Nestled just off the coast of the Malaysian state of Sabah in northern Borneo lies a tropical island paradise known as Manukan Island. With pristine beaches, abundant marine life, and crystal clear waters perfect for snorkeling and diving, Manukan Island offers the ideal combination of natural beauty and amenities for an unforgettable island vacation.

Manukan Island, Malaysia: A Tropical Island Paradise

Manukan Island, Malaysia: A Tropical Island Paradise

An Introduction to Manukan Island

Part of the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park archipelago of islands, Manukan Island is the second largest of the five islands near Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah. At just 890 meters long and 350 meters wide, Manukan Island has a land area of merely 32 hectares.

Despite its small size, the island packs an outsized punch when it comes to tropical island allure and activities. Two thirds of the island is covered in dense virgin rainforest filled with walking trails awaiting exploration by foot. Meanwhile gorgeous white sand beaches rim the perimeter, with coral reefs teeming with aquatic life just offshore.

Getting to Manukan Island

Manukan Island lies just 20 minutes by boat from the Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal in Kota Kinabalu. Visitors have a choice between public ferries, private charters, or convenient all-inclusive day trip packages.

The public ferry runs 6 times per day, taking about 40 passengers per trip. Purchase tickets at the terminal. Private boat charters offer customized arrival and departure flexibility for small groups, available through various tour operators around KK.

Packaged day trips include roundtrip boat transport plus buffet lunch, snacks and drinks, rental amenities like towels, snorkel gear and lockers, as well as optional extras like sea walking, parasailing and banana boat rides.

Manukan Island, Malaysia: A Tropical Island Paradise

Manukan Island, Malaysia: A Tropical Island Paradise

Exploring the Island

Upon arriving at Manukan Island’s jetty, swaying coconut trees and white sand welcome visitors to what is often called the “crown jewel” of the Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park islands. The island boasts an activity-packed day of recreation and relaxation possibilities.

Beaches & Swimming

Manukan offers two gorgeous stretches of beach along its east and south coasts. Made up of fine white coral sand, both beach options offer picture perfect views out over the turquoise sea. Umbrellas and sun loungers dot the shores for soaking up the sunshine.

The sea surrounding Manukan Island rarely exceeds depths greater than 15 meters, making for excellent swimming and snorkeling conditions. Warm crystal clear waters boast visibility exceeding 20 meters on sunny days.

For those wanting to cool off without swimming in the sea, visitors can enjoy an open air shower experience at the multi-level hillside pool overlooking the beach.

Manukan Island, Malaysia: A Tropical Island Paradise

Manukan Island, Malaysia: A Tropical Island Paradise

Walking Trails

Two well marked nature trails weave through the island’s lowland rainforest interior just behind the beaches. Walkers can spot macaques, Bornean black squirrels and various bird species along these shady trails.

The longer 750 meter trail forms a loop and takes about 30 minutes to complete. The shorter 300 meter trail ends at the central hilltop providing panoramic vistas. Both trails ultimately connect to the west coast lookout point.

Snorkeling & Diving

Snorkelers and divers delight in the vibrant coral reefs surrounding Manukan Island. The house reef along the east beach provides beginner friendly shallows down to 5 meters depth before sloping into deeper waters off shore. Spot parrotfish, blue spotted rays, clownfish and more among the hard and soft corals.

Several dive centers on the island provide equipment rental as well as introductory diving courses and fun dives for certified divers. Dive boats head out to premier sites around Manukan and its neighboring islands showcasing sea turtles, reef sharks, giant clams and phenomenal marine biodiversity.

Facilities & Amenities

Despite Manukan’s petite size, the island contains ample amenities for a comfortable and activity-filled stay.


Most visitors choose to stay on the mainland and visit Manukan Island for day trips. However Manukan does feature its own holiday resort for those wanting an overnight island experience.

Manukan Island Resort comprises a cluster of 20 traditional village-style bungalows set amidst the rainforest, just a minute’s walk from the white sand beaches. Available options range from hillside rooms to seafront suites with prices inclusive of all meals.

Manukan Island, Malaysia: A Tropical Island Paradise

Manukan Island, Malaysia: A Tropical Island Paradise


The island offers a variety of dining options sure to satisfy hungry appetites between activities. Beachside cafes and bars serve up classic fare like burgers, pasta and pizza.

The open air restaurant at Manukan Island Resort provides a window into Malaysian cuisine with local favorites like nasi goreng fried rice, mee goreng noodles, satay skewers and keropok crackers. An all day dining option allows guests to grab breakfast before early excursions or nosh on a late lunch after hours of snorkeling.

Amenities & Rentals

Beach towels, snorkel masks, fins and flotation devices are free to use for resort guests. Day trippers can rent gear affordably. Lockers provide secure storage for valuables.

Restroom facilities, souvenir shops, convenience stores and water refill stations dot the island for visitor convenience. Cell reception works in certain areas. An information booth near the jetty supplies maps and guidance.

Manukan Island, Malaysia: A Tropical Island Paradise

Manukan Island, Malaysia: A Tropical Island Paradise

Nearby Attractions

As part of the protected Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Manukan Island lies just minutes away by boat from neighboring tropical islands to explore. Head 20 minutes across the sea to Gaya Island to trek jungle trails filled with wild orchids. Kayak through the mangrove maze of Sapi Island. Drop a line at the popular fishing spot of Mamutik Island. With turquoise waters all around and islands fringed by sand, one day never feels enough!

The magic continues back on the mainland too with cultural sites, markets and eateries to experience in Kota Kinabalu. Learn traditional handicrafts at Mari Mari Cultural Village. Sample local fruits and snacks at Gaya Street Sunday Market. Dine on the catch of the day at Filipino Market seafood restaurants.

Nightlife extends long into the evening for those wanting to dance off an action packed day with beach parties or lively watering holes.


For an accessible island getaway oozing with tropical atmosphere, fluttering palms, powdery shores and underwater magnificence – look no further than Manukan Island. The perfect balance of ease and adventure makes Manukan a top destination for nature lovers, beach combers, families and dive enthusiasts alike. With cozy lodges, swaying hammocks, sea breezes and smiling hospitality, visitors keep returning again and again to this beloved tropical gem for making Malaysian holiday dreams come true.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *