In this guide, we take a look at the best Kota Kinabalu hotels to stay in 2016/2017. The guide consists of 15 different hotel reviews and compares them by price point & features to help you make the best decision possible.
Kota Kinabalu is referred to by the locals as “KK”, and it is the capital of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. Major regional attractions include Kinabalu Park, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park for island hopping, Gaya Street Sunday Market, Tip of Borneo, Filipino Evening Market, fresh seafoods, souvenirs etc. You can also check out our private chartered car rental page to make your experience more pleasant.
This guide will serve as a comprehensive source for you to evaluate Kota Kinabalu hotels, we help you figure out which hotel is right for you so that you can arrive and enjoy your experience in comfort, luxury, and with access to everything that this bustling seaside city has to offer.
We have done the work to evaluate these options based on location, comfort, price, staff quality, amenities, and reviews from other sources. Instead of sifting through travel sites with hundreds of options, you can select one from our list below.
#1 Choice - The Palace Hotel, Kota Kinabalu
The Palace hotel deserves a better rating than it has. So, the room isn’t as cozy as a hotel room can be but there is a bunch of other places that are far worse than this one with a better rating. The hotel is clean and doesn’t smell chemicals.
The staff is very nice and helpful if you have any questions or problems. The room was quiet and there is complimentary wifi access.
Plus, the city is only short taxi ride away (less than 5 minutes)
How Hotels Were Reviewed
We evaluated where Kota Kinabalu hotels are located and determined the safety of their areas, their access to public transport, their relations to popular sites in the city, the restaurant options they are near, and how far they are from Kota Kinabalu International Airport.
Kota Kinabalu hotels range in price from super budget guesthouses to luxury, five-star hotel resorts. We evaluated price based on value relative to price (i.e., how reasonably priced the hotel is based on all of its amenities and other criteria).
Of course this is an important factor! We researched comfort by evaluating the quality of the rooms, noise level, cleanliness, and beds.
We examined the staff to make sure they were friendly, professional, attentive, and helpful.
This is, of course, a key part of your hotel experience. Nothing is more disappointing than checking into a hotel after a long flight and dealing with rude or ambivalent staff.
We looked at the amenities of both the hotel and the rooms:
Hotel – pools, exercise facilities, restaurants, lounges, bar, and transportation services
Rooms – television, Internet access, mini fridge, air conditioning, shower, bathtub, etc.
…and Reviews From Major Websites
We evaluated customer reviews from sites like Tripadvisor and Agoda to factor into our list.
Without further ado, here is the list of the best hotels in Kota Kinabalu:
Shangri-la Tanjung Aru Resort
If one word had to be used to describe this resort, tranquil would be the aptest. Situated only 10 minutes outside of the city, Shangri-la Tanjung Aru sits in a peaceful, idyllic setting at the ocean’s edge.
One of the best aspects of this resort is its access to stunning coral islands via its private jetty.
Other highlights include:
- Seven different “local’s favorites” restaurants
- Sunset Bar
- Beachside cabanas
- On-site spa with traditional Asian healing techniques
- Fantastic views of the ocean and sunset
Some potential cons to be aware of:
- Possible noise due to construction
- Some rooms are “old and tired” looking, according to reviewers from Tripadvisor
Le’ Meridien Kota Kinabalu
This resort meets the same decent standards of other luxury resorts in KK but stands out in one category especially: location. Situated near the famous waterfront esplanade, this resort has access to plenty of markets, shopping malls, and businesses.
Other highlights include
- Fantastic view of the South China Sea
- Four dining and entertainment venues
- Refurbished rooms
- Extensive fitness facilities
- Lively bars and music
The only cons to be aware of is
- Ongoing renovations that can cause noise and potential issues with cleanliness in the rooms (at the time of publishing this article)
Sutera Harbour Resort (Pacific Sutera & Magellen Sutera)
This resort is very expensive and luxurious, sitting on 384 acres against the South China Sea.
It offers everything you need to enjoy yourself, including a golf course, spas, numerous bars and restaurants, and access to numerous picturesque islands off the coast.
Some of the highlights of the Sutera Harbour Resort are:
- Upscale rooms with luxurious amenities
- Beautiful ocean views, gardens, and lush golf course
- Access to numerous water sports
- Olympic-sized swimming pool
- Fitness center
- Bowling alley
If you are ready to splurge on your trip to KK, then this resort will be a luxurious experience well worth the price.
Be aware of some cons, though, such as:
- Disappointing room service food quality
- Inconsistent cleanliness of rooms
Hyatt Regency Kota Kinabalu Hotel
If you’re looking to stay near the waterfront, the Hyatt Regency is an excellent option. With access to numerous ethnic restaurants, the airport, shopping, and more: convenience and luxury are combined quite well here.
Some of the highlights of the Hyatt Regency are:
- Modern, sleek rooms with great views of the city
- 24/7 Room Service and complimentary breakfast
- On-site renowned Japanese restaurant
- Friendly, professional staff members
- Close proximity to all city sights and sites
The only major downside of this hotel is the price.
They charge a premium for being in the central part of the city, but since KK is so small, it isn’t necessarily important to be right in the middle of everything.
Nexus Resort & Spa Karambunai
If you want to get out of the city, then heading to the Nexus Resort & Spa is a great option. It is located 30 kilometers northeast of KK and therefore has the appeal of being nestled in the jungle.
Highlights of the resort include:
- Great view of Mount Kinabalu
- Pristine 6km long, white sandy private beach
- Panoramic balcony views
- Private swimming pools
- World-class spa
Be aware of potential downsides of staying at Nexus, reported by reviewers, such as:
- Poorly lit pathways
- Low-quality food in comparison to other resorts
Promenade Hotel Kota Kinabalu
Located in the heart of KK, the Promenade is a great option for business travelers or for anyone who wants to be near the center of the action.
With luxurious rooms, helpful staff, and robust amenities, this hotel is a solid choice if you are willing to do without the beaches and cabanas of other resorts.
Some of the highlights of the Promenade are:
- New rooms with updated amenities
- Spa, business center, and fitness facility
- High-speed WiFi and air conditioning
- Access to dozens of nearby local eateries
- Ideal location for business travelers
However, be aware of these potential downsides:
- Inconsistent housekeeping
- Mediocre food options in the hotel
Hotel Eden54, Kota Kinabalu
Hotel Eden54 is nestled in the heart of the city and boasts some of the highest ratings by reviewers due to its value pricing while still remaining a luxurious sanctuary.
Comfortable rooms, chic decor, and friendly staff make this hotel an excellent choice if staying in KK is your goal.
- Stylish hotel design and chic rooms
- Friendly, helpful staff members
- Amenities such as WiFi, television, air conditioning, and room service
- Refrigerators in common areas
Be aware that even top-rated hotels aren’t perfect. Possible cons of staying at HotelEden54 are:
- Small rooms
- Slow wireless internet
Hotel Sixty3, Kota Kinabalu
If you love the Sunday market on Gaya Street, then staying at Hotel Sixty3 could be the right choice for you since it is only a three-minute walk away.
Location is the big draw of this hotel, and its prime spot allows for visitors to simply walk to popular landmarks in downtown KK. This hotel is a basic, no frills, good value option.
Some of the highlights are:
- In-room amenities such as WiFi, televisions, and desks
- Minutes from the Sunday market, Atkinson Clock Tower, and Sabah Museum
- Cultural artwork and photography on display
Downsides of staying at Hotel Sixty3 are:
- Poorly lit rooms
- Constant renovations that pose noise/dust issues
Horizon Hotel, Kota Kinabalu
This four-star hotel offers an excellent location within KK for travelers who want to be close to all of the beautiful landmarks and cultural sights. With amenities like a spa, room service, and a cafe, this hotel offers luxury options for the weary traveler.
- Upgraded room options with terraces and Jacuzzi tubs
- Modern amenities such as WiFi and television
- Sixth-floor outdoor pool
Temper your expectations, however, because there are some cons:
- Water pressure issues in showers
- Average quality food in restaurants and café
This modern, seaside hotel is a no-frills option for travelers who value location to both the sights of downtown KK and the ferry terminal. The rooms are basic, but high in quality. Amenities are modern and adequate. The roof has a bar and pool with fantastic views of the sea.
- Piano lounge
- In-room amenities such as WiFi and television
- Excellent views from most rooms
- Access to ferry terminal and downtown landmarks
The downsides of staying at this four-star hotel are:
- Loud construction disrupting the tranquility of the rooftop pool
- Attentiveness of staff is questionable
Mandarin Hotel, Kota Kinabalu
Visitors wanting to be at the center of KK’s live events will enjoy the convenience of staying at Mandarin Hotel.
This downtown option features modern amenities, friendly staff, and convenient tour and transportation access.
Don’t expect the frills of a full-on resort but if you don’t plan on lounging in the hotel all day then the value of staying at Mandarin is worth it.
- Well-appointed rooms with air conditioning
- WiFi, television, and spacious wardrobe closets
- Multi-lingual, helpful staff
- Close proximity to Sunday market on Gaya Street
The reported cons of staying here are:
- Occasional reports of bedbugs
- Older rooms with noise issues between walls
Tune Hotel, 1Borneo Kota Kinabalu
Budget travelers will appreciate Tune Hotel, which delivers a decent value for its low price. This three-star hotel is great for those wanting to be located downtown and who don’t plan on hanging out in the hotel constantly. The hotel staff is friendly and helpful for arranging transportation or tours.
- Free breakfast and parking
- TV, WiFi, and Air Conditioning available (optional)
- Budget pricing for clean, safe rooms
Be aware that you get what you pay for, so cons are:
- Many windowless rooms with questionable air conditioning quality
- Cleanliness issues
Little Gaya Hotel, Kota Kinabalu
“Little” is appropriate for this hotel, as it boasts just 14 quaint rooms to choose from. Located in downtown KK, this hotel is conveniently nearby the ferry terminal.
The hotel is a basic, budget option for travelers who want to be centrally located. Friendly staff and a smoke-free environment make this option a solid choice.
- Close proximity to shopping, ferry terminal, and downtown restaurants
- Smoke-free hotel with 24-hour desk
- WiFi, coffee makers, and air conditioning in rooms
Be aware that small budget hotels such as this can have downsides, such as:
- No windows in rooms
- Noise from street and nearby disco
KK Suites Hotel
This basic budget option near the ferry terminal is a great option for travelers who value convenience and location over luxurious amenities. The smoke-free hotel is helpful to travelers who need transportation and tour assistance, and who want to be able to walk to all that KK has to offer.
- Business center
- Free WiFi in public areas
- Room Service
- LCD TVs with satellite channels
- Coffeemaker, hot showers, and air conditioning
Cons are typical of budget options in the downtown KK area, and include:
- Small rooms with no windows
- Noise from street and hallways
D’ Borneo Hotel
In the same vein as other nearby budget hotels, D’Borneo Hotel is a decent option for travelers who value location and convenience over luxury.
With basic, smoke-free rooms, this hotel offers walking access to all of the downtown landmarks.
- 24-hour desk with helpful staff
- WiFi, satellite television, and air conditioning available
- Smoke-free rooms and common areas
- Very close to KK Plaza, Sabah State Mosque, and Likas Stadium
- 10 minutes from Warisan Square and the Filipino Market
Cons at D’Borneo Hotel are:
- Midrange pricing for budget amenities
- Old, outdated plumbing and rooms
When planning your stay in Kota Kinabalu, you need to decide what you value most: staying in the city center and saving your money for sightseeing and tours or escaping to a seaside resort to indulge in luxuries, tranquil nature, and the pampering of spas.
Either option yields numerous high quality, value hotel options to choose from in our list above. You really can’t go wrong if you stick to our well-researched list of hotels and resorts for your upcoming trip. Also, you could consider both options by staying in the city to soak up the sights and entertainment, then retreat to a seaside resort to relax and get pampered.
With so many great options in or near Kota Kinabalu, rest easy knowing that your trip is assured to be enjoyable. The Malaysians are warm, friendly, and helpful even when things aren’t up to standards that you may be used to back home.
It is all part of the adventure of visiting the exotic island of Borneo! Another helpful bit of advice is to call ahead of time and speak with the staff to address any concerns and ask questions before booking your room.
Enjoy your upcoming stay in the magnificent city of Kota Kinabalu, Borneo!