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Tawau: Must Visit and Must Eat

Tawau, the third biggest city of Sabah is located at the south-east coast, nearby the eastern border with Kalimantan Indonesia and 30 minutes boat ride away from Philippines. 

Tawau plays an important role within Malaysia because of its major products such as tobacco, cocoa and palm oil.

As Tawau is located along the Celebes Sea, it is also known for its great, fresh and cheap seafood. 

So.. What are the things you can do when you visit Tawau? Many travellers asked this common question due to not much publicity on this coastal city and most of them are usually just passing through. But if you ask us, we would recommend that you stay in the city a day or two to check out some of the cool things around the town.

Here are some of the places that you should consider checking out in Tawau: 

Teck Guan Cocoa Museum

Did you know that Tawau is the largest producer of cocoa in Malaysia? Well, now you do! 😉

For this reason alone, Teck Guan Cocoa Museum, a place to marvel at chocolates is a must visit! As you enter the building,  you can smell the light aroma of chocolate that fills the air.

This place provides you an opportunity to discover the world of cocoa from its origin to the finished products. Not only can you get chocolate bars and drinks here, you can also buy chocolate soaps and chocolate hand wash.


Pasar Tanjung Market


You know what people say, if you want to learn about the locals, go visit their local market. 

Pasar Tanjung Tawau is equipped with 6000 stalls and is said to be the largest indoor market in the whole of Malaysia. 

This market is not just popular among the locals, but also for anyone who visits Tawau, especially those who are looking to get some Indonesian-made snacks and dried seafood like the ikan masin and ikan bilis, at bargain prices!

Tawau Hills


If you’re keen to spend some time in nature but don’t really want to venture into big conservation parks because it feels like too much of an effort, then consider Tawau Hills Park, a more user-friendly alternative.

The forest here is impressively thick, there are trails for hikers of all abilities, picnic spots and camping sites. Also, this forest is home to the world’s tallest tropical tree – it’s 96.9m!

Bukit Gemok Forest Reserve

Credit: Kevin Lewis

An avid hiker? Then you should get your first-hand experience with the untouched jungle of Bukit Gemok. 

Situated 10km from the city centre, Bukit Gemok is a perfect place for a day hike, where the jungle offers you with the tranquility greenery environments. 

There are seven huts provided for you to catch a breath as it will be an hour plus (depending on your fitness level) in order to reach the top.

While there, do check out the amazing canopy walkway known as Titian Selara. One of the most interesting features about this canopy walkway is the fact that it is the longest canopy walkway in Sabah (231 metres). 


Columnar Basalt


Here’s a total gem that not many people know about. The columnar basalt at Giram Nek Legek, Kampung Balung Cocos. 

This unique rock structure is a result of the cooling of the volcanic lava formed thousands of years ago.

There are not many places in the world that have columnar basalt like this one in Tawau! So it is really worth the visit! 

Popular Eateries

Thanks to Tawau’s proximity to large population of Indonesians, Filipinos, Chinese and Bajau, the city has some special and  worth-to-try cuisines.

Fresh Seafood – Kam Ling, Sabindo

Enjoy great seafood at reasonable prices. Where? At Kam Ling Fresh Seafood, an open air stall located at Sabindo.

 From lobster to shrimp to grouper, you get to see variety of “live” seafood. And by that, we mean seafood that are still alive up until their last moment.

Credit: Teng Teck Hock (FB)

Seafood Soto – Kedai Kopi Yuan Yuan

Oh yes! Seafood Soto is one of the cuisines that is different from what we used to have in Kota Kinabalu, which is either Beef Soto or Chicken Soto.

The Seafood Soto comes with prawns, home-made prawn balls and fish slices. One of the coffee shops that is famous among locals for its Seafood Soto is Kedai Kopi Yuan Yuan. 

By the way, if you’ve been drinking beer a lot the night before, they say Soto can relieve hangovers. So yeah, hope this tip will help you. 

normiyati yekking fb
Credit: Normayati Yekking (FB)

Nasi Kuning – Restoran Haji Tamrin

Nasi Kuning (Yellow Rice) is synonymous with Tawau. Cooked with coconut milk and turmeric, the Nasi Kuning in Tawau is usually served with either fried chicken or Ikan Kayu, and is often wrapped in a banana leaf. 

One of the best places to try Nasi Kuning is at Restoran Haji Tamrin, a coffee shop in Tawau. Go and try out for yourself to see whether you agree with us or not. 😉

There you go, this list of must-visit and must-eat in Tawau will surely fill your trip with unique adventures that you thirst for. Happy travels!

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