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Ara Dinawan Island, A Secret Paradise

 I just realized it has been more than half a year since I wrote in my blog! Sure enough, a lot has happened in the past six months and I cannot wait to update it in this space. 

Work has kept me busy as usual and the Covid situation isn’t getting any better in Malaysia. Authorities running in circles over the ever-changing SOPs and lockdowns are being imposed on and off. I have not even gone back to my hometown for more than a year now!

This is probably a bad time to write about travelling in view of the current unfavorable circumstances.  You may not even be in the right mood for travel stories. But since I finally have the time to sit down and blog about this, I may suggest you to bookmark it for future references 😉 Or you may allow yourself to be on virtual tour to Dinawan Island.

I still manage to get myself on a beach vacay during the Good Friday weekend before the total lockdown began in early June. At that time, Sabah allows cross- district travels based on six zones. Living in Zone 1 which covers Kota Kinabalu, Kota Belud, Ranau, Tuaran, Penampang, Putatan, and Papar, did not give me many options to choose from, as I have been to most of the touristy places within this zone. I was looking for someplace beautiful, quiet, and relaxing but not too mainstream and I found Dinawan Island in one of the Sabah tourism social pages.

 Located at the coast of Kinarut, Dinawan Island is just a 30-minute drive from Kota Kinabalu. It is a private island which consists of two parts- Dinawan Kecil and Besar which are connected by a lagoon. There are two resorts on Dinawan Kecil which are Sunborneo Resort and Marudu Dinawan Island. Ara Dinawan Resort, the one I stayed, is on Dinawan Besar. 

Ara Dinawan Resort is a great place for a retreat if you ever need a personal and quiet space which is close to nature and nature lovin’. This eco-friendly resort which provides an island glamping experience, is powered by solar energy throughout the day! This resort is also involved in many conservational efforts such as coral replanting, turtle hatchery, and many more.

Imagine waking up to this view

How to get there?

From Kota Kinabalu, you may take a drive to Beringgis Seafood Restaurant and park your car there. The car park is safe and locks at night. The island is accessible from Beringgis Seafood Restaurant jetty via boat transfer. Once you have booked with Ara Dinawan, the staffs will assist you with the journey from the jetty.

How to Plan Your Trip?

Ara Dinawan offers both day trip packages and overnight stay packages. You may find more details of the respective packages on their website.

Day trips may be a little rushing for me and overnight stay is perfect since it was a long weekend (Good Friday is a public holiday in Sabah). Both day trips and overnight stays only available during Friday, Weekends, and Public holidays. If I’m not mistaken, they have a limit of number of guests a day, as well as minimum number of guests in order to operate.

Hence, I suggest you contact them directly prior to planning.



What to do in Dinawan Island?

As we disembarked from the boat, we were greeted with friendly staffs who were handing fruit cordial to us. I was impressed by this warm welcome gesture which is pretty rare to witness in Malaysian hospitality. We were then served with hot donuts and tea too.

We were then briefed about the itinerary which is pretty much free and easy, where you can choose to partake the activities or just chill in your tent.

There’s plenty to do on this island such as water activities- snorkeling, kayaking, paddle board, banana boat, or fly fish. Their in-house facilities also include board games. And I think I saw a foosball table too.

This is definitely #nofilter

As the golden hour was approaching, we were brought to watch the sunset at the other side of the island. The journey to this sunset point was no easy feat as I remember climbing over rocks and walking through the bushes along the path. But the view is definitely very rewarding.

At night, there was even a bonfire planned for us. However, I retired early to my tent.


How about Food & Accommodation?

The glamping tent is so well- equipped with many essential facilities- charging ports, clothes pole, racks, tea station with kettle, security box, a mini fridge, and a portable air-conditioner. And the best part is, they have an attached bathroom! Unlike Cabana Retreat in Kota Belud, you do not need to walk out from your tent just to do your business.  

The package also includes full board meals during your stay. We were very well-fed during our stay from welcoming tea time till the heavy lunch before our departure the next day. The meals are delicious and diligently prepared for every group of guests.

How much was the cost?

Depending on which trip (day or overnight) as well as the room packages you pick, the costs varies according to your selection.

I paid RM500/room for the Exclusive Beach Front Tented Villa which includes full board meals, activities, and boat transfer. You may refer to the prices of the packages from their website.


This hidden gem truly gave me the amazing retreat experience with warm hospitality. The price may be a little hefty compared to other resorts but you can’t put a price on peace and quiet. Tranquility from the absence of crowds of loud tourists and rejuvenating yourself on a cleaner beach are the perks of this private island. But now, the secret is out.


Stay safe,



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