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Borneo, Earth’s third largest island, divides into three countries. Malaysia’s Sabah and Sarawak make up the north, Indonesia’s Kalimantan occupies the south, with Brunei sandwiched in between. Tourism revolves around biodiversity, ecology, rainforests, wildlife, Mount Kinabalu, diving, and an incredible selection of best beaches in Borneo.
Once a secret location on popular TV series Survivor, it’s now a favourite tropical island for adventurous tourists in Kota Kinabalu. Pulau Tiga consists of three small islands and proudly features a number of isolated stretches of coastline, including Asmara and Pagong Pagong. Not only is Pulau Tiga, sometimes called Survivor Island, clean and secluded, it also has some of the best beaches in Borneo. Getting to the island some 50 kilometres (31 miles) from Kota Kinabalu can be challenging. But persevere and be rewarded with pristine beauty and a desert island experience. As of 2018, there are two resorts on Pulau Tiga.
Kota Kinabalu’s best beach, Tanjung Aru, boasts an impressive stretch of orange sand against a backdrop of palm trees. Sat adjacent to Kota Kinabalu International Airport and within a few kilometres of the city centre, the area is a favourite hangout for locals and tourists in the early evening. Several benches and barbequing facilities fill the park next to Tanjung Aru, making it an ideal place to relax and watch the spectacular sunset.
Head to Sabah’s capital, Kota Kinabalu, and gaze out across the sea at the small archipelago. The five islands make the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, named after Malaysia’s first prime minister. The most visited of these is Manukan Island. Within just 15 minutes by ferry from Jesselton Point, passengers will be standing on a 1.6-kilometre (1-mile) long white-sand beach with crystal clear water. Dense rainforest bursting with monkeys sits behind the coastline. Coral reefs and an abundance of marine life fill the sea. Manukan offers one of the best beaches in Borneo and is a world-class snorkelling destination.
Miri’s Hawaii Beach ranks among the best in Borneo. Within just 15 minutes of the city centre, white sand stretches along the warm, gentle waters of the South China Sea. A park behind the beach provides a place to sit and relax while enjoying a picnic or barbeque. Head down in the evenings and weekends and find the locals relaxing at Hawaii Beach in Miri’s Kampong Bakam.
Tusan Cliff in Sarawak sits approximately 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Miri. This beach in Borneo possesses clean, soft-sanded beaches and rugged cliffs, satisfying any photograph’s definition of scenic. But Tusan Cliff features one of the world’s most spectacular and rarest events in nature. When the conditions are right, the sea begins to glow. Tiny micro-organisms called dinoflagellates emit light when they’re agitated by the waves. The effect creates a neon-blue glow in the shallow shores against the inky black abyss of the sea. It takes an hour to reach Tusan Cliff from Miri.
Brunei doesn’t have a reputation for having the best beaches in Borneo. But Muara Beach near Muara Town, approximately 27 kilometres (16.8 miles) northeast of the capital Bander Seri Begawan, is somewhat of an exception. The long, orange sand hugs an immaculate park with picnic tables and a children’s play area. Whether tourists are looking to catch the sunset or see more of Brunei, Muara Beach won’t disappoint.
With white-sand, crystal-clear water and beachside palm trees, Derawan Island rates as a top place to relax in Indonesian Kalimantan. The island, located approximately 17 kilometres (10.5 miles) off the East Kalimantan coastline in the Sulawesi Sea, is a haven for beach lovers and diving enthusiasts. Apart from enjoying the resorts and pristine coast, the water houses coral reefs, dolphins, the occasional whale and the critically endangered hawksbill turtles. Derawan, one of five islands, consistently rates as having some of the best beaches in Borneo.