Sabah is South East Asia's best kept secret
* Nancy McDonald
* From: escape
* February 16, 2011 11:09AM
But another South-East Asian destination is quickly emerging as an attractive alternative - Sabah in Malaysia.
On the beautiful island of Borneo, Sabah is the second largest of Malaysia's 13 states and its beauty is like nothing I have seen. With a consistent tropical climate of 32C, Sabah really is a year-round holiday destination.
It is not overly populated, the tourist hordes have yet to discover it and the beautiful people are so friendly it almost makes you wish you lived there permanently.
In downtown Kota Kinabalu, you can explore the four-level shopping complex Centre Point and still get your quirky mix of traditional Asian markets with fresh fruit, handicrafts and paintings.
If you tire of Asian cuisine, you can still get your fix of Western food, with McDonald's, KFC and Starbucks in the main Kota Kinabalu shopping hub.
And there is a range of resorts competing for tourists.
If you're looking for 5-star luxury, the Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa, part of the Shangri-La family, is a good option. Set on 10ha of landscaped gardens, only 10 minutes from the city centre, it's easy to see why this fantastic resort was voted the best in Malaysia.
The resort caters to all ages, with a beachside restaurant designed to resemble the popular Ku De Ta in Seminyak in Bali and a separate children's pool zone with an ice-cream parlour.
To truly get the most out of the resort, it's worth paying a little bit extra to stay in a seaview deluxe suite, which looks out on to the resort's private beach.
The equally beautiful Sutera Harbour Resort, which includes the Magellan Sutera Resort and The Pacific Sutera Hotel, has a 104-berth marina and private access to some of Kota Kinabalu's most beautiful beaches.
Here, you can stroll along the waterfront of the harbour and watch the sun set, enjoy a cocktail by the Magellan's beach or swim in one of its eight pools.
It's also a paradise for golfers, with a 27-hole course designed by Graham Marsh.
More adventurous travellers can stay in Sabah's tropical rainforest in one of its many jungle lodges and explore Sabah's wildlife including orang-utans. A regular canoe service allows you to see Malaysia's native flora and fauna up close.
Then there's the small island of Kapalai, about 20km from Semporna, which might just be one of the most magical places on Earth. With more than 40 private over-water bungalows looking out on to the crystal-clear water of the Celebes Sea and turtles and other sealife right at the doorstep, Kapalai Dive Resort is a hidden island paradise.
Although Sabah is not a good choice for those seeking surf, there are plenty of other water activities on offer, including whitewater rafting, canoeing and deep-sea diving.
One of the world's best dive spots is just 20km from Kapalai and for $RM25 a day ($A8), you can hire snorkelling gear and explore the resort's pristine waters, which feature some of the world's rarest marine life and coral.
It doesn't matter what time you return from your day on the water, the resort's Western and traditional cuisine is available 24 hours a day.
Kapalai Dive Resort is a great couple's getaway and is as beautiful as the bungalows of the Maldives, but at a fraction of the price. The only negative is that it won't remain one of the world's best-kept secrets for long.
Read more: http://www.news.com.au/travel/world/best-kept-secret-in-the-lush-tropics/story-e6frfqb9-1226006826548#ixzz1EEWkVkTp