By Michael Turton
LABUAN Island, or Pulau Labuan, is a lovely, relaxing, beach-ringed island just off the coast of Borneo. Directly ruled by the central government, it is a free port without customs duties and easily accessible by ferry or air from Sabah, Sarawak, or Brunei. Just a thirty minute flight from Kota Kinabalu, the island is a great place to spend lazy days shopping, eating, or sunning by the pool at one of its several excellent resorts. Despite being so close to major tourist areas Labuan is usually missed by tourists. As a result, it lacks crowds and a touristy atmosphere. The locals are warm and friendly, and you’ll be pleased and surprised at how empty its many beaches are! Here are some of the top resorts.
Near the marina and within easy walking distance of the shops and markets of Bandar Labuan, the island’s principal city, is the Grand Dorsett Labuan, the former Sheraton Labuan. This hotel offers restaurants serving Cantonese as well as Western and Eastern cuisines, a gym, massage, and a beautiful outdoor pool with a bar you can swim up to! In the evening stroll down to parks along the waterfront then return to the modern financial district next door, which offers a variety of boutiques, bars, and fine restaurants. Don’t miss the downtown area next door with its collection of raucous, freewheeling bars and shops.
462 Jalan Merdeka.
Waterfront Hotel Labuan
Next to the financial district in Bandar Labuan is this world-class resort. Its gorgeous white buildings are right near the port. The hotel has its own beach, swimming pool, pub and karaoke, it has easy access to the restaurants and bars of the financial district. There are excellent views of Labuan’s busy port and beaches from your room and you can walk over to the shops to pick up duty-free liquor, candy, and electronics.
No.1, Jalan Wawasan.
A few minutes east of Bandar Labuan, right next to the island’s magnificent golf course, is the fine Tiara Labuan, located in a lightly populated area and fronted by a beach and local parks. It offers a swimming pool, jacuzzi, pub, and restaurants. A short walk away is the World War II cemetery, and the international school, as well as the waterfront parks. From the Tiara, it’s a quick taxi ride into town to enjoy the shopping and nightlife.
Jalan Tanjung Batu.
Located on the north side of the island this hotel has its own 15 acre (6 hectare) private beach and provides volleyball and football (soccer) equipment, as well as swimming gear. Sun yourself by the swimming pool or enjoy the restaurant and bar. The rooms are clean and spacious and the staff friendly. Located in a sleepy residential area, the Manikar has a completely different feel than the island’s other big hotels; a quiet, peaceful atmosphere. A few minutes stroll down the beach will bring you to one of the lovely, tree-filled parks that line the west side of the island. Take some great photographs of local fishermen at work or locals families having an outing, or stop at one of the local restaurants for a delicious roti and curry. Walk down Jalan Batu Manikar and grab a snack or a soft drink at one of the local shops.
Jalan Batu Manikar.
In the evening, amble out to the beach from the Manikar or follow the sand down to one of the rocky breakwaters. Sunset over the South China Sea is not to be missed, and if you have a long lens you can snap lovely pictures of gas flares from the oil platforms out to sea, framed against a purple and orange sky. At night enjoy a romantic walk along the beach under the moon and stars.
Feeling energetic? Labuan Island offers several activities for visitors. You can rent a bike and ride around its flat, well shaded perimeter roads past brightly-colored houses (50km / 31 miles). Labuan is also ringed by pristine reefs offering a wide variety of marine life for year-round diving. There are four spectacular wrecks within a few kilometers of shore. For a lazy day hang out on a bench by the port or in one of the small parks around the shops, and feed the pigeons or pet one of the island’s friendly, patient cats. No matter what you do, you’re certain to find relaxation and pleasure on Malaysia’s unknown gem of an island, Pulau Labuan!
If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about travelling to Malaysia, please visit the Tourism Malaysia website
About the author…
Michael Turton is a well known blogger and expat teacher in Taiwan. A passionate cyclist, he comments on events in Taiwan on his blog The View from Taiwan .