7 day hikes in Sabah (updated)

by | Jan 18, 2018 | 0 comments

30 October, 2018
Our (updated) list of 7 Day Hikes in Sabah gives you some suggestions for easily accessible day treks and how to get there.

We’ve handpicked this list from some of our favorite hiking trails around the beautiful state of Sabah. Whether you are looking to fill in a day of downtime, only have a short stay, or you are traveling on a budget, we’re sure these 7 day hikes will help you make the most of your time in Borneo.

Scroll down or click on a link to get started.

1) Kinabalu National Park

Day Hikes in Sabah Borneo

Difficulty:

Easy to Moderate (depending on which trails you take)

Distance:

Varies (anywhere from short treks of a few hundred meters to 10+km if you try to hike them all)

About the Kinabalu National Park trek:

Climbing Mount Kinabalu is one of the absolute top experiences in Borneo, but summiting the mountain is not the only rewarding hike that Kinabalu National Park offers.  There is also a well connected network of trekking trails within Kinabalu National Park that offer stunning, up-close views of the mountain as you wander through pristine cloud forest.

Kinabalu National Park’s trail network offers you the opportunity to see birds, mammals, insects, fungi, orchids and pitcher plants that only exist within the park along with other species only found in Borneo.  In fact, if you are an avid birder, Kinabalu National Park is a must.

Check out this short video on the park from Travel News Digest

What to expect at Kinabalu Park:

Once you arrive at the park entrance you will be required to pay the entrance fee (at the time of writing it is RM 15 for foreigners and RM 3 for locals). Along with your ticket and receipt, the ticketing staff will provide you with a map showing the various routes and their respective trekking distance.

From the park entrance, you are free to wander on your own over the many trails. The distance you trek is up to you. The trails are interconnected and well marked. We found that it’s easy to navigate given the simple map provided at the park headquarters.

The type of trekking you can expect is ranges from easy to moderate. A few of the trails have steep inclines, but generally speaking, you won’t find any trails that will test your limits (unless you find yourself climbing Mount Kinabalu, but you need a guide and permits for that.)

There are several eateries spread throughout the park. The food is moderately priced, but if you are looking to go on the cheap, it is better to pack a lunch before you head into the park or wait until you exit Kinabalu Park to eat at one of the many restaurants surrounding the park entrance.

If you do end up eating in the park, Liwagu Restaurant is a nice stopping point.  Several trails bring you to the restaurant and the atmosphere on their outdoor dining area is pleasant and scenic.  The food isn’t spectacular, but if you’re hungry from trekking around the park, we’re sure it will hit the spot.

Finally, we recommend that you stop by at the botanical garden during your trek around the Kinabalu National Park.  There is an entrance fee of RM 5, but it’s worth it. The botanical garden contains many orchids and pitcher plants that are endemic to the park only.  MySabah has done a nice write up on what you can find in the Kinabalu National Park Botanical Garden.   

Unfortunately, there aren’t a significant amount of online resources that provide comprehensive lists of what plant and animal life can be found in Kinabalu National Park, but we have found a site that gives a quick overview.  You can check it out below:

Fauna of Kinabalu

Flora of Kinabalu

For further reading you can check out these books that are available at sellers throughout Borneo.

Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo by Phillips and Phillips

Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo by Phillips and Phillips

Kinabalu by Antony Van der Ent

There are many other useful guides for animal and plant life of Borneo, but these should get you started.

Trekking Trail in Kinabalu National Park

How to get to Kinabalu National Park:

We offer a day trip to Kinabalu National Park from Kota Kinabalu, so if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get there, you can check it out here.

If you are looking to get to Kinabalu National Park on your own, there are several options.

From Kota Kinabalu:

The easiest option is to catch a minivan or shared taxi heading for Ranau from the Padang Merdeka Bus Terminal located near downtown Kota Kinabalu.  Tell the driver you would like to be dropped at the Kinabalu National Park entrance.

The Padang Merdeka terminal operates from about 6AM until about 6PM, daily.  Prices may vary, but expect to pay around MYR 20 or so (here is a link to Sabah Tourism Board’s Guide). Please note that the driver will only go when the vehicle is full.  It is best to arrive early in the morning or you may end up waiting around for other passengers to show up.

You can also take a coach bus from the Inanam bus station in Kota Kinabalu, but if you are staying downtown, you will have to take a taxi to get there or if you are daring, you can catch a local city bus to inanam…if you can figure out which one to take (hint:  they will be labeled KK-Inanam or something similar)

The city bus station serving Inanam is located just down the street from the Padang Merdeka terminal.

From Sandakan:

From Sandakan, we recommend taking a coach bus headed for Kota Kinabalu.  Unless you are staying in the park, it might be best (and cheaper!) to stay overnight in Ranau as the bus journey will take about 6 hours.   

You can catch the coach bus at the Sandakan Bus Terminal.  There are several bus services there to choose from.  Make sure to tell the ticket staff you want to purchase a ticket to Kinabalu National Park entrance or Ranau (depending on when you are heading to the park), as the fare all the way to KK will be more. The ticket fare should run about MYR 45 and the journey is about 6 hours. The bus will stop for food and toilet breaks along the way.  The bus will drop you directly at the Kinabalu National Park entrance or at the local terminal in Ranau, depending on which one you request.

From Ranau:

From the local bus terminal in Ranau you can go to Kinabalu National park via taxi, or by minibus heading for Kota Kinabalu (cheaper).  You can also try Grab Taxi. but we have heard it’s pretty hit or miss.

2) Tawau Hills National Park – Waterfall

Day Hikes in Sabah Borneo
Second on our list of Day Hikes in Sabah is a true diamond in the rough, the rarely visited Tawau Hills National Park.

Difficulty:

Easy to Moderate (depending on which trails you take)

Distance:

Approximately 6KM round trip.

Highlights:

  • Off the beaten path.
  • Stunning virgin rainforest boasting some of the tallest tropical trees in the world.
  • Swimming in a crystal clear jungle river.
  • Diverse animal life including pygmy elephants, civets, flying squirrels, and hornbills.

You better get to this place before it blows up.

About the Tawau Hills National Park waterfall trek:

We’ll get to the trek in a moment, but first a little bit about this hidden gem. Tawau Hills National Park (or Taman Bukit Tawau as it’s known in the malay language) is among the least visited of the national parks in Sabah. Honestly, we are not sure why because this place is stunning.

The two main peaks of Tawau Hills park are Mount Magdelina and Mount Lucia. They are volcanic in origin. As is the case with volcanic areas, the surrounding soils are very rich and create a perfect environment for lush tropical rainforest.

Until just recently, Tawau Hills was home to the tallest tropical tree in the world. That tree has now been surpassed by more than 50 others at nearby Danum valley, but don’t worry, this trek will take you through relatively undisturbed virgin rainforest. There is a trail that will take you to this massive tree, as well.

The waterfall is known as Glass Falls, or Air Terjun Bukit Gelas in malay. The trek to the waterfall at Tawau Hills starts from the park headquarters. The trail mainly follows the river and the walk is about 3km, one way. The trek takes about an hour if you walk at a normal pace. We recommend making it a slower trek and taking time to admire the surroundings of this lush, virgin rainforest.

Tawau Hills Park trail signboard.
There is plenty of wildlife around.  Most mammals and birds are active early in the morning when the temperature is not so hot.  So if you want the best chance to see wildlife, be sure to head to the park early in the morning.  Wildlife can still be spotted throughout the day so make sure to take your time and keep your eyes and ears open.  You never know what you might see.

Once you arrive at the falls, make sure to take a dip in the river.

One thing to note is that these trails can be flooded if there is heavy rain, so make sure to keep aware of your surroundings.  Reportedly, Tawau Hills Park has implemented a flash flood warning system, but I wouldn’t rely purely on that system.

There are some other trails in the park you can explore if you feel inclined.  There is a mineral hot springs and a trail will take you to the 90 meter tree that formerly held the record as the world’s tallest tropical tree.  Both are also easily doable as day treks.

If you are looking for more than a day hike, it is possible to stay in the park.  The facilities are not amazing, but if you are the adventurous type, it will be fine.

Additionally, there are guided treks to the two main peaks Mount Magdelina and Mount Lucia.  Arrangements for these treks need to be made in advance. You can read more about those treks onSabah Parks Website.

How to get to Tawau Hills Park:

From Tawau, there are few options to get to the park.  It is about 20km from Tawau town. The quickest option is to rent a car for the day and drive yourself to the park.  Many taxi drivers are happy to take you to the park, but make sure you make arrangements with the taxi driver to get back.  They will either wait for you or come back at a set time. The local taxis won’t be cheap (Sabah Tourism reports it will be about RM 30 one way) but perhaps you can provide a bit of a bribe in the form of lunch or dinner to get the cost down.  

There are more than likely Grab taxi drivers who are happy to take you out to the park, but again you will have to negotiate the return trip.  The cost will be slightly cheaper than the normal taxi.

One final option is coordinating a trip to the park through your hotel in Tawau.  Most hotels provide some sort of package for a day trip to the park, but expect to pay a premium.

3) Inobong Substation Hill

Day Hikes in Sabah Borneo

Observation deck at Inobong substation.

Third on our list of Day Hikes in Sabah is an easily accessible hike in the Kota Kinabalu city area.

Difficulty:

Moderate to difficult

Distance:

Inobong Hill – 12 km round trip.

Highlights:

  • Stunning panoramic view of Kota Kinabalu, the ocean, and nearby islands.
  • Short distance from downtown Kota Kinabalu.
  • Opportunity to meet locals who love to hike.

About the Inobong Substation trek:

If you are looking for a challenging day hike near Kota Kinabalu, the trek up to the Inobong substation is an excellent choice.  The Inobong substation is one of several substations that sit on the border of Crocker Range National Park. This is a fairly strenuous hike due to the 12km round trip distance and the nearly 500 meter elevation gain to reach the substation.  Luckily, this hike is over gravel and broken pavement so the terrain itself does not present a challenge.

Although the trek follows a road, there is very little traffic here.  Before reaching the top, the trail will take you through an old cemetary.  Additionally, this hike is frequented by locals, so if you are a visitor to Borneo, it might provide an excellent opportunity to meet some new friends and witness the true hospitality of the residents of Borneo.

Once you reach the substation, you will have to pay an entrance fee to enter Crocker Range National Park.  Once inside, there is a gazebo situated on the edge of the hill, allowing a panoramic view over nearly all of Kota Kinabalu.

Make sure to bring plenty of water and sun protection for this hike.  It is best to try to head out early for this one.

How to get to the Inobong Substation starting point:

From Kota Kinabalu, you can hire a taxi to arrive at the trailhead shown above (we recommend GRAB as its cheaper than the red taxis around town).  Make sure to either give your taxi driver a pick up time or have your phone charged so you can arrange your ride back.

There is a parking area, so if you’ve rented a car or motorbike you can park there.  Speaking of a rented car or motorbike. If you have one, there is another option for this area.

If you have your own transport, you can skip the walk up the hill and instead head into the jungle and get a taste of the Salt Trail (see what we did there).  Simply drive up to the substation entrance and pay your fee. You will continue up a very steep portion of the hill and arrive at the trail head for the Crocker Range Salt Trail.  How far you want to go is up to you, but the trail gets pretty hardcore pretty quickly, so be prepared for steep inclines and root covered trails.

If difficult hiking excites you, check out our 5 day Salt Trail trek.  It will challenge you, but we think it’s one of the best treks in Borneo…and you can tell your friends it’s more difficult than climbing Mount Kinabalu.

4) St. Veronica’s Hill (Bukit Perahu)

Day Hikes in Sabah Borneo

Drone view peak of the St. Veronica’s Hill. Photo by: Bryan Chris Lim

Fourth on our list of Day Hikes in Sabah is St. Veronica’s Hill (Bukit Perahu) located near Tamparuli.

Difficulty:

Moderate (despite the short distance, the trail is steep and can get quite slippery)

Distance:

Less than 2 km round trip.

Highlights:

  • View of sunrise over Mount Kinabalu.
  • Panoramic views of the Tamparuli area.
  • Popular spot for locals.

About the Bukit Perahu/St. Veronica’s Hill trek:

This short hike is just outside of Tamparuli and about an hour’s drive from Kota Kinabalu. Bukit Perahu (translated as Boat Hill) is named as such because there are several large rock outcroppings which resemble the bow of a ship. Depending on your fitness, it’s about 20-60 minutes to reach the summit. We recommend trying to get out to this hike early in the morning to catch the best views and photo opportunities.

Bukit Perahu is popular with the locals in the Tamparuli area. You definitely won’t be alone on this hike, but you will more than likely make some new friends. Bukit Perahu is utilized by the local Catholic population to perform their ‘stations of the cross’ ceremony. You will find the stations dotted along the trail to the top.

How to get to Bukit Perahu/St. Veronica’s Hill:

From Kota Kinabalu, we recommend hiring a car or motorbike and making the journey yourself. We’ve embedded the map below so you can use the pin and follow the driving directions.

It is possible to hire a taxi, however, if you are on a budget, this is probably not the cheapest option.

5)  Bukit Botak/Bukit Bundul (Bald Hill)

Day Hikes in Sabah Borneo

Bukit Botak or Bald Hill has no trees at the top. Photo by Gotoh

Fifth on our list of Day Hikes in Sabah is another easily accessible trek in the Kota Kinabalu area, known by several names, Bukit Botak or Bukit Gundul.  We’ve heard it called both, so we will roll with both names.

Difficulty:

Easy

Distance:

Less than 2 km round trip.

Highlights:

  • Epic sunset watching spot.
  • Panoramic views of the Sepanggar Bay and nearby islands.
  • Popular spot for locals.

About the Bukit Botak/Bukit Gundul trek:

This is another hike not too far from downtown Kota Kinabalu. This is an easy out and back hike to a treeless hill overlooking Kota Kinabalu’s Sepanggar Bay. If you are looking for a quick hike near downtown Kota Kinabalu, Bukit Botak is a good choice. From the top of Bukit Botak, the views of the sunset can be quite spectacular. This spot is another favorite among the locals, but due to the wide open top, you can find a nice spot to have an uninterrupted view of the ever amazing Kota Kinabalu sunset.

How to get to Bukit Botak/Bukit Gundul:

You can hire a taxi to take you to the starting point shown below. Grab taxi is probably the cheapest option to get out there. It is advisable to try and head out before 5PM to catch the sunset as the traffic can occasionally be quite backed up.

6) Kipungit & Langganan Waterfalls, Poring

Here is a video of Langganan Waterfall from NoobFromSabah

Number 6 on our list of Day Hikes in Sabah is a must visit if you have the time.  Langganan falls is 120 meter tall waterfall located inside Kinabalu National Park.

Difficulty:

Easy to Moderate

Distance:

  • Kipungit falls:  approximately 2km round trip.
  • Langanan falls:  approximately 7km round trip.

Highlights:

  • Two stunning waterfalls
  • Bat cave
  • Hot Springs
  • Canopy Walkway

About the Kipungit & Langganan Waterfall Trek:

These two waterfalls are located on the backside of Kinabalu National Park.  They are accessed from the village of Poring, which is the location of the locally famous Poring Hot Springs.  Poring has several restaurants and accommodation options.  Once you arrive in poring, enter the hot spring area and pay the fee to enter the park (RM15 for foreigners).  If you want to hike the canopy walkway, you will have to purchase that ticket separately. It is the same trail to access both waterfalls.  The trail to the falls is well marked and pretty well traveled.

Note:  If you plan to go to the Langganan Falls, you must alert the ticket office for safety reasons.  They will not allow people to hike to the falls after 2 pm. Bring plenty of water for this trek and you should wear leech socks.

Follow the signs for the falls and in about 1 km you will arrive at Kipungit Falls.  This waterfall is about 10-12 meters high. If you are short on time, or looking for a light hike, we recommend turning around and heading back at this waterfall.

The trail that carries on to Langanan falls gets considerably more challenging, so we recommend that only fit hikers attempt this trek.  The payoff is definitely worth it as you will pass a cave with roosting bats (please don’t disrupt their rest) and finally arrive at this towering 120 meter tall waterfall.

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get back to the headquarters.  Don’t forget to sign out after you get back so the park service knows you have made it back.

MySabah has written an excellent blog on this trek.  You can check it out here.

How to get to Poring Hot Springs, Kipungit Falls, and Langanan Falls:

From Kota Kinabalu:

We recommend taking a minivan or shared taxi direct to Ranau from the Padang Merdeka Bus terminal located near downtown Kota Kinabalu. The terminal operates from about 6AM until about 6PM, daily. Prices may vary, but expect to pay around MYR 20 or so. Please note that the driver will only go when the vehicle is full. It is best to arrive early in the morning or you may end up waiting around for other passengers to show up.

The minibus or shared taxi will take you to the local terminal in Ranau. From the local terminal, you can go to Poring via taxi, or by minibus (cheaper). You can also try Grab Taxi from Ranau to get to Poring, but we have heard it’s pretty hit or miss.

From Sandakan:

From Sandakan, we recommend taking a coach bus to reach Ranau. You can go to Sandakan Bus Terminal to catch a bus to Ranau. There are several bus services there to choose from. Any of the buses heading for Kota Kinabalu will pass through Ranau. Make sure to tell the staff you want to purchase a ticket to Ranau, as the fare all the way to KK will be more. The ticket fare should run about RM45 and the journey is about 6 hours. The bus will stop for food and toilet breaks along the way. The bus will take you to the local terminal in Ranau. From the local terminal, you can go to Poring via taxi, or by minibus (cheaper).

You can get directly to Poring by hiring a taxi in Sandakan, however, the pricing might be expensive for some travelers.

7) Signal Hill

Day Hikes in Sabah Borneo

Beautiful Sunset as be seen from the Signal Hill Observatory Platform

And finally, number 7 on our list of Day Hikes in Sabah:  Signal Hill.  This isn’t much of a trek, but it’s a quick and easy place to get a walk in if you are in downtown Kota Kinabalu.

Difficulty:

Easy

Distance:

About 1 km round trip

Highlights:

  • Great sunset spot
  • Located in downtown Kota Kinabalu
  • Shop with refreshments
  • great view of the ocean and downtown Kota Kinabalu

About Signal Hill:

If you have an hour or two to spare in Kota Kinabalu, head up to the Signal Hill Observatory. There are a few trails up. One trail starts near the Atkinson Clock Tower and another starting just behind Hotel Garden on Jalan Dewan (also known as Jalan Australia). It’s a short hike up to the Signal Hill Observatory Platform and offers panoramic landscapes of Kota Kinabalu City as well as the Tunku Abdul Rahman Islands.

These are only a few of the many accessible day hikes around Sabah. We’ve linked to a few blogs highlighting some of the other day hikes you can find.

If you are looking for something a bit more challenging or something off the beaten path, we offer a few multi-day hikes through some of Borneo’s most beautiful places. You can check them out here:

Remote Jungle Trekking – Long Pasia

Sabah’s Lost World – Maliau Basin

Jungle Trekking Day Trip – Kawang Forest Reserve

Check out all of our jungle treks here:

Top Peak Travel Jungle Treks

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