BEST Kota Kinabalu Attractions With Itinerary


Kota Kinabalu Attractions & Things To Do With Itinerary
Image © johnlkong.com

Kota Kinabalu offers beautiful scenic attractions, one of the best sunset in the world, great food, blue beaches, home to the spectacular Mount Kinabalu and not forgetting the hospitality of Sabahan (local) people.

Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Malaysia’s Sabah state in the northern part of the island of Borneo. Often referred to as KK, it’s a coastal city partly surrounded by rainforest.

If you’re planning to drive/ride around the whole Sabah, have a look at my other post about road trip in Sabah.


Kota Kinabalu City View


Kota Kinabalu Trip Itinerary

As I’ve been to KK many times and also rode Malaysia Borneo, I’ll recommend places for you to go. Please note this is by no means an exhaustive list but generally, it would cover the places you may want to visit whilst you’re in Kota Kinabalu.

I would recommend you to spend at least a week in KK to make your trip memorable. However, If you don’t have the time and/or budget, you can always modify the itinerary accordingly.

On each day, I’ve added bullet points of the places you can go and it’s arranged based on distance to one and another so you don’t have to travel the same place twice.

As you scroll down on each day’s Itinerary, you will also find images and videos so you can decide whether it’s worth or not to include the places in your list. I’ve also added a Table Of Contents at the top of this article for easier navigation if you’re looking for a specific information.


Day 1 (Within KK City)

Kota Kinabalu Day 1 Itinerary
Day 1 Places To Visit Map
  • Mari Mari Cultural Village
  • kiansom Waterfall
  • Kokol Hill
  • Sabah State Museum
  • State Mosque
  • Tanjung Aru Beach (Sunset)
  • Imago Shopping Mall
  • Filipino market (Handicraft)

Day 1 Full Map View: Google Link

Accommodation: Within KK City

Details of Places of interest for day 1 below;

Mari Mari Cultural Village

Mari Mari Cultural Village
Image © malaysia.travel

Learn about the 5 main tribes in Sabah, their houses, hunting, brewing of alcohol, sweet treats, traditional dancing and lots more! This is a must-visit place if you’re in KK as it offers you the opportunity to see and learn about the lifestyle of how the indigenous used to live in back in the olden days. This tour would normally take about 3 hours.

  • Entrance Fee: RM 100/Adult (includes guided tour and lunch)
  • Map Location: Google Link
  • Contact: +6 013 881 4921

Kionsom Waterfall

kiansom waterfall

Located about 400 Meters from Mari-Mari Cultural village, Kiansom Waterfall is a favourite picnic spot for the local and also tourist. It’s great place to dip in the hot afternoon and some nice spots for taking photo. Basic public washroom or toilet for changing clothes after getting wet is available.


Kokol Hill

Kokol Hill Sabah
Image © steemit.com

At Kokol Hill, you will be rewarded with stunning and spectacular views from the top overlooking Manukan Island, and all other small islands surrounding it! There are restaurants serving “just-ok” food and drinks but still, it’s worth going.


Sabah State Museum

Sabah State Museum

Learn about the history and the people of Sabah. The main building , resembling a longhouse houses the permanent exhibits including the Ethnography Gallery.

There are many striking antique jars in the Ceramics Gallery, while the Prehistory Gallery contains a small replica of a typical bird’s nest cave. Adjacent to the main building is the Science and Education Centre. The Heritage Village is a collection of life-sized traditional houses of Sabah’s many different ethnic groups, in a natural setting with typical fruit and herb gardens and even a hanging bridge.

  • Entrance Fee: RM 15 (Non-Malaysian) RM 2 (Malaysian)
  • Map Location: Google Link

Sabah State Mosque

Sabah State Mosque

This is a big, bold and beautiful mosque, with its tall turrets and golden orbs sitting atop stout pillars, truly a marvel in architecture and design.

Note: Like every Place of worship, you will need to dress appropriately. i.e. No skirts, singlets etc.


Tanjung Aru Beach

Tanjung Aru Beach sunset

Enjoy one of the best places to watch the sunset in Kota Kinabalu but it can be crowded. If you don’t really like the crowd and/or would prefer enjoying a drink while watching the sunset, check out my recommendation on other places to watch the sunset in Kota Kinabalu.


Imago Shopping Mall

Imago Shopping Mall

Imago is by far the largest and newest shopping mall in KK. When it comes to brand names you will get the full list here as well. You can find lots of restaurants and other facilities like the cinema, games area and they even have an area with indoor Archery.


Filipino Market (Handicraft)

Filipino Market (Handicraft)

This market is famous for water pearls and they also sells local handicrafts. Most of the shops here sells almost the same things and don’t forget to bargain to get a good price.


Day 2 (Within KK City)

Kota Kinabalu Day 2 Itinerary
Day 2 Places To Visit Map
  • Gaya Streeet (sunday market)
  • Pillars of Sabah (colorful posts)
  • I love KK
  • Kota Kinabalu Floating mosque
  • Sabah UMS (pink) mosque
  • signal hill Obervatory Platform
  • Atkinson clock tower
  • Waterfront (sunset)

Day 2 Full Map View: Google Link

Accommodation: Within KK City

Details of Places of interest for day 2 below;

Gaya Street (Sunday Morning Market)

Gaya Street (Sunday Morning Market)
Image © Marriot Traveler

It is a flea market style, where all vendors are offer their merchandizes on the table under the plastic temporary tents, and it is only happened on Sunday morning till after midday, that is why it called Sunday Market.

You can find almost anything, from foods, coffee, tea, drinks, herbal stuff, clothes, souvenirs and handicrafts, plants, fruits, vegetable, toys, bags and wallets, you named it, even pets. It’s also a place where tourists meet and mingled with locals for shopping, and along this part of closed road, a row of restaurants waiting visitors to stop for lunch breaks, yummy brunch and lunch.


Pillars of Sabah

Pillars of Sabah

Not to be missed! The original building was one of 3 colonial buildings to survive WW2 bombing. In the early 1990s it was burnt down. The remaining pillars, steps and wall were saved as an art space. Currently, each pillar exhibits an endangered local animal.

The artists are very talented, and each has an explanation. I don’t know how often the theme changes. It’s worth visiting in daylight and again when it’s lit up at night


I love KK

I love KK sign

I Love KK structure is found at the public waterfront area of Kota Kinabalu. Many tourists like to pose for a photo here to demonstrate their travel to KK through their love for KK.


Kota Kinabalu Floating Mosque

Kota Kinabalu Floating Mosque

This mosque is called KK City Mosque officially but it’s known as “Floating Mosque” by most of the tourist as it sits on a man-made lake. Personally, I love the architecture and it may also be one of the most beautiful mosques in Malaysia.

  • Entrance Fee: Free (Malaysian)| RM5 (Foreigner)
  • Map Location: Google Link

UMS (Pink) Mosque

UMS (Pink) Mosque
Sabah Pink Mosque – Image © Shelly Viajera

A beautiful mosque especially for photo-shooting! situated in the University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) compound, it can be crowded during Friday prayers.


Signal Hill Observatory Tower

Signal Hill Observatory Tower
Image © Adam Lai

Drive-up or take staircase (250 steps) to the tower to enjoy the view Kota Kinabalu city. Please note the parking to this tower is limited and honestly, the view isn’t that great like how it used to be few years back due to tall buildings obstructing the view.

There is a kiosk located at the observation platform, where beverages and snacks are sold.


Atkinson Clock Tower

Atkinson Clock Tower

Originally known as Atkinson Memorial Tower, this is Kota Kinabalu’s oldest standing wooden structure along Signal Hill Road.

This tower was built in the memory of the first District Officer of Kinabalu, Mr Francis George Atkinson, who had died at age 28 because of Malaria Fever, in the year 1902. The clock tower built and completed in 1905, and in 1998 officially declared as a cultural heritage. It stands high on the hill, easy to find when you are wandering at the city centre near Sunday Market at Gaya Street.


Waterfront KK

Waterfront KK

It’s an esplanade walk at Kota Kinabalu that faces the open sea with a strip of nightlife establishments/bars. It is also a famous spot to watch the sunset in Kota Kinabalu and the drinks/foods here are expensive. However, you can access this place by walking as it close to many hotels in KK.

If you would ask my personal opinion, It’s nice if you just want to see how’s the atmosphere is in the evening and the sunset but I would not recommend spending all of your evenings here it because the beverages are pricey and it also smells due to the rubbish dumped in the ocean. Looks like no one cares to clean it? yes, it’s pathetic!


Day 3 (Within KK City)

Island Hopping at Tunku Abul Rahman Park

Kota Kinabalu Day 3 Itinerary
Day 3 Places To Visit Map

The Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park regroups 5 different Islands (as per the image above), each one is just few KMs from the other and they are just 15 minutes away from the Jetty.

If you don’t have the time to visit all the islands, I would recommend that you go to Mamutik and Sapi Islands as I find them are beautiful and great for snorkelling. You can also see monitors lizard at the edge of the water but please, don’t throw stones at them like many other irresponsible tourists.

To go to the islands, you will need to take a bot from Jesselton Point and the price of the tickets varies based on the package. Just head to the counter(s) at the Jetty for more information and pick what suits you.

Jesselton Point: Map Link

Accommodation: Within KK City


Day 4 (Within KK City)

Kota Kinabalu Day 4 Itinerary
Day 4 Places To Visit Map
  • North Borneo Railway (Steam Train)
  • Lok Kawi Wildlife Park

Day 4 Full Map View: Google Link

Accommodation: Within KK City

Details of Places of interest for day 4 below;

North Borneo Railway (Steam Train)

North Borneo Railway (Steam Train)

A unique experience to sit on a steam locomotive which gives you the nostalgic colonial days of British. Breakfast and lunch of local dishes are served but this trip isn’t cheap. Please note that it only runs on Wednesday and Saturdays. For more information, please visit Sutera Harbour’s website.

  • Entrance Fee: RM 358.50
  • North Borneo Station: Google Link

Lok Kawi Wildlife Park

 Lok Kawi Wildlife Park

A chance to see all the Borneo wildlife at one place if you have a relatively short time or period of stay while in Kota Kinabalu.

Some of the must see Borneo wildlife:

  1. Proboscis Monkey
  2. Orangutan
  3. Sun or Honey Bear
  4. Bornean Gibbon
  5. Borneo Pygmy Elephant

Nevertheless, this place is a quick fix to see most, if not all the Borneo wildlife during a short trip.

  • Entrance Fee: RM 10 (Malaysian) | RM 20 (Foreigners)
  • Map Location: Google Link

Day 5 (Outskirt of KK City)

Kota Kinabalu Day 5 Itinerary
Day 5 Places To Visit Map
  • Sabandar Cowboy Town
  • Sabandar Mangrove Park
  • Pagoda Ling San
  • Upside down house
  • Kiulu River white water rafting
  • Polumpung Melangkap View Camp Site

Day 5 Full Map View: Google Link

Accommodation: Polumpung Melangkap Camp site or Homestay next to camp site.

Details of Places of interest for day 5 below;

Sabandar Cowboy Town

 Sabandar Cowboy Town
Image © SabahTravel

Both Sabandar Cowboy Town and Mangrove Park are located in the same area. This place offers horse riding (at RM10 per 1 small round) and there are pathways made from wood at the Mangroove area which I think it’s the highlight of this place.


Sabandar Mangrove Park

Sabandar Mangrove Park

Upside Down House

 Upside Down House

Upside down house is called Rumah Terbalik in Bahasa. If you’re into photography, this place would be interesting as they also have a 3D museum. Please note taking photo Inside the upside down house is prohibited. People often spend about 30 minutes here.


Kiulu River White Water Rafting

 Kiulu River White Water Rafting
Image © Thrillophilia

If you’re in groups/family, River rafting for 7km down the Kiulu River would be a great fun adventure that you can try. It’s also suitable for beginners and you can book this tour via Amazing Borneo website or ask your hotel’s receptionist.

  • Entrance Fee: Varies based on package/transfer
  • Map Location: Google Link

Polumpung Melangkap View Camp Site

Polumpung Melangkap View Camp Site

If you’re looking for a great campsite and/or crystal clear river, this place should not be missed! For the purpose of overnight camping, check in hour is from 2.00pm to 6.00pm.

If it’s not raining and you are a camper here, a splendour scenery of Mount Kinabalu will astonish you from 5.45 am to 7.00 am. If you wish to stay indoor, there are a few homestays available around.


Day 6 (Outskirt of KK City)

Kota Kinabalu Day 6 Itinerary
Day 6 Places To Visit Map
  • Desa Cattle Farm kundasang
  • Kundasang War Memorial
  • Sabah Tea
  • Poring Hot Spring

Day 6 Full Map View: Google Link

Accommodation: Homestay / Hotels in Kundasang

Details of Places of interest for day 6 below;

Desa Cattle Farm Kundasang

Desa Cattle Farm Kundasang
Image © adzirahata

Desa Cattle Dairy Farm is a dairy farm located at the foot of Mount Kinabalu in Kundasang Valley, Sabah. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery and view of Moutn Kinabalu. You can also buy local products like Milk, Ice cream etc.

Please note that you can only get clear view of Mount Kinabalu from 05:30 AM – 08:00 AM. Plan your trip accordingly to avoid disappointment or put up a night in Kundasang so you’ll have more time to view the beautiful Mount.


Kundasang War Memorial

Kundasang War Memorial

Located about 5KMs away from Desa Dairy Farm, Kundasang War Memorial was built out of respect for those that died in the Sandakan to Ranau “Death Marches”. It is an excellent place to visit and try to imagine the unspeakable horror and atrocities that were inflicted on our soldiers with only 6 survivors out of some 2350 that were forced to march.

I recommend you first visit the audio room for a 20 minute presentation on some of the history to get acquainted. The memorial is divided into 4 gardens. The Australian, British, Malaysian Borneo, and the garden of Contemplation where an honour role lists each soldier that died on the 3 marches. You will probably spend an hour here by the time you pay your own respects. It s a place that touches your soul and leaves a lasting effect.

  • Entrance Fee: RM 2 (Malaysian) | RM 10 (Foreigners)
  • Map Location: Google Link

Sabah Tea Garden

 Sabah Tea Garden

Home to famous Sabah Tea, this valley is like the mini version of Cameron Highlands‘ tea plantation. It is located about 35 KM from Kundasang town and you can sign up for the factory tour if you can make it before noon. The roads to get here can be a little challenging as it’s not paved

  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Factory Tour: RM 14
  • Map Location: Google Link

Poring Hot Spring

Poring Hot Spring
Image © Amazing Borneo

Honestly, the hot springs aren’t that exciting, they are hot tubs which you can sit in & relax. What is more picturesque & a definite is to walk through the rain-forest to the first waterfall, it is a beautiful walk, not too strenuous on the body. Also during your walk you can enter the butterfly garden & do a canopy walk, both though have an extra charge.

  • Entrance Fee: RM 3 (Malaysian) | RM 15 (Foreigner)
  • Map Location: Google Link

Hiking & Climbing Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu
Image © telegraph.co.uk

I hiked Mount Kinabalu back in 2012 and I can tell you it was a great experience and it’s highly recommended if you’re fit. If you want to hike/climb this spectacular mountain, you’ll need to train first to gain fitness. For detailed tips and recommendation, please have a look at Trip Advisor site.

Please note that you will need to book your slot in advance and a tour guide is a must. I had a good experience with Sutera Sanctuary Lodges and you can contact them to make bookings and all other arrangements.


When Is The Best Time To Visit Kota Kinabalu?

March to October is usually the dry season and if you’re not into any outdoor activities, Kota Kinabalu is a year-round destination but if I need to pick a month, I would have chosen the Month of May as you can witness the local harvest festival celebration.


Harvest Festival (Pesta Kaamatan)

Kaamatan is a form of harvest festival celebrated annually (30th & 31st of May) in the state of Sabah in Malaysia. You should not miss this event which is held at KDCA as the grand finale.


Where To stay In Kota Kinabalu?

Where to stay in Kota Kinabalu?

I would suggest that you stay within the lines that I’ve marked on the map above. This is because, you can access restaurants, bars, Filipino market, malls etc within walking distance. List of hotel/hostels in that area are as per below:

  • Borneo Backpackers
  • Le Meridien
  • Kinabalu Daya Hotel
  • Cititel Express Hotel
  • Promenade Hotel
  • Hilton Hotel
  • Hyatt Regency
  • Marina Court Condo & many more

How Many Days do You Need In Kota Kinabalu?

I would suggest at least 7 days but if you’re on a limited time, you can go for 4 days 3 nights and visit the popular places as mentioned for Day 1, 2 & 6 in this article.


How Do You Get Around Kota Kinabalu?

You can easily get around KK by taxi, Grab or hire a personal driver. If you need to, you can share this itinerary with the company that you will be engaging with. (Get in touch with your hotel’s receptionist to hire a personal driver)

If you’re on a budget or prefer to ride/drive on your own, I would suggest that you rent a motorcycle/car from gogosabah.com as they are quite affordable and provide good service. For navigation, you can use Google Maps or Waze.


Where & What To Eat?

Non-Halal Suggestions

Halal Suggestions

Anjung Senja – A wide selection of seafood stalls. Varieties of fresh seafood are available to choose from and cooked according to customer’s requests. Located at the Kota Kinabalu waterfront.

Filipino Market Seafood – If you are looking for cheap skewers, an abundance of seafood and fresh produce, this is a great place in KK! All the scents, colors and people are quite the visual overload when visiting for the first time in the evening. Skewers were nice and cheap and the seafood was tasty. Friendly vendors throughout who are more than happy to answer any questions. This place is located just next to the handicraft market.


What Time Sun Sets In Kota Kinabalu?

The sun will set between 6:15 – 6:30 PM (local time) and if you want to watch the sunset, you will need to be at the location no later than 5:30 PM.


Kota Kinabalu Bars & Clubs

Alcoholic beverages can be really expensive in KK but if you follow my suggestions below, you can have cheap drinks at your comfort. I will also list those expensive ones but worth spending.


Shisha / Hookah In Kota Kinabalu

Many of the articles online are outdated when you search for place to smoke Shisha in Kota Kinabalu. At the moment, I am only aware of the places below which offers Shisha.


Conclusion

That’s it! I hope you’ll like the suggestions I’ve made and I am sure you’ll enjoy your trip to KK.

With so much potential to be one of the best tourist destinations in Asia, I think the government is not doing enough to promote Borneo (Not just KK) in Malaysia. I hope this article provides all the necessary information you need but if you have a question, please leave them in the comment box below.

Have you been to KK? Which place you liked the most?



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