Recent Searches
Clear
Things to do in Kota Kinabalu

Things to do in  Kota Kinabalu

Welcome to Kota Kinabalu

The capital city of the Malaysian state of Sabah on north Borneo, Kota Kinabalu (or KK as it’s usually called) functions more as a civic and transport hub than as a destination in its own right. This is a good thing, as visitors who base their trips out of KK will find abundant travelers services, big-city amenities, and an ease of communication from a tourism industry used to pleasing globetrotters, all with easy access to the nearby Borneo wilderness. Located practically in KK’s backyard, the 7.5-million acre (roughly 3-million hectare) Kinabalu Park promises a full day of adventure: Hike Mount Kinabalu; soak in the Poring Hot Springs; and learn about the lush flora and fauna (including the famous proboscis monkey) that earned this stretch of wilderness its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other outings include a short flight to the Sandakan Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre; ziplining excursions through the rain forests of Gaya Island; or snorkeling and scuba diving trips off off the coast of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. Those who choose to linger in the city can see its most prominent attractions on a sightseeing tour, likely to feature the Sabah Museum, Wisma Tun Mustapha (Sabah Foundation Building), City Mosque, and views of Likas Bay from the summit of Signal Hill.

Top 15 attractions in Kota Kinabalu

#1
Mt. Kinabalu (Gunung Kinabalu)

Mt. Kinabalu (Gunung Kinabalu)

star-5121
One of the highest mountains in Southeast Asia, the mighty Mt. Kinabalu (Gunung Kinabalu) attracts climbers from all over. But the 13,435-foot (4,095-meter) summit isn’t the only reason travelers visit Kinabalu National Park. With around 6,000 species of flora, the UNESCO-listed park is recognized as one of the most important biological sites in the world.More
#2
Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park (TARP)

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park (TARP)

star-5209
A scenic option for water-sports fans and wildlife lovers who don’t have time to travel to Mabul or Sipadan, Tunku Abdul Rahman National Marine Park is just a 20-minute speedboat ride from downtown Kota Kinabalu. Comprising five small islands, the park combines white-sand beaches with coral reefs, jungle, and abundant marine life.More
#3
Kinabalu National Park

Kinabalu National Park

star-4.541
Reigned over by the mighty Mt. Kinabalu—the tallest mountain in Malaysia—Kinabalu National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its biodiversity. A paradise for nature lovers, the park is home to around 5,500 plant species (including varieties of orchids and pitcher plants), about 326 bird species, and more than 100 mammals.More
#4
Signal Hill Observatory Platform

Signal Hill Observatory Platform

star-4.58
Located on the hills near Padang Merdeka, the Signal Hill Observatory Platform is the highest point in Kota Kinabalu, which means it’s one of the best places to go for sweeping, unobstructed views of the city and beyond.Signal Hill is widely considered a ‘must­do’ attraction for all visitors to Kota Kinabalu. From this decked observatory platform, you’ll not only get a panoramic, bird’s eye view of the sprawling city center, but also vistas extending to the beaches of Tanjung Aru and Likas Bay, and even to the outlying islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.You can visit Signal Hill as part of a half­day city tour, which also takes in other Kota Kinabalu attractions and landmarks, including Wisma Tun Mustapha (Sabah Foundation Building), the City Mosque, the University of Sabah, and the Sabah Museum.More
#5
Kota Kinabalu City Mosque (Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu)

Kota Kinabalu City Mosque (Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu)

star-4.58
The Kota Kinabalu City Mosque (Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu) is not only the largest mosque in the city, but also the most visually striking. Surrounded by a lagoon, the building appears to float when viewed from a distance, and casts a picturesque reflection into the water below.Built in 2000, theKota Kinabalu City Mosqueaccommodates up to 12,000 worshipers at a time, and can be entered by non-Muslims outside regular prayer times. The mosque features a classical style with four minarets and a grand blue-and-gold dome, designed to resemble the Nabawi Mosque in Medina, the final resting place of Muhammad.A visit to the mosque is best enjoyed as part of a half-day city tour of Kota Kinabalu, where you’ll get the chance to explore other cultural landmarks, like the Wisma Tun Mustapha and the Sabah Museum, and view the city sights from Signal Hill.More
#6
Poring Hot Spring & Nature Reserve (Poring Hot Springs)

Poring Hot Spring & Nature Reserve (Poring Hot Springs)

star-4.58
Nestled among the jungles of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kinabalu National Park, Poring Hot Spring and Nature Reserve (Poring Hot Springs encompasses tiled pools used for soaking in sulfurous thermal waters; a suspended jungle walkway; a swimming pool and slide; and an orchid Conservation Center home to more than 1,200 different species.More
#7
Sabah Museum (Sabah State Museum)

Sabah Museum (Sabah State Museum)

star-4.57
Located within easy reach of Kota Kinabalu city center, Sabah Museum (Sabah State Museum explores the heritage, art, culture, and daily life of Sabah and its people. As well as the main building, the museum comprises a Heritage Village, Ethnobotanical Garden, and a Science and Technology Center.More
#8
Mari Mari Cultural Village

Mari Mari Cultural Village

star-3.54
Nestled in the jungle outside Kota Kinabalu, the Mari Mari Cultural Village lets you discover the old lifestyles of five different Borneo ethnic groups. Enjoy traditional food (and rice wine, watch demos of crafts from tattooing to fire lighting, catch a dance performance, and learn about traditional beliefs and building styles.More
#9
Klias Peninsula (Klias Wetlands)

Klias Peninsula (Klias Wetlands)

star-510
With their comically long noses and ginger fur, proboscis monkeys are a highlight of any visit to Borneo. And the Klias Peninsula (Klias Wetlands, an expanse of coastal forest a couple of hours south of Kota Kinabalu, is the perfect place to watch them swing through the trees. After nightfall, fireflies flicker and glitter by the river.More
#10
Sapi Island (Pulau Sapi)

Sapi Island (Pulau Sapi)

star-58
Sapi Island (Pulau Sapi is part of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, an underwater wonderland located just off the coast of Kota Kinabalu. Though the second-smallest island of the archipelago, Sapi Island is home to the Coral Flyer Zipline, one of the longest island-to-island ziplines in the world.More
#11
Sabah State Mosque (Masjid Negeri Sabah)

Sabah State Mosque (Masjid Negeri Sabah)

star-4.54
One of the most recognizable buildings in all of Sabah, Sabah State Mosque (Masjid Negeri Sabah) combines contemporary architecture with traditional Islamic design. A gold, honeycombed main dome is reigned over by a 215-foot (65-meter) minaret, which was inspired by those found in the Saudi Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina.More
#12
Gaya Island (Pulau Gaya)

Gaya Island (Pulau Gaya)

star-4.519
From picturesque beaches to illegal settlements, Gaya Island (Pulau Gaya) is home to diverse people, landscapes and history, which make a visit to its scenic shores perfect for any traveler. The well-known Police Beach boasts one of the most pristine stretches of white sand on the island, and travelers say it’s the perfect place to escape the chaos of city life and relax on sandy shores or take a dip in crystal blue waters.A visit to nearby Kampung Lok Urai, a Filipino colony the state government refuses to recognize, offers travelers a different look at this storied island’s darker side. Located on the eastern shore of Gaya Island, Kampung Lok Urai is filled with stilt houses and walkways made of well-weathered planks. While it’s considered a high-risk travel area by police, it’s also home to a unique way of life found only on this popular island.More
#13
Kota Belud

Kota Belud

star-00
Kota Belud is an unsuspecting town located in the north of Sabah, approximately 75 kilometers northeast of Kota Kinabalu. Relatively quiet throughout the week, the town comes alive each Sunday with its bustling market known as a tamu.The market is part social occasion, partly commercial, and entirely enthralling for visitors. It's a colorful kaleidoscope of stalls selling local produce that overtakes the small town each and every week. With everything from leafy vegetables and farm produce to manufactured goods and home-baked treats, Kota Belud’s tamu is a hugely popular local event, with a smattering of tourists enticed in for good measure.The market very much serves as a social occasion for locals, who swap stories and news as they gather for their weekly meet. Visitors to the tamu might also catch the Bajau horsemen displaying their horseriding skills, with both riders and animals decked out in spectacularly dazzling costumes.More
#14
Tip of Borneo (Tanjung Sipang Mengayu)

Tip of Borneo (Tanjung Sipang Mengayu)

star-4.57
As the northernmost point of Borneo—the third-largest island in the world—the Tip of Borneo (Tanjung Simpang Mengayau is the meeting point of the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea. The significant location of the dramatic headland is marked by a bronze globe and surrounded by rugged coastal scenery.More
#15
Monsopiad Cultural Village

Monsopiad Cultural Village

star-00
Located along the banks of the Penampang River, just 16 kilometers the bustling capital of Sabah, the Monsopiad Cultural Village is a living, breathing museum that aims to give visitors an insight into the history and culture of the Kadazandusun people.The village is named after a notorious Kadazan warrior and headhunter who lived in the area hundreds of years ago. The village as it stands today was established by the descendants of Monsopiad in 1996 to serve as a heritage center.There are a number of historical artifacts on display, as well as demonstrations of traditional customs and trades. One of the main attractions is the somewhat grizzly House of Skulls, where Monsopiad kept the skulls of his enemies as trophies.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 1 Day in Kota Kinabalu

How to Spend 1 Day in Kota Kinabalu

How to Spend 2 Days in Kota Kinabalu

How to Spend 2 Days in Kota Kinabalu

How to Spend 3 Days in Kota Kinabalu

How to Spend 3 Days in Kota Kinabalu

Operators have paid Viator more to have their experiences featured here

Recent reviews from experiences in Kota Kinabalu

star-5
Awesome experience
Taishi_K, Jan 2020
(3 Days) PADI Open Water Diver Course Kota Kinabalu
English Guide was super helpful and patient in making sure I learned all of the diving skills but also that I practiced all of the book concepts safely.
We perform checks on reviews

All about Kota Kinabalu

When to visit

From March through September, the Bornean capital of Kota Kinabalu enjoys cool breezes, blue skies, and some of the year’s most spectacular sunsets. For your best chance of reaching the summit of Mt. Kinabalu—which is only accessible when weather permits—plan your visit for March or April.

People Also Ask

What is Kota Kinabalu known for?

The capital of Malaysia’s Sabah state, Kota Kinabalu is best-known as a jump-off point for Borneo adventures. These include seeing orangutans, rain-forest trips, diving the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, and climbing 13,435-foot (4,095-meter) Mt. Kinabalu. But this lively city offers markets, museums, seafood feasts, and cultural attractions.

...More
What language do they speak in Kota Kinabalu?

All Malaysians speak Malay, the national language, and the majority speak some English as well. Malaysians of Chinese descent generally speak one or more Chinese languages and dialects, with Mandarin and Hakka most common in Kota Kinabalu. Sabah’s indigenous people speak a number of different languages from four different language families.

...More
How can I spend a day in Kota Kinabalu?

Kota Kinabalu is a great place to learn about Sabah’s indigenous cultures, whether at the Sabah Museum, the Mari Mari Cultural Village, or the Monsopiad Cultural Village. Nature lovers can explore mangroves at the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre. Be sure to eat in one of the city’s many excellent and affordable seafood restaurants.

...More
What is there to do in Kota Kinabalu at night?

A sunset drink on the waterfront or in a beach bar is the perfect start to a Kota Kinabalu night. The city’s lively Night Market is a must for anyone who loves food, while entertainment options run from bars, clubs, and cinemas to the inevitable karaoke joints. Cultural shows with dinner are also popular.

...More
Is Kota Kinabalu worth visiting?

Yes. If you are exploring Sabah you will inevitably pass through Kota Kinabalu at least once and it’s worth taking a day or two to enjoy the highlights. Besides museums, markets, eateries, cafés, and bars, this vibrant city hosts mosques, temples, and galleries, as well as a lively waterfront area.

...More
Is Kota Kinabalu expensive?

No. Accommodation and eating out in Kota Kinabalu is slightly cheaper than in Kuala Lumpur. However, rain-forest trips, river adventures, scuba diving, wildlife spotting, and the Kota Kinabalu hike are not cheap activities, so a vacation in Malaysian Borneo will generally work out more expensive than peninsular Malaysia.

...More
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
Q:
What are the top things to do in Kota Kinabalu?
Q:
What are the top activities in Kota Kinabalu?
Q:
What are the top things to do near Kota Kinabalu?
A:
Check out things to do near Kota Kinabalu:
Q:
What do I need to know before visiting Kota Kinabalu?