The capital of the state of Sabah on the island of Borneo, this Malaysian city is a growing resort destination due to its proximity to tropical islands, sandy beaches, lush rainforest and Mount Kinabalu. Constantly referred to as KK, it is on the west coast of Sabah within the West Coast Division. KK is one of the smallest districts in Sabah but has the largest population and is the largest city in the state.
KK lies by the coast overlooking the South China Sea on a narrow flatland and occasional hills bordered by the Crocker Range which hosts Mount Kinabalu. Hence the urban sprawl is concentrated along the coast towards the north and south of the city.
Kota Kinabalu is a growing city of around 500,000 inhabitants. Economic growth has resulted in urbanisation of the city reaching adjacent districts of Penampang and Putatan with a total population of almost 800,000. Its growth and importance is due to being the administrative capital, a major transportation hub, growing port, manufacturing hub, growing tourism and because it is the major gateway into Sabah and East Malaysia. Kota Kinabalu was granted city status in 2000, becoming the sixth city. It is the sixth largest urban/metropolitan area in Malaysia.
Kota Kinabalu was known as Jesselton while under British colonial rule from the late 1800s until 1963 when the British left and after Sabah became part of Malaysia. Most of the town was destroyed due to bombings during World War II hence there are not many pre-war historical sites around the city. Before the British arrived, the area was also known by a number of other names such as Deasoka (below the coconut tree), Singgah Mata (pleasing to the eye), Api-Api (fire!) and Gaya Bay.
The people of Kota Kinabalu are Chinese, Kadazandusun, Bajau, Brunei Malays, and there is significant migrant population from Indonesia and Philippines, many of whom are naturalised citizens. There are also many migrant/expat population from India and a growing number from Korea.
Central Kota Kinabalu is often referred to as Kota Kinabalu City Centre or the Central Business district (CBD) or simply Downtown KK and is on the narrow coast overlooking Gaya Island. This is where most hotels, travel agents, transportation bases and most of the action are found. Most of the city centre lies on reclaimed land due to a shortage of land in the area, as it is blocked in by Bukit Bendera (Signal Hill).
District areas which lie within the city centre include Sadong Jaya, Api-Api, Asia City, Bandaran Berjaya, Sinsuran, Kampung Air, Segama, Pantai Street, Gaya Street, Jesselton Point. Just outside the City centre are the Districts towards the South and East are Karamunsing, Sembulan, Tanjung Aru and Sutera Harbour, Kepayan, Penampang, Putatan, Donggongon.
Due to lack of land in the city centre, other important commercial areas have sprouted outside CBD. Some of these areas have been long in existence as small townships (pekan) such as Luyang, Inanam and Menggatal and in adjacent districts of Penampang (Donggongon) and Putatan, and residential-commercial areas such as Alam Mesra, Kingfisher and 1Borneo near Menggatal; Lintas, Penampang Baru and Bundusan.
The climate in KK is characterised by uniform year-round temperature of 32°C (avg. high) and 22°C (avg. low). Rain falls quite often with occasional dry periods. Low rainfall begins in January till April, increasing in May till August, intensifying in September till November and slows down in December. The weather in KK and the immediate area can vary throughout the day/night bringing rainfall for short periods to heavy evening rain. The position of KK is protected by the shape of the coast and harbour and from behind by the Crocker Range of nearby hills. Occasionally the weather rolls in directly from the sea over the city, but mostly the heavy weather blows around and past KK providing some beautiful skies and cloud formations making for stunning sunsets. Away from the on shore breeze travelling further in land by as little as 16 km it can be extremely humid, and rain at this point is very welcome. The weather is a major factor in road/driving accidents and care should be taken, with mobile devices and the internet you can now get weather updates to the spot you are visiting hour by hour.
- 1 Tourist Information (Sabah Tourism Board), Jalan Gaya. Housed in the former Post Office, one of only two structures (with Atkinson Tower) to have survived the devastation of World War II.
Like most other Malaysian cities, Kota Kinabalu is a melting pot of various cultures. Malay is the lingua franca, albeit with a distinctive Sabahan dialect, and better-educated locals are usually able to speak English as well. The ethnic Chinese, who form about half of the city's population, mainly speak Hakka, though many are also able to speak Cantonese and Mandarin.
Some residents also speak the languages of native Sabahan ethnic groups, the most common ones being Kadazan and Bajau. These languages are not commonly used in daily conversation outside of rural communities.
There has been since the 1970s a large influx of Filipinos. Most of these people speak their own languages and Malay, but little English so you may have to resort to sign language to buy what you want.
The other language spoken often is "Bazzar Melayu" due to the mixture of cultures and tribal/village background and the introduction of English. When buying something in the market the language can easily be five words all from a different language.
There are direct international flights from these destinations to Kota Kinabalu: Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei (Royal Brunei Airlines), Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia (AirAsia), Hong Kong (Dragonair, Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia), Jakarta, Indonesia (AirAsia), Manila, Philippines (AirAsia and Cebu Pacific airlines), Perth, Australia (Malaysian Airlines), Shenzhen, China (AirAsia), Seoul Incheon, Busan South Korea (Asiana Airlines, EastarJet, Jin Air, Korean Air and Malaysia Airlines), Singapore (AirAsia, Silkair and Jet Star Asia), Taipei, Taiwan (Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, Mandarin Airlines), Tarakan, East Kalimantan, Indonesia (MASWings).
Domestic fights from the following cities: Bintulu, Johor Bahru, Kota Bharu, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Kudat, Labuan, Lahad Datu, Lawas, Limbang, Miri, Mulu, Penang, Sandakan, Sibu, Tawau. Operated by MASWings, Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia.1 Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI IATA, abbreviated to KKIA). Malaysia's second busiest airport and the main gateway to Sabah and around 8 km from the city centre. There are two terminals in the airport. Terminal 1 serves full-service airlines such as Malaysia Airlines, Asiana Airlines, while Terminal 2 serves air cargo, a tourist helicopter service, and tourist flights. Additional direct flight destinations include (Japan) Tokyo, (China) Shanghai, Hangzhou, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, (Australia) Perth. The State government has foreseen maximum capacity is fast approaching and plans are under way to move some of the traffic directly to Sandakan once Sandakan airport has been lengthened.
Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 are on different sides of the runway. Terminal 1 is accessible from Jalan Kepayan near Kepayan and Terminal 2 is accessible from Jalan Mat Salleh in Tanjung Aru.
There are ATMs and a currency exchange in Terminal 1 but if you're arriving late it will almost certainly be closed and the ATMs are not always working. Make sure you've got some Malaysian ringgit before you arrive as you'll need it for the taxi or the bus. If you find yourself having just arrived and without any ringgit, you can have a taxi take you to an ATM on the way to wherever you're staying.
There is free Wi-Fi within the departure zone of the airport.
There is hostel at the airport, Skypod that charged RM39/night when it opened in 2017 including wifi and breakfast. They also offer 4-hour transit stays.
Airport to city center
- Coach Bus. Leaves approximately every hour and has 4 stops within KK including the city park stop. Departs from the airport from 8AM - 7PM. Buy tickets inside the arrival area. RM5.
- Minibus/City bus. The city buses in KK are minibuses that operate similarly to route taxis or jeepneys. They are available along the main road away from the airport. RM1-3.
- Taxi. These are hired by buying a ticket from the window on the Arrivals level, then presenting the ticket to the driver (they are waiting outside on the right). RM30.
- Grab. The South-East Asian version of Uber (who combined with Grab in Malaysia). Expect to pay RM10-15. Pay in cash
- On foot. Walking into town from the airport is possible if you like walking, have 1-2 hr to spare and can cope with the humidity and heat. Pick up a city map in the airport terminal, and you won't have any problem finding your way.
All main roads in Sabah radiate out from Kota Kinabalu; they have to for geographical reasons.
The main road to the Sarawak border at Sindumin heads south from the city through the districts of Kepayan, Tanjung Aru, Papar, Kimanis, Beaufort and Sipitang. From Sindumin (border crossing into Sarawak), the road continues to Lawas and on to Brunei and it is possible to travel from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei by land. The journey is a minimum five hours to Brunei. Passports/ID have to be shown at each crossing prolonging the travel time. Brunei is a country made up of two enclaves and surrounded by Sarawak this involves five border crossings/checks, each way.
In Sabah a main road north via Tuaran, Kota Belud, Matunggong then on to Kudat known as the tip of Borneo, this is a 3-3½ hr journey each way with heavy traffic and rain storms it can be longer,the road is a metalled/tarmac road all the way.
From Kudat it is possible to drive all the way to Sandakan on the Trans Borneo Highway. Leaving Kudat, Matunggong, turn left towards Kota Maruda, then up towards Pitas the road heads South and East around the far side of the Gunung Kinabalu (Mt. Kinabalu) and joins up at Pamol turn left and continue towards Sandakan. Before reaching Sandakan you can turn south and east towards Kinabantangan, Sukau reserves and on towards Lahad Datu. The road continues to Kunak, Semporna, Tawau Hills reserve and Tawau. Fom Tawau it connects to Keningau to complete the loop back into KK via Tambunan over the Crocker Range into Penampang and KK city. It is expected to reduce the 10-hour drive by three hours. Completion date not set.
Another main road heading southeast leaves the suburbs of Penampang and Donggongon towards Tambunan, Keningau and Tenom. Travel by private car to KK is quite popular with visitors from around Sabah including Sandakan and Tawau, Labuan, Miri and Brunei.
There are two long-distance bus terminals.
- 2 South Bus Terminal (Wawasan Bus Terminal), Jalan K.K. Bypass (across the road from Wisma Wawasan). Serves destinations south of Kota Kinabalu: Beaufort, Sipitang and Lawas. It's also the main depot for buses and minibuses from the city center to the suburbs such as Putatan, Tanjung Aru, Kepayan, Luyang, Penampang, Likas, Inanam and Menggatal. All buses coming in from the suburbs can only stop in this depot to avoid congestion in the city center, bus fare is around RM0.50 to RM2 depending on the distance. Wawasan Bus terminal also serves as a depot for long-distance buses towards south of Kota Kinabalu. A new southbound long-distance bus terminal has been planned for construction near Terminal 1, KKIA in Kepayan. For travel to Labuan it is quicker to take the Express Coaches than the Labuan ferry.
- 3 North Bus Terminal (Inanam Bus Station Terminal), Inanam town (10 km to the northeast of the city centre). This terminal serves buses going north and east of Kota Kinabalu, including Mount Kinabalu, Sandakan, Semporna and Tawau. Shuttle from Kota Kinabalu city to Inanam is RM1.50, 20 min, departs from bus station on Jalan Padang.
From east and north of Sabah
- Sandakan, it takes 5-6 hr, RM43.50. Several express bus companies operate buses between the Kota Kinabalu North Bus Terminal and Sandakan.
- Semporna, is very far so it takes 9-10 hr to reach. Dyana Bus leaves twice daily from Inanam station around 7:30AM and 7:30PM.
- Tawau, ~9 hr, RM55. Several express bus companies operate between North Bus Terminal and Tawau. Tung Ma Express ☏ , Andisba Express ☏ , Alitopan Express ☏ , , . Buses depart Kota Kinabalu at 7AM, 8AM, 10AM, noon, 2PM.
- Mount Kinabalu and Ranau 1½-2 hr, RM25-35. All the above buses pass by the entrance of the Mount Kinabalu National Park, Kundasang and Ranau (for Poring Hot Spring). You can get off or board at these locations. You can also catch buses/minibuses doing the shorter run to Ranau.
- Brunei. There is one bus per day from Bandar Seri Begawan to Kota Kinabalu. It leaves from the waterfront in BSB at 8AM, but get there a half hour early to buy the ticket. It takes 6–8 hours and costs 45 Brunei dollars (2019). See also Kota Kinabalu to Brunei by land.
- Lawas. Sipitang Express Bus Sdn Bhd ☏ , runs one bus at 7AM daily from the City Centre bus terminal to Lawas in Sarawak. From Lawas, buses depart at 12:30PM The journey takes about 4 hr and costs RM20 one way. Lawas Bus Company also operates an express bus daily to Lawas, departing Lawas at about 8AM and returning from Kota Kinabalu City Centre terminal at 1PM. Both buses go through Beaufort and Sipitang. You can also make the journey by minivans but you may have to change at Beaufort or even at Papar and Sipitang. Catch them from the minivan station opposite Wawasan Plaza.
- Beaufort and Sipitang. Sipitang Express Bus departs the City Centre Terminal for Beaufort (1 hr 45 min, RM9) and Sipitang (2 hr 45 min, RM14) at 8:30AM, noon and 2:30PM. The 7:30AM bus to Lawas also goes through Beaufort and Sipitang. From Sipitang, buses depart at 8AM, noon, 1:30PM (bus comes through from Lawas) and 4:30PM and 1 hr later from Beaufort. Lawas Bus Company's express bus between Kota Kinabalu and Lawas. Again, you can do this do this by minivans throughout the day, although they are more frequent in the morning. You may also have to change at Papar if you cannot get a direct minivan.
- Menumbok. Multiple bus companies operate express buses between KK and Menumbok where there are ferries to Labuan. They depart frequently in the morning since 6AM from KK City Centre terminal next to the City town hall. From Menumbok, buses depart at 10:15AM and 3:15PM. One way tickets cost is RM18. Minivans also do the journey although you may have to change at Papar and Beaufort.
- Papar. Regular minivans run to this coastal town 38 km south of Kota Kinabalu.
From south-west interior
- Tambunan, Keningau and Tenom. Most public transport to this part of Sabah is by minibuses and vans which leave from the minibus station opposite Wawasan Plaza. Again, it's best to get started early 7AM. You should be able to catch a direct minibus from Kota Kinabalu to Keningau, change there for Tenom. Tenom can also be reached by train read that section below, it may be an idea to consider using train, and bus to meet your needs otherwise it may involve staying in Tenom. From Keningau to Tawau possible takes nearly 8 hours. This Sabah route is known as the Trans Borneo Highway.
The only regular access to Kota Kinabalu by sea is from Labuan. The ferry service takes about 3½ hours and costs about RM40 (2019). There are two services from Labuan to KK every day: 8:30AM and 1PM. From KK to Labuan, the ferries depart at 08:00 and 13:30. From Labuan, you can continue on to Bandar Seri Begawan in one day if you get an early start. See the Kota Kinabalu to Brunei by land page for details. Ferries from Labuan dock at 4 Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal on the northern edge of the city centre. There's a currency exchange outside the ferry terminal, but beware that the posted exchange rates are only for large bills; smaller bills have a worse exchange rate.
Kota Kinabalu is a port of call for many cruise ships passing through east Asia such as Queen Victoria, Queen Mary 2, Diamond Princess, MV Arcadia and SuperStar Virgo via cruise lines such as Cunard, Star Cruises, Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises. Cruise ships will usually dock at Kota Kinabalu Port north of Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal.
- 5 Tanjung Aru station, ☏ .
- Sabah State Railway uses air-conditioned trains on a single 134-km route from Tanjung Aru south of the city centre to Tenom in the interior via Beaufort. Four trains operate M-Sa, while on Sunday there are two trains, running between Tanjung Aru station and Beaufort, where you change trains if you want to continue your journey to Tenom. Journey time between Kota Kinabalu and Beaufort is about 2 hr, making it more attractive for travellers to take the bus for part of the journey. The train stops the following places: Kota Kinabalu (Tanjung Aru), Putatan, Kinarut, Kawang, Papar, Kimanis, Bongawan, Membakut, Beaufort, Saliwangan, Halogilat, Rayoh, Pangi and Tenom.
- The route between Halogilat to Tenom is to be upgraded works were due to start in 2018.
- Trains for Tenom run from Beaufort once a day at 7:45AM so to take the train to Tenom, you will have to stay over night in Beaufort. Full details on the refurbished train schedule are available online
- A leisure train service known as North Borneo Railway caters to tourists and uses an old steam train and designed to resemble trains in the colonial era. This is a joint venture project between Sabah State Railway and Sutera Harbour Resort. Trains only travel up to Papar. Tickets cost RM270 and RM170 for children and includes breakfast and lunch. There is road access to the Station entrance, the steam train and the diesel services operate here from the new platforms. There is an escalator to the upper levels which includes a café and a cinema.
The city centre is quite small, and you can walk from one end to the other in less than 30 min. The city is set out along a grid system with the long main roads running parallel to the nearby waterfront with intersecting roads forming the local districts within the city. As KK has grown there are dual carriageways that weave around the city on the land available and the new buildings/malls, hospitals, etc. Further from the old city centre the roads do not conform to the original grid planners used.
Safely crossing the street can be an issue, but most streets are at least equipped with sidewalks and there are pedestrian crossings on the main roads. The sidewalks in places can be uneven and the storm gutters are easy to trip or fall into. You can also walk to and from the airport (1-2 hr each way). Even the highways outside of town usually have a walking path or a wide grassy shoulder to walk on.
Short fares are around RM10, longer trips around RM20. A whole day shouldn't cost more than RM300. Haggling is absolutely vital in order to get a fair price. Many taxi drivers in Malaysia are infamous for raising their fare prices, even after a price has already been determined by thorough prior negotiation. They frequently attempt to manipulate and deceive unknowing tourists by feigning ignorance and delivering tourists to the wrong hotels, which sometimes provide kickbacks to the drivers. Mentioning a call to the authorities may resolve the situation quickly.
Grab Car operate, with rides costing RM4 for the first 3 km and RM1.2 for each sequential km. Uber merged with Grab in 2018, and they have similar functionality. Typical prices are half those of taxis and there is no need to haggle; the price is confirmed before a ride arrives and you pay cash at the end.
By bus and minibus
To travel within the city centre, the City Bus is used. The green and yellow City Bus departs from Wawasan Bus Terminal and circles the city center using 4 routes: Route 1A, 1B, 2A and 2B. City Bus fare cost RM0.50 and are quite frequent. However the conductor and driver often encourages more people to get on the bus until totally crowded before it leaves.
- Route 1A: travels along Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens until Jesselton Point and returns along Jalan Tun Razak and Jalan Coastal.
- Route 1B: travels along Jalan Coastal and Jalan Tun Razak and returns along Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens.
- Route 2A: travels along Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman via Karamunsing and Jalan KK Bypass all the way to Sabah Trade Centre in Likas and returns the same way.
- Route 2B: travels along Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman until the roundabout near Australia Place and returns the same way.
For the full list of routes, you can check the Kota Kinabalu City Bus website
Road signs in Malay
Some road signs does not have English translations. Here are some of the important ones:
Cars can easily be hired on the spot from the hire car counters in the arrivals hall in the airport. Rates can be negotiated so compare the offers. Rental companies do not offer hand-controls for the disabled. Child seats, booster seats are not provided, there is no requirement to wear rear seat belts, you will see children unbelted in the front and rear seats of vehicles. There are also many car rental companies in the city:
- JoyDrive KK - Car Rental Kota Kinabalu, Lintas Plaza, Kota Kinabalu, ☏ . Budget car rental. Online booking available.
- [dead link] Kinabalu Rent A Car, Wisma Sabah, Jln. Tun Razak, ☏ .
- Kings Car Rental Services, Jln Murni, Tanjung Aru, ☏ .
Road signs are prevalent throughout KK and Sabah. So driving within KK and towards other parts of Sabah is not difficult. There are however some signages which are only in Malay. Most signs are coloured the same to make your route planning easier. Watch out for local low down cardboard drawn signs if you are looking for flowering Rafflesia or local produce like Durian sometimes there are road side stalls but not always. Signboards in brown colour indicates recreation/places of interest. The KK city has had too build dual carriageway roads, flyovers etc. These are very busy and congested at peak times of the day. However highways leading towards other towns are for a short way dual carriageway roads then into single carriageways which might put your overtaking skills to the test especially in hilly areas. Because many roads are steep when traversing mountainous areas the roads have sudden bends along with the mist/rain and the wet roads fast driving and overtaking at the wrong point results in a lot of accidents. Be very careful when overtaking and no overtaking over double lines. You may be on holiday in a small car, but, all of Sabah's roads carry traffic for the cities and communities of Sabah from trucks and coaches to mopeds so be careful. More information on Malaysian road signs: w:Road_signs_in_Malaysia or check out the Malay phrasebook.
Highways are sometimes marked according to their numbers. The following are some of the major highways from Kota Kinabalu:
- Highway 1 (formerly A2): Highway heading south of KK towards Putatan, Kinarut, Papar, Kimanis, Beaufort, Kuala Penyu, Sipitang, Lawas, Brunei and Sarawak.
- Highway 1 (formerly A1): Highway heading north of KK towards Telipok, Tuaran, Kota Belud, Kota Marudu, Pitas and Kudat.
- Highway 22 (formerly A4): Highway heading east (from Berungis Roundabout, Tuaran) towards Tamparuli, Kundasang, Ranau, Telupid, Beluran, Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Tawau and Semporna.
- Highway 500 (formerly SA3): Highway heading east of KK towards Penampang, Tambunan, Keningau and Tenom
- GG Rent A Motorbike Provides scooters and semi automatic motorbikes for tourists at a price of RM20 (5 hours) and RM40 (whole day). They provide maps and plan your itinerary with you to maximise your schedule and minimise the time.
There are speedboat services from Kota Kinabalu to the islands in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park just off the coast of Kota Kinabalu from Jesselton Point Jetty with regular departures to Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Gaya and Pulau Sulug. There are also public departures from the Sabah Parks Jetty behind Wisma Merdeka. Two resorts, Tanjung Aru and Sutera Harbour resort have their own marine excursion shops and also run a service to the islands but it is for paying guests staying at the respective resorts. There are also speedboats for charter where travellers can have the flexibility of time and destination, There are tour operator shops in Kota Kinabalu centre or you can book via the internet. You can also visit Pulau Tiga which is south of KK and not within the marine park, the TV series Survivor was made here. There are other islands further along the coast and out to sea but the above are the easiest to visit as a tourist.
- 1 Atkinson Tower (on a hill beside Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, a few min away from the city centre). Built in 1902 in memory of Francis George Atkinson, the first district officer of Jesselton, as Kota Kinabalu was then called. He died of a tropical disease in the same year at the young age of only 28.The clock tower is one of only two structures to survive the World War II destruction of Jesselton (renamed Kota Kinabalu in 1963) the other being the Post Office building, which is now the Sabah Tourism Board building on Jalan Balai Polis. Not to be confused with the general Post Office building on Jalan Tun Razak in Segama district of KK city.
- 2 Signal Hill Observatory (15 min walk up hill from the Atkinson Clock Tower). Offers a good view of the city centre. There is a small drinks shop, it can be very busy as can the public road as it approaches sunset (around 6PM depending on the time of year).
- 3 City Park. A small park and the only park in the city center opposite the court complex. It contains the British North Borneo Memorial which commemorates the soldiers who fought and died defending the British Empire during World War I. The memorial was built in 1923.
- 4 Chinatown (Gaya Street). Located in the city centre surrounding Gaya Street and Pantai (Beach) Street. There is a Sunday market here the Market starts early 6:30AM-1PM, arrive late you will miss it. There is also a night market every Friday and Saturday from 6PM to 2AM. The area is home to Chinese shops and restaurants and together with the adjacent area around Australia Place near the city police station has the highest concentration of budget hostels in KK. The name "Chinatown" is mainly a tourism gimmick after the arch gate was erected not more than after 2005, so many locals would not know what Chinatown is. Use instead "Gaya Street".
- Stilt villages, are houses found along the coast of ethnic Bajau, Suluk, Iranun, Malays, and Ubian people. Some villages are made up of people who have been here since 15th-18th century from Sulu Archipelago (now southern Philippines) who are considered natives under Sabah law. However massive influx if new migrants from this same region beginning 1970s have occupied these same villages mostly due to similar heritage and ethnicity as these local inhabitants. Some new migrants are illegal with no proper documentation. Illegal migrants would normally occupy deeper parts of these stilt villages in slums. These slums are significantly dirtier and dangerous since the people and their homes are illegal. Stilt villages can be found in Kampung Tanjung Aru, Kampung Sembulan, Kampung Kasuapan (Pulau Gaya) and Kampung Pondo (Pulau Gaya). Since there is no real boundary between a traditional stilt village and the slum, visiting these places is generally considered dangerous and very dirty and not recommended even for locals unless accompanied by tour guides. There may be stilt villages further out of the city such as in Mengkabong which are safer and cleaner. If you are interested in slums, perhaps some speedboat drivers in Jesselton Point Jetty who live in Pulau Gaya would be pleased to show you around their stilt village for a little fee.
Sembulan & Karamunsing areas
Areas adjacent to the central part but slightly south of it.
- 5 Sembulan Riverfront (around the confluence of Sembulan and Karamunsing Rivers behind Sadong Jaya). Tiny pedestrian strip running along the river. Partly abandoned and thus doubtfully a high destination.
- 6 Double Six Monument, Grace Point, Sembulan. A memorial site on the location of the 1976 plane crash which killed the state chief minister Tun Fuad Stephens and other state cabinet members. There is a nice new food court on site called Grace Point Food Court offering local Sabah, Malaysian, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Thai and other cuisine.
- 7 Sabah State Museum, Jalan Kebajikan, ☏ . 9AM–5PM. Has 3 storeys of exhibits. A good place to understand the history of Kota Kinabalu and Sabah. The museum complex also features the Science and Technology Museum, Sabah Art Gallery and a heritage village. Sabah Art Gallery contains artworks by local artists, they also have a very well stock book shop covering everything about Sabah. RM15.
- 8 Islamic Civilization Museum, Jalan Menteri (behind Sacred Heart Cathedral and nearby the State Museum), ☏ . Has a history of Islamic civilization in Sabah. Entry on the same ticket as for Sabah State Museum.
- 9 Sacred Heart Cathedral, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman. Roman Catholic church. It is the seat of the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu and the cathedral is one of the largest in Sabah.
- 10 Sabah State Mosque, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Sembulan, ☏ . The second largest mosque in Sabah, able to hold up to 5,000 worshippers. Designed an Italian architect, its dome and minaret is decorated with real gold.
- 11 Gurdwara Sahib Sikh Temple, Jalan Mat Salleh near Sembulan. The only Sikh Gurdwara in Kota Kinabalu. To enter you’ll need to cover your head, either with a hat, or a headscarf from one of the friendly volunteers at the temple.
Tanjung Aru is "the headland", land that projects out into the sea. Tanjung Aru is a Southern District of Kota Kinabalu city. It is 8 km from the centre of KK, a 15-20 minute taxi ride (RM30 in Oct 2017) between Tanjung Aru and the KK centre. The hotel resort is completely separate. The only eating area available now is the food court near the Kota Kinabalu golf club, in the coconut grove.
- 12 Perdana Park, Jalan Mat Salleh. An 18 acres (7.3 hectares) park in Tanjung Aru featuring a light and musical water fountain, greenery, children's playground and jogging tracks. The park was built on the land formerly known as Hone Place where British government quarters stood. Fountain show starts at 7PM. Running and walking track some small food and drink outlets, free entry and water and light fountain display each evening. The car park is small and there is also a small fee to park here. Within the coconut grove between the road and the beach is a small toilet block and a very small drinks shop next to it.
- 13 Tanjung Aru Beach (Pertama Pantai, which means "First Beach" in Malay). A 20-minute drive from the city centre is the most popular public beach in the city. Usually quiet during the daytime on weekdays, at the weekend it is frequented by locals for picnics, BBQ's meetings watching the sunset and to play sports, tug of war, hand ball, kite flying and bathing. The Tanjung Aru public beach starts just behind the Tanjung Aru resort hotel and extends in a long shallow curve to the Terminal 2 of the KKIA. The curve of the beach means this part fills quickly when the tide returns and that means you will be cut off. The waters are shallow but can be 5 ft (1.5 m) deep. Just behind the beach is a grass area with palms and BBQ stations, further along is Prince Philip park, which is just a grass area with a few pop up food and drinks stalls at the entrance. The shops and bars near the main car park just off Jalan Mat Salleh were knocked down in 2016: all that remains is a food court and a toilet block. Beyond that is the KK sailing club.
- 14 Petagas War Memorial, No.1, Jalan Bandaran (about 15 minutes outside the city center off Jalan Kepayan a taxi there and back with a 30 minutes wait is RM80, less with Uber/Grab taxi), ☏ . Dedicated to the 176 members of the Kinabalu Guerrillas who attacked the Japanese occupying forces during World War II, in what was known as the "Double Tenth Revolt" (10/10/1943), who were subsequently detained and executed in Petagas. It is a small memorial and is easily viewed with 30 minutes.
Likas — a historic village, now a huge sub-section of the modern city slightly north of central Kota Kinabalu. Partly occupied by mangrove wetlands
- 15 Likas Bay promenade (along Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens). A huge several kilometres promenade, used mostly by joggers and cyclists, that run along almost all the Likas bay. It starts about 1 km north from Jesselton point and runs up to the huge building of Malaysia Sabah University on the northern end of the bay. There are plenty of food courts and several beaches on the way. One of the beaches is Likas Bay beach which is smaller and maybe a bit less pretty beach than Tanjung Aru's one. An interesting sight where the beach is surrounded by the city with a view of anchored ships off Sepanggar Port. The jogging/cycling path along the bay has been extended back into KK as far as the Imago Mall, although in parts of the city waterfront areas, it's not obvious where the path is. The path continues past the Imago Mall, as far as Jalan Mat Salleh (Dec 2017). Once out beyond Jesselton Point the path is easy to use. The areas behind the shallow waters and beach are grassed areas with palms, fitness stations and BBQ stations. In May the beach and the bay is used to hold the annual "Dragon Boat" races, it can be busy especially at the weekend more so if the weather is good. It is a good area for photography with the sweeping bay, the Floating Masjid and sunset views.
- 16 Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre (formerly known as Kota Kinabalu Bird Sanctuary), ☏ . A 24-hectare mangrove conservation area used for recreation, education and research. It is located in Likas along Jalan Bukit Bendera Upper just 5 minutes drive from city centre (15 minutes walk from Signal Hill Observatory). The area is managed by the Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society.
- 17 Kota Kinabalu City Mosque, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens. This 'floating' mosque overlooking Likas Bay is the largest mosque in the city with interesting contemporary Islamic architecture. As of June 2018, the mosque's chairman is not allowing public transport to bring tourists to the mosque compound. Getting there: by public bus, take the 8C or 8D from Platform Wisma Bandaraya (opposite of the Shell Gas Station, there are many mini-buses parked there) or pay RM8 by Grab taxi. RM 5.
- 18 Che Sui Khor Chinese Temple, Jalan Tuaran at Mile 2. Contains an interesting 12-tier pagoda and is part of the Moral Uplifting Society.
- 19 Puh Toh Tze Chinese Temple, Jalan Tuaran near Kolombong.
Much further to the east of Likas are the following sights:
- 20 Sri Pasupathinath Alayam Hindu Temple, No. 4, Jalan Khidmat, Off Jalan Kolam, Bukit Padang (about 20 minutes drive from the city). One of two Hindu temple in the city.
- 21 Tun Fuad Park (on the eastern edge of the city, 15 minutes drive from city center). Where the city meets the hilly jungles of Crocker Range. The park has 2 restaurants, hawker centers, the Water World theme park, a lake and jogging track.
- 22 Tzer Ying Buddhist Temple, Kampung Minintod Off Jalan Kolam-Minintod, 88200, Penampang,, ☏ . A pure Buddhist temple with adjacent Tzer Ying Buddhism Research Society.
- 23 Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. A collection of 5 islands (Gaya, Manukan, Sapi, Sulug and Mamutik) just off the coast of KK city. Travel by speedboat takes about 15-20 minutes depending on the island and departs from the Sabah Parks jetty behind Wisma Merdeka or from Jesselton Point Waterfront jetty. Pulau Gaya is the largest of the islands with two resorts on the far side, the eastern end has a Kampong Laut with 6000 villagers. Pulau Sapi is the closest island to Gaya and has a zip wire ride called the Coral Flyer from Gaya over to Sapi. Pulau Manukan is the second largest, 10-minute ride away from Sapi. It has a smaller overnight accommodation and has the parks office to collect fees. Pulau Mamutik is smaller and offers the same facilities as the others. Pulau Sulug is the smallest of the five. Special permission from the park authorities is required to stay overnight on Palau Tiga, made famous from the TV series Survivor and has a mud pool, it is not within the Marine park and not visited on a regular basis, so the conditions are very sparse.
- 24 Mari Mari Cultural Village, near the jungles in Kianson, Inanam about 25 minutes northwest of the city center, ☏ . Sessions start at 10AM and 2PM. From January 2018 they only run the 6PM sessions if more than 30 people are booked. Sessions comprise a guided tour for 1.5 hours (split into groups up to ten people), and a cultural dance performance 30 mins, followed by a buffet lunch or dinner. Showcases the historic culture, lifestyle, and homes of some of the 32 indigenous groups of Sabah. The village features five different ethnic tribes: the Kadazandusun rice farmers, the longhouse resident Rungus tribe, the Bajau hunters and fisherman, the Kayan tribe, and the famously feared headhunting Murut tribe. After visiting the five tribal areas there is a song and dance cultural performance, followed by standard buffet meal included, with soft drinks extra, Getting there: taxi costs around RM 50 one way, Uber/Grab cost RM 20 (however, it's not possible to order one in the opposite direction from the park as all the drivers are based in KK). It’s easier to book online or through your hotel a package of entry and transport for around RM180. RM 90 entrance, expect to pay double once transport is factored in.
- 25 Kokol Hills, Menggatal. Offers a very nice view of Kota Kinabalu, the coasts and the sea from about 30 km away. The hills are pretty undeveloped but the road is good and new. As of January 2012, there is only one resort and restaurant called Kasih Sayang Resort. Kokol is also fast becoming a hotspot for paragliding. Info on paragliding in Sabah.
- 26 St. Michael's Church, Donggongon, Penampang. It was completed after 1945-1948 the large granite block were dragged to the site by buffalo and then dressed on site. It retains its old-style architecture. This church has stained glass window that commemorate the lives lost during World War II.
- 27 Monsopiad Cultural Village, Kampung Kuai Kandazon, Peti Surat 740 Malaysia, Penampang, ☏ . 9AM–5PM. It's about a 30-miunite drive from KK city in the district of Panampang, near Lok Kawi Zoo. This small park shows the traditional way of life of the Kadazan ethnic groups and tells the story of Monsopiad, a Murut warrior who lived some 300 years ago, who killed 42 men who attacked his village. The 42 skulls can be viewed in the Hall of Skulls.
Getting there: hire a taxi from Kota Kinabalu and arrange to be picked up. The rate varies, ask and agree a price before travelling. Entrance fee is RM50 for non-Malaysian adults, RM10 for non-Malaysian children.
- 28 Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, near the small town of Lok Kawi (about 30 minutes south of Kota Kinabalu), ☏ . 9:30AM-5:30PM. It features five female orangutans, Proboscis Monkeys, one female Gibbons, a Sumatran Rhinoceros, two tigers, local deer, various birds in a large aviary the Hornbills are impressive up close and in flight, eight elephants, and two sun bears. A reptile section will be opened soon. An alternative to visiting the nature reserves around Sabah for those on a tight schedule, as well as giving you the chance to see the animals much more up close than you would in the jungle.
The overall appearance of the zoo is very poor and nowhere near the standards of the Singapore zoo, this is due to funding, visitor numbers and the weather. The shop/café has closed, so there are pop up stalls in the main car park. Feeding time is at 2PM so try to arrive early to see that, you will not need more than two hours to walk around the zoo.
Getting there: it is a little difficult to get to as there is no public transportation that goes right to the park, and it is about 10 min drive outside of Lok Kawi (and about half an hour outside of Kota Kinabalu). Take a 17B or 17C bus to Lok Kawi town at RM3 a head, then a local taxi for around RM12-15 to the park. It is advisable to get the phone number of the taxi driver or arrange pickup from the park at a set time to go back to Lok Kawi as there are no taxis or buses at the park. Alternatively pay some RM100-120 to have a taxi take you there from Kota Kinabalu and back. Entrance fee: RM30 for adults, RM10 for children, half-price for Malaysians.
- 29 Crocker Range National Park, ☏ . 8AM-5PM. The park is 75 km long and 15 km wide, with elevation ranging between 100 m and 2050 m at the peak of Mt. Alab. Most of the park is covered with forest. Getting there: take a bus to Keningau from the long distance bus station near Merdeka Field, depart 7AM, 8AM, 10AM, noon, 1PM, 2PM and 5PM, fare is RM16. Taxi to Keningau costs RM120. After reaching Keningau take another taxi to the Crocker Range station, it costs about RM40. Admission fee: RM10, Malaysian RM3.
- The northern coast of Kota Kinabalu is contains undisturbed scenic geographical features including 30 Karambunai and Dalit Beach and behind these beaches is a lagoon-type estuary containing Mengkabong and Salut rivers. 31 The Lagoon Park in Karambunai could be a good place to start in order to explore this area as there are boat rides or jet-skis for rent. 32 The Mengkabong water village is also an interesting sight to explore. Salut contains two popular seafood reastaurants by the lagoon/lake in Salut called Salut Seafood and Gayang Seafood. Nearby 33 Tamparuli Suspension Bridge is something different, and 34 Borneo Kellybays offers various watersports and camping activities around mangrove forest, river and beach.
- 35 Tambalang Racecourse, ☏ . Ahorse-racing track operated by Royal Sabah Turf Club in Tuaran.
Scuba diving & snorkelling
Try dives, leisure diving, technical diving and snorkelling are all available from Kota Kinabalu.
Several interesting dive sites can be enjoyed as day trips from Kota Kinabalu with nearby World War II wrecks accessible for scuba diving. Some are in the 24-45 m depth range whilst other wrecks are only suitable for technical diving. Advanced and basic diver training courses are run from Kota Kinabalu by several dive centre operators.
- Usukan Bay near Pulau Mantanani, suitable for recreational diving. Located near the fishing port of Kota Belud 30 nautical miles north of Kota Kinabal these dive sites are ideal day trips from Kota Kinabalu. Boat trips north from Kota Kinabalu normally depart from Sutera Harbour Marina or Jesselton Point and take approximately 2 hr. These dives are only suitable for divers that already have PADI Advanced Open Water Diver or similar certification and some previous wreck diving experience is advised. There are three popular wrecks spread over a distance of about one kilometre lying 7 n.m. offshore.
- Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park offers many snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities between 20 and 30 min from Kota Kinabalu by boat. Dive operators depart from the Jesselton Point Jetty and Sutera Harbour Marina. Islands and beaches are beautiful, even though the water color is very green and not transparent. Underwater visibility can be an issue around the entire park: It sometimes drops below 3 m due to dirty river water from Mt. Kinabalu by everyday-pouring rain. If you are used to snorkelling or diving in good visibility, you may be disappointed.
- The Gaya wreck lies in 50 m of water within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and is a 30-min boat ride from Kota Kinabalu. The wreck is thought to be that of the Japanese ship Nittetsu Maru.
- Mayne Rock has large white boulders rising 7 m-15 m from the ocean floor and is surrounded by a coral reef.
- Palau Tiga offers coral reef dives.
- Scuba Junkie KK, G23a, Ground Floor, Wisma Sabah, ☏ , , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 8AM-6PM daily. 5 Star Gold Palm IDC PADI Licensed Dive Operator. Arranges daily dive and snorkel trips to over 15 islands in the Kota Kinabalu (KK) area including the world famous KK Marine Park (Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park) which features 5 amazing islands including Gaya Island and Sapi Island. Whale Shark Dives in the blue and wreck diving also available. PADI dive courses from Discover Scuba Diver up to Instructor.
- Borneo Dream, F-G-1 Plaza Tanjung Aru, Jl. Mat Salleh, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. A boat transfer service is available to Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park for snorkelling or diving trips. Over 20 sites for diving and protected areas for snorkelling. Suitable for day trips. Goes to four of the main wreck dive sites on a regular basis. PADI Dive Boat, 10mx4m catamaran and a 9mx3m RIB, SDI resort dive centre, BSAC diver training centre, TDI resort dive centre and IANTD facility. Also offer SCR courses and training certified via the PADI with both a semi closed rebreather diver speciality course and closed circuit rebreather (CCR) training courses.
- Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures, Lot B-3-12, Kota Kinabalu Times Square, Jl. Coastal, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre is based on Gaya Island in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. The dive centre offers learn to dive courses, advanced courses from PADI Advanced Open Water Diver up to PADI Master Instructor & PADI Course Director, snorkelling, sea kayaking and jungle trekking. 1 on multi-day diving in the TAR Park and diving Pulau Tiga. Island facilities caters to individuals, groups and corporate events. High staff-to-diver ratios with professional, highly trained & experienced staff and quality, regularly serviced gear and equipment.
- Sabah Divers, G27, Ground Floor, Wisma Sabah, ☏ , , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. 8:30AM-5:30PM daily. Provide SDI courses in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. Diving tours to popular dive destinations all over Borneo, such as Sipadan and Layang Layang. Tunku Abdul Rahman fun dive packages available departing Jesselton Point Jetty including equipment, boat transfers and 2-3 dives. No shower facility. Guests will be left alone to walk back to the office after TAR fun diving. Beware - they ask credit card numbers including CVC for advanced booking. Notorious for arrogant office staff.
- Sensi Borneo Diving Resort & Tours (Diving Live-Aboard ‘Orient Explorer’), ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Provide scuba diving trips and PADI courses. Also operate the 796 ton, 56.6-m motor yacht Orient Explorer as a live aboard and floating hotel off shore from Kota Kinabalu. It was launched in 1943 and has a dive deck, passenger cabins including family cabins, luxury and economy cabins, a restaurant, bar, lounge and a sick bay. The dive services offer a full range of PADI scuba diving courses from open water, divemaster, technical diving and rebreather courses. Trips to the Usukan Bay wreck dives and many other dive sites are available.
Deep sea fishing
Kota Kinabalu is also one of the best and cheapest places in Malaysia for exciting deep sea fishing trips. Boats depart from the makeshift jetty next to the Kota Kinabalu Central Market, the boats are to be found behind the small night market/parking lot.
Trips of all kinds can be arranged with the charter operators. Popular options include day trips that go for prices that start from around RM 2,000/boat and 2-day, 1-night or 3-day, 2-night trips (you sleep on the boat) that go from RM 3,000/boat. Most boats take around 10 persons per trip. Locals usually head to the Mengalum and Mantanani islands or near some oil rigs that are all a few hours away from Kota Kinabalu. Beginners can also opt for shorter trips to fish in a shipwreck off Gaya Island. For the very adventurous and advanced anglers, there are also several fishing competition held annually. The most popular one is the Labuan IGFA Competition which is usually held around the Layang Layang island (Swallow Reef) area. The trips for this competition last for almost 1 week and cost at least RM 15,000/boat.
The boats are mostly pretty rudimentary medium-sized wooden fishing vessels, don't expect any luxury or too much comfort for those prices. Basic toilets are available on board, but you won't be able to shower for the duration of the trip. Basic meals are also usually available and included in the hire price. Rental of fishing equipment can also be arranged by most of the boat charter providers. Do ensure that life vests are provided for all occupants well before setting out.
If you want to check out the boats before you head out, just drop by the open air parking lot near the Central Market and Hyatt Hotel, most of the for hire fishing boats are parked there. You can also see some of the catch for yourself when the boats return from their trips at around 2PM. You will probably see more boats coming and going on Sunday or Monday.
- Borneo Crystal Sdn. Bhd. (Borneo Crystal), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Offering private charters, diving trips, island and sunset cruises as well as deep-sea fishing tours on a 60-ft American Sport Fishing Yacht. The boat is berthed in one of the most beautiful marinas in South-East Asia - Sutera Harbour Marina.
- 7 star fishing. A more expensive option but the website has some nice pictures and videos to give you a glimpse of what you can expect from a fishing trip in Kota Kinabalu
- Mr. K.K. Law, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A budget friendly option popular with the locals. The boat owner himself will be happy to come on the trip himself or help you arrange for more people to fill up the boat if your group doesn't have enough people. From RM2,000.
White water rafting
The nearest place for rafting would be on Kiulu River, Tamparuli, about 1 hour away from KK in the district of Tuaran. The white water is classified Grade 1-2 which is suitable for beginners and children. A more adventurous rafting experience is Padas River near Tenom which is about 2-3 hours south from Kota Kinabalu. Padas is classified as Grade 3-4. There are many tour companies offering day packages for rafting in Kiulu and Padas and would normally include return transfer and meals.
Wetland river cruise
Klias River is in the Klias Wetland Mangrove Forest Reserve which is located on the Kuala Penyu district headland made up of riverine mangrove about 2-2½ hours away from KK. The cruise offers visitors a chance to see various wildlife including the proboscis monkeys, crocodile, monitor lizards, Kingfishers and fireflies once it is dark.
The New Sabah Times (Sabah's newspaper) reported in May 2017 that the Klias river tours were in steep decline from a lack of tourists and were requesting assistance from local government for continued support. Although this decline is affecting tourist numbers the local guides also benefit less. This maybe the ideal time to visit and enjoy the wetlands while it is quiet. There are also other river safaris nearby Klias in Garama and Weston which are also interesting in their own right albeit slightly further away from KK.
Sailing and yachting
The main starting point for sailing or boating is in Sutera Harbour Marina which has 104 berths. Yacht charter is offered by North Borneo Yachting. Tel: +60 88-318888 Kinabalu Yacht Club [dead link] in Tanjung Aru offer various boating activities, tel: +60 88 240070
Likas Sports Complex is the main sporting venue in Kota Kinabalu and Sabah. The complex includes a soccer stadium and fields, hockey fields, badminton courts, tennis courts, squash courts, swimming pool, gymnasium, and many more. The complex also play host many local, regional and international sports event.
There are also many golf courses in Kota Kinabalu including the Sabah Golf and Country Club (18-hole) in Bukit Padang, Kinabalu Golf Club (11-hole) in Tanjung Aru, Sutera Harbour Golf Club (27-hole), Karambunai Golf and Country Club (18-hole) and Shangri-La Rasa Ria resort Dalit Bay Golf and Country Club (18-hole). Driving range available in Lintas and Likas.
- Golf Academy Borneo, 1st Floor, Likas Golf Driving Range, Jl. Istiadad, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Private golf lessons with British PGA-accredited professional golf tutors, short game clinics, kids golf clinics and a Junior Programmes.
- Sabah Extreme Sport Association (bike, blade, and board). Skateboarding, Inline Skating and BMX stunts with extreme sports community group in Kota Kinabalu.
- Trinity Self-Defence, Lot 12 1st Floor Likas Plaza, Phase 1, Mile 4 1/2 Jl. Tuaran 8. Learn some self-defence skills at a Kota Kinabalu Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Gym classes include Brazilian jiu-jitsu, CMB, Judo and Shootfighting. Experienced trainers. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- 1 Ultimate (Frisbee), Tue & Thu: Pertama Pantai (1st Beach) Tanjung Aru district. Tanjung Aru Rugby Field (on the beach and field near KKIA Terminal 2 in Tanjung Aru), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Tu Th 6:30PM-8PM, Su 4PM- 6PM. Frisbee for all ages and abilities. Show up with enthausiasm and a basic knowledge of Ultimate rules and enjoy a game with the Ultimate players of Sabah. Free.
Festival and events
- Harvest Festival, a festival celebrating the harvesting of the rice paddy fields by the Kadazandusun people, called in Bahasa Kadazandusan (Language of Kadazan & Dusun people, accepted as Kadazandusan by KDCA in Malaysia) and accepted in the Malay/Kadazandusun press as Pesta Kemataan. Typically Pesta Kemataan is held during the end of May into early June every year. It is the only harvest festival/pesta kemataan held in Malaysia. One of the most popular venues to witness the celebration is in KK city at the KDCA centre,(KadazanDusun Cultural Association)in Penampang district of KK city.The festival is held to celebrate the sacrifice of their goddess Saviour Hurninodun who by her actions saved them from famine. They also thank their creator Deities Kinoingan and Sumundo for giving them their sacred rice crop.Events include "Unduk Ngadau" beauty pageant, cultural dances, food, and drinking tapai a (traditional rice alcoholic) drink made from rice. The event is widely covered within the press and radio programmes, local malls have "Display teams " performing traditional dance, also they are seen performing within the larger hotels and resorts. The girls and young women wear various traditional clothes from their local districts within Sabah with coloured beaded and metal adornments to denote their status single; married men wear a similar dress code for each separate Sabahan tribe or culture they are from.
- City Run, annual marathon held around March or April.
- Likas Bay , Taman Awam Teluk Likas (Dragon Boat Racing/Meeting in May.) (Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens).
Popular souvenirs include coffee and all sorts of foods made from durian.
- 1 Filipino Market, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen (Next to the waterfront). Synonymous with pearls, local handicrafts, home decorations and lately crystals. Don't forget to bargain for good prices. You can also find souvenirs such as keychains, t-shirts with Sabah themes, carved wooden statues, batiks and sarongs, rattan handicraft and floor mats, Islamic calligraphy and broaches. Some of the items are imported from Australia and others from neighboring Asian countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Korea, and there is little actual Sabah handicraft available; however, it is a very colorful place that will stay in your memory as a 'souvenir' from Sabah.
- 2 Sunday market, Jalan Gaya from Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen to Jalan Bandaran. With everything from Malaysian delicacies, ground coffee, t-shirts, handicrafts, hardware to anything in between at bargain prices. A particular focus on clothing and jewelry. Held every Sunday morning, 6AM-1PM, along Jl. Gaya right in the heart of town.
- 3 Borneo Art Gallery, ☏ . Located in Asia City Complex, contain art works by local and regional artists. Art works are for sale.
- 4 Night Food Market, ☏ . 17ː30-23ː00 daily. Maybe think twice before going overboard on ordering some of the food items here due to the hygiene and smell, but this is an interesting wet market with a wide variety of fruit and seafood and other food selections. A very high energy place. Prepare to be approached by touts.
- 5 1Borneo Hypermall, Jalan Sulaman, ☏ . 10AM–10PM. 30 minutes north of Kota Kinabalu city centre. The following hotels: Tune Hotel, Novotel hotel, Mercure hotel, Best Western Hotel and Courtyard Hotel are here.
- 6 Suria Sabah, 1, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens, ☏ . 10AM–10PM. One of the cleanest and modern malls in Sabah, it is between Wisma Merdeka and Jesselton Point. The food court has indoor and outdoor seating, cheap and tasty meals, and views of the sea and Pulau Gaya. Shops consist of mainly branded goods compared to other malls in KK. On the 7th floor is the "Glass" restaurant with a large outdoor seating/drinking deck overlooking the city. It can be extremely hot on the deck during the day, and very busy in the early evening. But food and service are very good and the prices reasonable. They also have a cinema on level eight.
- 7 IMAGO Shopping Mall, Off Coastal Highway, ☏ . 10AM–10PM. Huge shopping mall with 54 food outlets, most on the ground level. The "Heritage" food court is on the 4th or 5th level and not very clean compared to the rest of the stunning mall. There is a large car park with overhead red/green lighting showing if spaces are vacant, for access to the Mall and the Gleneagles hospital. There are hotels, shops, apartments and a police station all attached to the main KK Times complex with the Imago mall in the centre. On the ground floor, be privy to displays and seasonal events including a winter wonderland and dance routines related to the Pesta Kemataan festival in May. There is a cinema on the upper level.
- 8 Wisma Merdeka, Jalan Tun Razak. One of the oldest and smallest malls but still very popular. Ideal shopping centre for cheaper goods over five floors, at a fraction of the price of Suria Sabah shops. Travel shops and a good cultural shop on the ground floor.
- 9 Kompleks Karamunsing, Jalan Karamunsing. An older but large mall that specializes in computers and electronics.
- 10 Centre Point Sabah, 1, Jalan Centre Point. A large mall adjacent to Asia City, Api-Api, Warisan Square and Sinsuran. Easy parking within the centre with access to all floors. Two money exchange kiosks and a western food court and a large choice of shops selling all you would need but very little for tourists.
- Oceanus Mall, Jln. Tun Fuad Stephens Kota Kinabalu Sabah (Waterfront Kota Kinabalu). A modern clean mall opened in 2016. It has a foyer for festival displays. Most shops are low end. Several food outlets on the lower levels. A Hard Rock Café on the 1st floor with a outdoor seating area provides an eating outlet and live music entertainment in the evenings. At the rear of the mall is a large decking area that links the mall to the waterfront food outlets.
Kota Kinablu is a cultural melting pot. Here Chinese meet Malays and Bruneis, Javanese, Filipinos and even a couple of Europeans, all of whom have brought along their own cuisine. Try out the many specialties offered at the various kedai kopi (often in buffet form making it easy to order) and shun fast food chains.
For meals, head to the outdoor food stalls fronting the sea or coffee shops along the streets. The less adventurous could make a beeline for fast food outlets in the Centrepoint shopping centre while those with deeper pockets could try the pier-side restaurants just after the open air fish market. The promenade restaurants between the Filipino Craft Market and the fish market are poor value and only frequented by tourists. Try SEDCO Square in the evening for top value.
- Fook Yuen, a nice, clean, modern-looking kopitiam with self-service concept offering various types of food such as dim sum, pick-yourself dishes, nasi lemak, and roti kahwin (bread, butter and kaya). They have branches in Gaya Street, Karamunsing Capital and Damai (original branch). All branches serve halal food except Damai branch.
- Kah Hiong, specialises in "ngau chap" noodles (beef soup noodles). Offers a variety of beef parts such as beef brisket, stomach, stew, omasum, tongue, etc. The main branch is in Kolam Center (Hilltop) in Lintas.
- Kak Nong, serves Malay/Malaysian food located in Harbour City opposite Sutera Harbour. The restaurant won the Sabah Tourism Award 2007 for the category Best Kopi Tiam.
- Man Tai Restaurant - in Likas, Dah Yeh Villa. Beaufort-style fried noodles. They serve Chinese style a-la carte dishes as well.
- Peppermint, a fast-food concept restaurant serving Vietnamese food. Try the spicy chicken rice and beef stew. They have 3 branches: Gaya Street, Asia City and Karamunsing Capital.
- Pete's Corner, in Asia City in the heart of Kota Kinabalu. A breakfast place which specialises in steaks and other western dishes for RM10-18.
- Indo Food, on 2nd floor, Wisma Merdeka (near food court), is a nice small restaurant serving spicy Indonesian food. Popular dishes include nasi penyet, ikan asam pedas and soto bakso. A little bit expensive, but not exactly mid-range.
- Salim Lintas Square (approximately 20-min drive from the city). Supper spot specialising in many local "mamak" foods and delicacies including the Malaysian roti styled bread, cooked over an open flat iron skillet which is bathed in oil. The meal along with a cup of Teh Tarik Madras would range at around RM5-8.
- Restoran Taufik, located in Kampung Air (opposite Shell), serves cheap Javanese/Malay food such as soto (beef soup), bakso and rojak. More branches in Inanam and Putatan.
- Yu Kee's Bak Kut Teh, along the famous Gaya Street, its a Chinese operated restaurant that serves pork dishes for dinner time only (usually opens after 4PM until night time). A small single dish costs about RM4, soup top up is free. All types of pork meat and organs served with special Chinese herb soup.
- Wah Juan, is popular for their "chu chap" noodles (noodles served with pork and pork innards). It's in Pekan Tanjung Aru facing the main road (Jalan Mat Salleh). Served only in the morning and finishes by 11AM. The small restaurant is always crowded and patrons may need to wait for an empty table.
- Yuit Cheong Coffee Shop. 昌悅, 50, Jl. Pantai. Satay and cosy environment.
- Badben, Gaya Street. 7AM till late. A small clean café that serves a mix of Asian and some Western food, cold drinks and beer at 10AM with breakfast. Friendly, helpful staff.
- 1 Night Market (Satay Legend Lok Kawi 1), Jalan Gaya, ☏ . Friday and Saturday 6PM–2AM. An outdoor street market with street food and music.
- Anjappar, ☏ . 10:30AM-3:30PM and 5:30PM-10PM. Asia City Complex (facing Api Api centre, diagonally across the street from CentrePoint). Chettinad (North and South Indian) cuisine. Serves authentic Indian food such as banana leaf meals, biriyani, naan and roti, tandoori dishes, and dosai. Prices range from RM3.50-RM10.00. Anjappar is an Indian franchise with branches in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sri Lanka and Canada.
- Choice, serving mainly Indian Muslim food as well as other Malaysian food. Their briyani rice is quite popular. Branches in Taman Millenium, Kepayan and in the city center opposite Wisma Merdeka.
- 2 El Centro, 32 Jalan Haji Saman (Opposite Wisma Merdeka). noon-midnight. Popular cafe restaurant with tourists and expats. Has regular themed nights such as Mexican Monday, Tequilla/Taco Tuesday and Wednesday’s Pub Quiz.
- Grazie Ristorante, ☏ . Wawasan Plaza Complex, (Next to Tang Dynasty Hotel). An Italian restaurant. Serves no pork.
- Jeff De Corner, Grd Flr, Luyang Ph 6, Shophouse (approximately 15 min from the city), ☏ (reservation). Dishes include lamb and beef steak, oxtail soup, lamb shank, BBQ lamb and the exclusive Wagyu beef steak.
- Hi Seoul, pretty good Korean restaurant in Likas Square near Sabah Trade Center.
- Jothy's Fish Head Curry and Banana Leaf Restaurant, Api Api Centre. An eat with your hands restaurant. A chicken dish RM8, a mango lassie RM4. Fish head curry, fish cutlets, fried fish pieces, chicken nasi biryani, assam soup and dried bitter gourd. They'll bring you a spoon and fork if you wish. Ask for a banana leaf (for additional 50 cents) and eat with your hands. English menu.
- Little Italy (opposite Wisma Merdeka), ☏ . The most popular Italian restaurant in Kota Kinabalu. Usually crowded during lunch and dinner by locals and foreigners. Operated by an Italian man.
- Kohinoor, ☏ . North Indian food by the waterfront. Claims to have invented the "Chicken Cheese Tandoori Tikka". Indoor and alfresco seating.
- Nok Thai, ☏ . Located in Damai Plaza in Luyang, is perhaps the best Thai restaurant in Kota Kinabalu.
- Old Town White Coffee a modern kopitiam franchise from Ipoh with branches in Menara Jubili on Gaya Street, Karamunsing Capital and others. Popular for their 'hor fun' noodle soup, nasi lemak and, of course, their white coffee. The biggest kopitiam chain in Malaysia.
- The Stonebridge Galley Provides all day English Breakfast.
- Charles Cafe Halal food and drink.
- Sushi Tei, a Singaporean-based sushi franchise with branches throughout Asia Pacific. Reasonably good food and price. Located in Ground Floor, Suria Sabah.
- Tambayan at Kainang Filipino, ☏ . A Filipino restaurant offering typical Filipino dishes such as lechon kawali, sisig, crispy pata, etc. Located in Block 3, Api-Api Centre.
- 3 Tavern Kitchen & Bar, Lot G-93, Imago Shopping Mall, KK Times Square Phase 2, Jalan Coastal (Opposite Soho Bar, same row as Starbucks on ground floor of Imago Mall), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Su-Th 10AM-midnight, F Sa Holiday Eve 10AM-2AM. Fusion restaurant utilising Sabahan ingredients such as tuhau, buah tarap, bambangan, Sabah seaweed and salted fish as a twist to classic Western and local cuisine. No pork served. Daily shows include live band featuring celebrity singer Esther Applunius, belly dancing, traditional Sumazau and Magunatip bamboo dance, blowpipe performance, Argentine Tango and fire juggling flair bartenders. Recommended to make a reservation as it is often fully booked. RM20 and above for main course.
- Souled Out, KK Times Square Imago Mall rear ground floor.. If you are driving in to the Imago KK Times Square there is a one way system that takes you around the whole complex, just as your exiting , going down the OUT ramp the "Souled Out" restaurant is on your left. It is best to drive in park up and then walk through the mall on the ground floor to the restaurant. It can get very busy early evening so you may have too wait for a table, prices are reasonable, menu is Sabahan, Chinese, and fish-based so do not expect Western food the menu is a picture menu so if you are not sure ask. The service is polite and very good, Malay/English and Chinese spoken by staff. A pleasant lively location, just run in doors when it rains
- 4 Gaya Vegetarian, Lot 53, Ground Floor, Jalan Gaya. Vegetarian Chinese restaurant with large portions, especially the soups.
- Bella Italia, ☏ . 69 Jl. Gaya. (Under the Jesselton Hotel in Kota Kinabalu's business area). Italian restaurant serving pizzas and pastas and if you get there early there are discounts.
- Ferdinand`s Italian restaurant (At the Magellan Sutera Harbour Hotel), ☏ . Italian restaurant an Sutera Harbour hotel, next to the international airport.
- Nagisa, a Japanese restaurant in Hyatt Regency.
Seafood in Kota Kinabalu is very popular, so getting a dose of it is a must. Here are some places to try:
- Kampung Nelayan Floating Seafood Market Restaurant, ☏ . 10 min drive away from Kota Kinabalu city, this seafood restaurant is built within a botanical park/lake using Malay architecture. There is a nightly cultural performance with a fire show performed during the weekends.
- New Gaya Seafood Restaurant (next to Gaya Sports Recreation Centre), ☏ . One of the most visited seafood restaurant by locals. Prices are fixed and maybe 20%-30% cheaper than some city seafood restaurants. Deep fried crabs with egg yolk & butter prawn. Highly recommended for visitors who have spare time.
- Ocean Seafood Restaurant, next to the Promenade Hotel and Parkson Grand. The restaurant faces the coastline. You can take a pick on your seafood orders by the fishtanks, or if you prefer, you can let the waiters recommend at your table.
- Portview Seafood Restaurant, There are 2 branches of this in Kota Kinabalu. One of them is opposite Centrepoint Shopping Centre, called The Waterfront. This one is quite new, a very popular place for tourists and orders can be taken either way similar to Ocean Restaurant. This restaurant is nestled amongst other popular nightlife hangouts, mostly bars and clubs, but also cafes like CoffeeBean. The other older one is in front of a pier.
- Salut Seafood Restaurant, It takes about 20 min car journey from the city centre to Salut where the restaurant is located near the Sepanggar Bay and Telipok. It is a famous place for cheaper seafood dishes as the prawns are bred by the restaurant owner.
- Sutera Rimba. 7PM-midnight.
- Welcome Seafood, ☏ . A popular seafood restaurant with 2 branches in Asia City Complex and in the deep suburbs in Bundusan. Usually packed due to cheap price and decent food. (Asia City)
The main entertainment areas in Kota Kinabalu can be found in KK Waterfront (opposite Warisan Square) and Times Square. Other areas include Pantai Street, Jalan Datuk Salleh Sulong. There are also smaller bars concentrated in the areas of Inanam, Likas, Donggongon and Penampang Baru, these areas are out of the KK city and are not within walking distance of KK city centre they are more local district centres. Types of drinking places popular in Kota Kinabalu are café/coffee shops for breakfast, open air bars, karaoke joints and a few nightclubs. Nightclubs and bars have live bands performing almost everyday except Mondays. Some karaoke joints have private rooms for big groups who prefer some privacy. Some nightclubs and karaoke bars have hostesses especially for male customers in exchange for buying them 'ladies drink'. Intuition would be needed if you need to look for or avoid these establishments as they are not explicit.
- Cock & Bull Bistro. Winner of Best Entertainment Outlet awards for Night Spot Experience 3 times (2005, 2007, 2009). Located on the waterfront facing the South China sea with cool sea breezes and a beautiful view of the sunset. Featuring a live band, 2 projector screens and an pool table.
- Sky Blu Bar. Good and relatively inexpensive (happy hour 5-8pm) roof top bar from which to watch the sunset, with great views over the islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Entry though Hotel Grandis and take lift to R (13th floor)
- Shenanigan Fun Pub, Located at ground floor of the Kinabalu Hyatt Regency.
- 1 Shamrock Irish Bar, The Waterfront Lot 6. Range of beers and very good food. The usual warm welcome from the staff, varied English/Western menu including typical Sunday lunch menu. Outdoor seating area under the shade is small, the unshaded deck area is larger but can be extremely hot, A/con in doors. Pleasant polite attentive staff, food and drinks arrive promptly, clean toilets, a good atmosphere, taxi rank across the street, staff wave and taxis come to the bar door to collect you.
- Sunset Bar, at Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort (STAR), one of the best places to drink and catch the sunset. An expensive RM30 per small 300ml beer. This bar area since 2016 has been strictly controlled access and for the hotel guests only. There is a minimum current spend per customer of RM60 and seating has to be pre-booked this also applies to the hotel guests. There are 495 rooms at the resort so the Sunset bar gets very busy around 6PM to view the sunset. Security is present and they have good cctv security for those who try to visit without permission. Generally a pleasant experience with the flying fish and the occasional dolphin passing the bar area, overall a good atmosphere.Non residents are allowed in but have to report to the front desk to sign in.
- Chocolate Factory, a funky club in Times Square with live band. Popular with younger crowds.
- Cocoon Restaurant & Bar, One of Kota Kinabalu's most notable nightspots. It is a relaxed bar in the day and a lively bar/club by night, with the action carrying on into the small hours.
- Bee Kim KTV, Sadong Jaya around Karamunsing area.
- Strawberry KTV, Segama and Central market.
- Razz-Ma-Tazz, Just outside the central business district along Jl. Tuaran, it is one of the largest and most popular nightclubs in the city. Features two rooms, the larger one, Z'Razz, features a live band rotated with DJ spinning mainly hip-hop tracks. The smaller room, Zuave, plays mainly house, trance, and other dance tracks.
- Bed. Located on the Promenade near the night markets. One room with a cover band, pool table and DJ.
- BB Cafe, at Jalan Pantai (Beach Street) has an interesting setting under a huge canopy with occasional events.
- Firefly Bar & Grill, Live band in Kota Kinabalu Times Square. Hot place to hang out, dance and chill.
- 2 Upperstar. A popular local dining and drinking joint with branches near Hyatt (see map), Suria Sabah, Damai and Likas.
- White Room, perhaps the hippest and glamorous club in KK where people go to be seen. Prices are slightly expensive. Located in Times Square.
- 3 October coffee house. Nice espresso coffees, smoothies and cakes in pleasant air-con environment.
- Santan, Waterfront Kota Kinabalu (Next to Oceanus Mall, jalan Tun Fuad Stephens). The Irish/Shamrock bar and the Santan have the same owners. The Santan has super quick service and the food is hot and tasty. Tuaran noodles is beautiful, a cold beer and the view make for a perfect visit The waterfront has a policy among the outlets. You can sit where you like, order food from any of the food outlets. But you order and pay for your beer from one outlet or pay up and move next door.
- Hard Rock Cafe (Oceanus Mall), Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens. Inside the Oceanus Mall on the first floor. The ground floor brings you in to the rock shop. Go up the stairs to the restaurant sit indoors or keluar dodok and enjoy the food , drinks, atmosphere and the view, oh yeah the music! It is A/C cool indoors, they have an external balcony with views across the harbour and sunset views at about 6PM. Really good food, service, drinks, views. Oh yeah the toilets are very clean. They have live bands.
Kota Kinabalu has accommodation from expensive to cheap. This is such a changing price market the best way to check prices is the internet pages such as Sabahbah.com, MySabah.com Sabah tourism.com, or Trip Advisor searches until you find the price you want.
- 1 Akinabalu Youth Hostel, Lot 133, Jalan Gaya, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Rundown budget hostel. Two computers with free internet access, TV and DVD, and free breakfast. A/C costs extra and is only from 5PM to 10AM. Dorm RM20-30, double RM70-80.
- 2 Asia Adventure Lodge, 112, Jalan Gaya, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Smaller hostel with a friendly family feel located right in the heart of town next to Internet cafe, banks, travel agents, supermarkets and nightlife, plus the colourful and deliciously diversified Sunday Market. Free Wi-Fi. Fan dorm RM17, A/C RM22, single RM40, double RM58.
- Borneo Adventure Center and Lodge, ☏ , ✉ Borneoadventurecenter@yahoo.com. Double, triple as well as backpackers dormitory beds. All rooms have fan, A/C at night and either a common or an ensuite shower room with hot water shower. Self service kitchen equipped with refrigerator, microwave oven, stove, toaster, coffee making facilities, CCTV security, electronic card access system, in-house laundry service, cable TV at the lobby, Wi-Fi. Rates inclusive of simple breakfast (toast with coffee/tea). Dorm RM21, twin or dbl room RM55.
- 3 Borneo Backpackers, 24 Lorong Dewan (In central Kota Kinabalu, not far from Gaya street), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Clean bathroom, toilets, pantry area, internet, laundry, cosy lounge area, roof garden deck, 24-hr security, and a tour information counter. Friendly, helpful and knowledgeable local staff. A/C or fan rooms. Large dormitory with 10 beds, medium dormitory 4-6 beds and private rooms. Each room has small storage compartment for personal items. Dorm RM35, single RM60, double RM80.
- 4 Borneo BeacHouse Backpackers, 122 Lorong Ikan Lais, Jalan Mat Salleh, Tanjung Aru (Now that all flights go to Terminal 1 you will be forced to go to the bus station and from there you can take buses 16A-B-C (ask to be drop near Tanjung Aru beach and then you walk).), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Fairly good backpackers hostel. Located far outside the city next to Tanjung Aru Beach(good for sunset). Staff are friendly. Good wifi, hot water. Located near some hawker stalls where you can get cheap Malay food for RM5-6. During the day the beach is empty and you can enjoy free. Fan dorm RM29, A/C dorm RM39 (after tax).
- 5 Borneo Gaya Lodge, 78 Jalan Gaya (Nearby to Sunday street-market in central of Kota Kinabalu.), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. First opened 2008. Bed sheet and towel, free hot & cold drinking water, complimentary breakfast. Spacious carpeted living area with LCD TV (AstroChannel) but without window, free WiFi, books and a small kitchen with refrigerator. No curfew and 24 hr security with CCTV and computerised door lock. Friendly staff. Tour information available. A/C dorm RM25, double room RM69.
- 6 Borneo Global Backpackers, Lorong Karamunsing C, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan dorm with outside hot-water bathrooms. Free breakfast and slow internet. The bus from the KK Airport goes right past the hostel. Has to be the most low cost dorm bed in KK but is far from the city center. There are a few restaurants around. Dorm RM15, double room RM60.
- Century Hotel Inanam, ☏ . Located next to the Inanam Bus Terminal (North) Inanam. Spacious rooms, with TV and hot shower provided. 15 min drive from the city centre. Varieties of food and beverage nearby the hotel.
- Globetrotters Lodge (Formerly New Horizon), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Small, opposite British Council, just off Gaya St, street market every Sun morning, lots of cheap restaurants, banks nearby.
- Hamin Lodge, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Boutique budget hotel in the heart of Kota Kinabalu City. Borneo tour packages, traditional massage, spa, restaurant and bar. Full A/C. Budget hostel rooms suitable for backpackers to deluxe rooms with ensuite.
- Hotel Holiday (City centre), ☏ . 1Mb WiFi, laundry, friendly staff. Room with A/C and private bathroom. Standard RM95, deluxe RM105, family room RM130.
- Hotel Sadong 88, Lot 4, 5&6, 1st-3rd Floor, Block A, Sadong Jaya,Karamunsing, ☏ . Single RM55, twin RM77, family room RM98.
- 7 Kinabalu Backpackers, 2 Lorong Dewan, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Centrally located in Australian Place. All rooms have A/C. Free breakfast, free coffee or tea all day and free Wi-Fi, airport pickup service. A/C dorm RM20, double room RM65.
- Lavender Lodge (In the CBD), ☏ , fax: . Clean and comfortable rooms, friendly staff
- 8 Lucy's Homestay (Lucy Backpackers), Lot No.25, Lorong Dewan, Australia Place, ☏ . Look behind a stamp-makers shop for this nice little house with two dorm rooms available at a competitive rate. B&B. Friendly owner, friendly cat. Free, secure Wi-Fi. Nice and central. Safe lockers available. Dorm RM30, single RM48/double: RM58.
- Megah D’Aru Hotel, No. 2, Jl. Kinabalu, Tanjung Aru township (In the heart of Tanjung Aru Township), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 12 noon. Less than 5 min drive south of Kota Kinabalu city centre, and north of the Kota Kinabalu International airport. 72 rooms. RM128-RM188.
- Stay In Lodge, ☏ . Gaya St., where the famous street market is held every Sun. Clean and comfortable.
- Step-in Lodge, ☏ . Painted in a zany combination of purple and bright green, this is a cosy little hostel in the middle of the city, with very friendly staff. Toilets and shower stalls are immaculate. From RM25 per person for a dorm, A/C double RM80, including a simple continental breakfast.
- Summer Lodge. Convenient central location with a nice lobby, free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, and very helpful staff. Clean, decent bathrooms, however dorm rooms leave a bit to be desired (cramped, bed frames falling apart). All rooms have A/C. RM22/night mixed dorm; RM28/night male or female only, plus private rooms.
- Tune Hotel - 1Borneo, Kota Kinabalu. No-frills hotel located within 1 Borneo, East Malaysia's largest shopping complex. Far from city but free shuttle bus is available daily. Online booking only. Rate might as cheap as RM1++, but understand that all requirements provided are likely to be charged as extra costs.
- X-plorer Backpackers, 1st Floor, 106/108, Jl. Gaya, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 1PM. Near Gaya Sunday morning street market. Reservations can be made by phone, online or by SMS text message to mobile phone ☏ . Complimentary breakfast, free Wi-Fi, all rooms are A/C. Dormitories, private rooms, family rooms available. There are some en suite rooms with attached bathrooms. From RM25.
- Hotel Kotajaya and Back Packers, ☏ . (Sinsuran Complex), Short distance to Centre Point, Api-Api Centre, Kompleks Asia City and waterfront bars. Budget rooms with private bathroom are available. Friendly host.
- Impiana Mutiara Hotel, No.12, Jl. Perpaduan, Kampung Air, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Budget hotel with 27 rooms. Every room comes with an attached bathroom with hot and cold shower, individual A/C and TV with cable channels. Reservations can be made online. Promotional rates from RM65.
- King Park Hotel, Jl. Masjid Lama, Bandaran Berjaya, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Clean, 14-storey, 3-star hotel. Panoramic views of the city and Tunku Abdul Rahman Park from the upper floors. Online reservations available. RM128-RM198.
- Celyn City Hotel, Lot 30, Block A, Ground Floor Warisan Square (Hotel reception is on the 1st floor of Warisan Square shopping paradise), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 5-storey boutique hotel with 72 rooms. Online reservations. Waterside location. LCD TV, AstroTV, IDD phone, free WiFi, tea and coffee making facilities, room safe. RM150-480.
- Promenade Hotel, ☏ , fax: . Sdn Bhd. 451 rooms, swimming pool, gym, beauty salon and health spa. 2 restaurants specialising in local and Asian cuisine, 2 cafes, lobby lounge, promenade floor lounge and a karaoke bar.
- Grand Borneo Hotel (Formerly Mercure Kota Kinabalu), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Grand Borneo Hotel. 325 rooms. Part of a mall 20-30 minutes out of KK centre, 1 Borneo mall; an entertainment complex with over 400 stores of leisure, entertainment and culinary delights.
- [dead link] Novotel Kota Kinabalu 1Borneo, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 1Borneo Hypermall, Jl. UMS. Part of 1 Borneo Hypermall, the largest mall in Sabah. 263 rooms, an outdoor pool and jacuzzi on the 7th floor and a business centre.
- The Palace Hotel (formerly Berjaya Palace Hotel), 1 Jl. Tangki Karamunsing, ☏ . Blends old architecture with modern facilities. Hilltop location, 15 min drive from the airport.
- Jesselton Hotel, 69, Gaya Street, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Jesselton was the name for Kota Kinabalu during the British colony. Boutique hotel built in the early 1920s. Hotel has its own limousine, an imported British cab.
- Kasih Sayang Health Resort, Kokol Hill, Menggatal, ☏ . 45 minutes east of the city center at 2,400ft above sea level offering nice view of the city and Mount Kinabalu. There is a spa and conference facility but nothing much in the vicinity but jungle and some houses. Nearest town is Menggatal 15 minutes drive downhill. RM130-250.
- Hyatt Regency Kinabalu, Jl. Datuk Salleh Sulong (in the city centre), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 5-star resort hotel. Good for business people who just want to eat, sleep and work. This hotel has an impressive choice of restaurants and a coffee shop serving Malaysian food, a Chinese restaurant with 'dim sum' or 'yum cha', a Japanese restaurant with teppanyaki and a fresh bakery. Close to shopping centres, fast food outlets and cafes. From around US$100.
- Bunga Raya Resort, ☏ . In Pulau Gaya facing away from the city. It is one of the few luxury resorts in Malaysia. RM1,700-8,000 per night.
- Le Méridien Kota Kinabalu, Jl. Tun Fuad Stephens, ☏ . 306 rooms. Gym, seaview pool. Next to Centrepoint shopping complex.
- Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort. 5-star hotel on a 3-km Dalit beach. 18-hole golf course, excellent kid's club and has an small wildlife exhibit. There were some orangutans, which were removed to Sepilok in April 2016. A resort suitable for families, pools with small but good water slide equipment, watersports activities. Coast restaurant is beachside. RM120 taxi ride of about one hour from the airport. There is a shuttle bus between the two Shangri-La hotel resorts stopping at One Borneo Mall, KK city centre and Imago Mall.
- Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort, ☏ . An older, grand and comfortable 5 star hotel. It has its own jetty and marine sports shop, also provides excursions out to the marine park. There is a small row of shops in the resort, one of which takes bookings for excursions all across Sabah. The rooms in the Tanjung Aru wing are confined inside the building and look out to the pitch-and-putt golf course. A small flora area, with a shallow pool, is in between the corridors of the quadrangle with wings leading towards the rooms of the Tanjung Aru wing it has large suites on each level. Tanjung Aru wing was renovated in 2017. Tanjung Aru has a 100-m man-made good sandy beach, with a sunset bar, ideal to view the sunsets over the South China Sea. The resort has a good water park and slides area and shallow pools, for parents and children, and a larger, deeper pool for adults only. The 2017 completion of the renovations included extending the breakfast dining area known as Café Tatu now with access from outside pool and garden areas. It has a large open aspect, very smart with sky lights letting more light in. The side walls are made from transparent rolling screens for flexibility with the weather during the daytime into evening. The Kinabalu wing overlooks the sea with views of the marine park. The rear of the Kinabalu wing on the upper floors have a mountain view of Gunung Kinabalu and the nearer slopes of the Crocker range. The lower floor has the view blocked by trees and a carpark. A taxi ride from the KKIA Terminal 1 to Tanjung Aru, or from the resort into Kota Kinabalu city centre, is RM30. Transfers from the airport to the hotel are available upon request.
- Sutera Harbour Resort, Sutera Harbour Blvd (A RM10 taxi ride to town, or a 20-min walk (if you're in good shape)), ☏ , fax: . Includes the 5-star Pacific Sutera hotel and the 5-star Magellan Sutera resort hotel (formerly Pan Pacific). 27-hole golf course, fully equipped marina, 2 spas, squash, badminton and tennis courts and various other sport and leisure activities. The rooms are of a high quality with either a sea view, a golf course or a Mount Kinabalu view at the Pacific Sutera. The Magellan Sutera has views of the garden or a sea-view. You can easily book trips to the islands, starting at RM35. The Magellan has an awesome buffet style breakfast included in the room rate. Enjoy freshly made roti and omlettes. The resort has a free shuttle bus going to town every hour until 9PM. If you stay in one hotel, you have access to the entire resort. An internal shuttle takes guests between the properties, the marina and the golf club. From RM 400.
Kota Kinabalu is a safe city by Malaysian standards. The crime rate is lower than in the Western states of Kuala Lumpur or Johor Bahru, or any city of similar size in Peninsular Malaysia. Violent crime is especially rare, and it's generally safe to roam the streets at night, though of course it's still best to remain alert as you would in any other city.
There is moped/scooter ride-by crime in KK.
The telephone country code for Malaysia is +60 and the area code for fixed-line telephones in Kota Kinabalu and for most districts in the west coast of Sabah (including Papar, Kota Belud, Ranau and Kudat) is 088. Mobile phone numbers normally begins with 01x throughout the country. If a telephone number is not displayed in international format, such as "088-222222" or "012-222222", simply add "+6" before the number, e.g.: "+60 88-222222" and "+60 12-222222". The zero need not be repeated.
Free wifi is available at various points in the city. There are some restrictions: you can use the wifi for free in public areas, i.e. streets. It is deliberately not powerful enough to penetrate shopping malls etc.
WiFi is available in most hotels and hostels across KK. There are also internet cafes in some parts of the city.
- Sabah State Library, ☏ . Manages and operates most public libraries in Sabah. In Kota Kinabalu, SSL has a library between City Hall and the court (KK Regional Library), Suria Sabah (Library@Suria; Level 4) and the State Library along Jalan Penampang near Luyang (biggest; SSL HQ; 10 minutes drive from city center).
The following countries have set up consulates in Kota Kinabalu. For other countries, you may need to contact the respective embassy in Kuala Lumpur or nearer consulates in Sarawak. There are British and Chinese Consulate offices in Kuching and British and Dutch Consulates in Miri.
- Australian Consulate, Suite 10.1, Level 10, Wisma Great Eastern Life, 65 Jl. Gaya, ☏ .
- Bruneian Consulate, Grace Square, ☏ . Moved from Menara MAA in the city to Grace Square next to Grace Park in Sembulan.
- Finnish Consulate, c/o Uli Motors SDN BHD, Jl. Miniyak, Off Mile 5.5, Jl. Tuaran, ☏ , .
- French Honorary Consul, Mrs Feona Jinu, ☏ .
- Consulate General of Indonesia, Lorong Kemajuan, Karamunsing, ☏ , , , .
- Consulate General of Japan, Wisma Perindustrian 18F, Jl. Istiadat, Likas, ☏ .
- Honorary Consulate of Sweden, Jl. Minyak off Jl. Tuaran, Mile 5 1/2, Inanam, ☏ .
- United Kingdom Honorary Consul, Mr Robert New, ☏ , fax: .
- Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park – a collection of islands with beaches, jungle, snorkeling, and scuba diving, easy to visit as a day trip
- Labuan — duty-free paradise, fairly decent karaoke nightlife and offshore banking.
- Mount Kinabalu — is 80 km east of Kota Kinabalu, where it's possible to do a 9-km hike to the mountain summit.
- Kundasang — a cool place with various markets, plantations, farms, resorts nearby Mount Kinabalu. Popular with locals from all around Sabah during weekends and public holidays.
- Sandakan, Tawau, Lahad Datu and Semporna cities on the Eastern Coast with rich wildlife and a world-class diving.
- Layang Layang Island in the disputed Spratly Islands is famous for diving.
- Kuala Penyu — district, about 2 hours southwest along the coast, contains Klias River, Pulau Tiga (site of the first series of TV show "Survivor") and Menumbok jetty (to get to Labuan by car or boat).
- Kinarut — a small town 40 minutes south of KK contains quiet beaches, Pulau Dinawan, the 'sininggazanak' statues and still existing wooden shophouses, built around 1930s to 1960s.
- Maliau Basin — Sabah's "Lost World", located in the middle of Sabah somewhere between Kota Kinabalu and Tawau. Said to be one of the oldest undisturbed rainforest in the world.
- Experience rural lifestyle around Kudat, Tambunan, Tenom, Kota Belud, all along the west coast of Sabah and within 2-4 hours drive from Kota Kinabalu.
- Gunung Mulu National Park — a World Heritage Site in Mulu, Sarawak, is 20 minutes away by plane.