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Things to do in Kota Kinabalu

Things to do in  Kota Kinabalu

Welcome to Kota Kinabalu

The capital city of the Malaysian state of Sabah on north Borneo, Kota Kinabalu (or KK as it’s usually called) functions more as a civic and transport hub than as a destination in its own right. This is a good thing, as visitors who base their trips out of KK will find abundant travelers services, big-city amenities, and an ease of communication from a tourism industry used to pleasing globetrotters, all with easy access to the nearby Borneo wilderness. Located practically in KK’s backyard, the 7.5-million acre (roughly 3-million hectare) Kinabalu Park promises a full day of adventure: Hike Mount Kinabalu; soak in the Poring Hot Springs; and learn about the lush flora and fauna (including the famous proboscis monkey) that earned this stretch of wilderness its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other outings include a short flight to the Sandakan Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre; ziplining excursions through the rain forests of Gaya Island; or snorkeling and scuba diving trips off off the coast of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. Those who choose to linger in the city can see its most prominent attractions on a sightseeing tour, likely to feature the Sabah Museum, Wisma Tun Mustapha (Sabah Foundation Building), City Mosque, and views of Likas Bay from the summit of Signal Hill.

Top 10 attractions in Kota Kinabalu

#1
Manukan Island (Pulau Manukan)

Manukan Island (Pulau Manukan)

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The second-largest island in Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, Manukan Island (Pulau Manukan) boasts coral reefs, crystal clear waters, white-sand beaches, and lots of lush vegetation. Head to the island to do some snorkeling and to explore on the network of walking trails.More
#2
Mt. Kinabalu (Gunung Kinabalu)

Mt. Kinabalu (Gunung Kinabalu)

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One of the highest mountains in Southeast Asia, the mighty Mt. Kinabalu (Gunung Kinabalu) attracts climbers from all over. But the 13,435-foot (4,095-meter) summit isn’t the only reason travelers visit Kinabalu National Park. With around 6,000 species of flora, the UNESCO-listed park is recognized as one of the most important biological sites in the world.More
#3
Kinabalu National Park

Kinabalu National Park

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Reigned over by the mighty Mt. Kinabalu—the tallest mountain in Malaysia—Kinabalu National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its biodiversity. A paradise for nature lovers, the park is home to around 5,500 plant species (including varieties of orchids and pitcher plants), about 326 bird species, and more than 100 mammals.More
#4
Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park (TARP)

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park (TARP)

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A scenic option for water-sports fans and wildlife lovers who don’t have time to travel to Mabul or Sipadan, Tunku Abdul Rahman National Marine Park is just a 20-minute speedboat ride from downtown Kota Kinabalu. Comprising five small islands, the park combines white-sand beaches with coral reefs, jungle, and abundant marine life.More
#5
Sapi Island (Pulau Sapi)

Sapi Island (Pulau Sapi)

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Few beaches offer the same picturesque white sands and crystal blue waters that travelers will find on Sapi Island (Pulau Sapi). Its coral reefs and clear waters make it ideal for snorkeling, and the surrounding epic landscapes and unmatched beauty make it one of the best spots for travelers seeking an island retreat.Whether it’s enjoying picnic shelters and BBQ pits with family and friends or watching crab-eating monkeys gather along the shore, there’s plenty to see on a visit to Sapi Island. And travelers won’t be disappointed by the parasailing, scuba diving and underwater adventure they’ll find here, either.More
#6
Mari Mari Cultural Village

Mari Mari Cultural Village

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Travelers in search of a true cultural exchange need look no further than Mari Mari, a cultural village situation in a remote forest on the island of Borneo. Here, visitors can learn about the indigenous Sabahan people, explore their traditional homes and witness fire-starting, blowpipe-making and tattoo-making demonstrations.In addition to sharing their cultures and traditions, representatives from the Bajau, Lundayeh, Murut, Rungus and Dusun people also cook ethnic delicacies for travelers with an adventurous palate to sample. While some visitors say the village can feel a bit too touristy, others argue it’s the perfect way to experience the vibrant cultures and traditions of Borneo in a single stop.More
#7
Poring Hot Spring & Nature Reserve (Poring Hot Springs)

Poring Hot Spring & Nature Reserve (Poring Hot Springs)

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Tucked within the jungles of Malaysian Borneo and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kinabalu Park, Poring Hot Spring & Nature Reserve (better known as Poring Hot springs) is a collection of built attractions highlighting some of the region’s wild features. The star is a series of tiled pools and public baths built by the Japanese during their occupation in WWI. Containing naturally hot sulfurous water pumped to the surface, the baths are popular with tired Mt. Kinabalu trekkers as well as area residents, especially on weekends.The site also includes an enclosure housing hundreds of species of butterfly—many of which are raised for research or released—an orchid conservation center boasting 1,200 species including rare endemic varieties, tropical gardens home to the tiny mousedeer and, if you’re lucky, the chance to see the world’s largest flower, the rafflesia (or corpse flower), in bloom. A rope bridge canopy walk at 135 feet off the ground, is not for those afraid of heights or the unfit—there’s a muddy uphill scramble to reach it; it is ticketed separately.More
#8
Kota Kinabalu City Mosque (Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu)

Kota Kinabalu City Mosque (Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu)

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The Kota Kinabalu City Mosque (Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu) is not only the largest mosque in the city, but also the most visually striking. Surrounded by a lagoon, the building appears to float when viewed from a distance, and casts a picturesque reflection into the water below.Built in 2000, theKota Kinabalu City Mosqueaccommodates up to 12,000 worshipers at a time, and can be entered by non-Muslims outside regular prayer times. The mosque features a classical style with four minarets and a grand blue-and-gold dome, designed to resemble the Nabawi Mosque in Medina, the final resting place of Muhammad.A visit to the mosque is best enjoyed as part of a half-day city tour of Kota Kinabalu, where you’ll get the chance to explore other cultural landmarks, like the Wisma Tun Mustapha and the Sabah Museum, and view the city sights from Signal Hill.More
#9
Kota Belud

Kota Belud

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Kota Belud is an unsuspecting town located in the north of Sabah, approximately 75 kilometers northeast of Kota Kinabalu. Relatively quiet throughout the week, the town comes alive each Sunday with its bustling market known as a tamu.The market is part social occasion, partly commercial, and entirely enthralling for visitors. It's a colorful kaleidoscope of stalls selling local produce that overtakes the small town each and every week. With everything from leafy vegetables and farm produce to manufactured goods and home-baked treats, Kota Belud’s tamu is a hugely popular local event, with a smattering of tourists enticed in for good measure.The market very much serves as a social occasion for locals, who swap stories and news as they gather for their weekly meet. Visitors to the tamu might also catch the Bajau horsemen displaying their horseriding skills, with both riders and animals decked out in spectacularly dazzling costumes.More
#10
North Borneo Railway

North Borneo Railway

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Ride a steam train on a scenic journey on the North Borneo Railway in Malaysia. Formerly used to transport tobacco, the steam train today carries passengers along the only railway line in the state of Sabah, chugging from the coast through the lush interior of the island, between Tanjung Aru and Papar.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 1 Day in Kota Kinabalu

How to Spend 1 Day in Kota Kinabalu

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How to Spend 3 Days in Kota Kinabalu

How to Spend 3 Days in Kota Kinabalu

Recent reviews from experiences in Kota Kinabalu

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Awesome experience
Taishi_K, Jan 2020
(3 Days) PADI Open Water Diver Course Kota Kinabalu
English Guide was super helpful and patient in making sure I learned all of the diving skills but also that I practiced all of the book concepts safely.

All about Kota Kinabalu

When to visit

From March through September, the Bornean capital of Kota Kinabalu enjoys cool breezes, blue skies, and some of the year’s most spectacular sunsets. For your best chance of reaching the summit of Mt. Kinabalu—which is only accessible when weather permits—plan your visit for March or April.

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