This is a post by Marbree, a member of the Luxury Travel in Asia team. Despite being pictured here in Namibia, she spends most of her time in Asia. Marbree just finished a research trip in Borneo looking for all the best places to stay and things to do. Expect more from her in the months ahead!
When I think of Borneo, luxury is one of the last words to come to mind. Jungle, rainforest, orangutans, headhunters: all of these sound about right for Borneo. But luxury? I wasn’t sure what I’d find on an island teeming with wildlife and natural beauty but a little lacking in the finer things in life. Then I heard about Hibiscus Villa, a three-bedroom villa near the Tip of Borneo that, I was told, would prove luxury is alive and well in these parts. So, up for an adventure under my own steam, I hired a car and drove northeast from Kota Kinabalu. To say that what I found did not disappoint would be putting it mildly. Hibiscus Villa is downright gorgeous.
On the way up, there are stops to be made: an entire village makes gongs, another focuses on honey, one has carefully constructed a genuine longhouse and the residents in all of them will answer questions and show you around. By the time you leave the gong village, you may find yourself wondering whether every resident has damaged ear drums from the incessant hammering of metal. Regardless the noise, it’s an interesting place to see and I found the people as friendly as most Sabahans I’ve met here. If you don’t break up the trip this way, it takes about three hours to reach Hibiscus Villa from Kota Kinabalu and personalized directions make it easy to find. Regardless whether you’re hiring a car or being whisked straight from the airport with a private driver, my recommendation is to head directly to the villa. You can visit all those other places on a day trip when you get tired of sitting in the lap of luxury.
So, other than that pool, what’s so great about this place you may be wondering? For the most part, I’m going to let the photos speak for themselves. I mean, who doesn’t want to wake up and open the doors to this view?
But then who would sit by the pool? Or go for a walk on the beach where the only people are a few fishermen and guests of two nearby chalets? I mean, really, someone has to be down there to see how clear the water is and how fine the sand (spoiler: it’s crystal clear and fine white powder).
The service at Hibiscus Villa is second-to-none. The friendly staff are knowledgeable and quite helpful: they’ll pick up takeaway for you, organize activities in the area – of which there are many, call a private chef to prepare you dinner, light mosquito coils around the grounds when dusk sets in, help you figure out all the light switches when you want the pool area dark so you can watch the stars come out, and can discretely give you the level of privacy you want.
The closest tourist attraction is the Tip of Borneo. Driving takes about five minutes or you can walk 45. It’s hot and humid so hiring bicycles is also a good option. On the way, you’ll pass a handful of restaurants and rustic chalets plus more of that clear white beach. I’m not sure I was supposed to go where this picture was taken but as a travel consultant, I consider it my duty to scout out as many places as I can for you. Yes, my job is hard, I know.
I only had one night to sit in the comfy chairs and float in the pool under a full moon; one morning to walk the beach and marvel at how clear the water is. I had no time to snorkel or paddleboard, to hit the mangroves and look for proboscis monkeys or take a lesson in jungle survival. I’d have loved to find a market selling fresh produce then fire up the BBQ and grill veggies and perhaps some freshly caught fish. The ridiculously well-equipped kitchen with its modern appliances and ample cooking supplies had me day dreaming about the meals that could come out of it – especially the ones prepared by the private chef!
The Tip of Borneo isn’t on the radar of most visitors to Borneo and it’s often seen as a day trip from Kota Kinabalu. Yet for anyone wanting a bit of beach time in their holiday with luxury and exclusivity, it’s a great choice. There are even flights from nearby Kudat to Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu a few days each week. I wasn’t planning to explore the area at all but I’m so glad that I did. Hibiscus Villa quickly became my favorite beach destination in Borneo, maybe in all of Malaysia.
After more than two months researching in Borneo, I’m happy to report that Hibiscus Villa is just one of the luxurious options available in this incredible destination. If you’d like to book the villa or enquire about a trip to Borneo, give me a ring at +44 0207 112 0019 or email me.
Note: All villa photos were provided by the Hibiscus Villa team as mine don’t do it justice.