Things to Do in Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu, located in the northern region of the island of Borneo is a unique coastal destination which is partly covered by rainforests. With the best Things to do in Kota Kinabalu, it offers the unique blended experience of enjoying the sea as well as the rich floral and faunal diversity at the same time. It also effectively preserves the cultural history of mankind in the region as displayed through museums , architecture and its cultural village. A city like none other, Kota Kinabalu derives its name from the mountain of the same name located to its east and is the capital city of Sabah in Malaysia.

Geographically, Kota Kinabalu stands on a flat land between the Crocker Range to the east and  the South China Sea to the west. There are five islands opposite to the city ( Sapi, Mamutik, Gaya, Sulug and Manukan) which form a major site of tourist attraction, they together form the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. It is a popular recreational spot for tourists. The rainforests fringing the city have a certain section set aside for a Bird Sanctuary. Bird watchers find the region no less than a paradise for their activity of special interest.

Historically, Kota Kinabalu has much to offer to the tourists. The Padang Merdeka marks the spot where Sabah’s independence and establishment of Malaysia  took place. The Petagas War Memorial reminds one of the attack and assault of the Japanese during the Second World War.

Kota Kinabalu also has many leisure spots and conserved areas. Anjung Samudra, Tanjung Aru beach are a few which comes to mind in the context. Hiking, jogging, snorkelling are all on the offer list in this remarkable city. If there ever was a city with inclusivity as agenda for tourists and the best Things to do in Kota Kinabalu, then this is undeniably a destination which has something for everyone.

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Sapi Island

If you are looking for a relaxing holiday by the calm waters in the Peninsular region of Malaysia, then Sapi Island is the perfect escape to enjoy the cold breeze and serene blue sea. One of the must-visit islands in Sabah, a state in Malaysia, Sapi Island attracts tourists from all over the world. Famous for Coral Flyer - the longest zipline in the world, the beautiful island offers a plethora of activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming and more that will give you an adrenaline rush.

Located very close to Kota Kinabalu, the 25-acre Sapi Island is one of the five islands constituting the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park that covers 50 square km of the islands. Shaped like a cow’s head, this picturesque island in Malaysia has long been a favorite tourist destination for its distinguishing natural beauty, exotic culture, thrilling adventurous activities and thriving marine life. Some of the top attractions include the island’s distinctive wildlife, quaint hidden beaches and coral flying.

For enchanting travelers and animal lovers who want to soak sunlight by the white sandy beaches and relax under rustling palms, Sapi Island can provide them a comfortable stay. While you are here at the ravishing island, try out the coral flyer zipline activity that will give you a tour of other surrounding islands. Fish and turtles in the clear water and macaques, wild boards and monitor lizards dot the island. You will enjoy snorkeling and diving in the surrounding reefs and hiking through the dense forests. 

In addition to exploring the coolest and thrilling Coral Flyer activity, Sapi Island is also famous for its monitor lizards. These 2-meter-long wild creatures on the island are harmless unless humans cause any disturbance to them.One of Sapi Island’s top attractions is a secret cliff which is located 800 meters from the ground. The picture-perfect and pristine view from the cliff is worth exploring.

As you follow the trail towards the cliff, you will reach an open area with sedimentary rocks and a magnificent view of the mesmerizing blue and green colored water. Sapi Island also features a few hidden beaches which are less crowded and offer a peaceful spot, drawing similarities to a castaway dream location.

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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.
Mantanani Island
Mantanani Islands, a small group of three isolated islands, is a very picturesque and serene destination. From island trekking and sunset cruise to fishing or exploring the beach, you can do a whole lot of activities at the Mantanani Islands.

Pristine blue waters and the stunning natural beauty makes this place a paradise for beach lovers. The island has the most diverse forms of marine life. Snorkelling and diving are the major water activities you can look forward to enjoying on this island.

Sitting in crystal-clear aquamarine waters, the three islands, Mantanani Besar, Mantanani Kecil and Lungisan have become very popular for muck diving due to the existence of sea-horses, imperial shrimps, blue-ringed octopus, pink-eyed gobbles and many more species of marine animals.

The island is located in the north-western part of the state capital of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu and one can take a 55 minute speed boat ride from the Kota Belud if the weather conditions permit. Mantanani Besar is the largest of the three islands.

This part has not been much commercialized due to its thin structure as it is shaped like a knife. It is an absolute heaven for divers as it allows up to 40 metres of visibility. Many exotic birds flock to the island making it a great place for bird watching.

Several species of pigeons, sunbirds and the Mantanani scops owls are some of the beautiful bird species you can expect to see at the island. For those who do not want to indulge in water sports, the island offers a hoard of activities for them as well.

You can laze around on a hammock, play a game of volleyball or visit the nearest village for fishing. There are quite a few resorts, homestays and other places to stay in and around the island.
Lok Kawi Wildlife Park

Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Malaysia is quite popular among nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. Spread over 280 acres of land, the park is divided into two sections, the botanical and zoological side. It is run by the Sabah Wildlife Department under the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment.

The park is mainly family oriented and is also well-liked as a children’s zoo. The residents of the zoo include the Borneo Pygmy elephants, Orang Utan, Malayan Tiger, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Proboscis monkey, as well as a few species of Deer.

The botanical side of the park allows the visitors to go on leisurely strolls and jungle trekking along the trail. The well maintained and paved botanical trail runs for approximately 1.4 kilometres and the entire botanical component is spread over 200 acres of the area.

There is an aviary which is a very lively section of the park as you can hear a whole lot of pleasant sounds of the birds that greet the visitors who come to the park. The aviary houses many species of birds like the hornbill, parrots, pigeons, eagles and many more. The section in the zoo which is for children offers elephant rides from 10:30 am to 11:30 am and from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm every day.

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Gunung Mulu National Park

Gunung Mulu National Park is a beautiful national park situated in Sarawak that comprises caves and karst formations in the setting of the mountainous equatorial rainforest. This national park is highly renowned for its impressive collection of caves and rich dense rainforests. It is also home to a vast variety of flora and fauna, thereby offering a perfect escapade from the humdrum of city life close to the lap of nature.

Lankayan Beach

Lankayan Island is a tiny tropical coral resort island in the Sulu Sea, northeast of the island of Borneo, in the state of Sabah. This beautiful little island with thick tropical growth and sandy beaches offers an absolutely pure tropical wildlife experience. It's situated in a National Park region. A Turtle Rehabilitation centre is present on the island and is open to the visitors and you can watch egg laying and turtle hatch lings at times.


Highlights: The island is also one of Sabah's top diving spots with the availability of jungle interior and interesting diving attracts both divers and non-divers love to tour Lankayan.

 How to Get There: The island is also one of Sabah's top diving spots with the availability of jungle interior and interesting diving attracts both divers and non-divers love to tour Lankayan.


Kinabalu Park

A dream destination for all the wildlife and nature lovers, Kinabalu Park, encompasses around 5000 plant species and over 90 mammal species. The gigantic Mount Kinabalu range forms the major highlight of this park. This heritage park, which is also the starting point of Kinabalu trek, is conveniently located at an altitude of 1585 metres. If you want to add a dash of adventure into your trip, engage in activities like birding, mountain biking, golf, and farm tours. You can also capture the beauty of this place in your camera as a memento your way back home.

Manukan Island Resort

The Manukan Island Resort is a luxury private island resort. This serene retreat offers exquisite accommodation, sophisticated cuisine and unparalleled water sport activities in one of the most pristine corner of the world. Manukan Island is surrounded by a protected coral reef, and the island boasts a pristine rainforest and beautiful white sand beaches.

Location: Manukan Island, 88100 Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Highlights: This resort features an outdoor pool, a restaurant and spacious villas with private terraces and dining areas. The resort offers a wide range of activities such as diving, snorkeling and trekking. For views of marine life, glass-bottomed boat rides are available.

Price: Approximate price for a room starts at 700 MYR.

Kota Kinabalu City Mosque

Kota Kinabalu City Mosque is the second most important mosque in the whole Kota Kinabalu after the State Mosque, located in Sembulan. It is a perfect blend of modern and Islamic architecture and can hold more than 12,000 people in a single time. The architecture of the mosque highly resembles the Nabawi Mosque in Medina. The man-made lagoons surrounding the mosque gives its visitors an elegant and dramatic look, especially on a full moon night and is the largest mosque in Kota Kinabalu.

 Location: The mosque is just 3 KM from the main Kota Kinabalu City and is easily accessible.

 How to reach: Either you can take a local taxi, which will cost you around 15 MYR per way or you can take Bus No. 5A from the front of Hotel Shangri-La, which will cost you around 1.50 MYR per  person per way.

 Timings: 8 AM to 5 PM (Fridays closed)

Mamutik Island

In the group of five islands among the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, the Mamutik Island is the second furthest. Though the waters of Mamutik Island is not as clear as the Sapi Island, but you do get to indulge in some amazing water sports activity and some world-class beach side cafes and restaurants serving the lip-smacking Malay and continental cuisines. There are also some beautiful souvenir shops from where you can take some to your family or friends.

Location: The island is located in the downtown area of Kota Kinabalu and is off the coast. From the hotel Hyatt Regency Kinabalu, you can reach to the Jesselton Jetty point with 2 minute drive or by taking a 10-minute walk from where there are boats available regularly to reach the island.

Price: You have to pay an entree fees of 10 MYR per person once to get inside the island.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Are you a wildlife enthusiast looking for an ideal location to spot vibrant wildlife of Sabah? If yes, then Tabin Wildlife Reserve is an apt place to visit in Sabah. A tourist spot enveloped with immense natural beauty, Tabin reserve welcomes you with a bundle of priceless experiences.

It is spread across an area of 1120 Sq Km which remains covered with mangrove forest.  The most important animal species found in the reserve include gibbons, elephants, macaques, red-leaf monkeys, and orangutans. On your visit to Tabin Wildlife, soak in the charm of its natural surroundings or spend your time capturing its exotic wildlife in your camera.

Location: Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia

Entry fee: There is no entrance fee for getting inside Tabin Wildlife Reserve

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.

Gaya Street Sunday Market

Also known as the Sunday market, Gaya Street should be in every traveller’s bucket list. The place has been of importance to the traders for over a hundred years. It’s the perfect place for those who want to tour the local markets. Tourists can buy a variety of things like, authentic Malaya ingredients, a large variety of sea food, Malayan art and craft etc.

Highlights: If you are looking to buy some souvenirs to take back home, then this is the correct place to do so. People can also find traditional Malaysian artifacts. If you are a food lover, then you can explore the various ingredients for authentic Malaysian cuisines.

Location: It is located in the center of the city; hence people can stroll down to this place. The market is well connected with the public transport as well, so reaching there is not a problem.

Timing: The best time to visit the market is during the daytime on Sundays.

Mataking Beach

Another resort island with one of the best beaches in Malaysia, Mataking Island is the furthest from Semporna in east coast Sabah where a boat trip takes nearly an hour one way. Just stroll around the island to look for your own secluded place. One of the unique things about the island is that they have an underwater post office where you can literally post a letter or postcard. Highly recommended for those who want a 'Maldives' experience in Malaysia.


Highlights: This is the perfect romantic getaway as the island has a spa, private bungalows, an outdoor Jacuzzi by the sea and all the romantic walks by the beach you want. Special arrangements can be made for honeymooners, weddings or private parties. The only way to get here is by booking a tour package from the resort. There are no day trips or visits here.

 How to Get There: It is about 40 minute’s boat ride from the mainland of Semporna in the province of Sabah.



Layang Layang Island
Also known as Swallow Reef, Layang Layang is one of the islands located towards the north of Sabah Coast in Borneo Island.

Highlights – This is a very remote island, as it located in highly deep waters. The diving spots are close to 2000m deep. There is a naval base here and tourists are prohibited from entering into this area. There are lots of restrictions for tourists in these waters, due to which marine life is well-preserved. You will be able to spot Hammerhead sharks, whale sharks and abundant coral reefs here. Scuba diving is the main activity here, with the island providing maximum depths of up to 40m. Some famous diving spots in Layang Layang are Crack Reef, D-Wall, The Point, Pier Diving, Dog Tooth Liar and Wrasse Strip.

Location – 300km towards the north the Sabah Coast, Borneo Island.

Timings – March to August.

Price – Depends on the package.
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.

Bohey Dulang Beach

Bohey Dulang Island is a mountainous island forged by the remains of an ancient volcano. The southern side of the lagoon is open but just below the surface is a protracted stretch of reef which represents the southern cratered fringe. The island is best known for its spectacular views at the top of its peak. It is possible to trail around the island at low tide by following the narrow edges of the beach and mangroves, although this involves scrambling over rocks or through vegetation's.

Highlights: Prepare to be greeted by a host of tropical flora and fauna during the arduous but rewarding hiking trail to the top of Bohey Dulang Peak. Majestic views of the sapphire blue lagoon await those who make it through the hour long climb.

How to Get There: Bohey Dulang is located about 35 minutes by boat from Semporna, 20 minutes from Pom Pom, 30 minutes from Mataking and 1.5 hours from Mabul.


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.

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Kota Kinabalu Things To Do FAQs

What are the adventure activities to do in Kota Kinabalu?

Adventure in Kota Kinabalu almost ranges with the varied personality of the

landscape. From exploring the tropical rainforests to surfing the sea and

exploring the depths of the ocean, Kota Kinabalu has a range of activities in

store. A few to name in this context are as follows:

  • Snorkelling
  • Hiking
  • Quad Biking Tour in Kiulu
  • Coral FLyer Zipline Adventure at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park
  • Sea Walking adventure
  • Indoor climbing

What are some of the best things to do in Kota Kinabalu?

The best things to do in Kota Kinabalu can be seen in terms of best activities for

nature lovers, adventure sports lovers, history lovers, etc. To prepare a list of few

of the best activities from each category, the must do list stands as follows:

  • Visit Pulau Tiga
  • Cycle through the city
  • Enjoy steamed buns at old kopitiam
  • Visit Grand Illusions
  • White Water Raft at Kiulu
  • Conquer fear of heights at Zip Borneo
  • Mountain Biking Excursions at Kiulu
  • Day trip to Ranau
  • Enjoy natural beauty of Bukit Padang
  • Jog at Perdana Park
  • Visit the tip of Borneo at Kudat
  • Visit Marine Museum
  • Visit Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park
  • Picnic at Tanjung Aru

Where can we go for fishing in Kota Kinabalu?

The Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is a good spot for fishing. It is advisable

to book leisure fishing tours to make the most of the experience. There are many

tour operators who arrange for such packages for tourists.


Which are best places for water rides in Kota Kinabalu?

Water rides are very popular in Kota Kinabalu and forms one of the crowning

experiences in overall tourism experience. The best place for water rides is the

Water World Theme Park in Kota Kinabalu. Besides the Water World Theme Park,

one can enjoy jet skiing at Mangrove Eco Safari and Langkawi, fly fish ride at the

Abdul Rahman Marine Park and Banana boat ride at The Abdul Rahman Marine


What are the most romantic things to do on a honeymoon in Kota Kinabalu?

Honeymoon in Kota Kinabalu can be an experience encompassing quite some

variety of activities. At the very outset, the city offers a number of world class

hotels to check into where everything from marvellous local and international

cuisine to rejuvenating spas are offered. There are resorts with golf courses and

provisions of other activities such as tennis and swimming pools to add to the

luxury. Once one steps out of the hotel, the broad walks, markets and the

beaches are good places to go for a casual stroll as the dusk rolls on to

welcome the night. Further, the city offers activities ranging from safari to water

sports, history walk to just plain cycling through the city and meeting locals. For

the party lovers, the nightlife of Kota Kinabalu promises all the fun as any

nightlife friendly city would offer.Complete with late night walks on the beach

besides a few drinks at the local bars, a day in Kota Kinabalu can never end

without the lingering aftertaste of a day well spent and a romance fully lived for

that day itself.

Where can we go for a wildlife safari in Kota Kinabalu?

Kota Kinabalu is blessed with abundant rainforests and hosts a number of wild

animals and plants. Few of the most popular places for wildlife safari around the

city are as follows:

  • Kilas RIver and Nature wildlife tour
  • Lok Kawi WIldlife Park
  • Kinabalu Park Canopy Walkway and Poring Hot Springs tour
  • Sandakan Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center

Which places are best for scuba diving and snorkeling in Kota Kinabalu?

Kota Kinabalu is famous for watersports and diving experiences in and around

beaches. A few of the most popular places for scuba diving and snorkeling are

as follows:

  • Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park
  • Gaya Island
  • Sapi Island

Which are best cruising experiences in Kota Kinabalu?

Cruising experiences are very popular amongst tourists as it accords the sight to

the sea as well as the varied landscape of the shoreline half immersed in dense

Rainforests. Few of the most popular cruising experiences are as follows:

  • Sutera Harbour, North Borneo cruise
  • Nippon Maru cruise
  • Mv Mega Bhakti cruise

Where can we go for paragliding in Kota Kinabalu?

Paragliding is an exciting sport which when conducted from just the right spot

and elevation, can be an experience of a lifetime. In Kota Kinabalu, the Kokol

hills are the most popular site for paragliding.

Where can we go for zip lining in Kota Kinabalu?

Ziplining can be best enjoyed while partaking in the ride from Gaya island to Sapi

Island. It is an exciting experience where one gets to zip over the clear turquoise

waters from one island to the other.

Where to experience parasailing in Kota Kinabalu?

Parasailing is an activity which can be enjoyed both in Tunku Abdul Rahman

Marine Park as well as on Sapi Island.

What are the best nightlife experiences in Kota Kinabalu?

Kota Kinabalu has a reputed nightlife with world class bars and pubs, restaurants

for the night owls amongst tourists. A few of the most popular places to go to for

the evenings are as follows:

  • The Shamrock irish Bar
  • El Centro
  • Sunset Bar
  • M- Cubed Bar
  • Sullys Bar
  • Shenanigan's
  • Cock and Bull Bistro
  • Q Bar
  • Moretune

Which are the best areas to try out the street food in Kota Kinabalu?

Street food in Kota Kinabalu gives one a taste of local lifestyle and is a must

have if one intends to experience first hand, every bit of life in the city. Few of the

most popular street food joints are as follows:

  • Shoney’s Kitchen and Bar
  • Mad Ben Cafe
  • Tavern kitchen and Bar
  • KK Food Street
  • Yee Fung Restaurant
  • Little Italy
  • Fong Ip Cafe
  • Gusto Food and Wine
  • Sri Latha Curry House
  • Yuit Cheong

Kota Kinabalu Things To Do 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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