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Are you wondering where to stay in Borneo for the most authentic experiences? We list the best rainforest lodges, quirky boutique hotels, and all-inclusive beach resorts in Borneo. Spot orangutans in misty rainforests, swim with turtles on paradise islands, and enjoy the colonial cities – while staying in carefully vetted hotels that won’t let you down. We have hotel recommendations to all budgets, from mid-range boutique hotels to the most luxurious lodges in Borneo, and amazing budget accommodation options when available.
THE BEST LUXURY RAINFOREST LODGE IN BORNEO
Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley (Malaysian Borneo)
The award-winning Borneo Rainforest Lodge is the most luxurious eco-lodge in Borneo. It’s always ranked among the best wildlife lodges in Asia.
Borneo Rainforest Lodge is also the only lodge in Borneo, which lies inside primary rainforest and conservation area. You’ll be surrounded by the vast, untouched rainforest, where no modern man has stepped. Think of ultimate luxury and seclusion combined with unique nature excursions with a personal naturalist guide. I’d pick Borneo Rainforest Lodge for our “10 Luxury Hotels to Stay Before You Die” list.
The Best Wildlife Lodge in Borneo
Obviously, Borneo Rainforest Lodge is the best spot in Malaysian Borneo for authentic wildlife sightings. Hiking is allowed on private trails, which can take you to mesmerizing waterfalls, natural jacuzzi pools, dizzying viewpoints, and an ancient burial site. It’s possible to trek for a whole day chasing wildlife in their natural habitat.
The varied all-inclusive activities are the best part of staying in Borneo Rainforest Lodge. We loved our early morning walks (up to 4 hours) and were lucky to spot several orangutans. In addition to various trails, you can swim and tube down the clear waters of Danum River, take night safari drives, or just admire the unique views towards the home of truly wild orangutans.
Borneo Rainforest Lodge is the only lodge in Borneo, which lies inside primary rainforest and conservation area
The Rooms of Borneo Rainforest Lodge
Borneo Rainforest Lodge has only 30 villas, built with locally sourced and sustainable materials. Deluxe chalets open to the ravishing Danum river (with private jacuzzis!), whereas standard rooms face the rainforest with the best chances of spotting wildlife from the comfort of your bed. Orangutans had nested right above our cabin just a day before we arrived!
Borneo Rainforest Lodge is continuously ranked as the best lodge in Borneo. If you’re planning a luxury holiday in Borneo, be sure to include Borneo Rainforest Lodge into your itinerary! Click here to get inspiration for planning an itinerary in Sabah.
How to Get to Borneo Rainforest Lodge (Danum Valley)
All-inclusive rates of Borneo Rainforest Lodge cover 2-hour transfers from Lahad Datu (the nearest town and airport) – and daily activities with a professional naturalist guide. Driving through the vast secondary rainforest bordering the conservation area is an adventure as well: we spotted the rare Bornean pygmy elephants on both drives!
The Rates of Borneo Rainforest Lodge and How to Book Your Room
You can book your stay in Borneo Rainforest Lodge on their websiteor through your Bornean tour company. All-inclusive rates for a 3-day/2-night package in a standard double room start at $1100 per person.
The relaxing lounge area of Borneo Rainforest Lodge
Danum Valley's Canopy Walkway is a dream come true for nature photographers
It’s hard to pick the best lodge in Kinabatangan River, which snakes for more than 500 kilometers from the Sulu Sea, through rainforests towards the mountains and “the lost world” of western Sabah. One of the richest ecosystems in the world is home to orangutans, proboscis monkeys, and countless of other exotic species – even the elusive pygmy elephants. Most of the rainforest lodges in Kinabatangan River are clustered around the village of Sukau, where wildlife sightings are great, but constant boat traffic hinders jungle daydreams.
Option 1: Affordable & Authentic Tour Package in Kinabatangan River
If you have at least two nights to spare in Kinabatangan and yearn to experience the real magic of rainforest, book 2-day/3-night or 3-night/4-day Kinabatangan package that includes two separate lodges (and locations). We explored Kinabatangan with SI Tours staying in Abai and Sukau villages.
Start your exploration by cruising from the port of Sandakan to the mouth of Kinabatangan river. Glide quietly downstream while spotting wildlife in the thick vegetation hanging over the river, stopping to admire a herd of proboscis monkeys or even orangutans if you’re lucky. Spend a night at the simple Abai Jungle Lodge upstream. There are no roads and no other tourists in sight, just fairytale river vistas. Take private walks with your loved one on the elevated pathways at the back of the lodge and share the experience of living inside a National Geographic document.
The next day, wake early to sip coffee admiring the magical morning mist upon the river. Take a cruise to the Pitas Oxbow Lake spotting wildlife and zigzagging through a narrow channel and strangling fig-trees. Enjoy an exclusive jungle breakfast in the company of macaques and wild pigs. To experience all that Kinabatangan River can offer, cruise all the way down to Sukau village and spend the other night in the eco-chic Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge.
We loved the true wilderness feel of Abai Jungle Lodge. Combining it with Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge made our Kinabatangan River adventure just perfect. During our transit day from Abai to Sukau, we saw 6 orangutans and a herd of rare pygmy elephants! Both lodges have gorgeous terraces overlooking the river and private, elevated pathways for exploring the jungle. Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge is considerably better, or more upscale, than more simple Abai Jungle Lodge. But deluxe rooms in Abai Jungle Lodge are nice enough for one night stay, and the location is more serene than Sukau area.
Option 2: All-Inclusive Resort in Sukau: Borneo Nature Lodge
If you’re looking for a relaxed Kinabatangan River exploration, book all-inclusive stay in Borneo Nature Lodge.
How to Get to Sukau and Abai Villages in Kinabatangan River
The best and the easiest way to reach Kinabatangan River from Sandakan is to take a tour or book all-inclusive rainforest lodge. In theory, you can get either drive or negotiate a transfer to Sukau village and most lodges offer cruises. There are no public boats. We loved to explore the Kinabatangan River from its mouth to all the way to the Sukau and Bilit areas – one of the advantages of taking a guided tour and staying at two separate Kinabatangan lodges.
A beautiful view from the Abai Lodge's deck to the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Borneo
A view from the Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge's deck in Borneo
Abai Lodge at the Kinabatangan River in Malaysian Borneo
Rare Bornean Pygmy Elephants at the Kinabatangan River in Malaysian Borneo
OTHER GREAT MIDDLE-RANGE RAINFOREST LODGES IN SEPILOK
1. MY Nature Resort, Sepilok
MY Nature Resort was our first jungle lodge in Borneo, offering just a perfect introduction to the treats of the rainforest. MY Nature Resort is tucked away from the other lodges and the Sepilok highway, offering an authentic jungle feel. Still, it’s a short walk from Rainforest Discovery Center, the third draw in Sepilok after the orangutans and sun bears.
The additional perks: the property is new and has the only pool in Sepilok (for now) and you are free to explore the surrounding rainforest on the elevated pathways. Flying giant squirrels show off at the restaurant’s terrace every evening: watching them glide past while munching fried bananas is evening entertainment at its best! Our cottage had a huge, private terrace overlooking the rainforest canopy – ask for a view.
The accommodation package includes tickets and guided tours of orangutan and sun bear sanctuaries and shuttle transfers from the hotel (twice a day, just 5-minute ride). You’ll also get own guide who can lead nature walks.
2. Sepilok Nature Resort
Another excellent option for mid-range rainforest lodge in Sepilok is gorgeous Sepilok Nature Resort. The atmosphere is mesmerizing: Nature Lodge Sepilok stands by a lovely pond, surrounded by lush rainforest: You can hear the animals to your beautifully decorated room. Each room has a terrace for observing the rainforest. Check their best rates here!
How to Get to Sepilok & What To Do There
Getting to Sepilok is easy: just fly into nearby Sandakan from Kota Kinabalu or take a bus. Taxi from Sandakan takes less than 30 minutes.
The swimming pool of MY Nature Resort - the only one in Sepilok
Stunning view to the rainforest from our private terrace in MY Nature Resort - it rains in the rainforest!
Orangutan at the feeding platform of Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Malaysian Borneo
BEST LUXURIOUS ALL-INCLUSIVE BEACH RESORTS
1. Lankayan Island Dive Resort, Lankayan Island
While most other islands in Borneo are already crowded, Lankayan remains a remote paradise for snorkelers and divers, or anyone seeking a secluded tropical island. Lankayan has just one exclusive dive resort and blissfully empty stretches of powdery sand. I can happily rank Lankayan Island Dive Resort among the best dive lodges in Borneo.
On Lankayan, the Sulu Sea glimmers in the most perfect shade of turquoise, mixing with the hues of blue, inviting you for a refreshing dip. Float quietly to witness the paradisiac scene, wondering if you’re really there, before exploring the underwater treasures, which include healthy reefs, clouds of colorful fish, playful turtles and exciting rarities like jawfish.
In Lankayan Island Dive Resort, you can feed you Robinson Crusoe fantasies with all the modern comforts. All the cottages are right on the shore. We stayed in #25, the second last one, which stands on stilts, both upon water and sand, and boasts unobstructed views of the turquoise ocean. For the ultimate win, I’d recommend #26, but in Lankayan, you always win. Here you can read our separate article on snorkeling in Lankayan Island.
Both Lankayan Island Dive Resort and previous Borneo Rainforest Lodge are listed as the best all-inclusive resorts in Borneo.
How to Get to Lankayan Island Dive Resort
Fly, drive or take a bus to Sandakan, a coastal town in Sabah area of Malaysian Borneo. The all-inclusive rates of Lankayan Island Dive Resort include transfer from the airport or Sandakan city to the port and 1,5-2 hours’ speedboat trip to Lankayan Island.
2. Pom Pom Island Resort
Another jewel slightly away from the bustle of Sipadan is exquisite Pom Pom Island Resort. It shares many of the superlatives with Lankayan: Pom Pom is a hidden gem away from the crowds. The best thing: You can do snorkeling and diving trips to the world-famous Sipadan!
Pom Pom Island is a 45-minute boat ride away from the town of Semporna. Rates of Pom Pom Island Resort include boat transfers between Semporna and Pom Pom Island and airport transfers from Tawau to Semporna (1-1,5 hours).
Just sit back and enjoy the paradise feel of Lankayan Island, Malaysian Borneo
The main building of Lankayan Island Dive Resort in its evening gown
Tiny Lankayan Island is an unspoilt paradise far off the coast of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo
THE BEST CITY HOTELS IN KOTA KINABALU
1. The Best Luxury Hotel in Kota Kinabalu: Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa
Shangri-La is a legend in Borneo. Technically, it’s not a city hotel, as it’s 7 kilometers (and 10 minutes by car) from the center of Kota Kinabalu. If you’re arriving in Borneo after a long-haul flight, I’d book an ocean view room in Shangri-La just to unwind. This huge resort is just 7 kilometers from the airport and offers seven restaurants, beach, gigantic pool, and day tours to Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (which is just 10-minute boat ride away).
2. The Best Affordable City Hotel in Kota Kinabalu (Mid-Range): Grandis Hotel & Resort
Grandis is our choice for the best value mid-range city hotel in Kota Kinabalu. The location is excellent and rooms come with stunning ocean views. It’s a solid no-frills kind of city hotel, where you will sleep well.
Room rates of Grandis are roughly half of the Shangri-La’s rates and the location is better for those who’d like to explore the city instead of relaxing by the beach.
Ranee Boutique Hotel is without a doubt the best hotel in Kuching. Without any competitors, it wins both the luxury and affordable boutique hotel categories. The location is perfect for exploring the waterfront, center and Old Town of Kuching, yet the rooms are quiet.
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