Tawau is the third largest town in Sabah state located southeast coast facing the spectacular Celebes Sea. Basically, the town is separated into three main areas which are Sabindo, Tawau Lama and Fajar. Each area is specifically catered for different activities. For instance, one can find government offices and departments in Sabindo while Fajar is a thriving commercial area.

Facts about Kota Kinabalu

  • Currency: MYR (Malaysian Ringgit)
  • Dialling code: Tawau being a town in Sabah uses the same +6088 prefix for calling land lines. All other standard prefixes for mobile numbers are applicable here.
  • Airport: Flying into Tawau is possible through the Tawau Airport which is one of the 2 international airports in Sabah. The other one being Kota Kinabalu International Airport.
  • Airport Tax: This is applicable for both domestic and international flights
  • Distance from airport to city centre: About 35km
  • Temperature: The temperature in Tawau ranges between 23 and 36 degrees Celsius
  • Climate and Weather: Tropical with high humidity
  • Common languages: Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin and Kadazandusun

Transportation Facts of Tawau

The distance from Tawau Airport to the town centre is quite far. As such, expect to pay about RM45 for a taxi trip. You can however take buses which charge RM10 per trip to the town centre. Within Tawau, you can take taxis from RM5 per trip while buses are available from RM2 per trip.

Highlights around Tawau

As Tawau is surrounded by the sea, you would naturally find a lot of water activities around here. Look for operators who can arrange tours for you. Among those that you can do here include:

  1. Diving – This is one of the highlights in Tawau. After all, it is a major gateway for divers en route to Semporna that will bring them towards the likes of Kapalai, Mabul, Mataking and the infamous Sipadan
  2. Tawau Hills National Park – one of the oldest establishments here. It was built as a water catchment centre and is now one of the very popular spots for camping and picnics. Besides that, you might enjoy hot spring and waterfalls too.
  3. Fish Market – nothing beats experiencing the local markets and their produce in the place you are visiting. Come to the market and see for yourself the freshest fish catch of the day and other local items
  4. Pasar Gantung – A very unique market which means ‘Hanging Market’. It is the Old Central Market here which is where you can find some very interest crafts and local products. Expect to find a lot of items from neighbouring countries the Philippines and Indonesia. Weave products, local textile and hand-woven baskets are among favourites.
  5. Al-Kauthar Mosque
  6. Bell Tower

Foods around Tawau

The most common foods you will find around Tawau would be seafood. You can expect to find the freshest fishes and others around the restaurants. For a bit of local delights, try places like:

  1. The Asian Cuisine and Curry House
  2. The Sabindo Hawker Center
  3. Makanan Laut 101 – Great place for seafood

Meanwhile, take some time to try out common favourites like:

  1. Sulawesi Soto Makassar
  2. Onde-onde
  3. Nasi Kuning

Rustic feel at Tawau

On the other hand, the town’s central market is ideally located in Tawau Lama. The town has more than 380,000 people with majority of Chinese descendants follow by:

  1. Malay
  2. Kadazan
  3. Duzun
  4. Bajau
  5. Murut
  6. and other bumiputera groups.

Large groups of multicultural communities

Do not be surprised to find that the number of Indonesians surpassed other races in Tawau as a result of uncontrollable illegal immigrants. There are only two options to get around town – taxi or bus. However, buses are rarely on time, hence it is advisable for visitors and tourists to hire a cab if you intend to visit places of interest.

What to see around Tawau

Tawau has a lot to offer especially for nature lovers and adventurous travelers. If this is your first visit to Tawau, do not miss out on the opportunity to check out Tawau Hills National Park, Bukit Gemok, Tawau Cocoas Village and Shan Shui Golf & Country Club. Families with kids and nature lovers should squeeze in Tawau Hills National Park in your trip itinerary because it is definitely a worthwhile trip. Situated about 24 kilometres from Tawau town, the park has picnic areas and camping sites catered to visitors.

Enjoy the waterfalls

You’ll be mesmerized with the cascading waterfalls that create a flowing pond for swimmers to have a good time. While enjoying the cool and tranquil surroundings, visitors can see a large pool of local flora such as crab-eating macaques, Maroon Leaf Monkeys and beautiful wild orchids.

Check out Bukit Gemok

Bukit Gemok (literally translated as Fat Hill) is yet another must visit attraction especially for outdoor lovers. Hikers who loved mountain climbing can have all the fun here since the hill is surrounded by a forest reserve. As you get to the top of Bukit Gemok, you’ll get a good view of Tawau town. But first, climbers have to hike the challenging canopy walkway, Titian Silara in order to get on top of the hill. Since Tawau is the world’s third largest producer of cocoa, a trip to Tawau is not complete without checking out the world-renowned cocoa-planting site, Quion Hill in Tawau Cocoa Village. Find out how cocoa is cultivated, harvested and dried before processing it.

Great for golfers too

Meanwhile, golf enthusiasts can spend some quality time at Shan Shui Golf & Country Club located about 15 kilometres off Tawau town. This challenging 18-hole championship golf course has one of the hardest bar holes in the country. Tempt your palate with some delectable local delights such as nasi campur, sate, succulent chicken wings, onde-onde and a wide variety of Jawa food. Amplang, a deep-fried fish paste dipped in corn flour is a must try delicacy found only in Tawau. Also, satisfy your cravings for fresh seafood by dining at Sabindo hawker stalls. Crab and shellfishes are cooked to perfection and available at really low prices!


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