Beyond Borneo: Unveiling the Hidden Gems of Sarawak You Didn’t Know Existed

Sarawak is easily one of Malaysia’s most beautiful destinations thanks to its plethora of natural wonders, ranging from ancient cave complexes and biodiverse jungles to charming valleys and pristine beaches. 

However, most travellers to the Land of Hornbills often only stick to the well-known locations: think Kuching, Miri, and the like. Unbeknownst to even local travellers, Sarawak has plenty more to offer, especially if you’re willing to go out of your way to explore. 

Here are 13 of the best hidden gems in Sarawak that you probably didn’t know about! Even if you’ve been to Sarawak plenty of times before, these underrated destinations will surely spur your wanderlust for this Borneon gem again!

Hint: If you want to find out more about Sarawak, look for the Sarawak Tourism Board booth at the ASTINDO Travel Fair in Indonesia from 1 to 3 Mar 2024, and MATTA Fair in Malaysia from 22 to 24 Mar 2024! 

Also read: A 5D4N Kuching Itinerary to Explore the Beauty of Borneo

1. Tanjung Datu National Park

Image credit: Davian Chang via Canva Pro

One of the top hidden gems of Sarawak is Tanjung Datu National Park, one of the region’s smallest national parks. Accessible only by boat, this secluded paradise is known for its lush rainforests, pristine beaches, and coral reefs. 

Sunbathing on the powdery white sand is a must-do, as is snorkelling amidst the diverse aquatic life. Avid hikers will also enjoy trekking through the four well-marked rainforest trails teeming with the calls of exotic birds and unique local wildlife, including Sarawak’s iconic hornbills! 

2. Batang Ai National Park

Image credit: Goddard_Photography via Canva Pro

Another hidden gem in Sarawak that epitomises the natural beauty of the region is Batang Ai National Park, featuring untouched rainforests, exotic fauna, and the warm hospitality of Sarawak’s native Iban tribes — the park is located, after all, in one of the oldest Iban settlements in Borneo. 

Here, you can enjoy an unforgettable hike through the rainforest, come face to face with the Rafflesia – the biggest flower in the world, and explore rivers and waterfalls hidden amidst the lush greenery. You might even be lucky enough to see orangutans out and about! 

What’s more, you can stay at a traditional Iban longhouse here and get hands-on with some of their traditional activities, such as learning how to use a blowpipe, as well as learn more about their rich cultural heritage. 

3. Bukit Gondol

Image credit: Sarawak Tourism Board

For those in search of swoon-worthy scenery in Sarawak, one hidden gem not to miss is Bukit Gondol, a 100m hill that lies along Lundu

Featuring a relatively easy ascent, the hill makes you feel as if you’ve been transported back in time, thanks to its rustic scenery. At the peak, you’ll be able to feast your eyes on a tapestry of rolling hills in Lundu, a town bordering Indonesia’s West Kalimantan Province, and verdant valleys stretching towards the South China Sea

4. Kampung Sting

Image credit: Aizaharwani MJ

For culture vultures, one of the best hidden gems in Sarawak to visit is Kampung Sting, a living museum that is around 60km away from Kuching. This hidden spot is known as “The Village Above the Sky” thanks to its high altitude that overlooks verdant valleys. 

Here, one can immerse oneself in the vibrant culture of the Bidayuh community — picture longhouses and warm locals going about their daily activities. Not only can you interact with the locals, but you can also listen to their stories around a warm campfire at night. 

But what is more impressive about Kampung Sting is the surrounding scenery. Perched along the majestic Bengoh Range, the village features a lookout platform that overlooks the Bengoh Lake, providing stunning views that will leave you awestruck. 

More importantly, Kampung Sting is one of the gateways to enter the Bengoh Range itself. 

5. Bengoh Range

Image credit: Aizaharwani MJ 

Speaking of, the Bengoh Range, nestled within the rainforest between the borders of Kalimantan (Indonesia) and the outskirts of Sarawak, is arguably one of the most naturally beautiful underrated gems in Sarawak, perhaps even in all of Malaysia! 

Known by some locals as the “Jurassic Park” of Sarawak, the Bengoh Range is a pristine natural haven largely left untouched by man. It features rugged ridges, a plethora of unique flora and fauna, majestic hidden waterfalls, and cloud forests blessed with crisp mountain air. 

As you explore the area, you’ll come across plenty of picturesque locations, some of which are reachable only by boat, culminating in breathtaking panoramic views at the summit. 

6. Julan Waterfall

Image credit: Sarawak Tourism Board

The Julan Waterfall is the highest cascading waterfall in Sarawak (300m) but it remains one of the region’s hidden gems because of how challenging it is to reach. Even for seasoned hikers, the journey to the falls, which passes through thick jungle trails along the Usun Apau plateau in Marudi, can take up to five full days! 

But once you reach the falls, what awaits you is an otherworldly sight punctuated by multi-tiered cascades plunging into crystal-clear pools surrounded by lush greenery. Add to that the immersive sounds of the rainforest, and it’s no wonder some people dub this area the “Garden of Eden”

Want to know how to get to the Western Julan Waterfalls? Come talk to the experts from the Sarawak Tourism Board at the ASTINDO (1-3 Mar) and MATTA (22 – 24 Mar) Travel Fairs in Indonesia and Malaysia respectively in March! 

7. Tekiwit Waterfalls

Image credit: miche.sarawak 

Another majestic waterfall that lies hidden amidst the many wondrous gems of Sarawak is the Tekiwit Waterfalls, located an hour away from the ethnic Penan Village of Data Bila. The closest town is Miri, just over six hours away, so you can already imagine what hidden allure this secluded gem offers. 

Housed within a dense jungle, this waterfall plunges into a basin 30m below, surrounded by moss-covered cliffs, and enigmatic rock formations, akin to a mesmerising painting. While here, take a dip in the refreshing pool to reward yourself for all the hiking you had to endure to reach the location! 

8. Wong Pala Munsoh

Image credit: miche.sarawak 

Wrapping up the trifecta of hidden waterfalls in Sarawak is the Wong Pala Munsoh, a majestic cascading waterfall in Sarikei that looks like it was taken right out of a fantasy novel! 

Reaching the waterfalls is no easy task, as it requires a 2-hour journey through a dense forest. That said, the hike along the jungle trail — often only possible when accompanied by a local guide, is made easier thanks to the lovely scenery around it and the fresh air. 

Along the way, you may even encounter some unique Bornean fruits, like the snake fruit!

9. Merarap Hot Springs

Image credit: Sarawak Tourism Board

If chasing waterfalls sounds too tiring for you, then one of the hidden gems in Sarawak that you’ll probably like more is the Merarap Hot Spring, a natural spa and sanctuary located 70km away from the town of Lawas. 

Here at this 1-hectare property, you’ll find four emerald pools with water from the nearby highlands. Feel the tension melt away as the warm water works its magic, rejuvenating your body and mind. 

Once you’re done dipping in the hot springs, head to the deck to grab a light meal while overlooking the Trusan River. Alternatively, take a hike through the surrounding forest, discovering hidden vistas and encountering exotic birds and butterflies. 

10. Semadang Mangroves

Image credit: Semadang Adventure Official Website

Sarawak is a destination known for its alluring natural gems, and the Semadang Mangroves is one such location that epitomises that charm. 

Imagine kayaking amidst towering mangrove trees along the rivers of the forest, their intricate root systems weaving a labyrinth beneath the water’s surface. Spot playful mudskippers hopping along the mudflats, observe majestic hornbills soaring overhead, and witness the fascinating adaptation of creatures thriving in this brackish realm. 

As the sun dips below the horizon, casting long shadows across the water, listen to the symphony of nocturnal creatures coming alive in the mangroves, creating an unforgettable experience! 

11. Buduk Nur

Image credit: dayakwanderer | Instagram

Apart from the rainforests, Sarawak is also famous for its picturesque highlands, many of which are hidden gems waiting to be discovered. One such location is Buduk Nur, located in the Maligan highlands in the district of Limbang

Known for its natural beauty and charming villages, Buduk Nur is nicknamed the “Shangri-La of Sarawak”, an ode to its otherworldly beauty and serene vibes. Buduk Nur sits over 900m above sea level and is surrounded by enigmatic peaks and lush green paddy fields, providing incredible scenery that stretches as far as the eye can see. 

Thanks to its high altitude, it can also get pretty chilly at night. Though if we could advise you on anything, it’s to bring a jacket, because you’ll want to brave the low temperatures to check out the clear night sky adorned with stars! 

12. Kelabit Highlands

Image credit: Michael Goodine | Wikimedia Commons

The remote Kelabit Highlands is another one of the hidden gems in Sarawak. This remote location is accessible by light aircraft for a thrilling 4WD journey. 

At this highland enclave, expect pristine rainforest trails and the chance to immerse yourself in the unique culture of the Kelabit people in Bario, a community of 13 to 16 villages located around 1000m above sea level. Here, You’ll find traditional longhouses aplenty, decorated with intricate wood carvings, and each housing plenty of fascinating stories. It is also the gateway to the rest of the Kelabit Highlands thanks to its airport. 

Around the Bario area, you’ll find lovely rice terraces carved into the mountain slopes and plenty of trekking trails with breathtaking scenery. If you’re staying overnight in Bario, you must rise early to catch the incredible sunrise over the Kelabit Highlands! 

13. Gunung Murud

Image credit: Jeremiah Harris | Wikimedia Commons

Gunung Murud, Sarawak’s second-highest peak at 2,425 meters, offers a challenging hike to even seasoned hikers. This hidden gem in Sarawak offers an unforgettable hike in which one would traverse diverse landscapes, from lush rainforests at the base to windswept meadows higher up. 

Along the way, you’ll encounter unique flora and fauna, including pitcher plants, rhododendrons, and even bearded pigs, all of which are part of the unique biodiversity of Sarawak. The reward at the summit is breathtaking — panoramic views stretching across the aforementioned Kelabit Highlands and beyond. 

Also read: Picture Perfect Borneo: 10 Top Sights in Sarawak That’ll Blow Up Your Insta Feed!

And there you have it: 13 hidden gems of Sarawak you probably didn’t know existed! With so much more to see and do in Sarawak, the Land of Hornbills is certainly a memorable destination worth revisiting several times over! 

If you’re wondering where and how to start your journey in Sarawak, you’re in luck because Sarawak Tourism Board will be at the ASTINDO Travel Fair in Indonesia from 1 to 3 Mar 2024, and MATTA Fair in Malaysia from 22 to 24 Mar 2024. That’s your best opportunity to speak with local experts to find out more about the charms of Sarawak, so make sure you don’t miss them! 

Brought to you by Sarawak Tourism Board

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