A seaside city by the South China Sea this is a cool place to visit. The capital of Sabah, the north part of the Malaysian side of Borneo. Kota Kinabalu (KK) has a very diverse cultural heritage which means there are lots of different food choices here, a great place to visit.
There are swanky malls, breathtaking fiery sunsets, street food as well as high-end food. When the place is too humid to walk outside, just enter one of the many malls with the cool a/c.
Things to do in Kota Kinabalu
Where to stay
Around Kota Kinabalu
Gaya street food market
This happens every Sunday morning, the place is overrun with both locals and tourist, lots of different handmade crafts to purchase here and delicious food.
Sabah State Museum & Heritage Village
This is one of Sabahs most popular museums, great place to learn many different things about Borneo. The main museum is divided into several sections including; culture, history, headhunters, textile, ethnography and prehistoric life.
For opening times and how to get there see here
Along the harbour there is a very pleasant walk, passing both restaurants, malls, cafe’s etc. Lots of places to buy an ice cream and enjoy the view overlooking the south china sea and the islands. You can combine this waterfront walk with the fruit and food market to get a feel for the local culture.
Fruit and food market
Down by the harbour there is a really cool market place. It’s mainly food, fruits, dried (slightly smelly) fish and a few other bits and bobs. One of the weirder things to see was a tropical bird that was for sale which seemed a little illegal. Really nice place to just walk around taking in the place and enjoying the sights of locals stalls.
The beautiful mosque city mosque can accommodate up to 12,000 at the same time. The mosque features Arabic characters swooping like birds over the stone background. The Mosque is exemplary of the Islamic contemporary architecture
The Kota Kinabalu City Mosque is open for public visits daily except Fridays from 8am to 5pm. There are no fees charged on visitors.
Where to stay in KK
There are plenty of options to choose from in KK. We totally fell in love with Hotel Grandis in the centre of KK.
The hotel is situated at the end of a shopping centre, as in there is an entrance from the hotel directly to the shopping centre. How perfect is that. As it was raining one day in KK we didn’t even have to go outside to face the weather, we just strolled into the very large shopping centre for a bit of shopping and food. The mall has a ton of shops, supermarket, cinema and restaurants.
KK is famous for the amazing sunset (due to the dust in the air), voted one of the best amongst travelers. The perfect place to enjoy this is from the rooftop at Hotel Grandis with a view over South China sea.
Hotel Grandis also has two pools on the rooftop, one small and one large. On the weekend, Friday to Sunday they have live music on the rooftop in the bar. Like I said, the perfect place for a sunset over the South China sea with delicious food and listening to a live band. They also have a piano bar with live music over the weekend.
The rooms are amazing with floor to ceiling windows and the most amazing beds. I really wanted to steal both bed and pillows but thought it would look slightly suspicious walking out the front door with a large bed on by back.
With a good hotel comes a good breakfast buffet. This is probably one of the best. So many options to choose from, so much delicious food.
To stay at Hotel Grandis check them out here
Around Kota Kinabalu
Around 2 hours from the Kota Kinabalu can you find mount Kinabalu in the national park. This park holds the largest flowers on earth, hot pools, mount Kinabalu and of course the beautiful rain forest. There are so many different walk, hikes, via ferrata. For more on via ferrata, please see here.
Proboscis monkey and fireflies river cruise
A couple of hours drive from KK you can get on a river cruise on the Garama river and hopefully catch the sight of the proboscis monkeys and the fireflies. There are lots of options in regards to booking the tour, pretty much all the agencies in town will be able to organise a trip there. Generally they will pick you up from the hotel early afternoon, take you on the river cruise and bring you safely back to your hotel in the evening.
Getting to the airport
Its really easy to get a bus to the airport from Kota Kinabalu town
The google map suggests it is here but we actually found it to be on the otherside of the road in the big parking lot