Best time to visit Borneo - When to go?

When planning your trip, you should, of course, consider the weather. In principle, you can visit Borneo all year round, but some times of year are more suitable than others. In this article we have compiled the most important information about the best times to travel to Borneo. You will discover:

  • which time of year is best for which parts of Borneo
  • when you have the best chance of seeing wild orangutans
  • which months are ideal for diving
  • when you should visit the island for a dream beach holiday
Best time to visit Borneo - sun rays in the jungle
Best time to visit Borneo - sun rays in the jungle

This is the best time to visit Borneo

Due to Borneo’s location, the climate is tropical. Therefore, heavy rainfall is to be expected all year round. 3,000 to 4,000 litres of rain fall per square meter every year. Temperatures remain warm throughout the year. They usually range between about 29.5 – 32 °C (85 – 89.5 °F) at the height of the day and drop to about 22 – 24 °C (72 – 75 °F) at night. The water is always about 28 – 29 °C (82 – 84 °F) and is thus pleasantly warm. Humidity is consistently around 80%.

As temperatures are consistent, rainfall is the most critical factor when choosing when to travel. If such thing as a dry season exists on the world’s third largest island, it would be from March to September. More accurately, however, we must say that there is simply less rain that falls during this period compared to other months. Even in the dry season, therefore, you must be prepared for regular and potentially heavy rainfall.

Temperatures also peak in the dry season, and the number of hours of sunshine is higher than October to February. This is why the period from March to September can be considered the best time to visit Borneo.

The best time for orangutan sightings, diving, and beach holidays

If you want to see orangutans in the wild, June to September is the best time to go. Then the jungle is in fruit season, and the primates are usually closer to the ground.

Divers also get their money’s worth during the dry season. Visibility is excellent, and the sea is calm. From March to May, hammerhead sharks pass by Layang Layang, while between April and September, turtles from the waters around Sipadan lay their eggs on the island.

For beach vacationers, the best time to travel to Borneo is March to May. Then it is nice and hot at the beaches around Kota Kinabalu, and on the east coast, the rainfall is at its lowest while the hours of sunshine are highest.

A visit in the rainy season is also worthwhile

Nevertheless, Borneo really is a year-round destination. Although the rainy season from October to February brings more rain than the dry season, they are often relatively short, torrential showers. Before and after these, the weather can be beautiful. Our climate charts (see below) show that the number of hours of sunshine per day in the rainy season is only about 1.5 – 2 hours less than in the dry season.

Visiting the island during the rainy season also has its advantages. For instance, it is significantly less frequented by tourists – and so not only is there more peace and quiet at the famous national parks and city attractions, but accommodation is also somewhat cheaper.

Climate charts for all parts of Borneo

Due to the size of Borneo, the weather naturally varies from region to region. From Mount Kinabalu in the northeast to the southwest, a mountain range runs across the island, influencing the climate. Below you will find information and climate charts for the six largest cities.

When to go to Kuching (including climate chart)

Kuching is located in the northwest of the island. The region around the city is one of the main tourist destinations. This is because there are enthralling national parks, fascinating caves, and free-roaming orangutans. However, Kuching is also a particularly wet region. The driest months are June and July, while the period from April to September is considered the dry season and, therefore, the best time to visit.

Climate chart Kuching

Climate chart Kuching

The best time to visit Kota Kinabalu (including climate table)

Kota Kinabalu is another worthwhile stop in Borneo and located on the north coast. The offshore islands with their gorgeous beaches are a trendy place to spend a few days relaxing on the beach. Kota Kinabalu is comparatively dry. The best time to travel is February or March: there is a good chance that you will be spared heavy rain showers at this time. The temperatures during this period are also suitable for a beach holiday.

Climate chart Kota Kinabalu

Climate chart Kota Kinabalu

The best travel time for Sandakan (including climate chart)

The area around Sandakan in the northeast of the island is another where there is a lot to discover and thus is popular with tourists. March to July is the time when you can expect the least rainfall, which is why we recommend these months for a visit.

Climate chart Sandakan

Climate chart Sandakan

The best time to visit Pontianak (including climate chart)

Pontianak is located in the western-Indonesian part of the island. Temperatures are warm all year round, and the driest months are February and March as well as June to August, which is why we recommend these as the best time to visit.

Climate chart Pontianak

Climate chart Pontianak

The best time to travel to Balikpapan (including climate table)

Balikpapan is located on the east coast of Kalimantan. Although it is also warm here all year round, the temperatures are about 1 – 2 °C (2 – 4 °F) cooler than in most other regions of the island. On the other hand, there are relatively few rainy days, and annual rainfall is also relatively low. Balikpapan can therefore be visited all year round, with the fewest rainy days occurring in the months from June to October.

Climate chart Balikpapan

Climate chart Balikpapan

When to go to Banjarmasin (including climate table)

Banjarmasin is located in the very south of Borneo. Although rainfall is very regular there, the showers are not as heavy compared to other parts of the island: the southern tip is relatively dry. Rainfall is at its lowest from June to October.

Climate chart Banjarmasin

Climate chart Banjarmasin

Frequently asked questions about when to travel

When is the rainy season in Borneo?

In Borneo, it rains regularly throughout the year. However, there is more rain from October to February, which is why these months are considered the rainy season. Rainfall is highest in December and January.

When is the best time to travel to Borneo to see orangutans?

You have a good chance of seeing orangutans all year round in the sanctuaries. However, especially during the fruit season from June to September, the apes may not need to rely on feedings as they may find enough food in the forests. If you want to see orangutans in the wild, the fruit season is the best time, since the animals often stay a little closer to the ground rather than high up in the treetops.

When can you have the best jungle adventures?

Generally, the dry season from March to September is most suitable for jungle treks. However, the rainy seasons can vary depending on which national park you’re intending to visit. Our climate charts for six regions will help you find the best time to visit the different parks.

When should you come to Borneo for a relaxing beach holiday?

If you want to relax on the beach in Kota Kinabalu or on the islands off the city, January to May is the best time. We recommend the months of March to September for the islands off the east coast of Borneo.

When is the best time to spot pygmy elephants?

The dry season from March to September is best if you want to see pygmy elephants.

When should you not visit the island?

Borneo is a suitable destination at any time of year. Temperatures are consistent throughout the year, and it rains all year round. However, heavy rain showers are to be expected in December and January. Therefore, we do not recommend travelling during these months if it is not necessary.

When is the best time to go on a river safari on the Kinabatangan River?

The less rain, the higher the chances are of animal sightings. This is because, during heavier showers, many animals retreat into the forests and can no longer be seen from the river. Rainfall at Kinabatangan River is lowest from March to July.

When should you come to Borneo to see proboscis monkeys?

You have the best chance of seeing proboscis monkeys from March to September, during the dry season. This is because the animals retreat deeper into the forests during rain showers.

When is the best time to climb Mount Kinabalu?

The best time to climb Mount Kinabalu, Southeast Asia’s highest mountain, is during the drier months from March to September. This is when the chances of your rain jacket staying in your backpack are highest.

When is the best time to travel for a diving holiday?

Since the water is calmer during the dry season, we recommend the period from March to September for a diving holiday. You can expect good diving conditions in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park as early as January.

When should you visit the island to see birdlife?

You can see birds all year round.

The best time to visit Borneo: our recommendation

When choosing when to travel, the temperature isn’t really a key factor. There are only a few areas on earth where temperatures are as consistent throughout the year as they are in Borneo. It is, therefore, a suitable travel destination all year round, although you should take rainfall into account. Whilst this can vary significantly from month to month, you should expect heavy rain showers all year round, so it is advisable to pack weatherproof clothing.

If you’re willing to accept the higher risk of rain, you will also have a great holiday in Borneo during the rainy season. Otherwise, we recommend the dry season from March to September. The main tourist season is from May to September. During this time, accommodation is often booked up well in advance or only few vacancies are available. Accordingly, higher prices are to be expected.

Check this out

Are you looking for more information for your trip? Then we recommend our post about highlights in Borneo as well as our travel tips.