Tawau is the third largest town in Sabah and is one of its major agriculture regions. This booming frontier town, located on the south-east coast facing the Celebes Sea, is surrounded by cocoa and oil palm plantations and is a leader in terms of cocoa research and development. A visit to a cocoa factory is often included in a local tour itinerary to highlight this important industry. Fisheries also play an equally important role in Tawau’s economy.
The freshest seafood makes its way to Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Peninsula Malaysia, as well as popular seafood restaurants in town. The new Central Market near the harbour at Jalan Dunlop and the waterfront itself is a definite crowd puller not only for its produce but also to witness the hustle and bustle of this modern town. Aquaculture is big business and Tawau has the oldest and largest commercial prawn farm in Sabah. There are few historical sites in Tawau as much of its development occurred after WWII. However, some of the older timber shophouses lining Tawau’s main thoroughfare – Dunlop Street – is still present to give the town a somewhat nostalgic ambiance.
Major tourist attractions at Tawau include the Tawau Hills Park, a 280,000 hectare forest reserve with a natural hot spring and spectacular lowland rainforest, as well as several golf courses. The Shan Shui Golf & Country Resort, located 15km from town, is an 18-hole golf course designed by Nelson & Haworth is ranked as one of the finest designed courses in Asia. Mid-range and budget hotels are available in Tawau which caters mainly to its business population. It is also an important transit point for visitors departing for or returning from the Semporna dive islands of Sipadan, Mabul, Kapalai and Mataking.