Pulau Manukan Island Sabah

Pulau Manukan Island Sabah
Pulau Manukan or Manukan Island in Sabah is one of the most visited islands in the entire state of Malaysia Borneo or North Borneo.

The island is also known as Pulau Manukan in Malay, and is a mere 20 minutes by boat from the city of Kota Kinabalu.

Manukan Island is also part of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (TAR Park) which consist of four other islands, Gaya, Mamutik, Sapi and Sulug Islands.

Pulau Manukan Island

Boats to Manukan IslandBoat and ferry service

Pulau Manukan is easily accessible as it is just a 20 minute boat ride from any of the jetties in the capital of Kota Kinabalu.

The main jetties offering ferry services to the island are Jesselton Point/Jesselton Quay, Sutra Harbor and at Tanjung Aru.

If you are planning a round trip without a tour group, you can just go up to the various counters selling round trip tickets or packages with lunch and so on.

Entrance to Pulau ManukanPulau Manukan main entrance

On arrival at Pulau Manukan, you will see the main entrance where you need to pay a conservation fee of RM3.00 (US$0.85) at the counter before they allow you in.

This conservation fee goes to maintain of the Marine Park around the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. For foreign visitors, the entry price is RM10.00 per person.

Lovely walkways

Walking in, you will be greeted with a pretty well maintained walkway and some resort chalets on the left, which are part of the Sutera Sanctuary Lodges.

For me, I walked straight to where the action was, which is the main beach area. Mind you it was a 500 meter walk in to the beach area from the entrance.

Manukan Island Bar CafeSands Bar at Pulau Manukan

Facilities at Manukan Island

Along the way, you will see a number of cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops and dive centers. The Sabah Parks Marine Headquarters are also located here in Pulau Manukan Island.

There are washrooms and shower facilities available for those who want to change or have a quick shower after swimming.

Beach at Pulau ManukanPulau Manukan Beach

Heading to the beach here at Manukan Island, I was surprised to see the number of people enjoying themselves. There must have been about 200-300 people all over the place.

I guess the reason for this is that Pulau Manukan has one of the best snorkeling sites among all of the 5 islands in the TAR Marine Park.

Since I had charted the entire boat for my island hopping I had all the time in the world, so I started to explore Manukan Island and what else did they offer.

I must say that the place is rather nice with well maintained facilities and landscaping. Place was clean and trees were beautifully grown to shade most of the areas.

Beach Restaurants Manukan Island Restaurant along pathway

One of the main restaurants lined the walkway with their wooden tables and chairs complete with hanging lights for a romantic beach dinner.

The prices here are a little higher than what you will find in Kota Kinabalu, but then again, you should expect this as it is a tourist spot.

Busy day at Manukan IslandPopular tour package area

Don't be surprised when you see loads of people crammed up at parts of the beach as these are large tour groups who have special lunches or meals with their Manukan Packages.

Some of the packages even offer a beach BBQ package. Not to worry as if you are not in the package tour group, you can just visit the proper restaurants away from the main area.

Fine dining restaurant on Manukan Island

There are about 3 restaurants there and one Seafood BBQ area. Of the restaurants, they serve out local and western cuisines so everyone is happy.

They are not your local coffee shop cum cafe style as they are more of the proper restaurants. So food is no worry when you are in Manukan Island.

World War 2 Bombs SabahWorld War II Bombs on display

I came across a chair displaying some old World War Two bomb shells all arranged nicely but looking really dated with the rust.

The paved walkway apparently is about 1.5 km long which takes you all the way to a lookout point at the other end of Pulau Manukan.

Private Beach Pulau Manukan IslandPrivate beach area

If you walk the other way when you arrive at Pulau Manukan (meaning take a left after you pay the entrance fees) you will come to a more quiet part of the island.

This part of the beach is apparently exclusive for the Sutera Sanctuary Hotel Lodges. So, I guess the reason no one was here is because it was a private beach.

Manukan Island Exhibition Hall

There is an exhibition hall which displays some interesting marine items like corals, skeletons of various sea fishes, dugong, crabs and even a whale head.

This educational center is opened from Tuesdays to Sundays and from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm, and is managed by Sabah Parks. Admission is free for everyone too.

Beach at ManukanManukan beach

Manukan Island Beach

The beaches at the eastern tip here are considered one of the best. However, the southern coastline where everyone goes is the most popular area.

Take note as the main beach here will be crowded with a lot of China and Korean tourist, so you can decide on which part of the island you want to visit.

The island also has some hiking trails. Overall, if you like snorkeling or sunbathing, then Manukan is one of the places you should visit for a day trip.

Souvenir Shop at Pulau ManukanSouvenir Shop

On my past visits to Manukan Island, I had some work so I did not photograph the place well plus the weather was not too good. Only on my 3rd visit, I did get a chance to take more pictures.

Anyway, I was chased away by the weather once more. So, from my experience visiting this place I find that if you are up to making a quick trip here, do it after lunch and do some snorkeling.

Well, what I did was I rented a boat to take me around all the islands at the TAR Park. It took me a good 4 hours but was very worth it.

Prices for boat charter would cost anywhere around RM300 (US$85) for about 2-3 hours. But do inquire when you are there.

Manukan Island Entrance Fees;
  • Foreigners - RM10.00 (US$2.85)
  • Malaysians - RM3.00
Boat Trips to Pulau Manukan Island (estimates as of 2009);
  • Jesselton Point/Quay - RM18.00 (20 minutes)
  • Tanjung Aru Harbour - RM40-RM45 (10 minutes)
  • Sutera Harbour - RM35 to RM45 (15 minutes)
  • Be careful of ticket touts selling super cheap tickets
Facilities Include;
  • Marine Museum
  • Camping Ground
  • Tennis Court
  • Soccer Field
  • Jogging Track
  • Cycling Track
  • Various Sea Sports
  • Swimming Pool
  • Chalets
  • Restaurants and Cafes
  • Souvenir Shop
  • Fish Feeding
Best Time to visit Pulau Manukan

The best time to visit Manukan Island is after lunch, as most of the tourist would be leaving back for mainland after the lunch package tour to Manukan Island.

It is less crowded and snorkeling would be fun with not so many people kicking in your direction. The last boat usually leaves Manukan around 5.00 pm, so you should plan your time well.

If you want to take nice photographs, then I recommend you come as early as possible as you may be able to even photograph Mount Kinabalu in the distance.

For photography, the mornings here are much better as the skies tend to have beautiful clouds and blue skies.

But if you buy a standard package, they will usually send you before lunch time, with the other hundreds of people.

Manukan Island on a quiet day
If you are planning to stay here, you can also read my other review of Manukan Island Resort. Take note the review was done in 2009, and they have renovated and upgraded the resort since then.

If you find Manukan a little too crowded, you can also pay a visit to Sapi Island or Pulau Sapi. A number of visitors tend to come here due to lesser crowds.

And for anyone who plans to explore other islands, you can check out my article on 11 Islands to visit around Malaysia.


Overall I have visited this beautiful island about 8 times from 2006 to 2009, and I never get fed up of Manukan Island.

Sometimes I kind of get a unique feeling to know that beautiful islands like this still exist just outside of cities, and Pulau Manukan is just one of them. 

Malaysia Asia

Blogging since 2007, but writing online since 1997. I belong to the 1st generation of worldwide bloggers, which is of course old-school. Since 2008, I created Malaysia Asia and this travel, flood, gadget and lifestyle blog has won numerous physical awards from tourism boards around Malaysia. (Not those online awards). After 12 years of blogging, I have semi-retired and now blog about things I like, do product reviews and enjoy life. My work has been featured in Lonely Planet, CNN Travel, Yahoo Travel, Wall Street Journal, and many other international publications. Find out more about me and thank you.


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