Things to do at Kota Kinabalu: A Local’s Guide
In this guide, we'll show you how to experience the best of Kota Kinabalu by highlighting the top things to do. Whether you're looking to relax on a beach, explore the city's history, or sample its delicious cuisine, we've got you covered.
From taking a scenic drive to Mount Kinabalu to visiting the bustling Gaya Street Sunday Market, there's something for everyone in this exciting destination.
So, pack your bags and get ready to discover the best that Kota Kinabalu has to offer.
Enhance KK Travel experiences
We recommend purchasing these tour packages to enhance your experience, particularly in the outlying areas, so that you won't have to worry about transportation or missing schedules.
🚙 = tour package available
🏨 = resorts to stay at
Kota Kinabalu things to do within the city
Water Sports & Island hopping 🚙
Island hopping and trying out various water sports activities in Kota Kinabalu promises a thrilling and adventurous day. Snorkeling, jet skiing, kayaking, and more, surrounded by crystal clear waters and picturesque scenery, make for a perfect outdoor adventure.
Manukan island, Sapi Island, Mamutik island 🚙
Also known as Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (TARP), experience crystal-clear waters and breathtaking landscapes at Manukan Island, Sapi Island, and Mamutik Island—the ultimate destination for water sports and island hopping. Take a dip in the ocean, go snorkeling, or relax on the beach while taking in the stunning scenery. We would recommend Twin Island Hopping for those prefers to buy tour packages.
Imago Shopping mall
Shopping at the malls is a popular travel activity for those looking to pick up some souvenirs or simply enjoy the modern shopping experience. Some recommended destinations for shopping malls include Suria Sabah, Imago Shopping Mall, and Centre Point Sabah in Kota Kinabalu.
Kota Kinabalu Floating City Mosque 🚙
The Kota Kinabalu Floating City Mosque is a unique and beautiful place to visit in the heart of Kota Kinabalu. It offers breathtaking views of the surrounding city and the South China Sea, making it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in architecture, history, and culture.
Catch a sight on one of world's best sunsets
Experience the beauty of one of the world's best sunsets, as voted by various media outlets, and create lasting memories. Indulge in the warm hues of the sky as the sun sets and the stars come out, painting the sky with an array of brilliant colors.
Tanjung Aru Beach
Enjoy the serene beauty and calmness of Tanjung Aru Beach, a popular travel destination known for its stunning sunsets and scenic views. Soak up the sun and unwind on the sandy shores while taking in the breathtaking surroundings.
Visiting the waterfront is a must for any traveler looking for breathtaking views and a lively atmosphere. Immerse yourself in the local culture, enjoy water activities, and relish in the beauty of the sea while indulging in the delicious seafood cuisine.
Gaya Street Sunday Market
Spend a lively Sunday morning shopping at the vibrant Gaya Street Sunday Market, a bustling street market that only happens every Sunday and offers a wide variety of local goods, fresh produce, and tasty street food. Don't miss the chance to immerse yourself in the colorful culture and energy of Kota Kinabalu's most popular street market.
Sabah State Museum
Sabah State Museum is a must-visit travel destination that offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage and history of Sabah, showcasing traditional artifacts and exhibits, including traditional costumes, weapons, and tools. With its impressive collection, the museum provides an in-depth understanding of the diverse ethnic groups and their way of life, making it an ideal place for those interested in history and culture.
Visit Atkinson Clock Tower
Atkinson Clock Tower is a historic landmark and popular tourist destination in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Built in 1905, this clock tower is the oldest structure in the city and offers a glimpse into its colonial past, making it a must-visit for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts.
Signal Hill Observatory Platform
Take in the stunning panoramic views of Kota Kinabalu from the Signal Hill Observatory Platform. With its elevated position offering a bird's-eye view of the city, you can relax and soak in the beauty of the surroundings, making it an ideal spot for sunset viewing and taking in the city skyline.
Walk around Kota Kinabalu City Park
Kota Kinabalu City Park is a tranquil escape from the bustling city, offering visitors a chance to take a stroll, have a picnic or just relax in the lush greenery while enjoying stunning views of the surrounding old buildings (lol).
Try your hands at arts and crafts in Kota Kinabalu
Kota Kinabalu is a hub for arts and crafts, showcasing traditional indigenous and modern artistic creations. Take a stroll through the local markets and shops to discover unique, handcrafted souvenirs, such as intricate beadwork, traditional wooden carvings, and vibrant textiles.
Admire the fish at Green Connection Aquarium
Get up close and personal with colorful marine life at the Green Connection Aquarium, a must-visit destination for all nature lovers and marine enthusiasts. With its diverse collection of exotic species, interactive displays, and local fauna and flora for you to look at.
North Borneo Cruises (Sunset) 🚙
North Borneo Cruises offers an unforgettable adventure, giving you a chance to explore the stunning islands and pristine waters of Borneo on a luxurious yacht. With comfortable cabins, delicious cuisine, and an experienced crew, you can sit back and relax as you take in the breathtaking beauty of the region.
Puh Toh Tze Temple
Puh Toh Tze Temple is a historic Buddhist temple located in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, known for its intricate carvings and sculptures, and offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the city. Visitors can admire the beautiful architecture and immerse themselves in the peaceful atmosphere of this sacred site.
Activities 1-3 hours drive from KK
Kinabalu Park & Soak in the water at Poring Hot Spring 🚙
Kinabalu Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the heart of Borneo's biodiversity. It's a nature lover's paradise with its stunning landscapes, rich vegetation, and diverse range of flora and fauna. From majestic peaks to rolling hills, the park offers breathtaking views and a peaceful escape from the city.
Poring Hot Spring, on the other hand, is a natural hot spring that's the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate. Soak in the warm, mineral-rich waters and enjoy the lush jungle surroundings.
Rumah Terbalik & Desa Cow Farm 🚙
Rumah Terbalik is a house turned upside down and it's the first of its kind in Malaysia. It's an architectural wonder that's sure to leave you amazed and entertained. Take a tour of the house and see furniture and fixtures hanging from the ceiling, and marvel at how everything has been expertly designed to work perfectly in its upside-down state.
Desa Cow Farm is a unique and interactive farm experience where visitors can get up close and personal with cows. Take a tour of the farm, learn about dairy farming, and have a blast milking the cows and trying your hand at making cheese.
Take a scenic drive up the hill and marvel at the lush greenery and rolling hills that stretch out before you. Kokol Hill is the perfect place to relax and recharge. As the sun sets, the city lights come to life, painting the skies with a mesmerizing array of colors.
Mantanani Island 🚙
Mantanani Island is a tropical paradise located just a short boat ride away from Kota Kinabalu. This serene island is a nature lover's dream, with its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush jungles. Whether you're looking for a peaceful escape, an adventure, or just a chance to reconnect with nature, Mantanani Island is the perfect destination for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Proboscis Monkeys & Fireflies sightings on a river cruise
A river cruise in search of Proboscis Monkeys and Fireflies is a must-do activity for nature lovers visiting Kota Kinabalu. As the sun sets, the fireflies come out to light up the river, creating a magical and serene atmosphere that's sure to leave a lasting impression.
Klias Wildlife Safari River Cruise 🚙
This exciting excursion takes you on a journey through the Klias Wetlands, where you can see a wide variety of exotic animals in their natural habitats, including monkeys, birds, and even the rare proboscis monkey.
Weston Wildlife River Cruise 🚙
The Weston Wildlife River Cruise is a fantastic opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts to experience the best of Borneo's rich and diverse wildlife in a unique and up-close setting.
Tembara River Cruise 🚙
Explore the lush mangrove forests with the Tembara river cruise and be amazed by the diverse array of exotic creatures that call this place home, including monkeys, birds, and the distinctive proboscis monkey.
Climb Mount Kinabalu
With well-maintained trails, expert guides, and a range of facilities, Mount Kinabalu is the ultimate destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking to test their limits and experience the best of what Sabah has to offer.
2D1N Mount Kinabalu Climb 🚙
The 2 days 1 night Mount Kinabalu climbing package is the perfect way to experience the thrill of scaling this iconic peak. With a full day to tackle the climb, you'll have ample time to savor the stunning views and challenge yourself on this unique adventure. And with a comfortable overnight stay at the base, you can rest easy knowing you're fully prepared for the ascent ahead.
Go for an adventurous white water rafting
White water rafting in Sabah is an adrenaline-pumping adventure that offers breathtaking scenery, exciting rapids, and a chance to immerse yourself in the region's rugged natural beauty. Whether you're an experienced rafter or a first-timer, this is an experience you won't soon forget.
Kiulu White Water Rafting 🚙
Enjoying a white water rafting adventure on the Kiulu River allows you to take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. With rapids ranging from easy Class 1 to 2, the 15km journey is accessible to all ages and makes for a fantastic activity for families and those new to rafting.
Padas White Water Rafting 🚙
Padas White Water Rafting offers a thrilling experience, with challenging Class 3 and 4 rapids set against the stunning backdrop of the lush Sabah jungle. It's a must-visit destination for adrenaline junkies and experienced rafters.
Explore Lok Kawi Wildlife Park 🚙
Lok Kawi Wildlife Park is a unique and educational travel destination, showcasing a diverse array of wildlife including endangered species like Sumatran rhinos and Bornean pygmy elephants. Visitors can also enjoy interactive exhibits, guided tours, and stunning landscapes surrounded by the lush rainforest.
Go deep sea fishing 🚙
Embark on an exciting adventure of deep sea fishing in Kota Kinabalu, where you can reel in exotic fish species while surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the open sea. Make memories that'll last a lifetime on a deep sea fishing trip in Sabah.
Experience the rich culture of Sabah by visiting its cultural villages. Immerse yourself in the traditional way of life, witness unique customs, sample local cuisine, and gain a deeper appreciation for the diverse heritage of this amazing region.
Mari Mari Cultural Village 🚙
Mari Mari Cultural Village offers a unique and immersive experience into the traditional lifestyles of Sabah's indigenous communities. With its demonstrations of ancient crafts and customs, and a chance to participate in traditional games, it's a must-visit for anyone interested in the rich cultural heritage of Borneo.
Monsopiad Cultural Village 🚙
Discover the history of the legendary head-hunting warrior, Monsopiad, and witness traditional customs and skills, such as making rice wine, weaving baskets, and making blowpipes.
Have a cup of tea at the Sabah Tea Garden
Savor a cup of the world-renowned tea while learning about the history and process of tea cultivation in Sabah.
Explore Kundasang 🚙
Kundasang offers breathtaking views of Mount Kinabalu, as well as opportunities to explore the region's rich cultural heritage through visits to local markets, cultural villages, and historical sites. It's a must-visit destination for those looking to immerse themselves in Sabah's natural beauty and cultural richness.
Take a ride at Borneo Railway 🚙
Take a step back in time and explore the stunning landscapes of Borneo by hopping aboard the historic Borneo Railway. This nostalgic journey offers breathtaking views of lush rainforests, towering mountain ranges and meandering rivers that are sure to take your breath away.
Explore Tuaran Countryside on a Bike and Kayak 🚙
Pedal through the lush greenery and paddle along the serene rivers in Tuaran for a unique and adventurous way to explore the countryside. Get up close and personal with nature on a bike and kayak excursion, and immerse yourself in the stunning surroundings of this rural region.
Go on a Camping Trip in Kota Kinabalu
For an outdoor adventure like no other, try camping in Kota Kinabalu! With breathtaking views and plenty of activities like hiking and fishing, this is a trip you won't soon forget. Just be sure to pack your tent, sleeping bag, and bug spray!
Experience paragliding in Ranau 🚙
Experience the thrill of flying high above the lush landscapes of Ranau with a heart-pumping paragliding adventure! Soar like a bird and enjoy stunning views of the rolling hills, pristine waters, and majestic mountain ranges in this stunning area.
Experience glamping on the beach at Dinawan Island
scape to paradise and indulge in a unique glamping experience on the pristine beaches of Dinawan Island. Immerse yourself in luxury and comfort while enjoying the breathtaking views and natural beauty of the island.
Escape to paradise at these 5 stars resorts
Sutera Harbour Resort – The Magellan Sutera 🏨
Sutera Harbour Resort is a highly recommended 5-star resort located within the city area, offering luxurious accommodations, world-class amenities, and breathtaking views of the marina and nearby islands. Whether you're looking for a relaxing getaway or an exciting adventure, this resort provides a truly unforgettable experience.
Shangri-la Tanjung Are resort 🏨
The Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort is a luxurious 5-star resort located in the city area of Kota Kinabalu, offering stunning views of the South China Sea and an array of high-end facilities and services for a truly unforgettable stay.
Food, Wine & Nightlife
- Have a drink on the waterfront
- Have a seafood feast
- Local delicacies
We will publish a more detailed version of this article, please check back later.
What is the best time to visit Kota Kinabalu?
The best time to visit Kota Kinabalu is between March to October during the dry season, when the weather is sunny and relatively dry with low humidity, making it ideal for outdoor activities and exploring the city's attractions. However, the peak tourist season is from June to August, so it's best to book accommodations and activities in advance to avoid disappointment.
What is the best month to climb Mount Kinabalu?
The best time to climb Mount Kinabalu is from January to March, when the weather is dry and visibility is clear, providing optimal conditions for a challenging and rewarding trek to the summit. The months of June to August are also a good time to visit, however, it can be rainy and the trails may be slippery.
What is the coldest month in Sabah?
The coldest month in Sabah is typically January, with average temperatures ranging from 21 to 27°C and relatively low humidity levels. However, this region is tropical and temperatures remain warm year-round, with the occasional rain shower.
Which language does Kota Kinabalu speak?
Kota Kinabalu primarily speaks the Malay language, which is also the national language of Malaysia. However, English is widely spoken in tourist areas and among the educated population, making communication with visitors relatively easy.
What food is Sabah famous for?
Sabah is famous for its diverse cuisine, including traditional dishes such as tuaran mee, hinava, and bambangan. The state's unique culinary heritage is influenced by the local Bornean, Chinese, Malay, and Filipino communities.
Is Kota Kinabalu worth visiting?
Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah, is a worth-visiting destination that offers a combination of natural beauty, cultural diversity, and modern facilities. From stunning mountain views to exotic wildlife, unique cuisine to vibrant nightlife, Kota Kinabalu has something to offer for all types of travelers.
How long to spend in Kota Kinabalu?
Kota Kinabalu is a popular tourist destination in Sabah and the length of time to spend there varies based on personal preferences and interests. A typical visit can last anywhere from 3 to 5 days, giving visitors enough time to explore the city's many attractions, try the local food, and relax on the beaches. However, longer stays are also possible to fully immerse in the local culture and see all the sights.