Kota Kinabalu is a great place to visit. It’s famous for its vibrant markets, beautiful nearby islands, and, of course, as the gateway to the world-famous Kinabalu National Park, which contains Mount Kinabalu, one of Southeast Asia’s highest peaks.
If you plan to visit Kota Kinabalu in the near future, continue reading this article to learn more about travelling in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
Where to Stay
1. Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort and Spa
If you’re looking for a beach resort in Kota Kinabalu, Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort and Spa is a great spot to stay if you want to get away from the city. This Kota Kinabalu beach hotel is near the jungle and has an exclusive private beach with stunning sunset views. This 5-star hotel in Kota Kinabalu also provides guests with a variety of fun activities at a reasonable price.
2. Hotel Traveller Kota Kinabalu
This Kota Kinabalu tourist hotel is in the heart of the city centre. It’s only a 5-minute walk to Sunday Gaya Street Market and the Filipino Market, and a 10-minute drive to Likas Bay Beach and the Atkinson Clock Tower. There are three room types: twin, deluxe, and family, and all are air conditioned and equipped with satellite TVs, telephones, and en-suite bathrooms.
3. Hotel Capital Kota Kinabalu
Hotel Capital is located near the centre of Kota Kinabalu and is only a 3-minute walk from Gaya Street. There are numerous excellent dining options nearby, including Little Italy, which serves authentic pizza and pasta. Each room has a flat-screen cable TV, an en-suite bathroom, free Wi-Fi, a shower, and complimentary toiletries. Some rooms also have a sitting area. Standard rooms, deluxe rooms, and suites are available.
4. Casuarina Hotel
This budget-friendly hotel near Kota Kinabalu International Airport is in Tanjung Aru and is just a minute’s walk from Perdana Park’s musical fountain and a 2-minute walk from Tanjung Aru Beach. All the rooms are air-conditioned and come with a mini-bar, satellite TV, tea/coffee making facilities, and an en-suite bathroom. Guests can also select from double rooms, twin rooms, family rooms, or suite rooms.
5. Mandarin Hotel Kota Kinabalu
This mid-range Kota Kinabalu Sabah hotel is in Gaya Street Sunday Market and offers air-conditioned rooms with a flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi, an en-suite bathroom, hairdryer, and toiletries. Daily housekeeping and laundry can also be provided at an additional charge. Room types are standard, deluxe, and family rooms.
Things to Do
1. Go Hiking at Mount Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu is a sacred mountain of Malaysia, located within Kinabalu National Park. Mount Kinabalu is one of Malaysia’s highest trekkable peaks and trekking up to it is one of the most thrilling things to do in Kota Kinabalu. Rising to 4000 meters, this hike is moderately challenging and thoroughly enjoyed by professional trekkers. Enjoy the breath-taking view of the Sabah region once you reach the summit.
2. Diving and Snorkelling at Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park
Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, which consists of five islands: Pulau Manukan, Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Mamutik, and Pulau Sulug, is an adventure and water sports zone that is only 20 minutes from the city. The islands have popular diving spots where visitors can enjoy snorkelling and scuba diving while admiring the outstanding beauty of underwater marine organisms.
3. Explore and Enjoy at Sabah Tea Garden
This tea garden, which includes a tea plantation, produces some of the best tea in the region. Check into the Sabah Tea Log House to take in the breath-taking beauty of the sprawling estates with Mount Kinabalu in the distance and to taste some exotic varieties of local tea.
4. Take a Train Ride at Borneo Railway
Borneo Railway, one of Kota Kinabalu’s heritages, reopened in 2011 after a massive revamp and makeover. A scenic and enjoyable ride from Tanjung Aru to Tenom is one of the best things to do in Kota Kinabalu, especially with family and children. The train travels through dense and verdant rainforests and along the city’s scenic coastlines. You can also take the train to Beaufort, a picturesque market town near Kota Kinabalu.
5. Greet Elephants at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park
The Lok Kawi Wildlife Park is a must-see for all nature lovers visiting this charming city. It is home to a variety of animal species including elephants, tigers, deer, monkeys, gibbons, orangutans, and various types of reptiles. Despite its small size, this is an excellent choice for those who do not have the time to visit the larger wildlife reserves while in Kota Kinabalu.
Food Hunting Spots
1. Laksa at Kedai Kopi Yee Fung
Possibly the best and most popular laksa in Sabah. Visit Kedai Kopi Yee Fung on Gaya Street for an aromatic bowl of the popular and authentic Sarawak laksa! This is best served with a frothy cup of teh tarik (pulled tea).
Address: 127, Jalan Gaya, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu
Opening Hours: Weekdays 6.30 am – 6.30 pm | Weekends 6.30 am – 4.00 pm
2. Seafood at Welcome Seafood Restaurant
Aside from laksa, Sabah is best known for its fresh, cheap, and delectable seafood. According to the locals, Welcome Seafood Restaurant is one of the best restaurants in Kota Kinabalu, and the most popular place to have some delicious and reasonably priced seafood for lunch or dinner.
Address: GF, G-15 – G-18 , Asia City , Jalan Coastal
Opening Hours: 12 pm – 12 am
3. Pan Mee at Xing Wan Pan Mien
You can order your Pan Mee in three different ways, depending on your textural preference for the dish: thick, thin, or hand torn! Each dish is topped with minced pork, wantons, and pork balls and served in a hot bowl of anchovy broth with local vegetables.
Address: Ground Floor, Lot 18, Block F, Damai Plaza Phase IV Luyang
Opening Hours: 7.00 am – 4.00 pm (Sunday)
4. Beef Noodle at Kah Hiong Ngiu Chap
Ngiu Chap (mixed beef soup), another popular Sabah dish, can be enjoyed in a variety of ways at Kah Hiong. You could have it with vermicelli rice noodles, yellow noodles, or even plain white rice. If you’re hesitant to eat the other organs or parts on the menu, the beef balls and stewed meat are your best bet!
Address: Block B, Lot 14, Kedai Plaza Grand Millenium, Jalan Pintas, Donggongon, Penampang
Opening Hours: 7.00 am – 3.00 pm
5. Bak Kut Teh at Yu Kee Restaurant
Bak Kut Teh is a popular Malaysian dish that consists of succulent pork ribs that have been stewed for hours with garlic, onion, herbs, and spices to produce the most flavorful and aromatic broth. Yu Kee Restaurant serves the most popular version of this Kota Kinabalu dish!
Address: 74, Jalan Gaya Kota Kinabalu
Opening Hours: 2.00 am – 10.00 pm