3.7 /5


Sandakan Travel Essentials


3.7 /5 Rate This Destination


Ideal duration: 1-2 Days

Best Time: December - February Read More

Planning a Trip? Ask Your Question

Plan Your Travel To Sandakan

Things To Do Best Time To Visit Map

"Little Hong Kong"

Sandakan Tourism

Sandakan, also known as Elopura, is the capital of the Sandakan district in Sabah, Malaysia. It also the largest town in Sabah after Kota Kinabalu. Located on the Sandakan Peninsula, northeastern of Sabah, it is well known for its main ports that export goods of prime importance all around the world like oil, tobacco, coffee, and timber. People visit Sandakan for its untouched nature, abundance of rainforests, and the diverse wildlife. 

Also known as Little Hong Kong, Sandakan offers a delicious blend of Cantonese cuisine and fresh Seafood. Some of the must try delicacies when in Sandakan include - seafood noodle, kuey teow with deep-fried pork, spring noodles, thin crust egg tarts, Bak Ku Teh, Leong Fun Bing (Grass Jelly Milk Tea), etc.The attractions in Sandakan pay homage to its history. Notable historical attractions in Sandakan include  Sandakan Heritage Museum which is located at the Lebuh Empat Road, the  Agnes Keith House at the top of the hill near the Istana Street, Japanese Bunker, Mill Hill Dam, and many more. 

Another unique attraction in Sandakan is the Malaysian Turtle Islands which is a group of 3 islands - Selingaan, Little Bakkungan, and Gulisaan, where one can enjoy water sports like diving, snorkeling, and swimming. It is popular for its sightings of green turtles and hawksbill turtles. The Gomantong Caves is yet another popular attraction to enjoy nature. One can easily spot swifts and bats that inhabit the caves. An amalgamation of nature, wildlife, and history, at its best, Sandakan is a hidden gem and truly justifies why it is nicknamed the Nature City!

Things to do in Sandakan

1. Agnes Keith House

Agnes Keith House
Situated on top of a hill along Jalan Istana, the Agnes Keith House is a historic house museum that is named after the famous American author, Agnes Newton Keith. Agnes Keith is well-known for her thr (Read More)ee autobiographical accounts in British North Borneo. The museum also provides information about the life of the people under the administration of British North Borneo. The first floor houses a gallery which gives an insight into Agnes’ books and family life. There is also colonial furniture and antiques inside the Agnes Keith House.

2. Sandakan Memorial Park

Sandakan Memorial Park
Built on the grounds of the former Sandakan camp, the Sandakan Memorial Park is dedicated to the Australian and British prisoners of war who lost their lives during the Second World War. The Sandakan (Read More)Memorial Park is divided into 6 stations. The memorial pavilion and the Sandakan Memorial obelisk are to look out for. The memorial pavilion gives an insight into the POW camp and death marches. The memorial park also houses some old machines of the British agricultural station in addition to a concrete water tank.

3. Sandakan Chinese Cemetery

Sandakan Chinese Cemetery
The Chinese Cemetery in Sandakan sprawls across a huge area and is regarded as one of the most fascinating burial grounds in Asia. One part of the cemetery is dedicated to the Chinese. Here, the grave (Read More)s follow the old feng shui principles which soothe the departed souls. There is also an ancient charnel house which houses the remains of extended Chinese families. These houses depict Taoist guardian deities which protect the departed spirits from negativity. Another section of the Chinese Cemetery houses the remains of the Japanese community.

4. Puu Jih Syh Temple

Puu Jih Syh Temple
Nestled on the Tanah Merah hill, the Puu Jih Syh Temple is the largest Chinese temple in Sandakan. The highlight is the panoramic view of the Sandakan city and the Sulu Sea from this Buddhis (Read More)t- Chinese temple. Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy and Passion is the principal deity. The temple is adorned with shades of red and golden, while its roofs are adorned with paintings of Chinese dragons. Traditional chinese architecture, gleaming lanterns, a huge variety of flowers, statues and Buddhist intricate works further accentuate its beauty.

5. Sandakan Japanese Cemetery

Sandakan Japanese Cemetery
Situated on a hillock, the Japanese Cemetery in Sandakan houses the remains of Japanese female prostitutes who belonged to lower backgrounds. The cemetery has become a popular tourist attraction since (Read More) it has an interesting story behind it. Most of the Japanese girls who rest in the cemetery were referred to as karayuki-san meaning, going to the country of China. The Japanese Cemetery was constructed by a woman named, Kinoshita Kuni, popularly known as O-kuni. The buried have their feet pointed towards Japan. This represents a sign of condemnation towards their ancestral home. The Japanese Cemetery also houses a memorial that is dedicated to the Japanese soldiers who lost their lives during the Second World War.

6. St. Michael’s & All Angels Church

St. Michael’s & All Angels Church
The St. Michael’s & All Angels Church is the oldest stone church of Sabah whose history dates back to 1881. The Anglican colonial church is adorned with stained glass windows that were donat (Read More)ed by Australians during the 60th anniversary of the Second World War. The white stones of the church have been donated from Hong Kong. Prison labour was used to drag slabs of granite to this beautiful church. The church premises also house a memorial stone that was erected during the 100th anniversary of the parish.

7. Selingan Turtle Island

Selingan Turtle Island
The Selingan Turtle Island is the first turtle hatchery in Malaysia and the most important nesting beach and breeding ground of the Hawksbill turtles and Green turtles. The island is located 40 km Nor (Read More)th of Sandakan. Here, you may get a chance to witness female turtles lay their eggs, the process of collecting eggs, mother turtles releasing their offspring into the sea and several other turtle conservation activities. The island also houses a beautiful beach which shimmers with ivory white sand. Scuba diving and snorkelling activities are also available.

8. Sam Sing Kung Temple

Sam Sing Kung Temple
The Sam Sing Kung Temple is Sandakan’s third oldest temple. It forms a part of the Sandakan Heritage Trail. The Chinese temple is also referred to as the Three Saints Temple since it pays r (Read More)espects to three saints namely, Kwan Woon Cheung i.e. the saint of righteousness, Goddess of Tin Hou who is worshipped by fishermen and lastly the Min Cheong Emperor who is worshipped by those students who wish to be successful in their examinations. The Sam Sing Kung Temple houses 100 pre-printed Taoist Divination poems. The temple is adorned with a beautiful bronze bell that was donated by Sandakan’s first Kapitan Cina, Fung Ming Shan.

9. Sandakan Fountain

Sandakan Fountain
The Sandakan Fountain, also referred to as the Malaysia Fountain, is situated in Pusat Bandar Sandakan. Historical importance is attributed to this beautiful fountain since it was erected when the sta (Read More)te of Sabah got independence from British colonial rule i.e. 16th September 1963.

10. Buli Sim Sim Water Village

Buli Sim Sim Water Village
Nestled on the Sandakan coast, the Buli Sim Sim Water Village is the best place to witness the lifestyle of traditional Malay fishermen. The village also houses some seafood restaurants including a fl (Read More)oating restaurant which offers lip-smacking local delicacies.

11. Rainforest Discovery Center

Rainforest Discovery Center
Located at a distance of 23 km from Sandakan, the Rainforest Discovery Center (RDC) is one of the most popular educational centres that houses a variety of flora and fauna. Some of the attractions inc (Read More)lude the Plant Discovery Garden, the Kapili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, the orchid garden exhibition halls, the paddleboat ride, the lakeside walking trail and canopy towers. This park is also home to about 300 bird species. Guided tours are also available.

12. Central Point Mall Sandakan

Central Point Mall Sandakan
The Central Point Mall is a six-storey shopping mall situated in Sandakan. The mall houses over 500 retail stores and is a one-stop-shop destination for all the shopaholics out there. Some of the famo (Read More)us retail outlets that can be found here are Giordano, Metro Mobile (Nokia), and the V.I.P. Shoes Centre. Several entertainment options are also available inside the Central Point Mall, some of which include a cinema hall, an entertainment centre, a bowling alley and a family recreation centre. Further, the mall also houses a food court where one can find local and international food joints.

13. Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Situated near the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok, Sandakan, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) provides care and rehabilitation to orphaned and captive sun bears. BSBCC aims (Read More) to raise awareness about the species through various programmes and guided tours. It also houses an observation deck, walkways, and a visitor centre. One can also volunteer at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.

14. Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
Situated at a distance of about 38 km from Sandakan, the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary is a great place to observe the Proboscis monkey species. Sprawling across an area of about 400 acres, thi (Read More)s sanctuary provides a home to about 150 Proboscis monkeys. It houses 2 observation platforms where visitors can witness the staff feeding the monkeys. The sanctuary also provides home to silver-leaf monkeys and oriental pied hornbills. Guided tours are also available.

Things To Do In Sandakan

View All Things To Do In Sandakan

How to Reach Sandakan

How to Reach Overview

Federal Route 22, which connects Tamparuli and Sandakan, is a part of the larger Pan Borneo Highway. It connects Sandakan to various other places like Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Beluran, other parts of Sabah, and Kota Kinabalu. Other roads in Sandakan are in the process of construction.

How to reach Sandakan by flight

The best, easiest, and feasible way to reach Sandakan is by air. Sandakan Airport has several airlines that fly in and out. These airlines include AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines, Malindo Air, and RB Link that connect Sandakan to places like Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Kudat, Lahad Datu, Tawau, etc. 

Besides the Sandakan Airport, the other nearest domestic airports include - Lahad Datu Airport (LDU), Juwata Airport (TRK), and Tawau Airport (TWU). The nearest international airports include - Juwata Airport (TRK), Tawau Airport (TWU), and  Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI).

How to reach Sandakan by bus

Buses ply from Kota Kinabalu and Semporna to Sandakan that arrive at prime locations or at junctions for prime locations like at the junction for Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre. One can take taxis from here since these locations are located at very small distances.

How to reach Sandakan by waterways

Visitors coming from the parts of Southern Philippines can easily travel to Sandakan by boat. Aleson Lines provides ferry services on a weekly basis. The only disappointing thing here is the travel time which is nearly 22 hours. The aelson lines ferry service connects Sandakan to Zamboanga and Bongoa. Other ferry services connect Sandakan to Mindanao, Jolo, and Lankayan islands, as well.

Local transport in Sandakan

Sandakan isn’t the most well-developed when it comes to public transport, but it does offer buses and taxis for locals and tourists for commuting. 

Bus: Sandakan has a bus terminal called Terminal Bas Sandakan, which is the minibus terminal. These mini buses, which are also referred to as vans, are of different colours depending on the route and drop you off at prime locations. Located behind the Centre Point Mall, these buses run from 6 AM to 6 PM and are comparatively cheaper than taxis.

Taxi: Taxis in Sandakan are also reasonably cheap since it is a small town. You can easily find taxis at the airport or other prime locations of the town but decide on a fare before you sit in one. Sandakan also has the availability of Grab, which can be booked using the mobile app. 

You can also explore the town on foot or rent a car and drive around yourself. Sandakan airport has companies like Hertz, Green Matrix and Thrifty that offer rental cars for you to travel around. You can also check in with the local rental companies based in Sandakan.

Sandakan Photos

Entrance to the Agnes Keith House Museum
Entrance to Sandakan Memorial Park
Chinese Cemetery in Sandakan

+ 7

Have a Question on Sandakan?

Ask a question from the travellers who have

Sandakan Reviews

Your rating