Tawau, derived from the Malay name for the “Meranti” tree, is one of the primary towns in Sabah, Malaysia. The name reflects the abundance of this particular tree in the area during its early days.


Tawau is located on the southeastern coast of Sabah, Malaysia, facing the Celebes Sea. To its east is the state of North Kalimantan in Indonesia, and to the west lies the interior regions of Sabah. Tawau serves as the administrative center for the Tawau District.


Tawau was historically a producer of timber, rubber, and then cocoa. The port town’s significance grew due to its role in the export of these commodities. Over the years, Tawau has seen various foreign powers, from the Bruneian Empire to the British colonialists. The town was also occupied by the Japanese during World War II, which left its mark on the town’s history and development.

Highlights of Things to Do

  • Tawau Hills Park: This protected area is known for its lush greenery, waterfalls, hot springs, and a vast variety of flora and fauna. The park also boasts one of the tallest tropical trees in the world.
  • Teck Guan Cocoa Museum: Get an insight into the cocoa industry of the region. This museum offers a journey through the cocoa-making process and even provides tasting sessions for chocolate enthusiasts.
  • Tawau Waterfront: A scenic spot to witness the sunset, this waterfront area is also lined with various eateries, making it a popular spot for both locals and tourists.
  • Shan Shui Golf & Country Club: For golfing enthusiasts, this club provides an excellent opportunity to play while being surrounded by the picturesque landscapes of Tawau.
  • Central Market: A bustling spot to get a taste of local produce, fresh seafood, and other local delicacies. It offers an authentic local shopping experience.

How to Get In and Out

  • By Air: Tawau Airport serves as the primary gateway for travelers coming in by air. It connects Tawau with Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, and several other major destinations.
  • By Sea: Tawau has a port that caters to passenger ferries, especially those coming from and going to Indonesia.
  • By Road: Tawau is well-connected by road to other parts of Sabah. Buses and taxis ply regularly between Tawau and other major towns.

Tawau offers a mix of cultural, historical, and natural attractions, making it an intriguing destination for those keen to explore a less-touristy side of Sabah.