Kota Kinabalu

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About Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah, Borneo. This place is gaining increasing popularity as being the perfect resort destination especially due to the island city’s proximity to beautiful locations such as the luscious, green rainforests, the pretty tropical islands and the spectacularly heighted mountains.

Kota Kinabalu is situated on the west coast of Sabah and is the largest city in the state. The location serves as the main gateway into the island of Borneio. This island city overlooks the grand South China sea which is essentially bordered by hills and the very famous Crocker Range. The urban, bustling life of Kita Kinabalu can be discovered in the northern and southern region of the city.

The city is developing at an extremely fast pace too. The place now consists of 500,000 inhabitants and has experienced a surge of economic growth being the sole result of its instant development.

Kota Kinabalu which was previously recognized by the name, Jesselton was initially under the British colonial rule between the years, 1880 and 1963. It was only after the British left that Sabah along with Kota Kinabalu became a part of Malaysia.

Although most of the town was destroyed during the bombings of the second world war, the city developed greatly. These ruins still remain as a form of memory of what took place back then.

As far as the tourism experience is concerned, the place is quite friendly. For the convenience of the tourists, there are endless resorts, restaurants and hotels designed to suit the varied needs to the people staying. Transportation wise, the city is well connected and therefore, you can definitely experience a smooth stay and touring around.

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A'famosa Theme Park
Relish in Famosa Theme park-the largest Water Theme Park in Malaysia,’ as you launch your exhilarating water adventure! Take your swimsuit and hurdle into the imperturbable kind of solstice pleasurable; fun and share the enjoyment with your friends or family, and get away from the jostle and buzz of life.

Titled after the prominent 16th-century Portuguese barricades of Melaka, A’Famosa Resort is bounded by rising and falling hills and lush scenery and is rated one of the county’s foremost vacation and outing destinations. A Famosa Resort is a little distant from the historic town of Melaka, noticeable from the North-South Highway.

It is just an hour's drive from Kuala Lumpur International Airport and 1 hour 30 mins drive from Kuala Lumpur. With calm pools, thrilling slides, splendid attractions, and enticing treats. There’s a little for everybody. Enjoy all day at this one of a kind theme parks.

Get together either on a business trip or on a family trip. Take indulgence in several functions, take advantage of our match and aquatic game pool here, and rest certain that your entire group or family will have electrifying time. There is a separate Kids Zone where they can enjoy the adventures that are just for their height at children’s water play area. 

The Kids’ Adventure Pool with their baby slides, water springs, and a water park are all the kids' favorites. Get along with family, get dressed in your swimwear and revel in surfing at the beach. Every time the alarms yelp, a surge bounces near the shore, the shouts of exhilaration from the Wave Pool will be picking up.

Another excitement is family raft where rides are with extra fun when you get to adore them with friends and family. This standard waterslide has been a long-time much-loved for people of all ages.
Pulau Kapalai Beach

Beautifully impressive and romantic but the island is actually a sand bank island and is one of the most enchanting islands in Sabah Borneo. What makes this beach special is that the resort is a stand-alone unit with no one else around it. Usually when the tide is down, the sand bank becomes a spectacular beach, otherwise, they have an elevated man-made beach deck with special white sand where you can chill.


  Highlights: This private island is well known as the romantic paradise for special honeymooners and exclusive private weddings.

  How to Get There: The unique Kapalai Island stands above a huge sand bank which is about 1 hour by boat from Semporna in east coast Sabah. It is also a 10 minute boat ride from the well-known  Mabul Island.

Pulau Mantanani Beach

Pulau Mantanani is a cluster of three isolated tiny islands to the northwest of Kota Belud. It was so isolated in fact that not until recently, only a few locals knew the existence of the islands. One of the main reasons that Mantanani Islands is popular among tourists is because of its picturesque scenery, cool breezes and serene environment. But most popular attraction of Pulau Mantanani are the dugongs. The Mantanani Islands seem to provide the ideal habitats for dugongs with sea grass beds and shallow sandy areas within the encircling fringing reef of the islands.


Highlights: These islands present popular diving and snorkeling destinations because of their crystal clear waters and colourful coral reefs.

How to Get There: The islands are accessible by a one-hour speedboat journey from Kuala Abai jetty, Kota Belud, 80 km north-east of Kota Kinabalu.

Kokol Hill

If you are done visiting the islands and beaches and are looking for some scenic beauty in the Kota Kinabalu, Kokol Hill is a place you must go. It is a place, which can give you a perfect view of Mount Kinabalu and you can also enjoy a serene and elegant sunset with your someone special. The place is a must visit, especially if you are looking some quiet time, away from the hustle and bustle of the city amidst hills and close to the nature. You can even spend some great nights over the Kokol Hill as there are various home stays and resorts allowing you to enjoy the weather and scenic beauty of the place.

Kota Kinabalu FAQ's

What are the must-visit attractions in Kota Kinabalu?

1. Atkinson Clock Tower
This ancient landmark goes as far back as 1902 when it was built in the honour of Francis George Atkinson. Situated on top of a hill, off Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, the clock tower can be easily reached by undertaking a small, scenic walk. The walk takes you through well-kept gardens and once you are at the tower, you can enjoy views of the entire Kota Kinabalu city stretched in front of you. 

Location: Kota Kinabalu, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

2. Mount Kinabalu 
 Mount Kinabalu is one of the most popular and scenic attractions for Kota Kinabalu Tourism. Located on the outskirts of the city, this sacred mountain stands at a height of 13,000 feet above sea level. Lying in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Kinabalu National Park, the place is known for its staggering natural beauty. There are several trails that would take you to the summit of the mountain from where you can enjoy spectacular views of the rest of Sabah. 

Location: Mount Kinabalu, Ranau, Sabah, Malaysia 

3. City Mosque 
The Kota Kinabalu City Mosque is the largest mosque in the city and also one of the most beautiful buildings in the area. Since it sits on stilts above a lagoon, it gives the impression of floating in the water. The large mosque has a capacity of easily accommodating around 12,000 worshippers at one time and makes for a stunning visage.

Whether you choose to visit during the daytime when its white and blue dome reflects the colours of the sky or during the night when the place comes alive with its many lights, you are sure to have a memorable time. 

Location: Jalan Pasir, Jalan Teluk Likas, Kampung Likas, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Entry Fee: Rs. 90 
Timings: Daily; 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM 

4. Wetland Water Cruise 
When in Kota Kinabalu city, one of the most popular things to do is go on a cruise on the Klias River. The river flows through the Klias Wetland Mangrove Forest and river safari through it offers some spectacular and intimate views of the forest. From the water, you can have a glimpse into the jungle kingdom with some of its most elegant denizens, including elephants, proboscis monkeys, fireflies. 

Location: Jalan Bukit Bendera Upper, Kampung Likas, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Entry Fee: From Rs. 2,800 per person
Timings: 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM 

5. Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market 
Once known as the Filipino Market, this traditional handicraft market has been sitting along the waterfront of Kota Kinabalu for decades. If you want to get a taste of Kota Kinabalu tourism and indulge in shopping of souvenirs like pearls, carved wooden memorabilia, textiles or local arts and crafts, this is the place to be. 

Location: Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Timings: Daily; 9:00 AM - 10:00 PM 

6. Signal Hill Observatory Platform 
The Signal Hill Observatory Platform sits on a hillside close to Padang Merdeka in the Kota Kinabalu city. It is the highest spot in the city and affords splendid views of the surrounding cityscape and natural landscapes. When at the top, you can also enjoy unhindered views of the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park and the Tanjung Aru Beach.

Location: 78, Jalan Asrama, signal hills, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia 
Timings: Daily; 9:00 AM - 11:00 PM 

7. Borneo Railway 
Borneo Railway is one of the top and oldest attractions that Kota Kinabalu Tourism flaunts! The original lines were laid back in the year 1896 when it was used to move tobacco across Sabah. Today, the line starts from Tanjung Aru to Tenom, taking you through thick leafy forests and stunning coastlines. You can also choose to take the train to the small market town of Beaufort where you can easily spend a day exploring the vibrant culture of the area.

Location: Jalan Utama Sutera Harbour 88100, 88100, Malaysia 

8. Green Connection Aquarium
It is known for its colourful marine life and there is no better way of experiencing this richness without leaving the Kota Kinabalu city than by visiting the Green Connection Aquarium. The many exhibits include touch tanks where you can come up-close-and-personal with several aquatic creatures like sharks and snakes! The place is home to giant sea turtles, eels and a wide variety of both small and large fish, which makes it an excellent place to visit with kids! 

Location: 2, Jalan Tuaran, Likas, 88450 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia 
Entry Fee: Starts at Rs. 430 
Timings: Daily; 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Which are the best things to do in Kota Kinabalu?

1. Go White Water Rafting 
Kota Kinabalu is an excellent place to go white water rafting with the magnificent Kiulu River flowing just an hour away from the city centre. If you are feeling adventurous, you can drive for two hours and try your hand at rafting in the mighty Padas River. The river is known for its grade 3 and 4 rapids which make for a thrilling ride! 

Location: Padas River

2. Walk around Chinatown 
Situated in the centre of the Kota Kinabalu city, Chinatown is popularly known as Gaya Street. The vibrant place is always packed with young tourists as it is home to several hostels and backpackers residences. You will always find people walking in and out of the various Chinese eateries and cafes which offer authentic Chinese food. 

Location: LG, C-100B, 1 Borneo Hypermall, Jalan Sulaman, Kota Kinabalu, 88400, Sabah, Malaysia

3. Go Deep Sea Fishing 
Deep-sea fishing is one of the lesser-known activities offered by Kota Kinabalu tourism. You don't have to travel far from the city before you stumble upon a deep-sea fishing spot along the coastline. You can choose to enter the sea from Mangalam, Mantanani or Gaya island. 

Location: Gaya Island 
Price: Approx. Rs. 6,000 per person

4. Snorkel at Mantanani Island 
Snorkelling is one of the most popular activities that you can do in the Kota Kinabalu City and its crystal clear waters are the reason behind it! You can spend your time discovering the colourful marine life and then sunbathe at the beach afterwards. Apart from the wildlife beneath the surface, you can also spot fireflies and monkeys playing around in the area. 

Location: Mantanani Islands, Malaysia
Price: Approx. Rs. 6,800

Why is Kota Kinabalu famous?

Kota Kinabalu city is famous for its beautiful coastline which includes several beaches, including Tanjung Aru, Manukan Island and Pantai Dalit among others. Here, you can spend your days indulging in water sports like snorkelling, diving amongst corals or simply sun-bathing. Kota Kinabalu is a major tourist destination and is known as the gateway to Sabah and Borneo. Apart from the beaches, Mount Kinabalu is another crowd-puller in the region.

How to reach Kota Kinabalu?

Kota Kinabalu city has its own international airport and if you are travelling from Kuala Lumpur, the only way to reach the city is by taking a direct flight. Several airlines, including AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines, Malindo Air, SilkAir, Dragonair, etc. operate direct flights from major Asian cities like Manila, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, Singapore and Kuching among others. 

You can also choose to take a bus upto Kota Kinabalu. The South Bus Terminal in Kota Kinabalu operates buses to the regions of Beaufort, Lawas and Sipitang, lying ot the south of the city. The North Bus Terminal operates buses to the regions lying to the north of Kota Kinabalu, like Tawau, Sandakan, Semporna and Mount Kinabalu.

You can also choose the drive as the city has good connectivity with major cities. It is also to be noted that the roads can get slippery during the monsoons and are road travel is better avoided.

What is the best time to visit Kota Kinabalu?

The best time to visit Kota Kinabalu city is in the winter months of December to April. The weather is pleasant and you can freely explore outdoor activities like deep sea fishing and white water rafting. The beaches are also at their best and there are practically no rain showers to interrupt your plans. 

If you want to escape the crowds and do not mind a little bit of rain, then you can visit the place in the autumn months of September to November. The rains are considerably lesser than in the summer months, the crowds are fewer than winters and everything is cheaper, offering the best in Kota Kinabalu tourism.

Is it safe in Kota Kinabalu?

Kota Kinabalu is a quiet and peaceful place. Although it can be crowded at times, it is pretty safe for both tourists and locals. Although the crime rate is much lower than in cities like Kuala Lumpur, it is advisable to not venture out alone in the middle of the night.

Is Kota Kinabalu worth visiting?

Yes, Kota Kinabalu is an excellent tourist destination which is visited by tourists across the globe. The place boasts of several stunning beaches which offer the best Borneon sunsets, some breathtaking peaks from which you can enjoy otherworldly views and scrumptious seafood, prepared fresh! It also has home to some enthralling wildlife which you can witness in its natural habitat in the areas wildlife reserves.

How many days do you need in Kota Kinabalu?

You can easily spend two to three days discovering the different aspects of Kota Kinabalu, from its many beaches, wildlife sanctuaries, monuments and mountain peaks.

Do I need a visa for Kota Kinabalu?

You can avail a visa-on-arrival at Kota Kinabalu. Normally, you will get a visa for 30 days which can be extended upto 60 days if you contact the authorities. You must have a passport that is valid for the next six months if you are to avail a visa on arrival.

How to reach Kota Kinabalu from India?

You can fly directly from India to Kota Kinabalu. The cities which offer flights from India are Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Mumbai among others. Air carriers like Singapore Airlines, Malindo Air, Sri Lankan Airlines, Air India and several other operate almost daily flights from India to Kota Kinabalu.

What are the best adventure activities to do in Kota Kinabalu?

1. Ziplining
The Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park situated on the outskirts of the Kota Kinabalu city offers several ziplining opportunities that would satiate the adrenaline junkie in you. You can take the Coral Flyer Zipline that lets you zipline between two islands, starting from Sapi and reaching Gaya, covering a distance of 820 feet! 

2. Mountain Climbing
You can go mountain climbing in Sabah and endeavour to reach the summit at a staggering height of 13,435 feet! It is the tallest mountain in Borneo and Malaysia and due to safety reasons, only 135 climbers are allowed to climb in a day! Situated at a two-hour drive from the city, sitting in Ranau’s Kinabalu National Park, the mountain is a favourite amongst thrill-seekers. 

3. White Water Rafting
The two major white water rafting spots in Sabah are, the Kiulu River which is more suitable for beginners and people who enjoy milder waters. On the other hand, if you are looking for something more suitable for an experienced person, then the thrills of the Padas river with their Grade 3 & 4 rapids might entice you. If you want something a notch still higher, then you can go rafting at Kadamain with its Grade 1 & 2 rapids.

What is there to do in Kota Kinabalu at night?

1. Visit the Night Market
The night market in Kota Kinabalu is a vibrant thoroughfare where you can enjoy the perks of an open-air flea market. The place offers everything from fresh, local produce, piping hot roadside snacks and fresh seafood. Apart from this, you can also buy local wares, souvenirs and even get your clothes altered from the tailors sitting at the market. 

2. Wildlife Tours By Night
Kota Kinabalu has a staggering wealth of wildlife and a trip to the surrounding wildlife sanctuaries must be included in the itinerary. If you want a safari with a difference, then you can go on a night wildlife tour and cruise through the river via the Jesselton Beaufort and enjoy the sights of nocturnal creatures in their natural habitat. While on the river, you can also enjoy the exquisite show put up by fireflies in the wild at night. 

3. Go on Sunset Cruises
Kota Kinabalu is known for its breathtaking sunsets and what better way to experience this splendid time of the day by setting on a cruise. You can sail into the deep blue South China Sea and enjoy views of the city as the sky changes colour over it.

What is the best area to stay in Kota Kinabalu?

1. The City Center or Jalan Gaya 
The city center of Kota Kinabalu is an excellent place to stay if you want to spend your days in the heart of all the action and fun. The best part is, that it is only a 10-minute taxi drive away from the airport. The streets here are lined up with exquisite little cafes and restaurants that offer a variety of food and on the weekends you can enjoy street shows and pop-up shops selling a variety of ware.

You can choose to stay at Hilton Kota Kinabalu, C’haya Hotel or Mercure Hotel if you are looking for luxury accommodations. Other more, budget-friendly places are Treasure Inn, Stanton Hotel and Jesselton Capsule Inn.

2. Lorong Dewan 
If you do not want to stay in the middle of the thoroughfare but still want easy access to all the weekend activities, then Lorong Dewan is your answer. This neighbourhood sits right by the side of the city center and offers budget accommodation in the form of hotels, backpackers hostels and more!

The street falls right opposite the Atkinson Clock Tower from where you can enjoy the vistas of the city. When here, you must check out Borneo Tree House, The Jesselton Cabin and O’Pine Rooms for pocket-friendly accommodation.

3. Tanjung Aru 
When staying at Kota Kinabalu, wanting to enjoy the views of the ocean from your window is natural. That is where Tanjung Aru enters the picture, being an area where you can enjoy beach-side accommodations without breaking your bank balance.

When here you can enjoy beautiful sunsets and visit small cafes and enjoy fresh seafood prepared fresh in the stalls! Tanjang Aru has everything from luxury resorts like Shangri La and to small boutique hotels like Zara Boutique Hotel and to budget hostels like the Vibrant Hostel.

What are the best areas to shop in Kota Kinabalu?

1. Gaya Street Sunday Market 
This is your quintessential weekend market where you can buy a variety of wares, some exquisite to the area. Here, you will find everything from imitation jewellery, hardware, fresh produce, roadside snacks, herbs, toys, antiques and more! The market starts from the front of Jesselton Hotel and stretches up to the KK municipal building. 

2. Wisma Merdeka 
Wisma Merdeka is a shopping center in Kota Kinabalu which is as popular with the locals as it is with tourists. The three floors of the complex have a variety of shops, ranging from cafes, restaurants, fashion boutiques, tailors and jewellery stores. Its proximity to some of the city's biggest hotels makes it an easily accessible shopping destination. 

3. Imago Mall
 If you want to experience an indoor shopping experience when in Kota Kinabalu, then there is no better place than Imago Mall. It is one of the city's largest and has hundreds of outlets for fashion apparel, accessories, health, beauty, sports equipment, lifestyle products and eateries to choose from! 

4. Warisan Square 
The Warisan Square has been known for its wide open walkways, upmarket brands and both indoor and outdoor shopping facilities. Today, the mall does not have many shops that have been let but this lends itself nicely in offering a quiet and peaceful shopping experience.

Kota Kinabalu Reviews

Hiranya Shukla
Reviewed: 08 Jul 2019
This is an offbeat but one of the most wonderful destinations in Malaysia. Enjoyed here a lot!
Chitraksh Pandey
Reviewed: 08 Jul 2019
It was indeed a very different experience for me especially the visit to the Butterfly farm.
Vishnu Ahuja
Reviewed: 08 Jul 2019
What a great experience to see the endemic proboscis monkeys of Borneo in just a two hour drive from Kota Kinabalu. The firefly display was also magical.

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