Explore the Best of Kota Kinabalu in 4 Days

Explore the Best of Kota Kinabalu in 4 Days

Kota Kinabalu is a tremendous tourist destination by itself that you should explore. Even if you will spend only a few days in Sabah you cannot miss Kota Kinabalu in your itinerary.

How many days do you need in Kota Kinabalu?

In general, the ideal length of a vacation in Kota Kinabalu greatly depends on a person’s goals and interests. 

On average, tourists need four days and three nights to stay in Kota Kinabalu because it is a big city with many attractions. However, extending the stay to a week is ideal for visiting more sights.

For those with limited time, spending two days in Kota Kinabalu to visit key landmarks is enough.

The 2-day trip to Kota Kinabalu is highly recommended if you also plan to go to other parts of Sabah. You will be able to experience the highlights of activities and tourist destinations in the city within two full days.

If you want to see more of what Kota Kinabalu has to offer, then a 4-day trip should be enough for you to cover as much ground as possible and try more activities.

Moreover, a 7-day trip will give you a full-on Kota Kinabalu experience. Therefore, it is the perfect travel time if you plan to include hiking Mount Kinabalu in your list of activities.

How many days do you need in Kota Kinabalu

When is the best time to visit Kota Kinabalu?

Best time to visitFebruary, June, December
Peak season for touristsJune, November, December to April
Months with great weatherFebruary, March, October, December

Summer is not a good time to visit Kota Kinabalu because of the prevalence of heavy showers. In general, the weather is hot year-round but you will still encounter rain showers. 

Rainy months are usually in January, June, May, and July. February usually has dry weather, so it is a good option to take a tour of Kota Kinabalu. 

Likewise, you can also go in June because of the cost of flights and accommodations that make it another busy travel season despite the rain showers.

The coolest season in Kota Kinabalu falls from December to April. The weather during these months is perfect for exploring parks, deep sea fishing, and even river rafting but take note that these months are also crowded with tourists.

If you plan to hike Mount Kinabalu, then you should go to Kota Kinabalu during these months.

Schedule your trip anytime from September to November if you want to go to Kota Kinabalu before tourists flock to the city.

During these months, you will experience the same cool weather but with intermittent showers. You will even get cheaper rates for accommodations because during the off-season for tourism.

It is also important to note that during the peak season, particularly in December, June, and November, which are the busiest months for tourism, the rates of accommodations and airfare are quite expensive, so it is best to save up or book in advance to get a great deal.

For those who are on a budget and want to visit Kota Kinabalu, April to early May is also a good option if you are not bothered by a few rain showers. May is especially the least expensive time to visit the city.

Some outdoor recreations might not be available, but activities like boating, hiking, or mountain biking can be done during dry days.

When is the best time to visit Kota Kinabalu

Why should you visit Kota Kinabalu?

A tour of Malaysia will not be complete without visiting Sabah. In particular, its capital city, Kota Kinabalu is certainly worth seeing.

Kota Kinabalu is a charming city that is often referred to as the gateway to Sabah. A lot of tourists choose to spend a day or two here to recover from jetlag after landing from their flight to Sabah.

Additionally, this city is a good starting point if you plan to tour Sabah because you can easily access a lot of places from here. 

You can quickly get to major cities like Kudat, Sandakan, Ranau, and Tawau, Semporna, where you will be able to revel in the richness of Sabahan heritage.

However, Kota Kinabalu is not just a transportation hub. This coastal city is an ultimate destination that is worth spending at least a few days exploring.

Once you reach Kota Kinabalu, you will discover that its city center itself is already full of landmarks, malls, and restaurants that you should visit. Additionally, it has plenty of beaches where you can just lay back and relax.

Every day, the tourists here enjoy spectacular views of the seaside on one side and Mount Kinabalu on the other. They also love sightseeing in cultural and historical places spread across the city and in nearby towns that are just a few hours away.

Why should you visit Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu also promises different epic adventures every day. There are several activities you can do here, such as island hopping coupled with water activities, trekking in the jungles, river cruises, and wildlife spotting during wilderness explorations.

The city is also known for colorful markets that sell locally produced products and handicrafts that you should bring home as a souvenir of your trip.

Watching gorgeous sunsets is also a pastime you will take delight in, especially when you visit the locations in Kota Kinabalu that are prominent for catching the sunset.

Furthermore, you will be able to experience the best of the authentic culture of Sabah within the boundaries of Kota Kinabalu alone. With the hospitality of the friendly locals here, you will have fun learning about the culture and origins of various tribes in Kota Kinabalu.

Finally, the local cuisine and delicacies are something that you should also be able to check out because of the bursting flavors you will taste and the unique encounter you will experience.

Why should you visit Kota Kinabalu

Explore the Best of Kota Kinabalu in 4 Days

As you may know, you only need four days and three nights in Kota Kinabalu to explore it and do cool activities that will make your trip memorable.

It is best to arrive the night before you begin your tour so you can recharge before you start exploring the city. This will also allow you to make the most of your first day here.

Here is our suggested itinerary that you can follow or modify if you plan to stay in the city during this time frame.

Day 1Morning to afternoon: Kota Kinabalu City Centre

Evening: Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market

Day 2Morning: Signal Hill Observatory Platform and Atkinson Clock Tower

Afternoon: Tanjung Aru Beach

Evening: Night Market

Day 3Morning to evening: Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal
Day 4Morning: Mari Mari Cultural Village

Afternoon: Kiulu River

Here is also a preview of the activities you will engage in to give you an idea of what you should expect in your four-day journey:

  • Museum and gallery hopping
  • Island hopping
  • Water activities like river cruising, snorkeling, scuba diving
  • Relaxing at the beaches
  • Watching the sunset
  • Shopping at markets for souvenirs
  • Strolling in the bustling streets
Explore the Best of Kota Kinabalu in 4 Days

Get to know each of the travel-worthy destinations we included in our suggested itinerary and discover why you should see and visit them for yourself!

Day 1: Enjoy the cityscape.

Kota Kinabalu is no different from other cities. It is already full of attractions that you would need at least an entire day to roam around.

Most of the attractions are located close to each other so you can immediately go from one place to another.

Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu

Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu
AddressJalan Pasir, Jalan Teluk Likas, Kampung Likas, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Website https://mbrkotakinabalu.com/
Contact numberTelephone number: +6088205 418
Operating hours5AM - 10PM
Suggested duration of visit2 to 3 hours
Highlights / ActivitiesPeaceful walk, entering the mosque

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Kota Kinabalu is Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu.

Because it is a working mosque, it is quite a busy place. You will encounter worshippers coming here, and you can enter it but you must wear appropriate clothing which you can borrow at the booth outside before you go in, if you do not have one.

This majestic cultural site is built on a man-made lagoon, enclosed by palm trees, and surrounded by water, making it appear like it is floating.  Hence, its nickname, “The Floating Mosque.”

When you spend the afternoon here, you will witness the sunset from an incredible view. However, it is closed for visitors from 5 PM.

Sabah State Museum

Sabah State Museum
Photo from Sabah Tourism Board Website
AddressJalan Muzium, 88300 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Website https://museum.sabah.gov.my/exhibition/68
Contact numberTelephone number: +6088225033
Operating hours9AM - 5PM
Suggested duration of visit3 to 3.5 hours
Highlights / ActivitiesLearn about Kota Kinabalu and Sabah’s rich heritage, culture, and history

Travel back in time when you go to the Sabah State Museum. Visiting this complex will allow you to discover the Sabah region and history within hours.

It is home to art galleries that display art and science, the diverse culture, Islamic civilization, archaeology, as well as tradition of the Sabahans. Additionally, an exhibit here shows the history from colonial times until the modern period.

Expect to find exhibits showing natural history, ceramics, and ethnography, among others.

In the Ceramic gallery, there are displays of colorful and striking jars that have been passed down from one generation to another. Meanwhile, the Natural History gallery features a unique ecology, including rainforest, marine, and cave flora and fauna.

You will discover more than 30 indigenous groups in Sabah at the Ethnography gallery, and see their traditional clothing and musical instruments.

Part of the museum complex is the Sabah Islamic Civilisation Museum, a 2-story building where you can learn about Muslim history and heritage.

The Islamic World Gallery features various artifacts like an 18th-century Persian Quran stand, old Qurans, and miniature mosques. There are also memorabilia from Middle East countries that show how the Islamic religion’s roots in Malaysia and Sabah and how it spread through Southeast Asia. 

There is also a Heritage Village here where you will view replicas of different traditional houses of various ethnic groups in Sabah. Some of the dwellings you can find are the Murut longhouse, Bajau House, Kadazan bamboo houses, and even a Chinese farmhouse.

You will also see numerous old trains on display in the Locomotive Gallery, as well as relics of the Kota Kinabalu and Northern Borneo railway systems.

Likewise, there are different exhibitions in the Science and Technology Center that show the oil and gas production and broadcasting system in Sabah.

Finally, you can spot medicinal, ornamental, commercial, and ritual plants in the Ethnobotanical Garden. In addition to these, you will marvel at the well-kept gardens that grace the museum complex.

Sabah Art Gallery
Photo from Wikipedia
Address14, Jalan Shantung, 88300 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Website https://sabahartgallery.com/
Contact numberTelephone number: +6088 268 748

Email address: [email protected]

Operating hours9AM - 4PM
Suggested duration of visit1 to 2 hours
Highlights / ActivitiesVisit art galleries and exhibits

Just a few minutes from the Sabah State Museum is the Sabah Art Gallery. This haven for art lovers is located in the 1.7-hectare Sabah Art Gallery Conservative Center.

Here, you will find a carefully curated collection of local and international artworks. In addition, it has gallery spaces where you will marvel at the display of thousands of paintings, installations, sculptures, and carvings.

The gallery also hosts more than a dozen monthly and annual exhibitions. New themes and new artists are often promoted in the exhibitions here.

The building itself is a work of art. It is a unique octagonal basket-shaped establishment with decorative cultural accents.

It is also accredited as the first green building in the region of Borneo, as it uses renewable energy and rainwater to run its lighting and air conditioning.

Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market

Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market
Photo from Trekkers Lodge
AddressJln Tun Fuad Stephens, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
WebsiteNot posted
Contact numberNot posted
Operating hours8AM - 10PM
Suggested duration of visit1.5 hours
Highlights / ActivitiesShopping

Formerly known as the Filipino Market, the Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market is a diverse place where you will find shops owned by mostly foreign sellers.

When you are here, do not forget to bargain so you will be able to get a great deal.

This tourist-friendly market is where you can go on a shopping spree for local souvenirs, handicrafts, jewelry, and medicinal herbs.

Additionally, this bustling market is famous for water pearls, woodwork, and even snacks. In particular, you should find and try a traditional snack called Kuih Cincin, which is made of brown sugar and rice flour.

You will also revel in miles of gorgeous clothing like pareos and sarongs, which are perfect if you are planning to visit beaches or islands.

Day 2: Get a view of the cityscape.

After a day of exploring the city, why not go for the cityscape on your second day? The following locations are top-notch spots where you will be able to observe awesome views of the sprawling city of Kota Kinabalu.

Signal Hill Observatory Platform

Signal Hill Observatory Platform
Photo from Sabah Tourism Board Website
Address78, Jalan Asrama, Signal Hills, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
WebsiteNot posted
Contact numberNot posted
Operating hours9AM - 11PM
Suggested duration of visit3 to 4 hours
Highlights / ActivitiesViewing the cityscape, cafe hopping

Situated at the edge of the city center is the Signal Hill Observatory Platform. It is a must-visit attraction since it sits on the hills close to Padang Merdeka, making it the highest vantage point in the city.

It is a great location where you can find the best sweeping panoramic bird’s eye views of the entire Kota Kinabalu city center. You can also see the gorgeous sea and surrounding islands, especially when you are on its airy deck.

There are also beautiful houses at the foothills that you can gaze at when you can drive up or climb up the 250 steps to the tower. If you are driving here, take note that there is limited parking space, so it would be better to arrive there early.

It is recommended to come here in the late morning or the afternoon so you can watch the beautiful sunset while drinking a cup of coffee or goreng pisang (banana fritters) that you can buy at the kiosk.

On your way to the tower, you can also drop by Lorong Dewan, a hub of shops where travelers can visit heritage buildings with cafes, restaurants, hostels, and interesting shops.

You can also find studios here that offer workshops for handicrafts, pottery, and candle making, among others.

Atkinson Clock Tower

Atkinson Clock Tower
Photo from Blue Kinabalu Travel Agency
AddressKota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
WebsiteNot posted
Contact numberNot posted
Operating hoursNot posted
Suggested duration of visit1 hour
Highlights / ActivitiesStrolling and sightseeing

You will find the Atkinson Clock Tower at the foothill of Signal Hill. This tower is a historical site and perhaps the oldest structure and the oldest wooden one in Kota Kinabalu.

This cultural heritage was built in 1905 as a memorial for Francis George Atkinson, the first district officer of Jesselton under the British North Borneo Chartered Company administration, which is why it was originally known as the Atkinson Memorial Tower.

It survived the bombings in 1945, and it is one of the four infrastructures that avoided the destruction of World War II. Up to date, it keeps the time in the city.

Tanjung Aru Beach

Tanjung Aru Beach
Photo from Sabah Tourism Board Website
AddressTanjung Aru, 88100 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
WebsiteNot posted
Contact numberTelephone number: +60168330678
Operating hours10AM - 10PM
Suggested duration of visit3 to 4 hours
Highlights / ActivitiesPicnic, relaxing at the beach, water sports

After an exhausting day of roaming around the city, head to the Tanjung Aru beach for afternoon relaxation. A trip to Sabah, especially to Kota Kinabalu, is not complete without coming over to this picturesque beach.

When translated into English, Tanjung Aru means Casuarina Beach. Its name comes from the casuarinas or aru trees planted in the surroundings of the beach.

Stay until the late afternoon here so you can catch the postcard-worthy golden sunset it is famous for while soaking their feet in the silky sand.

You can sit back and unwind, have a beachfront picnic, or try out various exciting activities available for visitors. They will also enjoy the savory local street food at the stalls.

People who go here should not miss out on parasailing, paragliding, windsurfing, kayaking, or canoeing. Nearby hotels also offer water sports services, as well as diving and snorkeling lessons.

On your way out of the beach, you can watch the fountain show at Tanjung Aru Perdana Park, which is just a few minutes away.

Night Markets

When the sun sets in Kota Kinabalu, another famous attraction emerges in the streets of the city when the night markets open up. You should not miss going to one of these places!

For example, at Tanjung Aru beach, you will notice that more and more stalls open as a night market appears towards the evening. You are sure to find something that will satisfy your tummy.

Moreover, there is also a Night Food Market that opens in Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens from 5:30 PM until 11 PM. This is the place to go when you crave fresh seafood straight from the sea and other local delicacies.

Another food market you can find is KK Container Street Food Night Market, also called the ASquare Container Street Foods Night Market, where you will get a taste of authentic traditional Malaysian cuisine. It is located in Api-api Centre and opens from 4 PM to 11 PM.

Additionally, a famous tourist attraction that showcases the Sabahan culture is the Api Api Night Food Market in Jalan Bandaran, which is a night market that opens only on Fridays and Saturdays from 6 PM to 2 AM. Aside from food, you can also find local handicrafts here.

Furthermore, if you want to shop for budget-friendly items, then you should check out the Sinsuran Night Market. which opens from 6PM to 12AM in Sinsuran Kompleks.

In addition to trying out varieties of seafood here, you can also buy various clothing, footwear, bags, and jewelry at a great bargain in this night market.

Day 3: Go island hopping and take a dip in the water.

After spending two days on the land, you should explore the offshore islands just near Kota Kinabalu.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park
Photo from Wikipedia
AddressNot posted
WebsiteNot posted
Contact numberTelephone number: +6088486430
Operating hours8AM - 5PM
Suggested duration of visitMorning to afternoon
Highlights / ActivitiesIsland and beach hopping, diving, snorkeling, ziplining, trekking

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is a cluster of five different islands, namely Manukan, Gaya, Sapi, Mamutik, and Sulug. Take the time to explore and sunbathe in these beautiful islands for a full day when you go island hopping.

Because these are all very popular islands, especially for island lovers, expect that some of these are crowded when you visit.

You will be able to choose which islands you can visit but you can try out snorkeling, diving, and other water activities on each island.

On each island are a uniquely thrilling adventure awaiting you, as well as gorgeous sandy beaches, crystal waters, and corals. Marine life and wildlife are also bountiful in the jungles of these islands.

Gaya Island is the biggest among the 5 islands. It is home to lots of jungles and rainforests where you can trek the trails here. Plus, there is also a floating village here that you can explore.

A 250-meter zipline called the Coral Flyer connects Gaya to Sapi Island. Sapi is a small but busy island that travelers frequently visit because of its clear turquoise water.

Meanwhile, Manukan Island is the second biggest island and it is known for its beach with white sand. Its crystal-clear water is also a famous spot for diving and snorkeling where you can view butterflyfish and parrotfish.

Mamutik Island is the smallest island in the marine park. It is a tranquil place because there are fewer tourists here so you will enjoy a quiet time on the beach that is filled with coral. While the water condition in Mamutik is rougher than the others, you can still go snorkeling here.

The emerald seawater of Sulug is a great escape from crowded beaches since it is the farthest and least visited island, but the sea view here will not disappoint you. However, if you are going here, you should go with a group because the boat service is quite expensive if you are alone.

Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal

Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal
Photo from Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal
AddressJesselton Point Ferry Terminal, Jln Haji Saman, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Website https://jesseltonpoint.com.my/
Contact numberTelephone number: +6088249709
Operating hoursNot posted
Suggested duration of visit2 hours
Highlights / ActivitiesRestaurants

The Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal is a transfer service to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park islands and other surrounding islands. Likewise, you can book island tours here and even rent snorkeling gear.

But this is not all that the terminal has to offer.

When you come back from touring the islands in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, you should spend a few hours at the pier to take a stroll and enjoy the cool sea breeze.

To cap off your day, you can also dine at the restaurants at the pier and have a scrumptious meal along with the view that overlooks the sparkling sea.

Day 4: Try out cruising and other cultural activities.

For your last day in Kota Kinabalu, try going to the outskirts of the city for an immersion in the ethnicity in the State of Sabah, and later on, for an adrenaline-pumping adventure.

Mari Mari Cultural Village

Mari Mari Cultural Village
Photo from Sabah Tourism Board Website
AddressJalan Kionsom, Inanam, 88450 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Website https://www.marimariculturalvillage.my/
Contact numberTelephone number: +60138814921

Email address: [email protected]

Operating hours10AM - 5PM
Suggested duration of visit3 hours
Highlights / ActivitiesLearn about the indigenous Malaysian tribes and their cuisine

Take a deeper dive into the culture of Kota Kinabalu by visiting the Mari Mari Cultural Village which is just half an hour away from the city. It somehow serves as a museum of the ethnic culture in Borneo.

Through a guided tour, you will be able to learn about the history, and style of living, as well as the traditional abode of the 5 major tribes of Kota Kinabalu which are showcased here. These are the Rungus, Bajau, Murut, Lundayeh, and Dusun.

You will be able to interact with these tribes when you come here and you will feel their warm hospitality.

In a couple of hours, you will also be able to try out the delicacies and cuisines of the ethnic groups and see up close the skills of the ethnic communities.

You will be taught how to make blowpipes, traditional tattoos, and rice wine. You will also enhance your survival skills by learning how to start a fire.

Plus, you will get an opportunity to participate in the traditional rituals of the tribes.

By the end of the tour, you will be treated to the cultural and traditional dances and performances that are prepared for visitors.

When you come to this cultural village, dress appropriately, be on your best behavior, and be respectful of the beliefs and values of the tribes you will encounter.

Kiulu River

Kiulu River
Photo from Riverbug.Asia
AddressTamparuli, Sabah, Malaysia
WebsiteNot posted
Contact numberNot posted
Operating hoursNot posted
Suggested duration of visit2.5 hours
Highlights / ActivitiesWhite water rafting

The last activity that you should try in Kota Kinabalu is white water rafting. It is a thrilling adventure and a perfect way to end your trip for a final adrenaline rush.

There is no more ideal place to go rafting than the Kiulu River. The scenic route in this river will make for one last memorable experience for you in Kota Kinabalu.

Kiulu River is a popular location for rafting because there are introductory and light challenges here that kids and adults will enjoy even if they are novice rafters. The water in this river is also gentle and clear so it is safe.

The whole raft might take up to 2 hours or less, depending on the rapids.

3-Day Itinerary in Kota Kinabalu

Three days in Kota Kinabalu may not feel like enough time, but there are ample things that you can do during this short time.

If you only have 3 days to spend in the city, you can follow this schedule or you can modify it according to your pace:

Day 1Morning to afternoon: Kota Kinabalu City Centre

Evening: Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market

Day 2Morning to afternoon: Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

Evening: Tanjung Aru Beach

Day 3Morning: Mari Mari Cultural Village

Afternoon: Signal Hill Observatory

If you have only a few days in Kota Kinabalu, it is recommended that you arrive at least the night before your first day. In this way, you will be able to see several attractions within the city and its surrounding islands.

The itinerary above will allow you to experience the finest of the richness of Kota Kinabalu, from its amazing scenery to its culture and history. Additionally, you can also take on adrenaline-rushing activities that will surely make your short trip one to remember.

Start your first day in Kota Kinabalu by enjoying the best of the city by touring the city center from morning until the afternoon. You can go to the same places on the first day of the 4-day itinerary list to learn about the history of the city and the state of Sabah.

Then, you can end your day by going to the Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market so you can buy souvenirs and keepsakes. The city is filled with restaurants so you can just easily choose one where you can try the local cuisine for your dinner.

3-Day Itinerary in Kota Kinabalu

For your second day, you should explore the islands in the marine park. However, it is suggested that you choose only 2 islands that you can explore to leave time for you to jump to Tanjung Aru Beach where you can have dinner at the night market.

Before going back to your suite, you should also drop by the Tanjung Aru Perdana Park to relax and you simply must witness the fountain show.

Finally, your last day should be a little less adrenaline-pumping so you would be able to easily relax before you depart Kota Kinabalu. This is why you should spend your morning immersed in the culture and history of the tribes in the Mari Mari Cultural Village.

Meanwhile, for your last hurrah, it would be a great choice to watch the sunset at the Signal Hill Observatory where you can see the best view of the entire city and beyond. Take stunning photos here to keep as a remembrance of the best 3 days you will ever have in Kota Kinabalu.

You may feel that this 3-day itinerary may be short and a bit jam-packed but it is absolutely a worthy trip.

7-Day Itinerary in Kota Kinabalu

In case you could not get enough of Kota Kinabalu, then you should extend your stay up to a week so you can discover more attractions in the city. Likewise, this duration of stay is recommended if you want to hike the magnificent Mount Kinabalu.

The following is a week-long itinerary that features an extended stay from the 4-day itinerary we suggested:

Day 1Morning to afternoon: Kota Kinabalu City Centre

Evening: Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market

Day 2Morning: Signal Hill Observatory Platform and Atkinson Clock Tower

Afternoon: Tanjung Aru Beach

Evening: Night Market

Day 3Morning to evening: Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal
Day 4Morning: Mari Mari Cultural Village

Afternoon: Kiulu River

Evening: Prepare to go to Mount Kinabalu

Day 5 to Day 6Kinabalu Park, Mount Kinabalu and Poring
Day 7Morning: Lok Kawi Wildlife Park

Afternoon: Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre

For the additional 3 days you will be spending here, you will engage in the following activities:

  • Spot wildlife and plant life
  • Climb Mount Kinabalu
  • Relax at the hot springs
7-Day Itinerary in Kota Kinabalu

Discover what these additional tourist destinations are and know what things await you in each of them!

Day 5 to Day 6: Climb Mount Kinabalu.

Mount Kinabalu, the namesake of Kota Kinabalu, can be accessed conveniently from the city as it is just a few hours away. This mountain is the tallest peak in Malaysia and it is a must-see destination in the country!

This mountain is one you should never miss if you will be spending a long time in Kota Kinabalu and you simply have to hike it!

Kinabalu Park and Mount Kinabalu

Kinabalu Park and Mount Kinabalu
AddressMt. Kinabalu National Park, Kinabalu Park, 89300 Ranau, Sabah, Malaysia
Website https://www.mountkinabalu.com/mount-kinabalu/kinabalu-park
Contact numberTelephone number: +6088523500
Operating hours8:30AM - 4pm
Suggested duration of visit2 days
Highlights / ActivitiesHiking, wildlife and plant spotting

Most travelers save the best for last, just like going to Mount Kinabalu. This is a paradise for nature lovers and a haven for trekkers.

On the evening of your fourth day in Kota Kinabalu, you should prepare to go to Kinabalu Park for a 2-day hike of Mount Kinabalu. This is so you can start your hike early in the morning on your fifth day in Kota Kinabalu.

Kinabalu Park Headquarters is where you will enter Mount Kinabalu. Before your climb, the registration and payment of the entrance fee will be made here.

The park itself is a great tourist attraction as it is the first in Malaysia to be declared a World Heritage Site.

Plus, there are plenty of activities to do in the park if you do not feel like climbing the mountain, like trekking on jungle trails and hiking in the foothills of the mountain.

You will also spot thousands of plant life and wildlife species that showcase the diversity of the flora and fauna in Sabah.

However, if a glimpse of the mountain is not enough for you and you want to take a hike, then join the hundreds of people who climbed Mount Kinabalu every day!

It is open year-round for hiking, but there are times when it is closed because of the condition of the weather. So, if you arrived in Kota Kinabalu with inclement weather and you want to climb the mountain, check with the park headquarters if it is possible before coming down here.

Kinabalu Park and Mount Kinabalu

Various guided tours are available to Low’s Peak, the summit of the mountain.

Avid climbers try to conquer it because of the breathtaking and incredible view as it is about 400 meters above sea level. However, you do not have to reach the summit to enjoy the hike!

Keep in mind that the guided tours can be quite expensive especially because of the overnight stay in a mountain hut as you cannot do it in one go.

Expect that you have to stay overnight during the hike on the mountain, so you should dedicate 2 days and 1 night to this destination because it may be a difficult climb.

Within these 2 full days, you will enjoy the panoramic sights of the mountain and the Sabah countryside when you reach the peak. You will even get to see how the peak overlooks the sky and clouds.

On the first day, you could cover about 6 kilometers of the trail only while on the second day, you will reach the summit in time for sunrise if you start hiking early.

The descent will also happen on the second day. This will give you time to relax before you head back to the city.

Poring Hot Springs

Poring Hot Springs
Photo from Borneo Calling Website
AddressRanau, Sabah, Malaysia
WebsiteNot posted
Contact numberTelephone number: +6088878801
Operating hours7AM - 6PM
Suggested duration of visit3 hours
Highlights / ActivitiesHot springs and canopy walk

The Poring Hot Springs is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sabah. The Mountain Kinabalu experience will not be complete without dropping by the Poring Hot Springs, especially if you need to rest after you go on a climb.

Most of those who hiked the mountain also visit the hot springs to recover after they spent 2 days trekking because of the therapeutic benefits it provides. This is why you should take a dip in the sulphuric pools that soothe aching muscles and improve lymphatic and blood circulations.

It is situated in the forest park and surrounded by bamboo, so you will be able to relax with nature.

In case you still have some energy left after your hike, you can also try climbing an epic canopy walk for half an hour to get a bird’s eye view of the rainforest canopy. You can also just take a stroll in the butterfly park.

Day 7: Spot some wildlife and plant life in the city.

When you go to Sabah, particularly in Kota Kinabalu, you cannot skip wildlife spotting because of the abundance of rare species of fauna that live here. It is a highly recommended activity, especially for first-time visitors!

Lok Kawi Wildlife Park

Lok Kawi Wildlife Park
AddressLok kawi Putatan, 88200 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
WebsiteNot posted
Contact numberTelephone number: +6088765793
Operating hours9:30AM - 1PM, 2PM - 4:30PM
Suggested duration of visit3 hours
Highlights / ActivitiesLearn about the welfare of a hundred species of flora and fauna

Even if you are in the city, you will still be able to go on a quick wildlife spotting at the remarkable Lok Kawi Wildlife Park if you cannot drive far to the wildlife centers in Sabah.

This park is 280 acres big and it is divided into 2 sections, namely, the zoological (the zoo) and botanical sections.

This means that you will get the chance to see some of the rare species of wildlife here like the orangutan, proboscis monkey, Borneo Pygmy elephant, Malayan tiger, and sun bear.

At the same time, those who visit this wildlife park have an opportunity to go to the jungle garden that has a walking trail. Plus, you can also spot various rare specimens of plants.

As this is a family-oriented place, there is also a Children’s Zoo here where kids can learn more about wildlife.

There are also feeding sessions and animal shows that are hosted daily in this destination.

Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre

Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre
Photo from Wikipedia
AddressOff, Jln Bukit Bendera, Likas, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Website http://www.sabahwetlands.org/kkw/
Contact numberTelephone number: +6088246955
Operating hours8AM - 5PM
Suggested duration of visit3 hours
Highlights / ActivitiesGuided walks, bird watching, educational programs

The Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre is a 24-hectare mangrove forest. Here, you can have a stroll, take in the ecosystem’s tranquility, breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy the canopy view from the viewing platforms or observation tower.

Visitors will also spot interesting plants and wildlife here, especially birds, which is why it is a bird-watching site and it provides bird-watching sessions at the bird hide. Some of what you can spot here are kingfishers and exotic purple herons.

In addition to the approximately 80 bird species in this sanctuary, you can also find turtles, fiddler crabs, and monitor lizards, among others.

It has a boardwalk where you can take a self-guided tour of the wetlands and go on a 45-minute walk that takes you deep into the mangrove swamp. You can also join the guided walks to learn more about what you can see.

Environmental education programs are also conducted here.

After you visit the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre, you can go to one of the night markets in the city for dinner or relax in your suite as you prepare to depart Kota Kinabalu.

Getting Around Kota Kinabalu

Getting Around Kota Kinabalu
AirportKota Kinabalu International Airport
Bus terminalKK Sentral, Northern Bus Terminal at Inanam, Wawasan Terminal, Padang Terminal, and City Park Terminal
Car rentalKK Car Rent, KK Rent A Car, Europcar, Kings Car Rental Kota Kinabalu

Transportation is an important factor when traveling to another place. In Kota Kinabalu, different types of transportation will suit your preference, from public transportation to car rentals.

Kota Kinabalu is quickly accessible by plane because of the airport. It is also why it is a great gateway to the rest of Sabah because of the regular domestic flights within the state, and even to Kuala Lumpur.

Taking the bus is the cheapest transport option. There are plenty of bus terminals in Kota Kinabalu and a lot of buses that go in and out of the city.

Meanwhile, walking from one point to another is also a great option because Kota Kinabalu is a small city.

You can stroll on the bustling streets, enjoy the environment, and explore the city all at the same time on its nice sidewalks.

While public transportation is quite cheap in Kota Kinabalu, the easiest way to get around the city is through e-hailing apps like Grab.

A lot of tourists rely on their services as it is easy to use and reliable, but it is a bit costlier than riding the bus. If you plan on using Grab, do not forget to download the app beforehand.

Renting a car can also be done when you arrive at the airport since there are many car rental companies located therein, like Europcar. This is ideal for those who plan to go to a lot of places and those heading out of the city to make the most out of their rental as it is quite expensive.

Getting Around Kota Kinabalu

Where to Stay in Kota Kinabalu

Because Kota Kinabalu is a popular tourist destination, it is not short of accommodations like luxury hotels and even hostels.

Luxury: Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort

Luxury Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort
Photo from Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort Website
AddressNo. 20, Jalan Aru, Tanjung Aru, 88100 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Website https://www.shangri-la.com/en/kotakinabalu/tanjungaruresort/
Contact informationTelephone number: +6088327888
Best forLuxury trip, families
ProsRooms with sea or mountain view, family rooms, private beach and spa
ConsExpensive cost

Shangri-La Tanjung Aru is a luxurious accommodation that offers beautiful views of the mountains on one side and the sea on the other. It is only a few minutes from the airport, so it is just a quick trip upon your arrival.

This 5-star luxury resort also provides fine dining which means you can splurge on a fancy meal during your stay here. You will also surely feel at ease because of its great amenities which include a private spa and beach.

If you are traveling with kids, they will surely enjoy the Kid’s Club here which offers different activities every day for children. Meanwhile, adults can go for water sports activities, yoga, or kayak lessons.

Luxury: Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu

Luxury Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu
Photo from Le Meridien Website
AddressJalan Tun Fuad Stephens, Jln Dua Puluh, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Website https://lemeridien.com-kotakinabalu.com/en/
Contact informationTelephone number: +6088322222
Best forLuxury trip, families
ProsRooms with sea view or view of the cityscape
ConsExpensive cost

Another luxurious option for accommodation in Kota Kinabalu is the 5-star hotel Le Meridien. Every room here is decorated elegantly and equipped with air conditioning, minibars, and private bathrooms with walk-in showers.

The mixture of local culture and high-end accommodation leaves its guests in awe. Plus, the food in the four restaurants here is just as marvelous as the view from the spacious rooms.

You will also be able to rest on the cabanas at the poolside and go for a spa massage.

Mid-range: Hilton Kota Kinabalu

Mid-range Hilton Kota Kinabalu
Photo from Hilton Kota Kinabalu Website
AddressJln Tunku Abdul Rahman, Asia City, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Website https://www.hilton.com/en/hotels/bkikkhi-hilton-kota-kinabalu/
Contact informationTelephone number: +6088356000

Email address: [email protected]

Best forGroup trips, solo trips
ProsNear to attractions
ConsDim rooms

The Hilton Kota Kinabalu is located at the heart of the city near various attractions so it is easy to travel to some of the famous attractions and shopping centers.

The rooms in this hotel are also elegant and have great views of the city, but you may notice that they are dim. However, the modern furnishings and the facilities make for a relaxing stay here.

There are also different dining options here so you can try out various international and Malaysian cuisines.

Mid-range: Grandis Hotel and Resort

Mid-range Grandis Hotel and Resort
Photo from Agoda
AddressSuria Sabah Shopping Mall, 1A, Jln Tun Fuad Stephens, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Website https://www.hotelgrandis.com/
Contact informationTelephone number: +6088522888

Email address: [email protected]

Best forCity lovers, solo travelers
ProsRooms with sea view
ConsLoud streets

The Grandis Hotel is somehow an affordable accommodation in the city if you want to rent a room with a good sea view while staying in the city.

As it is located in the city center of Kota Kinabalu, the streets may be a bit busy and loud which you could hear in your rooms.

However, its location is also advantageous if you plan on roaming around the city, which is why it is perfect for city lovers. You can just walk to nearby amenities and destinations from here, too.

Budget: TOOJOU

Photo from Booking.com
Address12, Jalan Masjid Lama, Bandaran Berjaya, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
WebsiteNot posted
Contact informationTelephone number: +6088534888
Best forSolo travelers
ProsCheap rates
ConsCo-living space

If you are looking for a cheaper place to stay in Kota Kinabalu, you should check out TOOJOU. 

It is a hostel that offers a dormitory type of accommodation, which means the rooms are shared by guests. This is a good set-up for solo travelers who plan to stay in the city only for a quick getaway.

The amenities and facilities here prove that the rates in this place are incredible value for money. Additionally, creative minds will particularly enjoy its decor and interior design.

Helpful Tips for a Trip to Kota Kinabalu

Planning a trip is already taxing. Whether you book through a travel agency in Malaysia or plan the trip yourself, here are a few tips that you should take into account before you pack and head to Kota Kinabalu to help you make your travel easier:

  • Get reliable travel insurance as a backup if you are traveling to Kota Kinabalu because of the adrenaline-rushing activities you will be able to do here.
  • In Kota Kinabalu, English is a widely-used language because it is a popular destination for tourists so you may not need to avail of a translation service if you are a foreigner.
  • Going to the local markets and trying out the local food are things you cannot skip in Kota Kinabalu! You can even hit two birds with one stone because almost all of the markets you can find have food stalls, particularly the night markets.
  • Using major credit cards and payment gateways is common in the city, but bringing cash will be handy in case you run into a shop that only accepts cash.
  • Do not forget to bring insect or mosquito repellent, especially if you will take a hike in the jungles or forests.
  • Only 185 people can climb Mount Kinabalu per day, so, pre-book and secure permits before you go to Kota Kinabalu to be guaranteed a spot.
  • Pack clothes according to the activities that you plan to do.
  • Do not forget the extra clothes that you can bring with you to the itinerary of your choice, especially if you want to try out activities that involve water.
  • If you are going to climb Mount Kinabalu, make sure you wear warm clothing.
Helpful Tips for a Trip to Kota Kinabalu

Our Final Thoughts about Exploring Kota Kinabalu

No matter how many days you need in Kota Kinabalu, a new adventure and mystery are waiting for you to discover in the city.

As a treasure trove itself, this tropical city has plenty to offer and pique the interests of travelers and first-time visitors. There are heaps of destinations that will fit the adventure you are seeking for.

Whether you are a nature lover who wants to trail the jungles or climb the mountains, a water sports aficionado, a history and culture buff, an art enthusiast, or even a regular Joe who is trying out something new, you will have fun in the streets of Kota Kinabalu.

The accommodation and hospitality of the locals will also make your stay here comfortable.

This city is an extraordinary place to explore even if you are alone, with a group of friends, or with your family, especially with your kids. Make new memories with your loved ones or even for yourself when you head to Kota Kinabalu!