A Visit to Sabah Borneo’s Poring Hot Springs Recreational Area

I’ve never been particularly afraid of heights; being an avid tree climber and several years of gymnastics lessons cured any doubts I might have had about heights many, many years ago.

Looking up at a tiny netted wooden walkway situated 130 feet above the forest floor made me gulp a bit though.

If you’ve never been tree canopy walking, I strongly urge you to try it. It strikes a healthy balance somewhere between hiking and rock climbing. Tree canopy walking turned out to be my kind of activity, given that my health does not allow me to undertake strenuous or physically challenging activities like bungee jumping or downhill mogul racing.

When I found out that we could do some tree canopy walking on our road trip through Kinabalu National Park in Sabah, Borneo, I called it as one of ‘my’ trip activities. In other words, that means John can’t object, since I then had to do an activity with him of his choosing. (He choose to drive to the Tip of Borneo, but that trip didn’t go so well. We got caught in a flash flood that day.)

A trip to Sabah isn’t complete without visiting Mount Kinabalu, and a soak in the hot springs at Poring Hot Springs in Renau sounded delightful after wandering around Mount Kinabalu.

We had  high hopes for Renau. Unfortunately, our time there didn’t turn out as expected.

Located in the foot hills of Mount Kinabalu, the area is best known for the Poring Hot Spring and Nature Reserve. The hot spring is managed by Sabah Parks, and the various accommodation options and dining facilities are managed by Sutera Sanctuary Lodges, which is where we were headed for a two-night cabin stay.

Carrie at Poring Hot Springs

 The suspension bridge that crosses Mamut River on the way to the hot springs.

The hot springs are located in a clearing in the forest, and you have to cross a short suspension bridge over Mamut River. A wooden pathway leads past a grove of giant bamboo, fruit bearing trees, and flowering plants.

READ:  River Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos

The walk is really beautiful, but I can’t comment much on the hot springs, mainly because it was extremely busy while we were there, and the pools were not clean. I’ve read that this is normal at Poring Hot Springs, since the complex relies on its guests to change the water in the tubs.

The tubs were filthy and we took one look at them and decided we weren’t going in.

Sorry, we’ve didn’t bother to take photos. They were that disgusting.

Unfortunately, we had already booked and paid for a cabin at Sutera Sanctuary Lodges for two nights.

It’s common for us to check a room before we pay for it, and we knew we were overpaying when we decided to stay there since there was nothing else available in the area at that time. We never thought to check the facilities, though, and that’s a mistake we won’t make again.

Our cabin was clean and basic, but it wasn’t worth the $100USD we spent to stay there. That was our first experience with being grossly overcharged in Sabah because we were foreigners, and we quickly grew to despise Sabah for that reason.

We were overcharged everywhere we went. The only break we caught was in Kota Kinabalu proper, when we happened upon a local seafood restaurant that didn’t charge exorbitant prices or cater to tourists.

Since we had arrived later in the evening, we figured we’d stay, get up early, take advantage of the local attractions, get a good night’s sleep and get out of there the next morning. John managed to get our money back for our second night stay, thankfully. The only way he was able to do that was by complaining about the state of the hot springs and the local attractions, which were still open and charging full admission even though there was nothing to see at two of the attractions. (There was nothing blooming in the tropical garden and only a few visible orchids in the Orchid Conservation Center.)

READ:  Bali Travel Experience: Monkey Forest Road, Ubud

So that’s what we did.

Carrie at Poring Hot Springs Nature Reserve

The hike up to the canopy walkway.

John at Poring Hot Springs Nature Reserve

Poring Hot Spring Tree Walk

John at Poring Nature Reserve, Sabah

John is 6’9. This gives you some perspective as to how big these trees really are!

We got up early the next morning and did the Canopy Walkway, which ended up being my favorite activity by far. The walk leading up to the walkway was really pretty, and it was partially landscaped with a firm wooden walkway and stair cases.

We passed under some of the tallest trees I’ve ever seen before climbing up to reach the suspension bridges. The walkway stretches out over 500 feet through the treetops. Perched at the top of the rainforest canopy, we were able to see birds, monkeys and all sorts of wildlife. We were the first ones there that morning, so we had everything to ourselves until we stepped foot on the last bridge.

Admission costs $1.70USD.

John_Tree Canopy Walk

Kinpungit Waterfall_3

Kipingut Waterfall

Carrie at Kipungit Waterfall, Poring Hot Springs

If you hike a little further onwards from the Canopy Walkway, you’ll find two picturesque waterfalls in the area that are easy to find. Kipungit Waterfall can be reached in 30 minutes, while the larger Laganan Waterfall requires around an hour and a half of walking. We spent the rest of our morning visiting these waterfalls before heading back to the hot spring area to see the other attractions on the complex.

The Borneo Butterfly Farm focuses on conservation and research, and it’s home to several rare species of butterflies. (This attraction didn’t have any butterflies, although they charged us to go in. We had to ask for our money back when we came out.)

Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu-0678

Kota Kinabalu-0671

There are also two gardens on the complex. A five-acre tropical gardens was within meters of our cabin. There’s also a 10-acre orchid conservation center that’s home to over 500 species of orchids – the largest orchid collection in Sabah. Although the center wasn’t in full bloom, there were still a few beautiful orchids to be seen.

READ:  Taiwan Hot Springs Guide: Wulai Hot Springs, Northern Taiwan

Borneo Orchid

I’ve read that the rafflesia flower blooms here, but it only blooms a few days each year, and sadly, we missed it. These flowers are known for being the heaviest flowers in the world. They’re also well known for their foul smell.

We were advised at the entrance that Jackie the Orangutan was home and welcoming visitors. She was rescued as a young orangutan, and ended up making her home at the recreational center. She’s fairly tame and very precocious. It’s worth your time to stop by for a visit and hear her story, if you like that sort of thing. The center has rehabilitated five endangered orangutans in the past.

Jackie O and Carrie

Poring Nature Reserve, Sabah

All of these attractions operate independently and most of them charge additional fees in addition to the park entrance. This tendency to charge for every single thing, and on some occasions, being charged twice the going rate because we’re foreigners, was something that we really grew to dislike about Sabah.

Our biggest beef by far with Poring Hot Springs was, of course, the hot springs, or rather the state of them. The other attractions on the complex aren’t enough of a draw on their own. It’s really a shame, because the area is beautiful, but it certainly isn’t worth the drive there or the exorbitant cabin prices.

Have you been to Poring Hot Springs? What are your thoughts?

Poring Hot Springs

  • Entrance Fee: Adults $5; children $3.50.
  • Open Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Food: Restaurants at the Poring Hot Springs are managed by Sutera Sanctuary Lodges, the same company that manages accommodation. You can bring your own food.
  • What to Bring: Towels are not provided. Rubber sandals for walking around the pools.
  • Camera Fee: $1.75USD to use your camera on site.




Spread the love

Post Author: Carrie Kellenberger

I'm a chronically ill Canadian expat who has been living abroad in Asia since 2003. I moved from China to Taiwan in 2006. My husband and I have owned our own business in Taiwan since 2012. In addition to my own work, I've been writing professionally about Asia, travel and health advocacy since 2007, providing regular content to several publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. Follow Carrie on on Twitter @globetrotteri or on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/carriekellenberger/.

6 thoughts on “A Visit to Sabah Borneo’s Poring Hot Springs Recreational Area


    (February 24, 2014 - 4:41 pm)

    We didn’t go into the hot springs either…very disappointing. I also liked the canopy walk and felt it was the best thing to do in Mt. Kinabalu. We were lucky enough to view a Rafflesia that was blooming too!

      Carrie Kellenberger

      (March 3, 2014 - 5:51 pm)

      Thanks for stopping by, Corinne. I had really hoped that the condition of the hot springs was a one-off and that other travelers were able to enjoy them. It sounds like the pools are dirty most of the time, though. It’s really too bad, because it’s such a nice area.


    (March 4, 2014 - 12:12 am)

    I was certainly disappointed after living in Japan where one of my favorite things in life is to bathe in hot springs, but oh well!


    (March 19, 2014 - 2:47 am)

    Hi – where do you recommend going in Borneo? Better to be on the Malaysian on Indonesian side?

      Carrie Kellenberger

      (April 4, 2014 - 2:40 pm)

      I can’t say, actually. I’ve only been to Malaysian Borneo. 🙁


    (April 14, 2014 - 1:59 pm)

    That’s a shame about the hot springs, as I love a good soak. The mountains around Mount Kinabalu are amazing, but I never stopped when I was in Sabah 3 years ago (was on my way to Semporna and Mabul Island) … this will change next time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *