Table of Content for Things to do in Kota Kinabalu
- Climb and Enjoy the Whole Scenic View from Mount Kinabalu
- Catching a Glimpse of Crystal-Clear Water on Manukan Island
- Try Out Exotic Foods
- Explore the Cultural Experience at Monsopiad Cultural Village
- Shopping at Gaya Street Sunday Market
- Witness the Largest Flower at the Tambunan Rafflesia Reserve
- Another Kota Kinabalu Local Delicacy to Explore: Hinava
- Indoor Shopping at Imago Shopping Mall
- Enjoy Dinner while Witnessing the Sunset
- Witness Picturesque View at Le’One Kokol Elf
- Mesmerized by The Giant Tower Clock
- Kiulu White Water Rafting
- Experience a Train Ride on North Borneo Railway
- Another Witness Sunset at Tanjung Aru Beach
Kota Kinabalu has always been on the top list of places to visit by tourists not only Malaysian tourists but also overseas tourists. If you’re looking for a short and sweet escape in Malaysia away from the normal hustle and bustle of city life, Kota Kinabalu would be one of the best choices. It covers your day-to-day itinerary with a combination of both outdoor and indoor activities ranging from island hopping, amazing sunset, scenic breath-taking views from the mountain, cutesy cafés and etc either through solo trips or with your loved ones. Here are the top 14 things that you can see, eat and do in Kota Kinabalu.
1) Climb and Enjoy the Whole Scenic View from Mount Kinabalu
For those who would like to overcome their fear of heights and would like to challenge something new, Mount Kinabalu is the place where you should be! Nestled strategically in the Kinabalu National Park, the prominent Mount Kinabalu is located at 4,095 meters. It is known as the highest mountain on an island in Southeast Asia and the 20th tallest mountain worldwide of topographical importance.
Climbing Mount Kinabalu has never been easy as it has about 6 levels of different vegetation suitable for those who are into mother nature. You can opt to choose which trails you desire such as Ranau Trail or Kota Belud Trail. For Ranau Trail, the ratio of the common trail taken to the summit is 1 guide for 5 climbers, and the Kota Belud Trail, 1 guide for 3 climbers. It is advisable to engage with a mountain guide who will guide you along your way as it will take you up to 2 to 3 days journey to complete.
Kota Belud Trail
So, what are you waiting for? Go and train your stamina before embarking on this wonderful climbing journey of Mount Kinabalu!
2) Catching a Glimpse of Crystal-Clear Water on Manukan Island
For those who are island hoppers and would like to associate themselves with water, Manukan Island is the place you ought to be! It is one of the most enchanting and fascinating islands located in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah with emerald crystal-clear water. It is considered the second largest island of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. It also offers one of the best spots to catch Borneo’s famed sunset at the tip of the island called Sunset Point while immersing oneself in serene and tranquil water surrounding. It is also considered one of the best romantic places in Kota Kinabalu suitable for you couples out there!
Those who are water sports enthusiasts that are into sports activities fret not! You can also get to enjoy various activities at Manukan Island such as parasailing, snorkeling and scuba diving, ocean kayaking, sun tanning, water rafting, and other sports activities. And for those of you guys who are new to snorkeling, and scuba diving activities, fret not! PADI courses are offered including Open Water and Introduction to Night Diving to suit your needs. You will get a certification upon completion. How amazing is that?
Not only that, you can stay at Manukan Island Resort while enjoying the breathtaking view of the island that consists of Hillside Villa, Manukan Villa, and Beach Suite. It is the time to unwind yourself from the hectic daily schedule and head down to Manukan Island now!
3) Try Out Exotic Foods
If you fancy exotic foods, why not try Butod, one of the local delicacies in Kota Kinabalu. It consists of worm-consuming sago palms. As bizarre as it seems, worms are said to be very nutritious as it is high in fat and protein and can be eaten raw, fried, or cooked in soups. The taste of raw butod is said to be like coconut milk with a creamy texture.
Although not for the weak, Butod is very popular in Kota Kinabalu. Snacking these thumb-sized worms should be a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Why not head down to D’Place Kinabalu to try out Kota Kinabalu’s local delicacies? You might not want to miss out on this opportunity!
4) Explore the Cultural Experience at Monsopiad Cultural Village
Want to learn more about the culture of Kadazandusun and other Sabah cultures but don’t know where? Why not head down to Monsopiad Cultural Village. The Monosopiad Cultural Village represents the traditional and simple lifestyle of the Malaysians. It was opened in 1996 in memory of the great and legendary Kadazan Warrior, Monsopiad.
The Monsopiad Cultural Village is based on the legend of the famous Kadazan-Dusun warrior/headhunter Monsopiad. The existing house where the skull is stored, commonly known as the “skull house”, has been a prominent tourist attraction in itself since 1979 and is frequently mentioned in tourist brochures and guidebooks. The purpose of the village is to provide a convenient place for domestic and foreign visitors to get a glimpse of their cultures.
This Monsopiad Cultural Village contains a few attractive points which are the house of skulls, monolith, tangkob, kotos, hamin tinandai, and other cultural activities of the Kadazan aboriginals. You will be taught about their traditional cultural dance and music troupe, cooking lessons and also, they will teach you how to make sales of lihing (rice wine). Trust us when we tell you you’ll have more fun and memorable experience here than you think you ever will!
5) Shopping at Gaya Street Sunday Market
They say shopping is one of the best therapies. Here’s what I can recommend to you. Head yourself down to Gaya Street. Gaya Street is located in Kota Kinabalu’s Central Business District, originally called Bond Street which has been a business center for over 100 years. The wooden shop with a Nipa roof has been around for a long time, but the family business that has been passed down from father to son for generations is still flourishing here.
You can get all the items you need here at a very affordable and reasonable price ranging from handicrafts, souvenirs, clothes, foods, arts and crafts, antiques, and others to name a few. The Street Festival is held every Sunday, starting at 6 am and ending at 1 pm. So, fill up your Sunday by heading to this place!
6) Witness the Largest Flower at the Tambunan Rafflesia Reserve
If you would like to witness the growth of rafflesia in person, which is not your typical daily flower, then you’ve come to the right place! The Tambunan Rafflesia Reserve is 20 km north of Tambunan and near the top of the Crocker Range, away from the main road. It is dedicated to the world’s largest flowers.
Rafflesia is a parasitic plant that grows hidden in the vine stalks of the jungle and grows to full bloom. It weighs about 22 pounds. When in full bloom, it resembles an eerie little shop of horror monster plants. It emits rotten meat and mimics dead animals to attract blowflies to help pollinate. Large bulbous flowers can reach a diameter of up to 1 meter.
About 12 species of rafflesia here occur only in Borneo and Sumatra. Some species are unique to Sabah, but the flowering period is only a few days, making it difficult to predict when they will be seen. The chance of seeing one blooming will require some luck and good timing. If you’re feeling lucky, you should head yourself down to The Tambunan Rafflesia Reserve.
7) Another Kota Kinabalu Local Delicacy to Explore: Hinava
If you’re heading to Kota Kinabalu, you might want to try Hinava, one of the local delicacies. Hinava is a raw fish dish. It comes from the Kadazan-Dusun tribe of Sabah and is often served during the Kaamatan Harvest festival and also during their traditional wedding.
The fish are marinated in lime and served with red chili, ginger, shallot, Bambangan seeds, and sometimes sliced bitter gourd or shrimp. Mackerel is a traditional fish used in this Spanish mackerel dish, locally called Hinaba Sadatongi. Hinava can be eaten as an appetizer, but it is usually served with rice on the main course.
If you would like to try this mouth-watering Hinava, you can get it at these three places in Kota Kinabalu:
a) D’Place Kinabalu
b) My Native Sabah
c) Outskirts Eatery
8) Indoor Shopping at Imago Shopping Mall
Imago Shopping Mall is certainly a place where you can fulfill your inner desires. Imago Shopping Mall which is located in Kota Kinabalu delivers everything to your liking, with joy and personality, with unparalleled eloquence. With various international brand names offering a variety of products from the most unique and luxurious. For the most popular, it’s certainly a comfortable jumping ground with something that seduces the normal, and even the most discerning taste.
It’s certainly a place to shop for items such as clothing, foods, homeware items, and many others, especially after a long day outdoors.
9) Enjoy Dinner while Witnessing the Sunset
Looking for a romantic gateway with your loved ones? Here’s what I got in store for you! You will get to enjoy the beautiful sunset on this sunset cruise. Bet you don’t want to take your eyes away from the breathtaking view. This sunset Cruise is the trademark of Kota Kinabalu so you can enjoy a wonderful view of the South China Sea as well.
The whole cruise will take approximately about 2 hours that serves along with various buffet selections to choose from, and complimentary drinks accompanied by a live musician on board which you don’t want to miss! Come on, grab this opportunity!
10) Witness Picturesque View at Le’One Kokol Elf
Looking for a place to unwind yourself while looking for an amazing view? You’ve come to the right place! Le’One Kokol Elf it is! You will get to witness the Malaysian Bali located in Kota Kinabalu. Le’One Kokol Elf serves as one of the most memorable hangout spots with a mega swing to the picturesque view while you get to enjoy your meal as there is a restaurant located at the peak of the spot too.
It’s certainly an Instagram-worthy place to be.
11) Mesmerized by The Giant Tower Clock
If you consider yourself a history enthusiast, The Atkinson Clock Tower would be the perfect place for you to visit. It is considered one of the most enduring landmarks in Kota Kinabalu which is built along the road of Signal Hill opposite the Police Station. It was built in the year 1905 with wood materials without nails. This clock tower is built in the memory of Francis George Atkinson, Jesselton’s first popular district officer during the administration of the North Borneo Chartered Company in the United Kingdom.
If you would like to know more about the history, head down to The Atkinson Clock Tower and catch a glimpse of how tall the clock tower is. However, it is closed for the time being due to works of maintenance until 23rd September 2023.
12) Kiulu White Water Rafting
Calling out all water adrenaline junkies out there, if you’re into water extreme activities then here’s the place you should be! Kiulu White Water Rafting it is! It is the perfect place for water challenges with thrills and excitement to come. You can certainly enjoy water rafting activities with your loved ones or friends as they often mentioned the more the merrier!
Do head yourself down to the Kiulu White Water Rafting. But make sure to bring extra clothes with you! Fret not! As water rafting equipment and lessons will be provided.
13) Experience a Train Ride on North Borneo Railway
If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience riding on a classic train, here’s where you should be! Experiencing a Train Ride on North Borneo Railway will always be on your bucket list! This is certainly not your regular train as it is a 1990s train connecting Kota Kinabalu and Papar. Throughout your train journey, you will get to witness the amazing view of Kota Kinabalu ranging from paddy fields to traditional villages.
This train runs every fortnightly with a duration of 4 hours each. Pre-booking is highly advisable to ensure the schedule is on time.
14) Another Witness Sunset at Tanjung Aru Beach
If you’re a romantic kinda person who likes to watch sceneries, especially sunset, then here’s a suggestion for you. Why not head yourself to Tanjung Aru Beach? It’s a perfect gateway that suits your needs and helps to relax your mind. Plus, Tanjung Aru Beach is considered one of the top spots to watch the sunset while strolling along the sandy beach accompanied by gentle waves. It is only about 6 kilometers away from Kota Kinabalu city center.
It is also known as the perfect place for a family picnic whereby you can bring your children along to build sandcastles and relieve their childhood moments. Not only that, activities such as kite flying, team building, swimming, and others to name a few are often seen here.
Quickly head down to Tanjung Aru Beach and witness God’s creation of sunset.