Perfect Kota Kinabalu Itinerary For 2 – 5 Days [2024]

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Heading to Sabah and looking for the best Kota Kinabalu travel itinerary? Perfect! We can help in this Kota Kinabalu itinerary blog.

The gateway to Sabah (the ultimate destination for nature lovers), Kota Kinabalu, or KK as it’s affectionately known, is well worth hanging around for more than a few nights.  It’s a surprisingly charming city with seaside views, friendly locals and colourful markets.

Brimming with culture and history, the city is overlooked by Mount Kinabalu on one side and surrounded by the azure South China Sea coastline on the other. 

Relax at modern shopping malls, hotels, resorts and restaurants then enjoy epic excursions with island hopping adventures, scenic train journeys, bubbling hot springs, rainforest jungle treks, mangrove and swamp cruises and unique wildlife encounters… All of this is possible on day trips from the city!

Sunset in Kota Kinabalu
Sunset in Kota Kinabalu

Whether you wish to explore the city centre or further afield, there is plenty to keep you and your family occupied, whatever your budget

Below, you will find the ultimate itinerary: Kota Kinabalu! We walk you through options whether you have just 2 days in Kota Kinabalu or are looking for Kota Kinabalu 5d4n itinerary blog information.

You can simply stop following our Kota Kinabalu trip itinerary if your trip finishes in less than 5 days when you hit the number of days you have. You can also pick the days that sound best from the Kota Kinabalu itinerary 5d4n below.

We also have a complete list of the top things to do in Kota Kinabalu so you can decide if the stops in our Kota Kinabalu itinerary 5 days are perfect for you. You will find all the options for what to do in Kota Kinabalu.

Finally, we also recommend some top places to stay in Kota Kinabalu depending on your budget and some tips for visiting Kota Kinabalu with kids.

Travelling to Malaysia? Click here to download your free Malaysia Trip Planning checklist. We’ll help you get ready for your trip! 

Have any questions? Join our Malaysia Travel Planning Facebook group here now! It’s the perfect place to ask any questions and to be inspired.

Kota Kinabalu Itinerary 2024

Remember, this is a full 5 day itinerary for Kota Kinabalu. If you have less days, simply pick the days that most appeal.

You can find more details for any of the activities mentioned in this itinerary in the section below.

If you’d like to do a Kota Kinabalu tour, find our best options here.

Day 1: Explore The Things To Do In Kota Kinabalu City Centre

Comfortable walking shoes, hat and sunglasses at the ready, let’s explore all the best things to do in the coastal town of Kota Kinabalu.  Enjoy the sights and sounds of the leafy streets, appreciate the architectural heritage, and be ready for a great view point across the city and outlying islands.

  • Discover the region with a couple of hours at the Sabah State Museum
  • Taxi to the Central Market (Pasar Besar), explore and snack on cheap local street-food
  • Check-out the Handicraft (Filipino) Market in search of souvenirs
  • Taxi to the Po Toh Si Temple to marvel at the reclining Buddha
  • Walk 20 minutes to the stunning Floating Mosque, taking a pedal boat around the lake
  • Drop by the 1902 Atkinson Clock Tower before heading up the hill behind it to the Signal Observatory Hill for panoramic sunset views
  • Return to the seafront for a freshly cooked seafood dinner at the eclectic Night Market

Day 2: Experience The Best Kota Kinabalu Attractions By Sea

If you’re looking for sun, sand, snorkelling and fun in Kota Kinabalu, this will be your favourite day!  Ensure to pack swimwear, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen and towels. It’s advisable to carry some snacks and water.

  • Arrive early morning at the Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal
  • Buy your tickets and pay the Sabah Parks Conservation Fee. You can find boat schedules and prices here
  • Catch a boat to Gaya. Check out the hiking trails and local wildlife then take a swim at Police Beach. You can cross at low tide at the sandbar to Sapi or get a boat to take you across
  • From Sapi, take a boat to Manukan for a BBQ lunch. Relaxing at any one of the splendid beaches or try some water sports
  • Take the last boat back to Jesselton, around 4pm
  • Enjoy sunset cocktails at Rooftop @ Le Méridien

Day 3: Explore Mt Kinabalu Attractions

A possible highlight of your Kota Kinabalu 3 day itinerary is this day exploring the splendid UNESCO World Heritage Mt. Kinabalu National Park. Wear your walking shoes and have your warmer clothes at the ready. You’ll see astounding flora and fauna, natural hot springs, cows, memorials and more…

  • After an early start, travel 1.5 hours to Nabalu Market and stock up with snacks, fruits and drinks
  • Enter the UNESCO World Heritage National Park, paying a fee that includes Poring Hot Springs
  • Experience some amazing scenery in the foothills of Mt. Kinabalu
  • Take a jungle trek – selecting from any of the well marked trails
  • Admire the exotic flora and fauna along the Botanical Garden Walk
  • Look out for Rafflesia flowers in bloom – you’ll smell them first!
  • Pay respects at the Kundasang War Memorial
  • Catch the afternoon cattle feed at Desa Dairy Farm
  • Feed the fish and enjoy a foot-fish-spa in Ranau
  • End your day at Poring Hot Springs for soothing sulphur-pools and an epic canopy-walk

A tour is by far the easiest way to do today’s itinerary. Find one here or click here for our best Mt Kota Kinabalu tours.

Day 4: View Borneo’s Famous Flora And Fauna

Borneo, the world’s third largest island, holds 6% of the world’s species of plants and animals.  Our Kota Kinabalu 4 days itinerary takes you on a wonderful day discovering the local flora and fauna including some endangered and endemic species.

  • Travel 25 kilometres to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park which is open from 9.30 am
  • Explore the zoological side of the park with Borneo pygmy elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros, proboscis monkeys and the famous orangutans
  • Walk the 1.4 kilometre botanical jungle trail admiring the exotic plants
  • Check-out the aviary with hornbills, pigeons and eagles
  • Head back towards the city, stopping for a late lunch at the Monkey Cafe & Bar
  • Travel to the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Park for an afternoon mangrove discovery and excellent birding opportunities, with beautiful sunset views

Day 5: Relax And Enjoy Kota Kinabalu

Today, watch the local people at play in the State Park, admire local and international art, drop by another stunning mosque and end your day at the beach ready to catch a glimpse of a world-class sunset!

  • Drop by the Sabah Art Gallery
  • Head over to Padang Merdeka, the State Park, for a lazy picnic lunch
  • admire the Sabah State Mosque
  • Head to Tanjung Aru. Enjoy the beaches, the park and wait for the epic sunset
  • Dine on freshly grilled seafood at First Beach, enjoying the buzzy evening atmosphere

Complete List Of Best Things To Do In Kota Kinabalu

If the above 5 day itinerary doesn’t sound like you, below we have listed everything there is to do in Kota Kinabalu so you can plan out your own itinerary.

Signal Hill Observatory Platform

Looking for an awesome view of Kota Kinabalu?  Head to Signal Hill, the highest point in the city. Here, you’ll find an impressive observation platform. 

Open daily from 8am to midnight, admire the sweeping unobstructed city views which, on clear days, extend out to the beaches of Tanjung Aru and Likas Bay, and even to the outlying islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.

Widely considered a “must do” on any tourist list of Kota Kinabalu things to do, travel by taxi just 2 minutes from Padang Merdeka. Or walk from the Atkinson Clock Tower 30 minutes uphill via a winding road and 250 steep steps.

The best time to visit is late afternoon. Grab a coffee at the on-site cafe and sit back to watch an epic sunset across the city and distant islands.

Address: 78, Jalan Asrama, Signal Hills, Kota Kinabalu

Central Market

Central Market Kota Kinabalu
Central Market Kota Kinabalu

Exploring markets is a delightful way to discover native handicrafts, food culture and interact with local people.  Kota Kinabalu’s Central Market, found on the busy waterfront a few steps from the Handicraft Market, is a riot of colour and smells.

Here you’ll find the juicy but prickly rambutan, the awfully smelly “King of the Fruits” durian and many varieties of bananas, alongside rice, grains and locally made hot sauces. Follow your nose to the adjacent Wet Market which sells all manner of ocean creatures – mostly still swimming!

Handicraft Market, Kota Kinabalu
Handicraft Market

Add on a visit to the Handicraft Market (formerly known as the Filipino Market). Here, you’ll find tailors working on old pedal-powered sewing machines. There’s a treasure trove of clothing, local crafts and jewellery.

The Central Market is open 6am – 6pm daily.

Address: Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens, Pusat Bandar, Kota Kinabalu 

Night Market

Night Market, Kota Kinabalu
Night Market in Kota Kinabalu

If you visit in the evening, be sure to go hungry!  The Waterfront Seafood Night Market (Pasar Malam Makanan Laut), a paradise for seafood enthusiasts, operates at the parking lot in front of the Central Market daily from around 4.30 pm.

Our top pick of things to do in Kota Kinabalu at night, immerse yourself in the local community as you select seafood from the Wet Market, haggle over the price, and decide on the cooking method… Freshly grilled, steamed or boiled!  Enjoy fresh, delicious seafood such as squid skewers, grilled snapper or latok (sea grapes).

There’s also a wide range of Southeast Asian foods available – Malaysian, Filipino and Indonesian dishes – along with local Bornean cuisine.  Order Ikan Bakar, a popular dish of fish or stingray, seasoned with a mixture of turmeric, lemongrass and chilli, wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled over the charcoal.  Or try Udgan Butter, battered fried prawns with a crunchy fried egg!

Wash it all down with bright pink bandung – an iced beverage of condensed milk sweetened with rose cordial – and soak up the buzzing market’s atmosphere.  This is really a must-do in Kota Kinabalu!

Address: 401, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen, Pusat Bandar, Kota Kinabalu

Sabah State Museum

Sabah State Museum Kota Kinabalu

A time machine to Borneo history, the Sabah State Museum is one of the most interesting places in Kota Kinabalu.  Learn about Sabah’s people, their rich diverse culture and traditions, alongside the history from colonial times through to modern Malaysia.  And, of course, discover some of the unique wildlife that Borneo is renowned for.

You’ll find the largest whale skeleton exhibit in Malaysia with a huge 18.6 metre specimen.

Galleries include ceramics – with colourful tall jars passed down through generations – and Headhunting. Here, you’ll learn tales of the fearsome headhunters that roamed the land of Borneo armed with swords and blowpipes!

The Natural History gallery is a favourite with its overview of Borneo’s unique ecology.  Specimens of flora and fauna from marine, rainforest, cave and swamp ecosystems make for interesting viewing.

Discover the 32 indigenous groups of Sabah, which have around 100 spoken languages, at the Ethnology Gallery.  Admire examples of handicrafts, musical instruments and costumes.

Next to the main building is the Locomotive Gallery. Here, you’ll find several displays of old trains and memorabilia of the railway system of Kota Kinabalu and Northern Borneo.  The adjoining Heritage Village has traditional tribal dwellings. This includes Kadazan bamboo houses and a Chinese farmhouse, beautifully set on a lily-pad lake.

Located 2 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu city centre at the Bukit Istana Lama (Old Palace Hill), the Museum opens daily 9am-5pm.  Plan about two hours for your visit. If you really love stories of Borneo, you could easily spend half a day here, making this one of the standout cheap things to do in Kota Kinabalu. 

Find more information here.

Address: Sabah Museum Complex, Jalan Muzium

Sabah Art Gallery

Sabah Art Gallery Kota Kinabalu

A feast for art lovers, the Sabah Art Gallery is located at the 1.7 hectare Sabah Art Gallery Conservation Centre.  A great place to visit in Kota Kinabalu on a rainy day, the museum collects local as well as international works of art.

The building itself is an objet-d’art!  Designed as an octagonal “basket-shaped” building, the museum exhibits the decorative cultural motif panels of the indigenous people of Sabah.  Using renewable energy and rainwater for automatic lighting and air conditioning, it was the first green building in Borneo.

Two gallery spaces showcase over 3000 paintings, carvings, sculptures, installations and so on. They host special monthly and yearly exhibitions.  Check here for the latest programmes.

Located in the Layang district, it’s a short 15 minute taxi/Grab ride from Kota Kinabalu city centre.  Open daily 9am-5pm, except for public holidays.

Address: 14, Jalan Shantung, Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu City Mosque

By far the largest mosque in Kota Kinabalu, the white and blue City Mosque is possibly Malaysia’s most beautiful.  Located at Likas Bay, the Mosque is partially surrounded by a man-made lagoon giving it a dramatic, serene look, especially under moonlight.

Nicknamed “The Floating Mosque”, it presents a classic example of contemporary Islamic architecture wonderfully reflected in the surrounding lake and complemented by the sky-blue backdrop.

Accommodating up to 12,000 worshippers at a time, the majestic mosque has a prayer hall housing three madrasahs.  Take a paddleboat ride in the lagoon for some fabulous photos of the Mosque or visit late afternoon for iconic sunset photos.

This is a popular attraction and one of the unique places to visit in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.  It’s open to the public at various times throughout the day outside of prayer time except for Fridays. Visitors must dress appropriately (special clothing is provided).

Address: Jalan Pasir, Jalan Teluk Likas, Kampung Likas, Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre

Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre

Formerly known as the Kota Kinabalu City Bird Sanctuary, this 24 hectares of mangrove forest makes for a pleasant hour’s stroll and is one of my favourite attractions in Kota Kinabalu centre.

Upon arrival, register at the main building and pick up a mangrove forest map, fact sheet, flora and fauna checklist, rent binoculars and grab a drink before setting out!

Walk along the 1.5 kilometre boardwalk that guides you around a one hour walk deep into the mangrove.  Enjoy fresh air and tranquillity at this unique ecosystem where land meets the sea. It is home to many interesting birds, plants and wildlife. 

Spot them from the boardwalk or from resting huts dotted along the route. There is also an observation tower towards the end of the walk.

Almost 80 species of birds (best viewed in the early morning) have been identified including purple heron and many types of egrets.  Other mangrove wildlife includes monitor lizards, fiddler crabs, mud lobsters and turtles.

Enjoy guided or self-discovery walks, environmental education programmes and bird sessions at the on-site bird-hide.  The centre is open Tuesday-Sunday, 8am-6pm. It’s closed on Mondays. 

Find more information here.

Address: Off, Jalan Bukit Bendera Upper, Kampung Likas, Kota Kinabalu

Sabah Islamic Civilisation Museum

Part of the Sabah State Museum, this 2-storey building is the best place in Kota Kinabalu to learn about Muslim culture, its history and heritage.

In the Islamic World Gallery, you can see an 18th-century Persian Quran stand, Indonesian wooden caskets engraved with Quranic verses, old Qurans and miniature mosques.  Ancient artefacts from Middle East countries showcase the history of the spread of the Islamic religion throughout Southeast Asia including the roots of its arrival into Sabah and Malaysia.

The Borneo Gallery features Islamic antiques from Sabah, neighbouring Sarawak and Brunei, with some noteworthy curved Sulu swords and weapons.

You receive free entry with a valid Sabah State Museum ticket. The museum is open 9am-5pm, Saturday to Thursday.

Address: Jalan Menteri, Karamunsing, Kota Kinabalu

Puh Toh Tze Buddhist Temple

With its traditional Chinese roofing and design, the Puh Toh Tze Buddhist Temple stands out, making this one of the more stunning Kota Kinabalu attraction places to visit.

Ten large statues of deities adorn the temple with the Goddess of Mercy, Kwan Yin, standing tall at the main entrance and a Chinese-style reclining Buddha inside.

The Temple is set on a small hill, approximately 9 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu city centre. It’s easily reachable by taxi or Grab.

Address: 88450 Kota Kinabalu

Rooftop @ Le Méridien

Sunset drinks at Rooftop Bar at Le Méridien Kota Kinabalu
Sunset drinks at Rooftop @ Le Méridien – Just magical!

Whether you keep to this Kota Kinabalu itinerary or not, make sure one evening you go to Rooftop @ Le Méridien.

This bar on the 15th floor of the Le Méridien Hotel is open to everyone and serves great drinks and some snacks in the perfect surrounds for the perfect sunset.

It’s a great way to end a day of exploring in Kota Kinabalu and is across the road from the Night Market if you want something to eat after.

Le Méridien is also a great hotel to stay. Click here to read my full review.

Tanjung Aru

As much a part of the local lore as Bondi Beach is to Sydney or Copacabana is to Rio de Janeiro, Tanjung Aru is 1.3 kilometres of silky golden beach that is world famous for its epic sunsets!

The most popular of all places to visit near Kota Kinabalu airport, Tanjung Aru is Malay for “Casuarina Beach”, taking its name from the casuarinas or aru trees that surround the sandy beach. Split into three sections, the beach is simply named – First Beach, Second Beach and Third Beach.

First Beach, and the most popular, is home to adrenaline-pumping water sports activities, such as parasailing, paragliding and windsurfing.  At the end, you’ll find the busy picnic spot of Tanjung Aru Beach Park, home to beautiful birds such as oriental pied hornbills and blue naped parrots.

Following on from the Park are Second and Third Beach which extend down to the airport.  Not so popular with tourists, the beaches are less crowded except for the odd fisherman.

Locals adore First Beach at Tanjung Aru, settling in mid-afternoon to view the iconic sunset which is said to be in the world’s top ten. Get ready to pose for innumerable sunset-selfies! 

Tranquil and relaxing, Tanjung Aru is nature at its best which is why it’s one of the top things to do Kota Kinabalu.

Hawker stalls and seafood restaurants sell lip-smacking Malaysian food late into the night. You can find simple meals such as coconut and sugarcane juice with chicken or beef satays. Or have a full-course dinner of freshly-caught lobster, fish, stingray and a variety of shellfish.

Fancy a splurge?  Dine at any one of the luxury resorts dotted around the area including the stunning Shangri-La Tanjung Aru and The Magellan Sutera Resort. You’ll find alfresco sunset-facing restaurant, with international fine-dining.

Tanjung Aru is approximately six kilometres from Kota Kinabalu city. Hire a taxi or take the bus direct from Kota Kinabalu City Hall marked “Tanjung Aru Beach”.

Best Places To Visit In Kota Kinabalu Surrounds

The following things to do around Kota Kinabalu are easy to visit on a half or full day trip.

Mari Mari Cultural Village

Mari Mari Cultural Village Kota Kinabalu

Experience Sabah as it once was.  From rice-wine making to blow-pipe shooting to fire-starting… Soak up the culture and sharpen your survival skills at the Mari Mari Cultural Village, a major Kota Kinabalu tourist attraction.

Glimpse how the tribes of Sabah lived in long-houses and learn their pagan rituals. Gain an insight into the mystical belief systems of each group. 

The Mari Mari Cultural Village is located in a remote forest setting in Kionsom, Inanam, about 25 minutes from Kota Kinabalu city. The village operates as a museum that preserves Borneo ethnic culture.  It’s definitely a little “touristy”, but it is also super fun, especially for families.

You’ll meet Sabah’s five major ethnic communities – the Bajau (sea gypsies), Lundayeh (hunters and fishermen), Murut (headhunters), Rungus (longhouse residents) and Dusun (rice farmers).  Traditional huts sprout along the village, with each tribe house offering a unique display of culture, folklore and lifestyle practices through interactive demonstrations for the whole family to participate in.

You can sample traditional treats, learn how to cut tree bark and make traditional warrior vests. Or jump for a prize on a built-in ‘Lansaran’ (traditional trampoline-like floor).  End your visit with a live ethnic dance performance, the ancient ‘Magunatip’ bamboo-dance by the Murut Tribe. You can then have a buffet spread of exotic cuisines that are synonymous with Sabah’s cultural identity.

Before returning to the city, take a cool swim at the nearby Kiansom Waterfall, only 400 metres from the Village.

Address: Jalan Kionsom, Inanam, Kota Kinabalu

You can buy discounted tickets for this attraction by clicking here.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park – Manukan, Mamutik, Gaya, Sulug and Sapi Islands

Searching for some exciting Kota Kinabalu activities?  Spend a day discovering the beautiful islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Marine Park with its diverse ecosystems and abundant marine life.  Relax in the sun over a lazy beach picnic or enjoy an action-packed day boating between islands, snorkelling, diving, zip-lining and trekking island trails.

Made up of five small Bornean islands, the national park is a 25 minute boat ride from Kota Kinabalu. It is a firm favourite with both tourists and locals.  In fact, this is certainly the best place to visit in Kota Kinabalu for a full day excursion.

On the islands, you’ll find untouched tropical forests and a surprising amount of wildlife including some particularly large (but harmless!) monitor lizards. The largest island, Gaya, has 3,700 acres of forests and around 20 kilometres of trails with rare wildlife such as the proboscis monkeys, bearded pigs and hornbills.  Also, check out Gaya’s popular scenic white sandy Police Beach at Police Bay. It’s surrounded by crystal clear water.

Manukan is the second largest island. It has spectacular beaches and is the most developed in terms of facilities with various chalets, restaurants and watersport outlets as part of the resort. It’s said to have what is the best beach amongst all the islands. Manukan also has swimming pools, dive centres, a Club House, volleyball courts and a football field! 

Read about a trip to Manukan here.

Mamutik Island is the smallest in the marine park with some good diving spots and, again, excellent beaches but some can be a little rocky. Watch out for sea urchins here.

Sapi Island – known as Cow Island – is probably the most popular island with its beautiful beaches, stunning snorkelling and diving spots.  Linked to Gaya at low tide by a lovely sand bar, it’s covered in thick forests.

Sulug is the most remote – thus the least untouched of them all –  with tranquil beaches loved by tourists looking for a back-to-nature experience.  It’s a small rocky island which is surrounded by excellent reefs. It’s fabulous for snorkelling.

You’ll be blown away by the variety of fish species in the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. At the last count, it’s over 360 species!  Look out for favourites such as the blue-ringed octopus or search out blacktip sharks amongst the colourful corals. Turtles, morays, nudibranchs, sponges, scorpionfish, parrotfish, batfish, lionfish and giant clams can all be easily spotted.

From March to October, water visibility is awesome at 10-15 metres.  Snorkellers can rent equipment and swim directly from most island’s beaches – with Manukan and Sapi perhaps the best. Or you can register with scuba operators at each island to join boat trips.  Each island has a handful of key dive sites that will keep scuba-fanatics happy for well over a week!

Water sports, include kayaking and sailing, beach sports, picnic and bbq facilities can be found on many islands.

The Coral Flyer is a thrilling zipline that spans between Gaya and Sapi Island, letting you fly across the blue ocean!  Smaller children can ride tandem with parents and there’s a dual line so you can ride alongside your friends. This is currently closed at the time of updating this article, but click here to see if it’s back.

Some of the best accommodation places in Kota Kinabalu can be found on the islands, including the luxury Manukan Island Resort and both the Gayana Eco Resort and Bunga Raya Island Resort on Gaya.  Budget accommodation, chalets and campsites are available on most of the islands.

With diverse forests and wildlife as well as unique coral and marinelife, a day’s island hopping at the marine park should come high on your list of things to do in Sabah, Kota Kinabalu.  Visit during the week to avoid the overly crowded weekends.

It’s best to book a day trip to visit the islands – click here for a range of options., otherwise you can read our full guide on island hopping in Kota Kinabalu here.

You can buy boat transfers and find schedules here.

Lok Kawi Wildlife Park

High on lists of Kota Kinabalu places to visit, spend half day at the exotic Lok Kawi Wildlife Park.  This family-oriented park covers 280 acres of land and is split into zoological and botanical sections.

The zoological side features exotic and endangered species, such as Sumatran rhinoceros, proboscis monkeys, Malayan tigers, orangutans, Borneo pygmy elephants and colourful hornbill birds. For younger children, check out the ponies and goats at the Kids Zoo area.

At the botanical site, trek a 1.4 kilometre trail to the Herbal and Ginger Garden while you spot plants such as the carnivorous pitcher-plants and other rare specimens. The nearby noisy aviary will definitely catch your attentio, with a myriad of sounds from mynahs and parrots.

This is the Kota Kinabalu best place for a quick fix of wildlife viewing. Visit here if you’re on limited time while in Borneo and unable to make it out to the National Parks.

It’s located 25 kilometres outside of Kota Kinabalu. The Park is open 7 days a week, 9.30am-5.30pm.  The venue hosts a twice daily Wild Borneo Animal Show and Animal Feeding Sessions (except on Friday and public holidays).

Address: Lok kawi Putata, Kota Kinabalu

You can buy discounted tickets for this attraction by clicking here.

Kinabalu Park And Poring Hot Springs

Spend a day witnessing the wonders of Mt. Kinabalu Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – followed by a dip in warm sulphur springs and a thrilling canopy walk!

Journey approximately two hours into one of the world’s oldest rainforests with green fields, mountain ranges left and right, and quaint little villages.  Stop off at Nabalu Market near the Crocker Range, known as the Backbone of Borneo.  Make sure you enjoy refreshing drinks and fresh fruits, and check out the handicrafts sold by the local Dusun tribe that lives at the foothills of the sacred mountain.

As you drive on through the National Park, cool and refreshing mountain air is a welcome relief.  Soak in the amazing views across the rainforest to the majestic +4000ft Mt. Kinabalu. It’s an iconic image of things to see in Kota Kinabalu.

With an estimated 6000 vascular plant species, including 1500 species of orchids, Kinabalu Park is a mecca for nature lovers.   Join a park naturalist for a guided walk at the Botanical Gardens along marked nature trails that buzz with birds and butterflies.  Marvel at the cornucopia of flowers and plants, while learning about this biological treasure trove.

Visit the Agro Flower Nursery or the Mountain Garden where you’ll discover pitcher plants, more orchids and ferns.  You’ll also find a Butterfly Farm and Orchid Conservation Centre.

For those who are more adventurous at this Kota Kinabalu famous place, you’ll find many Mt. Kinabalu mountain activities, such as Alpine Rock Climbing, Paragliding and mountain expeditions.

Travel on to Poring Hot Springs, named after the tall bamboo plant found in abundance around this natural hot spring.

Therapeutic and healing, the springs are said to work their magic on your body and soul. There are outdoor and open-air hot tubs or private indoor sulphur tubs for two. It’s a popular stop for climbers on their return from summiting Mt. Kinabalu.

Alternatively, walk twenty minutes uphill through the Borneo tropical rainforest to a 41 metres high tree-top Canopy Walkway.  You’re immersed in chirping birds and humming insects.  Cross the approximately 100 metres of the forest canopy on this well-maintained rope bridge. It provides breathtaking views.

Possibly less strenuous, explore waterfalls within hiking distance of the hot spring entrance.  Kipungit Waterfall is only 15 minutes walk and drops from 10 metres.  Slightly more challenging is the two hour hike to Langanan Waterfall. It drops a spectacular 120 metres. There’s a dramatic bat cave along the route.

For more serious trekking, there are plenty of marked jungle trails within the National Park. This includes the 2-3 hour Liwagu Trail that covers 5,620 meters and crosses small streams, narrow ridges and enters the lush canopy of trees making for an excellent adventure!

Address: 89300 Ranau, Sabah

The best way to visit the attractions in Kinabalu Park is on a day tour. Find a great option here.

Desa Cattle Dairy Farm

Another of the unique places of interest Kota Kinabalu offers up is the Desa Cattle Dairy Farm. It has some of the most amazing scenery you can imagine!

At the foothills of Mt. Kinabalu, almost 200 hectares of beautiful green pastures are dotted with roaming Holstein Friesian cows. This gives rise to the region’s nickname, the Little New Zealand of Sabah.

Check out the Friesians, the highest milk producers of all cattle breeds which produces almost a million litres annually.  Assist with bottle-feeding calves, hand-feed goats and watch the milking process. Discover how milk is processed ready for sale.

Pick up some souvenirs – popular dairy products such as Desa Cattle’s milk-in-a-box – or enjoy freshly made frozen yoghurt and delicious ice-cream.

Educational and fun, this is a popular Kota Kinabalu attraction place, especially for families looking for things to do at Kota Kinabalu.

Located at Kundasang, Ranau, a visit here can easily be tagged onto your day at Mt. Kinabalu National Park or with a visit to Poring Hot Springs.  Open daily 8 am-5 pm, it’s best to bring a sweater!

Address: 89308 Kundasang, Sabah

The easiest way to visit here is on a day tour combined with Kinabalu Park. Find a great option here.

Kota Kinabalu Attraction Map

Find all the things to do in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah on the map below.

Best Things To Do In Kota Kinabalu map
Click the Map to open in Google Maps. You can then access directions to each of the locations discussed in this article.

Best Places To Stay In Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu is flourishing and in recent years we’ve seen every level of accommodation up their game.  Many new backpacker-hostels and five-star resorts have popped up, with older more established hotels undergoing renovations.

Luxury resorts are mainly a little out of town or over on the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.  Budget hotels can be found in the Bandaran Berjaya area close to most of the attractions.  Gaya Street and Australia Place remain the chief backpacker haunts.

No matter what your budget, your holiday style or who you are travelling with, you’ll easily find a great place to stay.  Rates are reasonable and customer service usually defies star rating! Kota Kinabalu is definitely one of the best value destinations of anywhere in the world.

Below we’ve listed a few different places to consider, including a budget, mid-range and a more expensive option.

BEST – Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa Review

Possibly the most luxurious resort in Kota Kinabalu thanks to its private beach, massive swimming pool, splendid spa and excellent Kid’s Club, the Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa also has a front row seat for one of the world’s best sunsets!

Built on its own little peninsula, the resort feels secluded but remains handy for the city – with the airport and centre only 10 minutes away.  Following Shangri-La’s famed artistic design of white marble, heavy wooden furniture and contemporary art, the hotel has a sumptuous and fresh feel.

490 rooms are divided into two sections – the Kinabalu Wing with sea or mountain views, and the Tanjung Wing with slightly larger, more expensive options. They are all sea-facing.  Shangri-La luxuries such as balconies, king-size beds and ensuite bathrooms come as standard.

A complimentary Kids Club has daily activities including treasure hunts and water play areas with slides galore.  Activities for older guests include sunrise yoga, coconut bowling and kayak lessons, and the concierge desk will help arrange tours to the best places to go in Kota Kinabalu or help you experience unique wildlife activities in Kota Kinabalu.

Tennis courts, ping pong table, petanque pitch and the wonderful CHI Spa (on its own tiny island!) will also keep you occupied.

The resort’s breakfast buffet is enormous and all freshly prepared.  At 6pm, the Sunset Bar is without a doubt the city’s hottest watering hole.  Pre-booking is essential!  And for dinner, four restaurants to tempt you with Chinese or Italian cuisine, lively cooking stations or formal alfresco dining.  You won’t go hungry here!

Click here for the latest prices.

If you want a hotel in the middle of the city, read our review of Le Méridien Kota Kinabalu here. It’s a fantastic option in a prime location.

MID-RANGE –  Hotel Sixty3 Review

Location, location, location!  In the city centre, Hotel Sixty3 is superb for all the things to see in Kota Kinabalu. It’s just a 15 minute stroll from Jesselton Point, 5 minutes from Gaya Street Sunday Market and the Suria Shopping Mall, and only 2 minutes from the Signal Hill Observatory Tower.

Rooms range from standard, superior, family or executive deluxe to suite and super-standard, all with king or twin bedding.  TV with digital channels feature in all 100 of the rooms, along with free bottled water, coffee/tea makers, and guests can enjoy free WiFi in the public areas.  Ensuite bathrooms come with a shower and complimentary toiletries, while the larger rooms have separate dining and seating areas.

Other services include a 24-hour front desk, dry cleaning/laundry and a helpful Concierge Desk for arranging city and wildlife tours.  Alternatively, you’ll find the State’s Tourism Information Office directly opposite the hotel.

There is no restaurant on site, but there are numerous food outlets in the nearby vicinity – restaurants, cafes and street-hawkers, selling both local and international cuisine.

Clean, quiet and with great family-deluxe rooms, this is a super midrange Kota Kinabalu accommodation option.

Click here for the latest prices

BUDGET – Mandarin Hotel Kota Kinabalu Review

A cozy, welcoming option, the Mandarin Hotel Kota Kinabalu is in a central spot on Gaya Street so you are in a prime location for the Gaya Street Sunday Market.  It’s surrounded by a diverse selection of restaurants and shops and walking distance to many of the city’s attractions.

Friendly Reception staff, available 24-hours, welcome you to this 2-star hotel.  There are 81 rooms which include double, junior suite and family rooms.  Rooms are air-conditioned, with flat screen TV, sofa and ensuite bathrooms with either a bath or walk-in rain shower.

Guests have complimentary WiFi and housekeeping, while a chargeable laundry service is offered. Parking and airport shuttle service available.

Click here for the latest prices.

Click here to see all our recommendations for exactly where to stay in Kota Kinabalu.

Visiting Kota Kinabalu With Kids

It’s surprising to some parents just how many things there are to do in Kota Kinabalu with kids, and we feel it should be on all family holiday-to-do-lists as there are so many reasons to visit.

Extraordinary wildlife, tropical climate, on the doorstep of an incredible biodiverse part of the world, friendly Malaysians who adore children… And a myriad of activities that will keep all ages entertained!

Things to do in Kota Kinabalu with family include snorkelling off the coast at the world-class Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.  A quick 25 minute speedboat ride from the mainland, you’ll enjoy lazy beach picnics, discover the Park’s five islands and marvel at the colourful tropical fish and stunning corals.

Children love learning about orangutans and other Borneo wildlife at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, spotting proboscis monkeys from Kawa Kawa river cruises (click here for more information) or spending a day at Kinabalu National Park, Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site.  Here, botanical gardens, a butterfly farm and jungle nature treks keep all age groups happy.

Kota Kinabalu jetty area

A visit to the nearby Poring Hot Springs National Park is both relaxing and thrilling with their sulphur pools and the highest canopy walk in Sabah.

For older kids, they’ll thrill at the zip line between islands (yes!) – the Coral Flyer Zipline – at Gaya Island, and the plethora of water sports on offer including parasailing, banana boat rides, wakeboarding and waterskiing.  And for your true adrenaline junkies, dare them to ride the rapids with white water rafting at the scenic Kiulu River (click here for more information).

Of course, don’t forget to stop at the best of all family-favourite Kota Kinabalu tourist attractions, the Mari Mari Cultural Village, where younger children explore traditional houses and learn about the tribes, while older children make rice wine and help start fires using bamboo.  A terrific family fun Sabah Kota Kinabalu attraction!

Finally, head to the beach at Tanjung Aru where all the family can capture awesome selfies for those essential social media updates. Don’t forget to end the day with the magic of a Borneo sunset!

Luxury hotels cater to all ages, many offering swimming pools, private beaches, baby-sitting services, kids clubs and activities.  You’ll need another holiday to recover!

How To Get To Kota Kinabalu

It’s easy to get to Kota Kinabalu by flight, bus, taxi or car – assuming you are already in Sabah or Brunei for the overland options.  We have a range of detailed guides for reaching Kota Kinabalu from places such as Labuan, Brunei, Sandakan, KL and Kuching.

To see all the latest flights and prices, click here.

If you need to take a bus, click here for the latest timetables and bus prices.

You can also hire a car to get you there by clicking here.

Final Words

Kota Kinabalu is a treasure trove of adventure, wildlife and culture, and we hope that our ideas and rundown of Kota Kinabalu famous places have piqued your interest enough to visit!  You will surely never run out of things to do in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

If you’d like to do a Kota Kinabalu tour, find our best options here.

Discover more information on Sabah in our full Sabah travel guide here.  You can also find our full travel guide to Kota Kinabalu here.

Planning a trip to Malaysia? Have any questions? Join our Malaysia Travel Planning Facebook group here now! It’s the perfect place to ask any questions and to be inspired!

By Sharon Gourlay

Sharon is a certified Malaysia travel expert and can't get enough of travelling and talking about Malaysia since she first visited 21 years ago. She travels around Malaysia multiple times a year both alone and with her kids. She used to call Penang home and especially loves this food paradise. Sharon also has a Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies, a Certificate III in International Travel Sales and has been certified by Tourism Malaysia as a Malaysia Travel Expert. Through this site, she'll help you have the perfect trip to this amazing destination.