9 beautiful islands off Kota Kinabalu to soak up the sun
Stop working and recharge your soul by harnessing the restorative energy radiated by these idyllic islands scattered around Kota Kinabalu.
An icon of ecotourism in the making, Kota Kinabalu captivated millions of Malaysian, Chinese and Korean tourists before the unfortunate onslaught of the Covid pandemic. As domestic tourism takes off again with Sabah phasing out the need for quarantine on arrival, now you can reclaim a slice of heaven in Kota Kinabalu. Frolic in the sun, snorkel in tranquil waters, soar with playful sea creatures, pepper your gram to cheerfully upset your friends who can’t join you to experience fleeting utopias as you leap between perfect islands off the coast of Kota Kinabalu.
Stay overnight or take a day trip to these 9 beautiful islands off Kota Kinabalu:
Similar to a private island, Dinawan Island marvels at its abundant coral reefs just off its shore. Preserved and untouched by mass tourism, the island is managed like clockwork by a few seaside resorts. Located 25 minutes from Marina Sutera Pier, the eco-friendly retreat offers absolute privacy. It is a hidden gem deserted by the physics of time.
Mamutik and Manukan Islands
The twin gems of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Mamutik and Manukan Islands are packed with tourists on a day trip. No other place in Malaysia is so close to a major cosmopolitan area but has waters so clear that it offers opportunities for snorkeling or diving. Just 15 minutes from the Jesselton Point ferry terminal, you can take the last boat back to the mainland while admiring the setting sun as it retreats beneath the South China Sea.
Separated by a sandbar from the much larger Gaya Island, Sapi Island, although modest in size, offers many more adrenaline-pumping activities. Besides snorkelling and diving, the island is equipped with one of the longest ziplines in the world. The Coral Flyer stretches for 250 meters and travels between Sapi and Gaya Islands at exhilarating speeds of 55 km / h.
Best known for its proximity to Kota Kinabalu and its luxury offering. Gaya Island is home to the superb 5-star hotel Seaside resort of Gaya Island. Villas perched on steep hills, stilted chalets over emerald waters, and a renowned spa are iconic attractions on Gaya Island. Located in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Gaya Island Resort Marine Center offers guests a first-hand marine conservation experience. A private transfer can be arranged from the Jesselton Point ferry terminal. Not to mention, there are other luxury resorts available on the island, each with its own unique appeal.
15 minutes from Kota Kinabalu there is an island hardly visited even by the inhabitants of the city. Sepanggar Island is densely forested and lined with beaches that emit a lovely shade of soft pink when the sun is at its strongest. A smart choice for those who wish to escape the masses trampling the islands in the immediate vicinity.
A secluded island that can be effortlessly crossed on foot, Mengalum Island is about an hour by boat from Kota Kinabalu. The gentle cerulean waters that surround this dreamy island are incredibly shallow that vacationers could dive a fair distance from the beach if they so choose. Many cabins lining the island are adequate at best. But we don’t come here in search of man-made luxuries; it is the emancipated feeling of being abroad that one seeks.
An archipelago made up of a trio of islands, the Mantanani is a diving paradise with its own population of resident dugongs. It’s not just the underwater creatures that mesmerize visitors, the endangered avian creatures have also established themselves a refuge on earth thanks to a dearth of terrestrial predators. An hour by speedboat from Kota Belud, itself an hour from Kota Kinabalu, the larger island of Mantanani is home to several beach resorts. The largest of these is Sutera at Mantanani Island Resort & Spa.
Immortalized by Survivor, the enduring reality TV series, for its infestation of sea snakes, Tiga Island is the raison d’être of the eponymous national park garrisoned to protect its endangered wildlife and unique geographic features, including a few volcanoes in active mud. Geologically, the island is quite young, emerging from the sea in 1897 following a volcanic eruption. Separated from the vast expanse of mangroves on the Klias Peninsula, Tiga Island offers volcanic mud baths, is home to a resort, and if you like it spartan, there’s a campground to pitch a tent. 2 hours from Kota Kinabalu, a boat transfer to the island takes place in Kuala Penyu.