Can you smell the salty ocean when you think of Sabah? Or does the majestic views of Mount Kinabalu come to mind? As a state with the tallest mountain peak in Southeast Asia, Sabah attracts hikers and travellers from all over the world to seek thrill and adventure.

It has become a custom for any visitor to East Malaysia to bring back little mementos from all the places visited here. These precious tokens will keep your memories of Borneo alive for many years to come. By doing so, you are also supporting local sellers to help them make a living! Ready to shop? Save this useful list for your upcoming trip to Sabah to help you hunt for the best souvenirs that you will surely cherish!

Read also: The Best Gifts and Souvenirs from Sarawak

    Best Gifts and Souvenirs from Sabah, Malaysia

    Dried Seafood

    Sabah is well-known for its seafood. Since it is highly unlikely to bring fresh seafood back, you can easily settle for the dried versions. There are a plethora of choices to choose from such as anchovies, shrimps, fishes of many kinds, octopuses - the list is endless! Anchovies and dried shrimps are popular for their affordability and as delicious additions to food. Almost all Southeast Asian dishes can benefit from these rich umami-packed ingredients, so remember to drop by the nearest markets during your next visit to Sabah and get these in the kilos!

    Local Sabah Souvenirs
    Sabah is well-known for its fresh & dried seafood
    sabah local food products
    Don't forget to drop by the Kota Kinabalu's dried seafood market!

    Pearls from Sabah

    Thinking of getting something white and shiny? Sabah pearls are known and loved for the impeccable quality and delightful affordability. These exquisite and beautiful pearls are usually sold in the form of bracelets and necklaces to give a touch of elegance to your everyday ensemble.

    Each pearl is meticulously and naturally cultivated in a pollution-free environment. You can find them in two main variations: saltwater or freshwater pearls. If you need tips on how to distinguish real pearls from counterfeit ones, always ask the seller to do a quick test - which is typically done by scraping the surface of the pearls.

    pearls in sabah
    These beautiful Sabahan pearls are the best gift ideas from the state

    Jade Jewellery

    In the past, jade is seen as a status of wealth. As it became more accessible, people began wearing it as jewellery not just to symbolise their social status, but also as a durable adornment option. There is an old wives’ tale that if a married man buys his wife a jade bangle, their love will be long-lasting and this has become a custom among many Chinese families to date!

    jade in sabah
    Jade makes a great souvenir from Sabah

    Beadworks & Handicrafts

    The craft of beading is ancient and it has been part of the world’s oldest traditions. As industrialisation has made it possible for a faster and cheaper production using machines, many customs around the world are slowly disappearing. However, when it comes to Sabah, many indigenous tribes are striving to keep their customs and practices alive. In fact, this is a source of livelihood for them and many have made beading into a full-time career.

    Beadwork is a highly respected art form in Sabah. There is an annual Borneo International Beads Conference for men and women all over the region to come together and share their stories and heritage. Presenting items made of beadwork to women is seen as a form of respect, so don’t miss out on your chance of buying them for all the special women in your life.

    Sabah beadworks
    Sabah has a unique relationship with the beads of Borneo
    sabah handicraft centre
    The bead culture in huge and respected in Sabah, Sarawak and across the Borneo region
    cheap sabah handicraft markets
    You can find all kinds of handicrafts and jewellery when visiting the markets of Sabah

    While walking through the streets of Sabah, you will also discover many handmade decorations such as dreamcatchers. These aesthetic looking dΓ©cor pieces are meant to trap bad dreams and nightmares and turn them into beautiful, colourful ones instead! These are simply pretty little souvenirs to bring home especially for teens and children.

    Sunday Market sabah
    Want something unique? Get these handmade dreamcatchers instead!

    Popular Local Snacks

    Sabah offers a variety of snacks that you might not have heard of if you have spent all your time in the peninsula. The cuisine and snacks here are influenced by the neighbouring countries over the years, making them one-of-a-kind. A local favorite is Kuih Lidah, Kuih Cincin and Amplang, which come in huge bags that are perfect for gifting. Still a little unsure? Seek help from a friendly local or reach out to us for more snack recommendations. We are ever-ready for your food related questions! 

    Local Sabah Snacks
    Local snacks in Sabah are colourful and delicious!

    Traditional Sabah Textiles

    Weaving is an essential traditional art form of the indigenous communities of Sabah. Each clan has their own variation of textiles, simply known as kain that are commonly worn by many tribal women even to this day. The craft of weaving is passed on from generations to generations and it is the heritage that makes the souvenirs extra special. These textiles are used to make beautiful tapestries, bags and even blankets and the designs are unique to this region only. Make sure to snag one when you are here!

    Traditional Sabah Textiles
    Traditional Sabahan textiles are beautiful and make great gifts for loved ones

    Sabah is a lush, bountiful state in Malaysia boasting the beauty of nature. It is also home to the world’s oldest rainforest and is probably one of the last states with more than 50% of the land being jungle. With a large biodiversity and an even larger number of indigenous people, it is where humans and nature still coexist harmoniously. Buying a souvenir here means supporting local sellers and their handmade items using locally sourced materials - it’s shopping with a good cause!