The Best Hotels to Book in Sabah, Malaysia

Luxury is the name of the game at the Hilton Kota Kinabalu
Luxury is the name of the game at the Hilton Kota Kinabalu | Courtesy of Hilton Kota Kinabalu / Expedia
Photo of Suzy Pope
8 October 2021
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On the northern tip of Borneo, Sabah is home to jungle-clad hills, golden-sand beaches and cities buzzing with street food vendors at nightfall. Visitors come to explore the orangutan sanctuaries or hike the mighty Mount Kinabalu, rising from the heart of Sabah. Either way, there’s an abundance of boutique hotels, luxury resorts and friendly guesthouses in which to rest your head. Here’s our pick of the best hotels in Sabah.

See the spectacular landscapes and amazing wildlife of Sabah up close when you book onto our specially curated 10-day trip around Borneo.

Horizon Hotel

Double bed facing TV in open-plan ensuite room with bath tub and chaise longue at Horizon Hotel
Courtesy of Horizon Hotel / Expedia

In the heart of Kota Kinabalu, Horizon Hotel looks out over rooftops and towards the sea. Each room is a serene space of timber flooring, glowing, lantern-style lamps and floor-to-ceiling windows letting in that mesmerising view. Upgrade to a grand deluxe room to enjoy a private terrace. For the best panorama, head to the rooftop pool at sunset for a few laps or a cocktail at the pool bar.

Hilton Kota Kinabalu

Large bed, sofa, two cushioned chairs, a desk and desk chair in suite at Hilton Kota Kinabalu
Courtesy of Hilton Kota Kinabalu / Expedia

A lobby sparkling with crystal chandeliers sets a tone of opulence at the Hilton Kota Kinabalu, and the rooms don’t disappoint either. Big beds ensure sound sleep, and big windows let in the city and jungle views. Here, you’re in the heart of the city, with street-food stalls, shops and restaurants filling the streets around the hotel. If you plan on staying in, the Rooftop Poolside Bar & Grill offers seafood from the South China Sea and views for miles.

The Magellan Sutera Resort

Exterior of the sprawling Magellan Sutera Resort, with cityscape and mountains behind; small sandy bay by water at front
Courtesy of the Magellan Sutera Resort / Expedia

Right on the shore of Kota Kinabalu’s coastal stretch, this resort is the perfect tropical getaway. A lagoon-like swimming pool curves around the entire resort front, fringed with palms and lush greenery, and there’s a little horseshoe of caster-sugar-like sand just for hotel guests. The private marina jetty is home to a tour company that can organise island-hopping tours, snorkelling and diving trips, and there’s a lot for kids to do at Little Magellan. If golfing is your thing, the coastal course will keep you happy. Among the many great hotels in Sabah, this one’s perfect for families seeking a little luxury.

Grandis Hotel

Long outdoor pool with handrails in area with wooden decking, four loungers, chairs and mountain views at Grandis Hotel
Courtesy of Grandis Hotel / Expedia

This modern hotel has some of the best views in Kota Kinabalu. Named after the endemic orchid found on the slopes of Mount Kinabalu, Grandis Hotel has the feel of being at one with nature. Orchid-white bedding beckons for a sound sleep in contemporary rooms; you’ll awake to views over lush, jungle greenery towards the city or out to the emerald-green South China Sea. Its central location makes it easy to reach the shopping malls, street-food stalls and buzzing restaurants in the city, and the Sky Blue rooftop bar by the pool is one of the best spots in the area to watch the sunset.

Sky Hotel KK

Two adjacent single beds in cream-and-brown room with tiled floor at Sky Hotel KK
Courtesy of Sky Hotel KK / Expedia

This sleek hotel is in the business district of Kota Kinabalu, and a free shuttle is available to whisk you into the centre of town. Rooms with big beds and pristine polished floors come with partial or full ocean views, and the premier room has a wall of windows looking out to sea. Take a seat at the Sky Lounge on the 13th floor for a city panorama accompanied by a craft cocktail. At dinner time, the Green Table restaurant serves up fiery local fare in sleek urban surroundings.

The Pacific Sutera Hotel

Exterior of vast, multi-storey Pacific Sutera Hotel, with boats on harbour beside it; small beach ahead of its outdoor pool
Courtesy of the Pacific Sutera Hotel / Expedia

This towering modern resort hotel sits on the seafront in Kota Kinabalu. Rooms with balconies have views of the South China Sea or the neighbouring golf course. At the heart of the hotel is a huge, freeform swimming pool surrounded by loungers; an Olympic-size pool at the marina is also available. A tour company awaits you at the marina, offering island hopping and diving days, or you could just lie back in the hotel’s grounds, listening to the sway of palm fronds and the lap of waves.

The Atelier

Two adjacent double beds face wall-mounted TV in white-painted room with desk and chair at the Atelier
Courtesy of the Atelier / Expedia

The Atelier is a design-led hotel offering something a little different in downtown Kota Kinabalu. Each room is designed with a creative trade in mind. For example, the Botanist has a wall of ferns, while the Musician has stacked Marshall amps for bedside tables. The Bakery room features a selection of faux bread and pastries. The hotel also runs a series of classes, including pottery and photography, tailored to travellers. This place is for those seeking hotels in Sabah that offer a little bit more.

The Jesselton Hotel

White-painted exterior of the four-storey Jesselton Hotel, lit up on the corner of a road at dusk
Courtesy of the Jesselton Hotel / Expedia

Beautiful colonial architecture and a dedicated doorman set the opulent tone at the Jesselton Hotel. Period features, such as the marble-clad lobby, have been retained to give the feeling of old-world charm. Choose a traditional hotel room at the standard level or one of the boutique rooms; the latter have been modernised to meet the demands of the 2020s.

CJ Residence

Double bed in cream room with large window, desk, chair, air-conditioning unit and wall-mounted TV at CJ Residence
Courtesy of CJ Residence / Expedia

In Kota Kinabalu’s shopping quarter, CJ Residence offers something for those who’d rather spend their pennies on souvenirs and trinkets than splashing out on accommodation – though that doesn’t mean scrimping on style and comfort. Each room has an eclectic massage chair to soothe aching muscles after a long day of haggling in the Filipino Market next door.

For more options in Malaysia, discover our guides to the best hotels in Kuantan for every traveller and the best hotels in Petaling Jaya.

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