capital Kuching, the relatively small national park offers a lot for its tiny size. You can hike through the jungle and stand on cliffs overlooking the rocky shore, relax on empty beaches, cruise through the eerie mangroves and go wildlife spotting. Proboscis monkeys – named after their unusually long nose – also live inside Bako National Park.

A Proboscis monkey in the Bako National Park, Sarawak, Borneo

See the otherworldly beauty of the Niah Caves in Sarawak

The limestone caves of Sarawak are popular among outdoor enthusiasts, cavers and adventurous tourists. Some lie deep in the jungle, making access challenging. But Niah Caves, at just 85km (53mi) from Miri, makes for a relatively easy day trip. You can explore the Great Cave, Moon Cave and see ancient rock art in the Painted Cave or hike along jungle trails. Other activities include visiting archaeological sites, learning how local men foraged for bird’s nests on the cliffs and embracing the eerie environment.

Explore an Indonesian island paradise on Derawan Archipelago, Kalimantan

The Derawan Archipelago consists of 31 islands in the Sulawesi Sea off the coast of East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Apart from being among the most beautiful places in Borneo for beaches, the islands act as a hotspot for wildlife watching, diving and snorkelling. Palm trees fringe the coastline as jungle covers the interior. More than 460 species of coral live on the seabed while thousands of colourful fish swim in the warm shallow sea. Derawan, Maratua atoll, Sangalaki and Kakaban are the most accessible islands in the archipelago.

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