20 Places to Visit in Kota Kinabalu & Top Tourist Places
Must Do's in Kota Kinabalu Explore All (12)
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Sapi Island
Image Credit : https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-blue-sea-1430677/
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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Mount Kinabalu
The Southeast Asian country, Malaysia, is home to the 4,000-metre high peak of Mount Kinabalu. Mount Kinabalu has derived its name from the Kadazan word, ‘Aki Nabalu’, meaning ‘the revered place of the dead’. It is the tallest mountain in Malaysia and infact one of the highest mountains in Southeast Asia. 

Mount Kinabalu also ranks as the 20th highest mountain all around the globe, by topographic prominence and is one of the highest peaks in the world that can be easily trekked by most of the people. Mount Kinabalu, along with other upland areas of the Crocker Range is well-known worldwide for its tremendous botanical and numerous biological species biodiversity with plants of Himalayan, Australasian, and Indo-Malayan origin.

Nature lovers will be overwhelmed to be able to witness the many variations of flora and fauna that are to be found on the mountain at different altitudes. 
Mount Kinabalu can be placed in between the Himalayas and New Guinea in terms of descending elevation.

The majestic Mount Kinabalu exerts a magical quality that is both ineffable and unbelievable. Low's Peak is the highest point and can be climbed without much struggle. From having a stunningly dense tropical forest to the tallest peak in the country with the addition of its wildlife diversity, Mount Kinabalu has a lot to offer.
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A'Famosa Theme Park
Image Credit : Image from Michelle Maria from Pixabay
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.
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Mantanani Island
Image Credit : Photo by Ubey Ahmed on Unsplash
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.
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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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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.

 

 

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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

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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.
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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.

 

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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.


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Poring Hot Springs

Your Kinabalu tour is incomplete without a visit to Poring Hot Springs. This place is often frequented by locals and tourists who want to release their stress by stepping into the warm sulphuric mineral spring. In addition to Poring Hot Spring, you can also explore tropical gardens, butterfly farm, Poring canopy walkway, Rafflesia flower site and Orchid conservation centre.

With its alluring landscape and relaxing environment, it is one of the most sought-after places to visit in Sabah.

Location: Ranau, Sabah, Malaysia

Timing: 7:00 AM-6:00 PM

Entry fee: MYR 15 per person

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Signal Hill Observatory Tower

Do you want to relish the bird's eye view of Kota Kinabalu? If yes, then head towards Signal Hill Observatory Tower and capture some of the best shots of Sabah. The mesmerising views of Kota Kinabalu, its coastline, and lush green patches from the highest point of the city are totally worth it.

One can also catch a glimpse of Likas Bay, Abdul Rahman Park and Tanjung Aru from this point. The tower can be easily reached by climbing the wooden steps through the dense forests. If you are a nature buff, this is one of the most charismatic places to visit in Sabah.

Location:
Jalan Bukit Bendera, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Entry fee:
Entry into this tower is free of cost.

Timing:
9:00 AM -11:00 PM

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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.


How to reach: The Kokol Hill is just a 1-hour drive from the main Kota Kinabalu city

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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 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)

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Newly Added Kota Kinabalu Experience
It was indeed a very different experience for me especially the visit to the Butterfly farm.
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.
Overall the trip was good. We thoroughly enjoyed the snorkelling part and Jetty transfers.
It is one of the best place for all water sports activities. The rates are also normal. Not on higher side.
Snokerling is one of the best experience of my life till now. Superb day out with amazing experience
This is an offbeat but one of the most wonderful destinations in Malaysia. Enjoyed here a lot!
guide was good, helpful and professional highlight of the trip is the fireflies.
This was the best so far from my other water rafting experiences and our guide is very cheerful, easy going and friendly.
Our guide was superb and knowledgable. He was funny yet professional. In all, it was an amazing experience. Would definitely recommend!!

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