List of districts

List of districts

There are in total 26 districts in the state of Sabah, Malaysia. Each district is different from the others and poses at least some points of interest for the incoming visitors of Malaysia. Here a list of  short descriptions of each of the districts is given below.


It is an administrative hub of Sabah. The capital of Beaufort district is Beaufort Town and located 60 miles from the capital Kota Kinabalu. This city receives extreme rainfall during monsoon and takes the beautiful appearance of an’ eastern Venice’. The weekly temu market attracts locals and tourists from far and wide. Tourists can visit the Kampung Garama wetlands, just 15 miles outside Beaufort Town that shelters a variety of Bornean wildlife including the Proboscis monkey. The Pualu Tiga Marine National Park in Beaufort is well known for its location in the popular TV show “Survivor”.

  1. Beluran:

It is an administrative district of the state of Sabah forming part of the Sandakan Division. The capital town is named Beluran as well. It has been named after a hill located in the district itself. The district was formerly called Labuk- Sugut district and has existed since the expansion of the North Borneo Chartered Company. The total area covers 3,222 sq mi. The region is inhabited by a multitude of indigenous ethnic groups including Kadazan- Dusun, Tidong, Bajau, Suluk, Orang Sungai. A large number of the Chinese population is also observed here.

  1. Keningau:

Keningau District (or Daerah Keningau) is an administrative centre of Sabah state, located in the Interior Division (includes districts like Beaufort, Keningau, Kuala Penyu, Nabawan, Sipitang, Tambunan, and Tenom). The capital is located in the eponymous town. The town shows a sizeable plantation of Javanese Cinnamon trees, which  gives the name Keningau to this region. Keningau has an interesting historical record with both the British and the Japanese using the town during the Second World War. The district covers a total area of 1,364 sq mi.

  1. Kinabatangan:

The Kinabatangan District ( Daerah Kinabatangan) is an administrative centre of Sabah state, located in the Interior Division (includes districts like Beaufort, Keningau, Kuala Penyu, Nabawan, Sipitang, Tambunan, and Tenom). Capital is Kinabatangan Town. The Kinabatngan Wildlife Sanctuary is a major wildlife sanctuary and provides tourist revenue to the state. It houses notable species like Borneo elephants,  proboscis monkey, and hornbills. The tourists also throng the famed Gomantong Limestone Caves which are another attraction. The area is a total 3,000 sq mi with the inhabitants including a large number of illegal Phillipine immigrants.

  1. Kota Belud:

This District (Daerah Kota Belud) is an administrative centre of Sabah state, located in the West Coast Division (includes Kota Kinabalu, Papar, Penampang, Putatan, Ranau, and Tuaran). The Capital reads Kota Belud Town. the name came from the combination of Bajau words Kota = ‘fort’ and Belud= ‘hill’. In the past, when local Bajau people had to fight enemies, they took refuge in the hills which acted as their “fortress”, that ultimately came to be known as Kota Belud. The town hosts the famous Kota Belud Mosques, St. William Catholic Church, and the James Brook Range. The district encompasses a total area of 535 sq mi and is made up of ethnic groups like Bajau, Illanun, and the Dusun people.

  1. Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu (often abbreviated as KK) is the district capital of Kota Kinabalu District (Daerah Kota Kinabalu) . KK is also the acting capital of the Sabah state and forms part of the West Coast Division. Being the capital of Sabah it is the entry-point of all the visitors coming into this Malaysian state. It is primarily a tourist hub with developed banking firms. The district has a considerable list of attractions like Kota Kinabalu City Centre, Tundu Abdul Rahman Marine Park, KK City Mosque, Atkinson Clock Tower, Tanjung Aru Beach, and Pu Tuo Si Temple.

  1. Kota Marudu

The Kota Marudu District (Daerah Kota Marudu) in the Kudat Divison (which includes Kota Marudu, Kudat, and Pitas) is an administrative district of Sabah. The district and the eponymous capital derive their name from the geographical position of Marudu Bay which forms a large bay along the district. Also called Marudu or Maludo, it offers a wonderful view of the Crocker Range and harbors religious edifices like Tandek Mosque, Kota Marudu Basel Church, St. Theresa Catholic Church, and the Goshen Seventh Day Adventist Church. The demographics of this 740 sq mi region show it to be composed of Dusuns, Rungus, Bajaus, Orang Sungais and the Chinese.

  1. Kuala Penyu District

The Kuala Penyu District (Daerah Kuala Penyu) is located in the Interior Division of Sabah (that includes like Beaufort, Keningau, Kuala Penyu, Nabawan, Sipitang, Tambunan, and Tenom). The district received a fully legitimate status in 1975 with the Kuala Penyu Town as its capital. The name comes from a group of turtle (Penyu) shaped rocks along the river bank (Kuala). It forms one of the gateways to the Pulau Tiga National Park and has several famous beaches like Tempurang, Sawangan, and Sungai Labuwan Waterfront. The district area covers 175 sq mi and the population includes Kadazan and Dusun Tatana people.

  1. Kudat

The Kudat District (Daerah Kudat ) is an administrative district in Sabah, located in the Kudat Division (which involves Kota Marudu, Kudat, and Pitas). There are a number of important points like the Asy-Syakirin Mosque, Sin San Anglican Church, Kudat Basel Church, St. Peter Catholic Church, Fuk Tek Kung Temple, and the Bak Bak beach. The capital is called Kudat Town and the region covers 497 sq mi.

  1. Kunik

This district forms part of Tawau Divison (Kunik, Lahad Datu, Semporna, and Tawau) with Kunik Town as its administrative district capital. The district is notable for its palm oil trade and there are a few palm oil estates (Gram Oil Palm Estate). The population is composed of ethnic Bajau and Bugis people along with a substantial Chinese minority. The town is connected with Semporna by a newly built highway whereas a single thoroughfare lined by wooden shops link the jetty to the wet market.

  1. Lahad Datu

The Lahad Datu District  (Daerah Lahad Datu) in the state of Sabah, forming a part of the Tawau Division (Kunak, Lahad Datu, Semporna and Tawau). The capital of the district is Lahad Datu Town. The word "Lahad Datu" is derived from the Bajau language and  means “the dignity of people’. The place was named after the migration of Datu-Datu people after the occupation of Sulu Sultanate after the Brunei Civil War. The Lahad Datu district is renowned for its tobacco and coconut plantations. The area covers a total of 2510 sq mi and the local population is estimated to be 199, 830 (2010 census). This district poses several attractions for the tourists such as the Danum Valley Conservation Area, Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Mount Silam, and Tower of Heaven.

  1. Nabawan

The Nabawan District (Daerah Nabawan) located in the Malaysian state of Sabah and forms part of the Interior Division (Beaufort, Keningau, Nabawan, Sipitang, Tambunan and Tenom). Capital is Nabawan Town and the entire district embodies about 2351 sq mi.  in 2010, the population was 31,807, comprised of Muruts, Lun Bawangs, and Lundayeh. A few of the important places include the Sabenait River, Swinging bridge, As-Syahadah Mosque. One important source of income for the district folk is the Nabawan Rock Mill.

  1. Papar

The Papar District (Daerah Papar) in the Sabah state forms a part of the West Coast Division. The capital is located in the town of Papar. The name Papar means 'flat or open land’. The population of Papar is estimated at about 124,420 and composed of Bruneian Malays, Kadazan- Dusun and Bajau people. There are also a considerable number of Hakka & Hokkien Chinese individuals. Papar is regarded as the education core of the West coast Division with its very own National Youth Skill Centre and MARA Science College. This district also harbors a number of famous tourist resorts and sight-seeing spots including Beringgs, Melinsung, Langkah Syabas,Pantai Manis, Dinawan Island, Kinolosodan River, Utan paradise Jungle Camp KK adventure centre, and Kawang Forest Centre.

  1. Penampang

Penampang District  (180 sq mi) (Daerah Penampang) is a district of the Malaysian state Sabah, in the West Coast Division. The capital is the eponymous town. the majority of population belong to Kadazan- Dusun ethnic group and the Chinese natives. A small fraction of Bajau and Bruneian Malay are also present. This district was formerly known as the paddy cultivating nucleus of Sabah but now due to its closeness to Kota Kinabalu, there has been rapid growth of several secondary and tertiary economies. The Pogunon Community Museum, Sabah Art Gallery (3000 paintings and artworks) and St. Michael’s Church (second oldest stone church in Sabah) are notable visitors’ attraction in Penampang.

  1. Putatan

The Putatan District (115 sq mi) (Daerah Putatan) in West Coast Division has its capital in the town of same name. The name comes from “putat” which is a flowering mangrove plant which at one point of time thronged the entire area. Citizens include the Bruneian Malay, Bajau along with a substantial population of the Kadazan-Dusun and the Chinese. There is a central road which links Lok Kawi and Pengalat. The Lok Kawi wildlife Park, One Place Mall and Petagas War Memorial include the renowned tourist spots. The state- run Al-Biruni observatory is used to determine the exact moment of the beginning  of Ramadan

  1. Pitas

The Pitas District (548 sq mi)  (Daerah Pitas) is located in the Kudat Divison (Kota Marudu, Kudat, and Pitas) with its headquarters in Pitas Town. The town name comes from a Sungai word ‘No pitas’ which means ‘lost’- a term which originated when the local Bangkok river was flooded and got cut off by the heavy floods. The maximum portion of the inhabitants belong to Rungus (Kadazan-Dusun) and Orang Sungai tribes. The Mempakad provides a very decent view of the Marudu Bay which is praised by locals and tourists from far and wide. Important points include the Al Amin Mosque, Pitas Seventh Day Adventist Church and the Benkoka Jetty.

  1. Ranau

The Ranau district (1150 sq mi) (Daerah Ranau) is an important administrative part of West Coast Divison and has its capital in the town of Ranau. The district is located on the west of Sandakan and extends upto the border of Interior Division. It is situated 67 miles east of Kota Kinabalu and 141 miles west of Sandakan. Ranau is visited by a large number of tourists who come to visit the Kinabalu Park, Mount Kinabalu (tallest mountain in Borneo), Poring Hot Springs, Kundasang War Memorial, Sabah Tea Garden and the Death March Trail. Ranau was the site of the largest copper mine in Malaysia (Mamut Copper Mine) until it went out of business in 1999 and transformed into a famous tourist attraction.

  1. Sandakan

The Sandakan District is the central part of the Sandakan Division ( Beluran, Kinabatangan, Sandakan, Telupid, and Torgod). The district headquarters and main offices are located in the capital Sandakan Town. Sandakan is the third largest of Sabah’s districts, after Kota Kinabalu and Tawau. The list of travelers’ special sights is endless. It includes Sandakan Cavalry Charismatic Church, St. Joseph Catholic Church, Gurudwara Sahib Sandakan, Sandakan Seventh Day Adventist Church, Sandakan Town Centre, and Puu Jih Shih Temple.


The Semporna District Daerah Semporna) is headquartered at Semporna Town located in the Tawau Division and includes other districts like Kunak, Lahad Datu, Semporna, and Tawau. Tourists come to visit the Semporna Town Mosque, Sam Shen Temple, the beautiful Pegagau Bridge, Balimbang Asal, and Gading River. It envelopes an area of 442 sq mi.

  1. Sipitang

The Sipitang District (10,550 sq mi) (Daerah Sipitang) in the Interior Division (Beaufort, Keningau, Kuala Penyu, Nabawan, Tambunan, and Tenom) is headquartered in Sipitang Town. Sipitang district is situated to the south-west of Sabah. The town of Sindumin in Sipitang district acts as a gateway to the state of Sarawak while the ecotourism villages Long Mio and Long Pasia provide substantial income to the district. The district is drained by 4 major rivers of Sabah- Lukutan, Mengalong, Padas, and Sipitang.The population is divided into to Kedayan (60%), Murut, Lun Bawang, Lundayeh (30%), and Bruneian Malay plus Chinese (10%).

  1. Tambunan

The Tambunan District (Daerah Tambunan) is located in the Interior Division and its capital is Tambunan Town. The name is taken from two local words “Tamadon” and “Gombunan” which combine to form Tambunan. The district population is composed of indigenous Kadazan- Dusun (86%) and the rest is made up of Malay, Chinese, and several other groups. The Tambunan paddy fields are a famous local sight-seeing spot. The Nurul Iman Mosque and Holy Cross Catholic Church are often visited by tourists. The entire district has an area coverage of 520 sq mi.

  1. Tawau

Tawau District (Daerah Tawau) is the central portion of Tawau Division (Kunak, Lahad Datu, Semporna, and Tawau) and its HQ is at Tawau Town. It is the second largest town in Sabah after Kota Kinabalu. Until the Second World War, Tawau was ruled by North Borneo Chartered Company and then the Japanese took it over. After the end of War in 1945, the Tawau government was handled by the British colonial government until 1955, when the reins of city administration and finances were handed over to the local Tawau town Board. The city is famous for its numerous religious sites like Tawau Basel Church, St. Patrick Anglican Church, Thirumurugam Temple and Gurudwara Sahib.

  1. Telupid

The Telupid in Sandakan Division (Capital: Telupid Town) was first settled in 1940s and became notorious for the Sandakan Death Marches (WW2). The district mainly came into being following an agreement between the Australian and Malaysian governments to build roads together, in an effort to uplift the state of Malaysian communication. It was formerly a sub-district (1970 to 2015) until it became a full- fledged district in 2015. It encompasses a total area of 747 sq mi.

  1. Tenom

The Tenom District (Daerah Tenom) is an administrative division in Sabah forming part of the Interior Divison (Beaufort, Keningau, Kuala Penyu, Nabawan, Sipitang, Tamburan, and Tenom) with its capital based in Tenom Town. The area was formerly called Fort Birch after North Borneo Governor Ernest Birch. It is an important halt point on the heritage North Borneo Railway (NBR) line extending from Beaufort to Melalap Station. The district is spread over an area of 930 sq mi with a population of 55,553 inhabitants (2010 census) made up of Muruts, Kadazan- Dusun, Chinese, Lundayehs and Malays.

  1. Tongod

The Tongod District (Daerah Tongod) of Sandakan Divison with its titular capital town was first established in 1977 as a sub-district of Kinabatangan district and became a full district in 1999. Given its total area of 3881 sq mi, the population is sparsely distributed (35,541; 2010) with the Orang Sungai and the Kadazan- Dusun making up the major part of population. The grand view of Meliau Range is a notable feature of this region while the Milian river is also socio-economically important for the district.

  1. Tuaran

The Tuaran District (Daerah Tuaran) in Sabah state is a part of the West Coast division and the capital is Tuaran Town. The important tourist attractions located here are Mengkabong and Penimbawan water villages (built by the Bajau people), Ling San Pagoda (a 9-storeyed Buddhist pagoda outside the capital town), the famous Tuaran Canopy Walk, golfing and water sports facilities. Enthusiastic shoppers are often seen to be crowding at the Tuaran shop lots .The local population is comprised of indigenous Dusuns, Bajaus, Malays, and  Chinese.