Gaya Island (Pulau Gaya) is a sizeable Malaysian island of 1,465 ha, just 10 minutes off Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and forms part of the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. Pulau Gaya derived its name from the Bajau word "Gayo" which means big and occupies an area of 15 km² (3,700 acres) with an elevation of up to 300 metres. Several ridges rise more than 600 feet (180 m), peaking at 1,000 feet (300 m), along the backbone of Pulau Gaya.
Pulau Gaya is the largest island in the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, closest to downtown Kota Kinabalu (KK) and is covered with dense virgin, tropical forest. It has been a forest reserve since 1923. The island has 20 km of hiking trails and two 5 star resorts named Gayana Eco Resort, home to the Marine Ecology Research Centre, and Bunga Raya Island Resort on the north-east part of the island.
Historically, Pulau Gaya was also the site of the English colonialist's British North Borneo Company's harbour, razed by the folk hero Mat Salleh on 9 July 1897.
Sabah Parks, the body charged with protecting the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, is headquartered on the south-eastern part of Pulau Gaya in a bay shared with the Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures dive station. A development on the edge of Gaya island nearest to Sapi island is also used by Sabah Parks and offers a small, quiet beach for public recreational use.
Pulau Gaya is well known for a legendary beach at Police Bay. The 400 metres (0.25 mile) stretch of white sand, gently slopes out to the sea and makes Police Beach ideal for swimming in the crystal clear water. Police Beach fronts the upmarket Bunga Raya Island Resort. The coral reefs along the entire coast of Gaya island are in excellent condition, making it a surprisingly good diving destination, considering its proximity to Kota Kinabalu city.
Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal in downtown Kota Kinabalu is the ferry terminal for those heading to the islands in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (Gaya Island, Sapi Island, Manukan Island
, Mamutik Island and Sulug Island
). This ferry terminal is also the departure point for patrons staying at either Manukan Island Resort or Gayana Resort. While the speedboat owners on the island are kept busy, ferrying Filipinos schoolchildren, housewives and traders who sell craftwork at the Filipino market in the Kota Kinabalu Waterfront.