Kapalai Island Resort in Sabah

Kapalai Island Resort in Sabah

Among some of the most beautiful island resorts in Malaysia, Kapalai Island Resort in Sabah is hands down one of the top contenders in this category. Well, many may say this is not an island but actually a sand bank with a resort built over it and is one of the largest environmental friendly resorts in this part of Sabah. Over the years, it has been commonly known as Kapalai Island and this stunning luxury resort sits just off Mabul Island and is a mere forty minutes by boat from the coastal town of Semporna, east coast Sabah. 

Kapalai Island Resort has been in business for over 15 years now and sits on the sandbanks of the Ligitan Reef which is one of the popular dive sites of Mabul Island. In general, the entire resort is built of wood, miles of it which make up the entire resort structure and walkways. When you walk around, you will most likely see all kinds of beautiful coral fishes on your left, right and even under the walkways as if you are in an aquarium. 

Kapalai Island Resort seen from a boat
A total of 59 units of villas are available here which makes this place one of the most desirable resorts for a romantic vacation. Many newlyweds come here for their honeymoon as each of the units are individual, offering fantastic privacy. 

Special arrangements can also be made for weddings on this resort island but you need to pre-book with them on this. Renting the entire island is another of the things one can do for a private party, event or wedding. 

Kapalai Island Water Villas or Water Bungalows

Walkways to the water bungalows at Kapalai Island
From one look, you may think that the resort resembles a Balinese style but in actual fact, the resort takes the design from a traditional Bajau architecture design combined with some modern contemporary style. Ironwood or Berlian is also used for the entire construction of the place. 

All of the villa units are above water and sometimes called water bungalows which are cleverly designed for natural airflow which cools the units down. in other words, there is no air conditioning here, but the location of this resort is quite windy with no obstructions. 

Each of the chalets are twin or triple sharing which come with private bathrooms attached with shower and bathtub, basic toiletries, coffee and tea making facilities and Southeast Asian standard 220 volts electrical points. Balconies provide private sun bathing area and incredible views. 

There are a few rooming types here which are;

• Grand Deluxe Villa
• Deluxe Villa
• Standard Villa
• Standard Semi-Detached Villas

Kapalai Resort Facilities

The unique man-made sundeck island
Just like any other sea resort, the facilities include a proper restaurant with open and indoor areas, gift shop, snorkeling and diving facilities. But what stands out here is the incredible sea views that allow guests to see natural marine life from all over the resort. Walking around or even from your villa balcony, the crystal clear waters showcases schools of fish, coral fishes, corals and occasionally the wandering turtles that pass by. 

For food, fear not as there is local and international cuisines available, mostly done using the buffet style at the main restaurant. Beer and wines are also available for those wanting this. 

A man-made island sundeck is also one of the main highlights which stretch out into the ocean from the main resort. Powdery white sand accompanies a couple of palm trees with sun deck chairs here with a staircase down to the sand bank. 

Diving at Kapalai Island

For the serious scuba diver, Kapalai does day trips to the world class Sipadan Island and also to other popular dive spots around Mabul Island. Many head here as Kapalai is well known for their macro diving where you can find quite a number of unique macro critters. But there is also some large fish found too so the balance is pretty good for all kinds of divers. In total, there are about ten dive sites around Kapalai Island and all of them require a few minutes boat ride out while some are just meters away from the resort. 

There are also dive courses available for those wanting to take their exams for the Open Water Diver and Advance Oven Water Courses. For night divers, there is also an introductory session available. For guests who want to simply have an experience, there is the Discover Scuba Diver or DSD available. 

Kapalai Island Photos

Below are some photos taken during a couple of trips I personally made there for an inspection in the last couple of years. They are random and in no order. 

Kapalai Island Sun Deck
View of the walkways
Natural beauty that surrounds the island
View of the water bungalows
View of the resort from the sun deck
Water bungalows at Kapalai Island
Triple Sharing Room
View of the water bungalows in Kapalai and inside the bathrooms

Standard bathroom area of the water chalets
One of the covered walkways cleverly decorated with greens
Restaurant area at Kapalai Resort
The main welcome area and part of the wooden walkways at Kapalai Resort

One of the larger water bungalows
A chill out lounge area that extends out to the sea
A scuba diver just outside the resort
Guests snorkeling around Kapalai Resort
The beautiful sundeck area and a view of the water villas at Kapalai

Jetty to the man-made sun deck island
How to go to Kapalai Island? 

A common question for first timers is how to go to Kapalai Island and here is how you get there. Closest airport is Tawau Airport. From the airport, you need to take a taxi or van transfer which is about 60 to 90 minutes drive to Semporna town. From the main jetty area of Semporna, the Kapalai speed boat will take another forty minutes boat ride to the resort. 

Boat is the only way to reach here, unless you have very deep pockets, you can charter a helicopter flight from Tawau airport which takes about ten to fifteen minutes. Alternatively, you can also charter a helicopter from Kota Kinabalu Airport to here, but it will be even more costly. At the resort, a helicopter landing pad is available. 

A row of the water bungalows at Kapalai Island
Kapalai Island Resort Website: http://www.sipadan-kapalai.com/

The resort is also owned and operated by Pulau Sipadan Resort and Tours or PSR who also manages six other resorts all over Sabah where each of them are unique and no two are the same. You can book through tour agents or by contacting the resort directly. 

Sabah does not face any Monsoon period therefore the resort is open throughout the year but take note of the rainy season which is from December to February and the best time to visit Kapalai Island is from April till September. Also, you should highly take note that the ultimate time to stay here is on weekdays as it is less crowded. 

Among some of the most beautiful island resorts in Malaysia, Kapalai Island Resort in Sabah is no doubt one of the top three and for anyone who loves privacy, this is one of the highly recommended places to stay at. 


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