Tip of Borneo travel guide: the most beautiful beaches of Malaysian Borneo!

Tip of Borneo: Endless beaches, hardly any houses among the towering palm trees and green dense jungle in Malaysia. The northernmost part of Malaysian Borneo is an undiscovered area where you will feel like a true explorer. Away from busy cities, this is Borneo as you imagine it: an oasis of tranquillity, nature and crystal clear oceans. We hope this place will stay this unspoiled and will keep her charming character.

Discovering roads Sabah Malaysia

Tip of Borneo

The northernmost part of Borneo consists of the Tip of Borneo peninsula. Apart from the city of Kudat, you’ll only find small villages and palm trees here, interspersed with jungle, mangroves and rice fields. Time seems to stand still and travelling around here is one big adventure. The white-sand beaches, turquoise water, surrounded by rainforest, stretched among the shore, gives this place a magical dreamy feeling.

What makes our visit to the Tip of Borneo more special is the place where we stay, Hibiscus Beach Retreat*.  It’s located in the middle of the jungle, very close to the beach. We stay in a so-called Treetops chalet, although the house is not built on the trees, it is built high from the ground with a big terrace which provides a breathtaking view of the sea. The best part, this beautiful chalet has a private beach for the lucky guests who stay here.

Read more: The ultimate Borneo itinerary for 2-3 weeks travelling in Malaysian Borneo!

Pinky sunset at Hibiscus Tree Top Retreat Tip of Borneo Sabah Malaysia

The beautiful beaches of Tip of Borneo!

Tip of Borneo, also known as Tanjung Simpang Mengayu, has beautiful beaches on the west side and rocks and cliffs on the northeast side. According to travellers who have seen a lot of Sabah, you’ll find here the best beaches in the region! Kilometres of white-fine-sand and turquoise sea, surrounded by dense jungle. What else do you need? Since there are almost no other tourists here, you’ll usually have the beaches all to yourself. The feeling of having this lovely place for yourself reminds me of our travels through French Polynesia and Madagascar. These types of destinations are our favourites!

Kosuhui surf beach Tip of Borneo Sabah Malaysia

Our favourite beaches of the Tip of Borneo!

Pantai Avoi:
The private beach of our Hibiscus Beach Retreat accommodation. A small little bay surrounded by green jungle and black rocks. You can snorkel among the corals, spot clown-fish and much more!

Pantai Bawang Jamal:
This long bay is the perfect place for sunsets and drinks. Two small beach bars happily serve you a beer and some snacks. Further up the bay, there is a little sea turtle conservatory.

Ready for snorkeling Beach at Hibiscus Beach Tip of Borneo Sabah Malaysia

Pantai Kalampunian:
A three-kilometre long beach that ends at the Tip of Borneo. At the far left, you’ll find Blue Fins, where you can rent a surfboard. Restaurant Tip Top is also located nearby. Because the middle of the bay has no coral and stones, this is the perfect place for surfing or swimming.

Pantai Kelambu:
This beautiful beach is connected to a small green island, the island of Pulau Kelambu. Whether it is low or high tide, you are always able to walk to this island via a narrow strip of white sand.  Here you will only find monkeys.

Fun fact: the sea on one side of the sand strip has a much lower temperature than on the other side!

Beaches and mountains at Tip of Borneo Sabah Malaysia

Click here for the free travel guide about Kota Kinabalu in Borneo!

The best activities to do in Tip or Borneo

In addition to sunbathing on the beach or taking a refreshing dip in the sea, there are plenty of other things to do on the Tip of Borneo peninsula. Below a small selection!

Discover pristine coral by snorkelling or diving

On the west side of Tip of Borneo, you’ll find pristine coral and a crowded underwater world. Since diving is not allowed here, and fishing with dynamite is also forbidden, the coral is still very healthy. We walked straight from our chalet to the beach (i.e. Pantai Avoi), on the right side you’ll find a good spot for snorkelling. Perfect to cool off while floating in your lifejacket and enjoying all this beauty.

Diving masks, snorkels, and fins are provided during a stay at Hibiscus Beach Retreat. You can also borrow kayaks and stand up paddleboards to explore the waters.

Kayaking at Hibiscus Beach Tip of Borneo Sabah Malaysia

Diving at the Tip of Borneo

There are several beautiful diving locations around Tip of Borneo. These diving locations are all located slightly further up the sea. Blue Fin is a company that offers diving. You can also get your diving licences here. A morning dive (consisting of two dives) costs MYR 250 (€54) per person. Unfortunately, the diving conditions were not good when we were here. A pity since it is even possible to spot sharks here: the black-pointed shark, the bamboo shark, the hammerhead shark and the Borneo-shark.

Windy Beach at Hibiscus Beach Tip of Borneo Sabah Malaysia

Surf on perfect waves or search for turtles while stand-up paddling

Yes, you read that right. On the west side of the Borneo peninsula, surfing is a thing. The South China Sea creates great waves varying in size from 2ft to 9ft that are suitable for beginners and pros to surf on. Especially the beach Pantai Kalampunian is really nice for catching waves. For surf lessons and surf equipment, just go to Blue Fin, located on the same beach. Standup paddling (SUP) is also a good way of enjoying the sea. With a bit of luck, you will even spot a few sea turtles.

Tip: there is a turtle sanctuary on the Tip of Borneo. This initiative ensures that turtle eggs hatch safely and the baby turtles can find their way to the sea. The turtle hatching season is in August and May.

Nothing beats an oldfashioned barbeque with fresh fish and local groceries

After spending some time in Malaysia we really start appreciating cooking ourselves again. When Heldy of Hibiscus Beach Retreat tells us that it is possible to barbecue in our Treetops lodge, we immediately drive to the market for fresh fish and vegetables. The market is already quite an experience, high chance that you will be the only tourists. But do not worry, the friendly and smiling people will help you get your fresh vegetables and fish.

That evening Heldy helps Ries to light the barbecue and I roll a one and a half kilo tuna in banana leaves. Half an hour later, while the sun slowly sets, we are enjoying fresh fish and vegetables and eat it from banana leaves.

Note: if you like barbecue, but you don’t like all the work that comes with it, the chef of Hibiscus retreat will happily take this burden away from you. Now you can just relax and wait for the food to be ready. They also can do the groceries for you. 

Visit the Tip of Borneo

Tip of Borneo is the name of the Peninsula, but also the name of the actual tip of Borneo (also called Tanjung Simpang Mengayau) where the cliffs meet the sea. Just a five-kilometre drive from Hibiscus Beach Retreat. A small park has been created here with a large truncated globe monument which is impossible to miss. When you walk down the stairs, you witness the non-visible border of two seas in front of you: the South China Sea and the Sule Sea. This place is also nice to visit during sunset or during the day for some tanning.

Fun fact: You are here at the most northern point of Borneo and you are very close to the Philippines (e.g. Palawan). From the top of Mount Kinabalu (4095m), you could see the Philippines on a clear day! 

If you want to know more about orangutans in Danum Valley on Borneo, read our blog!

Go for a (long) beach walk and get acquainted with all the beauty around you

The beaches of Tip or Borneo are known as the most beautiful beaches in all of Sabah (the northernmost state of Borneo). Often completely empty with a few locals and miles long. During low tide, you can walk from beach to beach. Surrounded by the beautiful nature, this is a very relaxing activity to do and it’s good for your health too.

Tip: during low tide, you can walk all the way to Hibiscus Beach Retreat’s private beach to Pantai Bawang Jamal, where there is the Secret Beach Bar.

Kulambu Island Tip of Borneo Sabah Malaysia

View the sunset at Secret Beach Bar

Tip of Borneo is the place to relax and unwind. Buy a coconut or cocktail at Secret Beach and Bar and relax in a hammock while watching the sun slowly set!

This bar, located among the trees on the beach, contains also a campsite. There are coloured tents underneath small wooden shelters where you can always find a backpacker or two. It is a simple place with a few dishes on the menu, cocktails, a swing and a few hammocks.

Tip: Depending on the season, there may be sandflies on the beaches. These nasty sandflies use your blood to lay eggs, after a bite you get a nasty itchy bump. Be smart and prevent this from happening by applying baby oil on your skin, sandflies don’t like that.

Take a Swing Tip of Borneo Sabah Malaysia

Take a mangrove boat trip

The rainforest that spreads over Tip of Borneo also consists of mangroves. This is the place where proboscis monkeys live, just like many colourful birds and small lizards. The best way to explore the mangrove is by boat. While sailing, the guide tells you all about the animals, insects and plants that live here in the mangrove. A mangrove boat trip costs around MYR 80 (€ 17.50) per person.

Also nice: by car, we visited one of the local Rungus villages, Loro Kecil, on the edge of the mangrove. Here you’ll see how the locals live and you can visit the wobbly suspension bridge that hangs over the river and connects villages. With a bit of luck, you will even see buffalo’s bathing in the middle of the village.

Where do you stay in the Tip of Borneo? 

Slowly I wake up by the sounds of birds and in the background, the waves hitting the shore. As I stretch out, I smell the delicious scent of fresh coffee. Nice, Ries has already set out a lovely breakfast outside on the terrace. Usually, I take my phone with me during breakfast and check for new messages (I know what you think: that’s no nice company for Ries! But hey, it’s my only addiction). However, here on Tip of Borneo, we don’t have WiFi nor any cellphone connection, so I just simply enjoy the breakfast, take a sip of my coffee and watch the jungle surrounding us, slowly awakening.

Surrounded by nature, with the sound of the sea in the background are three beautiful lodges: the Hibiscus Retreats. We sleep in the Treetops chalet, a spacious residence, built from wood that overlooks the beach. The interior is simple but stylish. A wonderful bed, sofa, rain shower and a small kitchen. The walls consist of glass doors, which contributes even more to the feeling of being in the middle of nature. The most beautiful part is definitely the terrace. Here are two sunbeds and a table where we have breakfast every day.

Breakfast after a rain Sabah Malaysia

Perfect honeymoon location

In recent weeks, we have been busy preparing some things for our wedding. During breakfast, we chat about what our honeymoon should look like. “Well actually like this here,” Ries says. “Really remote, not crowded at all, without WiFi, without TV, with a beautiful private beach, wonderful beds and sun.” I couldn’t agree more. The Hibiscus Beach Retreat lodges are perfect for a romantic getaway to truly reconnect with your beloved ones.

Birds view Hibiscus Tree Top Tip of Borneo Sabah Malaysia

Adventurous but comfortable

The fact that the chalets at Hibiscus Beach Retreat are situated in the middle of the jungle creates an adventurous feeling. You walk towards your own villa via a narrow forest path. Along the way, you’ll hear monkeys and see squirrels. Butterflies flutter around you in the morning and in the evening you hear crickets everywhere.

Communicate via the walkie-talkie!

Communication goes through the walkie-talkie. There is no telephone service here, something you won’t find in the bigger part of Tip of Borneo. So, via the walkie-talkie, we ask Heldy, the host of Hibiscus Beach Retreat, if we can borrow snorkel gear and if he can help us light up the barbecue.

Apart from the lack of telephone range, modern necessities such as air conditioning, filtered drinking water and a hot shower are present. So it is quite adventurous but in a comfortable and safe way.

An Environment Statement and cleaning up plastic!

Hibiscus Beach Retreat’s preserves the beautiful environment it operates in and makes a true effort of keeping this place clean. The company participates in local initiatives such as the KTCS (Kudat Turtle Conservation Society) to create a safe living environment for sea turtles. The beach belonging to the villas is cleaned and stripped of plastic every day. Just like other areas in the region, Borneo is plagued by a lot of plastic in the sea, dangerous for marine life. The use of plastic is also discouraged and every villa has large drinking water reservoirs so that you won’t have to buy plastic bottles.

Do you want to help clean up the beaches? You are very welcome to help. As a reward, a cold beer or soft drink is waiting for you!

Practical information for the Hibiscus Beach Retreat

The British owner James has built three beautiful villas here on the Tip of Borneo. Together with his team of local employees, this retreat is run extremely well. The staff is very friendly and is always busy making your time here as pleasant as possible. Each chalet is decorated differently and has other facilities:

Treetops chalet:
This spacious chalet can accommodate four people. It has a kitchen, large terrace and bathroom. This is the place we stayed at. You stay here from MYR 595 / € 130 including breakfast.

Clifftop chalet:
This chalet is located directly on the beach, but with more than enough privacy. The Clifftop Chalet also accommodates up to four people. You stay here from MYR 595 / € 130 including breakfast.

This spacious villa has three bedrooms and can fit up to eight people. Here you can enjoy a beautiful infinity pool, spacious garden and large living room. You stay here from MYR 1400 / € 310 including breakfast.

Please note: you won’t have a cellphone range or wifi. We found that very relaxing. If you do need cellphone reach, just drive to the actual Tip of Borneo (just 5 minutes drive), where there is 4G again.

The Hibiscus Beach Retreat chalets are a half-hour drive from Kudat. Scroll down for more information about how to get here.

More information about Hibiscus Beach Retreat

If you want more information or if you have a question, take a look at the website or contact James himself.

Hibiscus Beach Retreat
Contact person: James Bruns
Jalan Marang Parang, Tiga Papan, Kudat
+60 19 895 0704

Restaurants and bars near Tip of Borneo.

It may already be clear, you are really in a non-commercial area here. Meaning there are just a few bars and restaurants. Close to the real Tip of Borneo, you’ll find some restaurants, like Tommy’s Place (where you also have wifi) and Tip Top restaurant (a good restaurant but unfortunately closed when we visited). Other options are:

Secret Place Cafe and Beach Café and Bar:
Near Hibiscus Beach Retreat you’ll find the Secret Place Cafe, mentioned earlier, where pizzas, nasi goreng and curries are served. Close to Secret Place Cafe, you will also find Beach Café and Bar, where you can eat simple dishes for lunch or dinner.

Tip: don’t rely on information regarding opening times from Google. Sometimes restaurants are suddenly permanently closed, or open a little later or close earlier. Although it is not a real island, Tip or Borneo runs on island time, meaning opening times are always a bit unpredictable.

Bak Bak Jo:
On the other side of the peninsula, near Bak Bak beach, is Bak Bak Jo located. It’s a fish restaurant where you can order Malaysian steamboat (unfortunately the restaurant was closed when we visited).

Lavender Café:
In Kudat you will find several restaurants which serve fish and local dishes. Fancy the western kitchen or a very tasty cake? Then head out to Lavender Café. We ate a delicious piece of chocolate cake at this place!

How do you get to Tip of Borneo?

The north of Sabah is an area that is more difficult to reach by public transport. Tip of Borneo is not far from Kota Kinabalu (the capital of Sabah), but it will take you some time to get here with a local bus. Here are the options to travel to Tip of Borneo:

By bus: bus to Kudat, then take a taxi (duration between 4 and 7 hours)

Local minivans run between Kota Kinabalu and Kudat a few times a day. They leave from the Bas Bandaran bus stop where they’ll wait until the van is full of passengers (1-3 hours of waiting time). It will travel to Kudat in three to four hours. The costs are MYR 30 (€ 6.50) per person. From there it is another half an hour by taxi to Tip of Borneo. A taxi costs around MYR 80 (€ 17.50).

Rent a car: directly (duration approximately 3 hours)

This was our method of transportation and I can strongly recommend it. We rented a car (via Sunny Cars) for €20 a day. We drove to Tip of Borneo in three hours. Not only is this the easiest way, it is also nice to have transportation on Tip of Borneo. This way you are not dependent on expensive taxis to see the different beaches. Do you prefer not to drive yourself from Kota Kinabalu but do you need transport on the peninsula? Villa Hibiscus has a car and scooter available to rent for a day.

Charlotte Plans a Trip Sabah Malaysia

By plane: fly to Kudat, then take a taxi

There is a direct flight from Kota Kinabalu to Kudat three times a week. The short flight (20 minutes) costs around €21 (one way). From there it is another half an hour by taxi to Tip of Borneo. A taxi costs around MYR 80 (€ 17.50).

*We stayed in Tip of Borneo at the invitation of Hibiscus Beach Retreat, however everything above based on our own experience. We always provide our honest opinion.

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Tip of Borneo travel guide! Where to eat, where to sleep and what to do in Tip of Borneo!

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  1. by boon on 29 July 2020  07:37 Reply

    Hi wonderful travel story of kudat.
    May i know more info on the mangroove River boat trip contact.



  2. by boon on 29 July 2020  07:38 Reply

    Hi wonderful travel story of kudat.
    May i know more info on the mangroove River boat trip contact.


    • by Charlotte van de Sande on 29 July 2020  10:22 Reply

      Hi there!

      Sorry I don't really understand your question? Kind regards, Charlotte

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