Kota Kinabalu : Although KK, as it is known locally, is unlikely to make it into the top five world cities, there is enough to make for a great day out. It has an insightful museum, hectic night markets and many shops and restaurants. A short distance away you can find cooling waterfalls and great snorkelling in the nearby marine park and islands. All this can be enjoyed by foot, bike and boat. There are many resort hotels and the area is very well set up for tourists with every imaginable facility. A favourite activity is to go to one of the islands offshore in a speedboat for a day lazing on the beach and exploring the coral reefs.
Sandakan: Like KK, Sandakan was flattened by the bombing during World War II. However it is one of the most authentic cities in Borneo to visit. Few tourists linger here and this ensures that those that do receive a warm welcome from the Filipino-influenced local populace (the international boundary is a mere 1 hour away by boat). Nearby is the famous Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary and Rainforest Discovery Centre where you can see this great ape and also the Proboscis Monkey in a nearby reserve. Just two hours by speedboat takes you to the stunning Lankayan island marine reserve where seasonally turtles come ashore to nest. If you love seafood, it does not come any fresher than this!
Miri: Not a place to hang around for too long, but the nearby Niah Caves and Lambir Hills Parks make great overnight trips and the hotels will seem lavish after a few days trekking in the interior forests.
Kuching: Spared the WWII bombing that other cities in Sabah suffered, Kuching is arguably the most underrated city in South East Asia. Brimming with contrasting tribal groups, bustling markets and a busy waterway, it is easy to pass time here. The nearby mangroves and estuary host proboscis monkeys and Irrawaddy dolphins which are easily viewed in a day and the nearby national parks are simply stunning including a turtle nesting marine reserve. Not to be overlooked, Kuching encompasses all that is Borneo and is the best place to buy authentic handicrafts including the bizarre Palang – this has to be seen to be believed and is not for the fainthearted!