• Matthew Daniel
  • March 20, 2023

Top 10 Things to Do in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Malaysia is one of the Southeast Asian countries that have a little of everything. From the beautiful islands to the highest mountain in Malaysia, Kota Kinabalu should be one of your next destinations because there is so much to do here. If you’re thinking of going, keep reading because we’ve got you covered. Here are the top 10 things to do in Kota Kinabalu.

Island Hopping at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park | Malaysia

Malaysia | The Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is made up of five small islands off the coast of Borneo that is ideal for anyone looking for a day of underwater activities and sunbathing on sandy beaches. Divers and scuba divers can enjoy diving and snorkeling among the rich aquatic life that surrounds the marine park.

Some of the islands, such as Gaya, have resorts where visitors can stay for a couple of days.  You can also spot the beautiful untouched reefs attracting a plethora of aquatic species. While the island trips can be booked on the spot, booking them ahead of schedule will save you a lot of time.

Climb the Top of Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu is Malaysia’s highest peak and the UNESCO World Heritage Site has a massive height of 4,101 M. As one of the region’s most accessible mountains, it boasts a rich ecosystem and this is the place to go if you want to see some of Malaysia’s beautiful flora and animals up close.

Malaysia | Its high elevation allows a diverse range of habitats to thrive, making it one of the world’s most important ecological places. Climbing Mount Kinabalu is possible with numerous routes and treks available. You will need to spend the night on the mountain and watch the sunrise from the peak the next morning. The breathtaking scenery will take your breath away.

Plunge into The Poring Hot Springs

Dive into the thermal pools at Poring Hot Springs in Sabah for a relaxing experience. The hot springs are popular among the locals because the sulfuric mineral springs are claimed to relieve stress, sores, and aches in your muscles. In addition, it is a wonderful place to unwind after a long journey hiking up Mount Kinabalu. There is a butterfly farm, the Poring Orchid Conservation Center, and a lush forest full of life where you can see some rare wildlife or flora. While you’re there, check out the Rafflesia flower, which blooms only on rare occasions.

Learn About the State at Sabah State Museum

If you wish to understand more about the history of Kota Kinabalu and Sabah, pay a visit to the Sabah State Museum. Opened in 1985, the Sabah State Museum is housed in the same building that originally housed the British North Borneo Governor’s Istana.

Aside from the Main Building, the museum is made up of the Sabah Art Gallery, the Science and Education Center, and the Museum of Islamic Civilization. It also features a stunning ethnobotanical garden with many plants and an interesting heritage village where you can see the various traditional houses of Sabah’s ethnic groups. This is a great place to visit if you are traveling with children.

Window Shopping at Gaya Street Sunday Market

Malaysia | Bustling with the hustle and bustle of locals and tourists, Gaya Street Sunday Market is a once-a-week market nestled in Kota Kinabalu’s Gaya Street. For more than a century, it has been an important venue for locals to do business. The street market is well-known for its odd, handcrafted, and organic wares.

Aside from jewelry and colorful clothing, other goods of cultural, and traditional significance are sold here. The market opens early in the morning, so stroll around and enjoy authentic Malaysian cuisine at the roadside stalls. Some of the hipster cafes along the road also provide freshly brewed coffee from a coffee maker.

Pumped Up the Adrenaline with White Water Rafting

Looking for an adrenaline-pumping day trip? Head to the Padas River for a White Water Rafting trip. The Padas River runs through the heart of Kota Kinabalu’s southwestern region, which can only be reached by train. There will be a lot of arm strength required, and everyone counts for the full effect.

If you’re taking children or the elderly, the Kiulu River adventure is a better choice because it offers a lower grade with lower difficulties, making it ideal for beginners. The scenic Kiulu River in Tamparuli is only an hour’s drive from the city center.

Learn About Local Culture at Mari Mari Cultural Village

The Mari Mari Cultural Village is a complex of traditional houses that is well-known for its tours and displays of traditional arts and crafts. The self-titled tour takes you across a huge territory occupied by people from five different tribal communities. You’ll get to experience different hobbies and habits that each of these distinct tribes engages in, as well as their daily routines and ceremonies. Aside from tattoo-making, you can also watch blow-pipe crafting and eat their traditional cuisine. If that isn’t enough, you can take part in their tribal ethnic dances, where you can do the Murut tribes’ ‘Magunatip’ bamboo dance.

Catch the Sunset at Kokol Hill

If you’re looking for some peace away from the rush of the city, Kokol Hill is a must-see. Kokol Hill lies 800 meters up on Kokol Poring Road and it is surrounded by hills and near to nature. It is famous for its breathtaking city views, chilly temperatures, and fresh air. You can stay at one of the nearby resorts or homestays and enjoy a variety of activities such as nature hikes and paragliding. Other than that, Kokol Hill is a perfect location for landscape photography. Take out your smartphone and capture whatever you can, from the panorama to the sunset.

Enjoy the Seafood at the Waterfront Seafood Night Market

Malaysia | Situated along the city’s coastline, the Waterfront Seafood Night Market is a paradise for seafood lovers. The vendors begin setting up as early as 5 PM and as the evening passed by, there will be numerous stalls displaying a wide selection of seafood. You will love it, even more, knowing that the seafood is fresh from the sea, thanks to the local fishers. From choices like fishes, lobsters, squids, stingrays, and more, enjoy all you want, whether grilled or steamed. Chinese-style cooking can also be requested. Keep in mind to bring cash with you because the merchants do not accept credit cards.

Shop Until You Drop at Filipino Market

Once known as Pasar Filipino, or the Filipino Market, the Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market is situated along the waterfront. There are hundreds of tiny stores here where you can find the best-handcrafted souvenirs and Sabah pearls.

Freshwater and seawater pearls are popular gifts here, and they come in a range of colors and sizes. In fact, it can be personalized to make the jewelry of your choice. T-shirts, sarongs, and other souvenirs are also available. Seafood fans can also get a wide range of dried and packed goods produced from the sea. Remember to bargain whenever possible because you do not want to overpay, right?


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