27 Best Things to Do Kota Kinabalu - The Traveller


Sunday, January 1, 2023

27 Best Things to Do Kota Kinabalu

27 Best Things to Do Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu, formerly Jesselton, is pronounced as ˈkota kinaˈbalu in Malaysia. It is also called KK, and considered as the state capital of Sabah. Moreover, this one is the Kota Kinabalu District's capital and Sabah's West Coast Division. This place is located on the northwest coast of Borneo, which faces toward the South China Sea. On the west of the city, you can see Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, while on the east, there is Mount Kinabalu.

The 2010 census says that the city has around 452,058 people. But the population will increase to 628,725 if you add Penampang and Putatan districts. According to the 2020 Census, the population has increased to 500,421, whereas 731,406 is the population of wider places along with Penampang and Putatan Districts.

Brief History of Kota Kinabalu:

It was the 15th century, from when this place had been under the Bruneian Empire. But BNBC, later in the 1800s, started setting up colonial settlements throughout North Borneo. The British North Borneo Company established a small settlement in 1882 in Gaya Bay, a place where the Bajau people lived. It was Gaya Island, where the first settlement was made. But in 1897, the indigenous Bajau-Suluk chief Mat Salleh burned and destroyed it.

After that, at Gantian Bay, BNBC relocated the settlement in the year 1898. But, in July 1899, they found Gantian bay unsuitable. The BNBC has returned to administer Jesselton after the war. But they can't finance the reconstruction cost. Therefore, in the year 1946, the control of North Borneo was given to the British crown. Instead of Sandakhan, they have rebuilt Jesselton as North Borneo's capital.

For rebuilding North Borneo, the crown colony administration has designed a Colonial office reconstruction and development plan. Later in the year 1963, the federation of Malaysia was formed and it used to be known as Sabah. Whereas Jesselton is considered as still its capital. In the year 1967, a bill passed by the State Legislative Assembly Under Chief Minister Mustapha Harun. The bill declared that Jesselton will be known as Kota kinabalu.

How to Get to Kota Kinabalu?

People mostly enter Kota Kinabalu by air travel. There is only one airport named Kota Kinabalu International Airport. The main terminal is Terminal 1, where the arrival & departure of international and domestic traffic occurs. People living in Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, and Brunei can come directly to this town through international flights. In Malaysia, domestic flights mainly depart from or return to Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Penang, Kota Bharu of West Malaysia, Kudat, Tawau, Labuan, Sandakan, Kuching, Sibu and Bintulu. 

Manukan island


When to Visit Kota Kinabalu?

Borneo is a region of tropical rainforest that witnesses high humidity and rain for almost twelve months every year. Your travel experience won't be complete unless you experience the true Bornean climate.

March- October:

You should choose the dry season, which is from March to October, for visiting this place. It is the perfect time for those who like trekking and spotting orangutans in the wild.


This time period is ideal for diving. In July and August, water visibility is awesome.

Dec - Jan:

Although this time, the weather remains wet, you can still experience tropical rainy weather. You can explore the Kinabatangan River & Danum Valley, where you can witness higher rainfall. It indicates that you will be able to experience various wildlife sightings. Besides, if you want, you can navigate easily by boat into the ox-bow lake region.

Overall, we can say that you can travel throughout the year to Sabah as it always welcomes something to view during all the months. In recent years, people have witnessed climate changes and unexpected weather. Besides, you will be able to see dry spells appearing randomly during the wet season, while you can experience rain for a prolonged period during the dry season.

Activities to Do in Kota Kinabalu:

These are a few activities that you can perform in Kota Kinabalu, including- Klias Wetlands River Safari, Climb Mt. Kinabalu, River Rafting, and so on. Besides, you can enjoy Scuba Diving, Island Hopping, Paragliding, Parasailing, North Borneo Railway Train Ride, Mari Mari Cultural Village tour, etc.

As the town allows the tourists to perform plenty of mind-grabbing things, visiting here, you can have an outstanding fun and adventurous experience. The alluring city attracts people of all ages to visit here. You can perform several unsurpassed activities here, such as watersports, shopping, exploring sightseeing tours, and so on.

Do you feel mesmerized by the stunning views? Then, you should explore the Atkinson Clock Tower or the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque. In addition, if you want, walk across Chinatown to explore the city. Besides, you can travel to the Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market, from where you can purchase footwear, clothes, bags, ceramics, and many other things.

People also get a chance to spend their time watching beautiful creatures at Marine Life at the Green Connection Aquarium. In addition, you can keep yourself busy by sea walking, parasailing, and jet skiing. Do you want to make your trip more exciting? Then, you can go mountain biking and island hopping. To know the top things to do in Kota Kinabalu and places to visit in Kota Kinabalu, dig into the article.

01) Klias Wetlands River Safari:

To explore the wildlife, you can sail through the calm wetlands. Make your trip more beautiful by listening to the pleasing chirping sounds of the birds. If you are one of those who love spending time in vibing the sense of nature, then visiting this place will definitely impress you. If you want to witness the mesmerizing beauty of nature, then don't forget to enjoy moonlight river safari. Whereas you will get to see that you are surrounded by fireflies which will include more charm to the tour. What is special about this safari is that you can get the chance to view a few wild endangered species. You will be lucky enough, if you get the chance to see rare Silver leaf Monkeys, Proboscis Monkeys, and Myriad Species of birds. You need to move southwards into the Klias Wetlands to enjoy the safari and to explore more. The travel cost of this River Safari is about 200 MYR per adult.

02) Climb Mt. Kinabalu:

This tallest mountain in South Asia has nearly 4100 metres of elevation. Here, people can get the best terrain for climbing the rock. The mountain's topography is such that it becomes tough for the climbers to climb the summit. Hence, climbers need to jump through barbaric hurdles. Besides, they need to cross the cliffs.

Many people are there who don't prefer to climb up to the summit. In this case, they can explore different restaurants at the ground level. They can relax there and enjoy the marvellous beauty of nature. However, you can take help of a guided tour so that you can enjoy a short hike across the fire-path paved on the mount Kinabalu. This mountain is a hundred kilometres far from Kinabalu Park's World Heritage site.

03) River Rafting:

The thrill of rowing is unbeatable via the class IV and class V rapids. You can enjoy the massive thrill of river rafting by triumphing over the big waves. If you are willing to kick off the thrill during vacation, it is one of the most exciting things that you can do. You can see here special class VI rapids that may seem challenging even for the experts. The Southwestern part of this place is the best location for river rafting. However, using public transport, people can access this place easily. You need to pay about 200 MYR per person to visit there.

04) Go for Scuba Diving:

Do you love adventurous trips along with having fun and entertainment? Then, you can enjoy Scuba Diving in Penang to make your trip memorable. You need to dive into the water deeply so that you can explore sea life. This scuba diving allows you to dive among the region's turtles and sharks. The interesting part of scuba diving is you can see the creatures live.

Moreover, You can have a mind blowing fun experience by exploring the underwater flora and fauna. Besides, scuba diving will allow you to view the coral reefs closely. If you have not dived in the clear blue water, do it now because it will permit you to have one of the best experiences of your lifetime. Are you one of those who are attempting scuba diving for the first time? Then, you must take help of a professional diver who will assist you in diving better. You need to pay about 120 - 400 MYR per person for scuba diving.

05) Island Hopping:

Hopping and exploring different islands of this city can allow you to have a thrilling experience. Exploring something new will make your day for sure. The twin islands, known as a heaven on Earth, are one of the exciting places to explore in this city. These paradises are beautiful in their own ways. The combination of clear blue water and lush green forest will make the view alluring. You need to invest approx 200- 350 MYR to visit this place.

06) Paragliding:

Paragliding is one of the interesting activities that you must do visiting this city. Have you ever thought about flying across valleys and mountains? Doesn't it seem amazing? Try indulging yourself in paragliding in this city to enjoy the best lifetime experience. Moreover, observing the landscapes from a different perspective can make your trip amazing. If you are a beginner, you can take help from trained professionals. 300- 400 MYR is the cost that you need to pay in this case.

07) Mari Mari Cultural Village tour:

Does it not look awkward to visit a place without knowing its local culture and traditions? So, if you plan to visit kota kinabalu, you must explore Mari Mari village. Thus, you get to know how the local people spend their daily lives. Visiting this village gives the tourists a wonderful chance to learn about the regional cuisines and people's lifestyles. The hunting style and fishing techniques of the tribes will definitely make you feel amazed.

Along with learning their hunting skills, you can also relax in the huts during humid days. Don't forget to taste the mouth-watering tribal foods. You won't find any touch of modern civilization when you come here. It is deep into the Inamam's countryside. To visit here, you need to pay about 200 MYR per person.

08) Fishing Trip – Timpangoh River:

Do you love fishing? Don't feel disappointed if you are unable to master the fishing art. You can take help from professionals in this case. If you want to reach the fishing site, you must trek along the river bank. When your fishing is done, you can relax by swimming in the river. Moreover, you can make your trip more enjoyable by arranging a picnic at the river bank with your friends and family. Overall we can say that you can have a great fishing experience in this Timpangoh river. If you don't want to spend your time catching fish, you can take a dip in the river or have fun by organizing a picnic at the riverside. You need to pay approximately 250 MYR to visit here.

09) Parasailing:

Want to enjoy the thrilling experience of floating high above the sea? Then, Kota Kinabalu is the perfect place to visit. Visiting here, you can witness the coral reef under the canopy of the parasailing and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the coastline. Are you parasailing for the first time? Nothing to be worried about as professionals will give you all safety instructions and tips. 

They will help you to learn the process of flying above the blue sea. Hence you should know that licensed professionals conduct the activity. In addition, they take care of the safety measurements. A technical crew handles take-off and landing to avoid the hazards. It is possible to get the experience of parasailing at the Manukan Islands. The cost to parasailing is about 200 MYR. 10) North Borneo Railway Train Ride— Kota Kinabalu - Papar:

To enjoy the calm, quiet and astonishing natural beauty of this city, you can have a North Borneo railway train ride from Kota Kinabalu to Papar. To make your trip marvellous, you can travel via the old style trains that are driven by steam engines so that you can chug through the rice fields and traditional village homes. This train journey will bring you into the old days and allow you to experience the journey via the 1900's steam engine-driven train.

If you want to take a train ride, you should go from Monday to Friday, from 10:00 Am to 06:00 PM. Whereas you need to go to this place on Saturday from 09:00 Am to 05:00 PM. The cost of this train journey is about 350 MYR per adult.

11) Canopy Walking:

Did you ever want to explore the awning of a forest and the fauna which remains at 500 metres above ground level? Then, you can go for a canopy walk. By performing this activity, you can get the chance to explore the forest in a new way. Through this activity, you can spot birds that inhabit the forest's canopy. Moreover, by canopy walking, you can discover the rainforest from a new perspective. You can do so and explore the wildlife by walking above the ground level. Moreover, this activity allows the tourists to witness the Danum valley's mind-grabbing view. The price of canopy walking is about 350 MYR per adult.

12) Gaya Street Sunday Market:

In their travel list, Most people prefer to keep this street, also called the Sunday market. For more than a hundred years, this market has been getting importance from the traders. Gaya Street is an ideal location if you love to explore the local markets. From here, you can purchase different things such as authentic Malaya ingredients, a huge variety of seafood. If you want to buy Malayan art and craft, then Gaya Street Sunday Market is the best place where you should visit after arriving in this city.

Do you want to purchase a few souvenirs to take back home? Then don't forget to visit this market. Are you a food lover? Then, you can explore different ingredients for authentic Malaysian cuisine visiting Gaya Street. The market is located in the centre of the city. So, you can reach here easily by taking any public transport. You should come here during the daytime on Sundays.

13) Scuba Doo (Underwater Scooter): Like Scuba diving, this activity allows the tourists to access the underwater world. Do you want to try Scuba doo? Then, you need to put your head inside an air-locked bubble to breathe easily. By performing this activity, you can witness the incredible beauty of coral reefs and marine animals. You should know that this one is one of the safest ways to explore underwater life. You can perform the activity near Kota Kinabalu beaches.

14) Sea Walking:

Want to explore underwater marvels? Then, you should know one thing in this regard that no skills are required to possess them because sea walking is the same as walking in a park. It is an activity that allows you to explore the mesmerizing beauty of coral reefs and marine life. Moreover, while performing sea walking, you will get the chance to watch different fishes, corals, and other marine life. Remember that sea walking can be performed on almost all beaches of Kota Kinabalu. The average cost of performing this activity is about 200 to 500 MYR.

15) Fly Fish:

Undoubtedly, we can say that almost all people love fishing. You can catch flying fish in Sabah and Borneo. Wanna enjoy a thrilling and magical fish-catching experience? It is the perfect place to do these exciting activities. You will get to see a huge variety of fishes in the clear water of these rivers. Although these have been harvested, still there are a lot of fishes in these rivers, due to which catching flying fish is a popular sport here. You need to move together with this, so be aware when you catch the flying fish.

16) Ziplining:

Visiting this city, you can not only explore many beaches and islands, but also you can perform several activities to make your trip adventurous. This activity offers a 250m long ride expanded across the channel. Hence, you should know one fact that the channel is the divider of the Gaya and Sapi Islands. If you are willing to experience the beautiful scenarios of the Tunku Abdul Rahman, don't miss to take a ride. Remember that no other activity can offer you such an experience. This one is the second longest 'Island to Island' Zipline worldwide. However, if you want to perform this activity, you need to come from 8.30 AM to 4 PM.

In the TAR park, you can perform this Ziplining activity. To reach here, you only need to have a 10-minute boat ride from the city. You can go to the Jesselton Jetty ferry terminal to take the ferry. Remember, you need to pay at least 195 MYR (starting cost) for performing this activity.

17) Gaya Island Jungle Trekking:

Although trekking isn't so famous in Malaysia, the country offers some other thrilling sports for having fun and enjoyment. Jungle trekking on Gaya island is one of them. You should know that the Jungle tail is about 4 KM long and requires two hours to complete the journey. Hence, you need to start the trekking journey from Gaya Island and end at Hornbill Beach. If necessary, take another way around it. During trekking, you may get a chance to behold different wild animals, like wild boars, snakes, monkeys, and so on. However, the jungle is deep in a few areas, due to which taking photographs can be difficult.

You can take help of speed boats to reach here in thirty minutes. To get the boats, you need to go to the Jesselton Jetty ferry terminal. You should know that the starting price for trekking is 231 MYR per person. If you want to perform trekking, make sure that you are coming here from 8.30 AM to 4 PM.

18) Snorkelling:

This activity allows you to explore tropical beaches. You will get the chance to discover wonderful marine life and enjoy coral reefs by performing snorkelling. Many hidden things are yet to be found in the vast ocean. So, Snorkeling underwater is really an exciting thing to do.

Remember that underwater life is entirely different from what we actually think. When you start snorkelling in deep water, the green plants and marine life will make you feel astonished. Each person needs to pay approx 120-135 MYR for snorkelling here.

19) Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre:

This location is famous for conserving Orangutans and keeping them in their natural habitat. People who love wildlife and wildlife photography must come here. Visiting the place takes you closer to the amazing creature. If you want to feed the creatures, you should go to the feeding platforms. This place is located in Sandakan town, twenty-three kilometres far from the city centre of Kota Kinabalu.

People should use public transport and start their journey from Sandakan town. But every person needs to pay around 2.10 MYR per way. However, you can hire a taxi, but you need to pay around 100 MYR. Whereas approx 30 MYR is the starting entry fee for each person. 8 AM to 5 PM is the visiting time.

20) Mountain Biking:

You can explore the Sabah area's countryside through mountain biking. It is one of the amazing activities that you can do to make your trip adventurous. In addition, this activity gives you a chance to meet the Dusun people. Besides, you can discover villages alongside the river, jungle plantations, and the coastal plains. Your ride will end at the Linangkit Cultural Village. Moreover, at lunch time, you can enjoy mouthwatering Malay cuisine. The countryside of Sabah is only one kilometre from the city centre of Kota Kinabalu. Hence, the starting price of mountain biking is 260 MYR for every person.

21) Jet Ski Ride at Marine Park:

If you want to make your trip in Kota Kinabalu memorable, make sure that you are trying jet ski riding in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park to have the thrilling experience in crystal-clear water. For starting the trip, first you need to go to the Sunny Reef dive shop at 09.00 AM. Then, be ready for enjoying this mind blowing activity that will allow you to have a real taste of the country.

You can ride a motorized ski for thirty minutes on the sea surface. It will give you a chance to explore the scenic beauty of clear blue waters and allow you to have fun and gather memories.

22) Visit the Atkinson Clock Tower:

Arriving at Kota Kinabalu, don't forget to visit Atkinson Clock Tower. This tower, made by British colonialists, is very popular for the tourists and locals. You will get to see the tower at the summit of Mount Kinabalu on the East Malaysian side of Borneo island. This tower has witnessed centuries of wear and tear. We can also say that you may require a telescope if you want to find a grander view at any place in the globe. If you go to the tower's top, you will get to view Borneo's second highest peak Mount Tambuyukon. Hence, you should know that people made the tower to memorize Charles Walter Edward. Currently, the tower is famous to local people as it can protect Kinabalu from natural disasters.

Arriving at the top of the tower, you can experience the wondrous and mind-grabbing view of the whole Kinabalu. Before coming up, you need to go to the Timpohon Gate on a steep way. Besides, if you can go up with a helicopter.

23) Admire Marine Life at the Green:

To make your trip to Kota Kinabalu more exciting, you can explore the extraordinary Marine life at the Green Connection Aquarium. While it lets you appreciate the beauty of nature, you can get to learn more about the sea life which you can discover in the Caribbean Sea. You should know that the breathtaking beauty of this extraordinary location will impress you for sure. If you want to witness marine life, go to this location 93 Lorong Burung Ruai 1, 88100 Kota Kinabalu.

24) Shop at Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market:

Shopping at this market is one of the best things to do here. You can get the best-quality materials here at reasonable prices. Coming here, you can purchase jewellery, clothes, ceramics, bags, and many other things. In addition, you can see different stalls selling unique personalized items that you can't find anywhere else in the country.

In this market, you will get to see a great street art trend reigning on almost every stall. This art can be seen on the walls of a few stores. There are many shops along the road at Kota Kinabalu Central Market where people can get daily and weekly discounts. For instance, a few shops offer 'buy 3 get 1 free' or 'buy 6 get 3' discounts. Visiting this place must give you endless opportunities to buy your favorite things made of top-quality materials at affordable prices. The market is located on Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

25) Explore Kota Kinabalu City Mosque:

Exploring the City Mosque is something that you must do after arriving in this city. Hence, you should know that this one is an open-air two-aisle mosque located on Jalan Stadium near the city's centre, and opposite to the Sultanate Palace.

Visiting the stunning Mosque allows you to explore the spiritual side when you walk in here. Wandering the mosque gives you a special feeling of peace and allows you to explore all carvings on the walls. After completion of exploration, you should take a break at halal restaurants and try a Malaysian cuisine dish. This mosque is located in Jalan Pasir, Jalan Teluk Likas, Kampung Likas, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

26) Stroll at Chinatown:

One of the most recommended things to do after visiting Kota Kinabalu is taking a stroll through Chinatown. Visiting here, you can get to see different kinds of foods like Thai street food, Malaysian curry noodles, and so on. In addition, from here, you can purchase plenty of things including shoes, clothes, etc.

Chinatown is a place where you can find many old shophouses and small cafes. Besides, the place is adorned with multiple coffee shops along with a few outlets which can entertain tourists such as A ballroom dance studio. However, if you want, you can purchase beautiful orchids from stalls.

The streets remain filled with many locals and tourists as this place is adorned with many attractions like mosques, temples and churches. Want to purchase local souvenirs at budget-friendly rates? Then, Chinatown is the best place for you because there are many hawkers who sell hand-made jewellery, Indonesia's batik, China's light toys, and so on.

27) Jet Ski:

It is one of the most adventurous things that you can do, after visiting Kota kinabalu. People who want to get close to nature must do this activity. Go to the eastern coast of the city's Peninsular side to enjoy the beauty of the shoreline and water scenery. Several well-known locations are there that will allow you to enjoy the thrilling experience of jet skiing.

Due to its location on the longest straight stretch of coastline in Malaysia, Kota Kinabalu is the perfect spot for jet skiing. The special thing about this place is that mangroves and winding creeks won't interrupt your adventure.

Places To Visit In Kota Kinabalu:

Here, we are going to mention the names of a few places where you must visit, after reaching Kota kinabalu:-

  • Mount Kinabalu, 
  • Manukan Island Resort, 
  • Mamutik Island, 
  • Kokol Hill, 
  • Poring Hot Springs, 
  • Sabah State Museum, 
  • Mari Mari Cultural Village tour, 
  • Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, 
  • Observation Tower, 
  • Gaya Street Sunday Market, 
  • Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Kota Kinabalu City Mosque, etc.


Kota Kinabalu is a great spot to enjoy different activities like jet skiing, paragliding, parasailing, island hopping, exploring mosques, strolling at the famous Chinatown, and so on. In this article, we have covered all the essential points that you need to know if you are planning for a trip to Kota kinabalu. Still if you have any queries, let us know via comments.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the best time to visit Kota Kinabalu?

You should visit here between November and March. Visiting here during this time not only allows you to experience pleasant weather, but also Kota Kinabalu remains less crowded during this time.

Q. How to reach Kota Kinabalu?

Although you can reach there by taking any local transportation, taking a ferry from Labuan is the easiest way. The journey through the ferry ride requires three hours. Hence, you should know that this ferry ride offers two services daily— one at 8 a.m. and another at 1 p.m.

Q. What is Kota Kinabalu famous for?

The entire land surface which is near about 919.22 square makes this city popular. Over three million people live on this land. This town is also famous for its pristine islands, colorful festivals, and shimmering rivers. In addition, several cultural events like Gawai Dayak Festival, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, and Eid ul-Fitr or Hari Ulang make this place vibrant.

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