Must see and do things in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia

November 14, 2010

hi.... we ( my husband and I) are planning a trip to Borneo and we'd be spending three-five days there. Please let us know what are the must see areas around Kota Kinabalu...involving nature activities, hikesand things that will help us soak up the culture and of course relax :-)

November 15, 2010

Rimi's answer about things to do in Kota Kinabalu

Hey there! A vacation in the Kota Kinabalu sounds absolutely amazing! This destination is growing popular day by day. Lush green rain forest, virgin beaches are the reason, tourists are flocking to this place. You have selected a great destination and I will do my best to suggest you the best possible way to spend your holiday! smiley

Kota Kinabalu Sunset (Source: Emil Chan)             


The capital city of Sabah, KK as it is popularly called is a great destination. Whether you are looking for a great beach, jungle trekking, shopping, vibrant nightlife - Kota Kinabalu has a wide variety to choose from. So indulge yourself and enjoy!

Tropical smell (Source: Tropical smell) 


This place is said to be under the typhoon and monsoon belt. The wet season is typically from October to March and "not so wet" season is from April to September.  Here is what I found out about weather in Kota Kinabalu:

But even when it rains, hardly ever a whole day is spoiled, as downpours last 1 or 2 hours and can most often be expected in the afternoon or evening. Thus mornings are often the best bet for planning out door activities which you think might be spoiled by a bit of rain.

 (Source: Weather Forecast Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, )             

Do check the weather forecast before you go at Weather Underground.

Things to See

I explored Kota Kinabalu on my own and chose these attractions, as I thought they fit your requirement. Hope you like them!yes

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park or TAR Marine Park, is made up of 5 islands and is off the coast of Borneo. Among the 5 islands Gaya is the largest and boasts some of the best virgin beaches. Forests, white sand, rugged coastline - where else can you see so much variety?

Getting there:

Get a ferry ride from Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal. Boats depart every hour from 7.30 am to 4.30 pm.


  • The Gaya island is totally unspoiled and truly  a paradise, with corals located very near to the shore.This island is great for snorkeling, diving, jungle trekking. However you may have to arrange for your own boat if you are not buying a day package from Gayana Resort. Ask about them when you are buying tickets at the Ferry Terminal.
  • Manukan is one of the most developed islands. Beaches are great for people watching specially during the tourist season. Here is a snippet about hiking in these parts:


For those interested in hiking, there is a 1.5km "jungle trek" paved walking path which starts from the base of the dock, and leads hikers through the forest to the opposite end of the island. From the end, you can either turn back or clamber down an unmarked path to the beach below. It is possible to walk along the south side of the island all the way back to the dock and the main beach if you don't mind climbing over a lot of rocks (accessibility may depend on the tides; use your best judgment).

 (Source: Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park travel guide - Wikitravel)               


  •   For diving and other tours in this islands see here and here.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

Manukan Island - Sabah (Source: amrufm) 

2. Monospiad Cultural Village (Recommended)

Monospiad Cultural Village is around half an hour from Kota Kinabalu. Arrange a taxi for a roundtrip and negotiate the price before hand. To get the feel of the traditional way of living of the ethnic group Kadazan go to this village. Take a guided tour of the village and enjoy the traditional dances or games. Want to learn how to dance like them? Ask for lessons, they have  it there! Take pictures of yourself and your partner wearing traditional Kadazan dresses!

For another similar experience to a ethnic village click here.

3. Mt Kinabalu (Recommended)

Mt Kinabalu, Borneo's tallest peak is around 80 km east of Kota Kinabalu.

Mt Kinabalu

Mt Kinabalu (Source: Eric Lim) 

A sacred spot for the locals, this mountain is very easily accessible by the tourists. You can climb to the top depending on how physically fit how are and of course the weather. Number of buses leave Kota Kinabalu for Mt Kinabalu everyday. The entire journey to the top is about 9 km. If climbing to the top is not on your check list, check out some of the trails nearby with or without a guide. Short walks in the jungle are also recommended. The Botanical Garden and Park Museum may also interest you.

Mt Kinabalu - 1

Mount Kinabalu (Source: Kevin Wasilin) 

4. Night Market

Indulge yourself in true south east Asian culture! Visit the Night Market. Here is what Lonely Planet says about this place:


KK's brilliant Night Market is the best market in Borneo and one of the best in all of Southeast Asia. It is a place of delicious contrasts: the market huddles beneath the imposing gaze of the ultramodern Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu hotel, yet most of the goods for sale would have been instantly familiar to the residents of the city a hundred years ago.

As jets soar overhead bound for Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul, you can bargain for sago palm, belacan (fermented prawn paste used as a condiment in Chinese, Malay and Indonesian cuisine), jungle honey, an incredible variety of fruit and an astonishing variety of fish pulled from the South China Sea. Clouds of smoke from the many stalls barbequing fish and chicken give the place a decidedly primeval air, and the whole market echoes with heart-warming cries of 'dua ringgit, dua ringgit' (it seems as though everything costs a mere RM2). If you've never seen a proper Southeast Asian market, this place will be a revelation.

(Source: Night Market in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia - Lonely Planet)                  

Night Market

KK Night Markets_ Cooking Chicken (Source: Percita Dittmar)           

Lok Kawi Wildlife Park is quite near to Kota Kinabalu. See the animals upclose. Orang-Utans, Proboscis Monkeys, Some tigers, birds etc.

Lok Kawi Wildlife Park

2008 KK Trip (Source: Zul Rosle)             

6. Poring Hot Springs (Recommended)

Relax those sore muscles in the hot springs of Poring. This place is around 40 km from Mt Kinabalu. Buses are available alternatively you can get a Taxi from Ranau.

Take the canopy walk, trek through the forest to reach the two waterfalls, check out the butterfly farm or relax in the Japanese style bath.

Remember reading while you were a kid, that the biggest flower in the world is called Rafflesia. See this flower here!

Poring Hot Springs

Poring Hot Springs. The public hot tubs (Source: Percita Dittmar) 

Atkinson Clock Tower is the most well-known landmarks of the city.  Walk up the hill from Atkinson Clock Tower to the Signal Hill Observatory and get a great view of the city.

8. Tanjung Aru Beach

The beach in Kota Kinabalu faces the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.  A great place to watch sunset. Located just 4 miles south of city center.

For a quintessential spa and massage experience visit Aroma Villa Spa.  You can see the packages and book online here.

Aroma Villa Spa

 Hot Stone (Source:  Hot Stone)          

Get Around

  • You can walk around the city easily as it is quite small. There are pavements or grassy shoulder for pedestrians to walk.
  • Taxis are also fairly cheap if you know how to haggle! smiley. Typically a taxi will charge you RM300 for an entire day.
  • You can always hire a car when you have negotiated the rate and compared it.
  • Public transport is specially bus is clean, cheap and reliable, so you can give it a thought!
  • For a more exciting trip rent a motorcycle for a price of about RM20.00 per day. Get mroe information online about renting a bike here.

Based on my suggestions you can choose the places you like most! After you do that, I can make a detailed itinerary for you if you want!smiley I can also suggest great places to eat or clubs to go! Do write back to let us know your requirement, we will take care of the rest!



Answered by I am a dreamer. Passionate about books, traveling, food, music...basically all the good things of life. I love writing too. Rimi Mukherjee

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