11+ Best Attractions & Things To Do in Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu is a city in East Malaysia and the capital city of Sabah.

People visit Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, to visit the rural country and see lush jungles and mountain peaks. 

Many of the sights to see in Kota Kinabalu are in the countryside but close enough to the city to make a day trip out of each location. 

The main attraction in Kota Kinabalu is Mount Kinabalu.

This mountain is sacred, and people travel here to climb its greatness and to see Malaysia’s diverse ecosystems with their unique flora and fauna. 

However, if you want to stay within this exciting city in Southeast Asia, there are plenty of things to do in Kota Kinabalu.

For example, you can try delicious seafood, discover lookout spots to sit and have a picnic, or visit a museum.

Overall, in Kota Kinabalu, you can stay in the city or take a short trip to the country and never be bored on your journey.

11 Top-Rated Things to Do in Kota Kinabalu 

1. Kota Kinabalu City Mosque

The Kota Kinabalu City Mosque is a sight to see with beautiful blue, gold, and white architecture that shimmers against the water. The mosque sits on stilts on top of the lagoon, making it an incredible spectacle. 

The mosque holds up to 12,000 worshippers, which makes it the largest mosque in the city. Outsiders can visit the mosque outside of prayer time if they are dressed respectfully and follow the rules.

However, if you do not have a proper wardrobe for the mosque, you can rent clothing at the shop. You should dress conservatively, especially women, who must cover their head, hair, shoulders, arms, wrists, legs, and ankles.

Overall, visitors love to view the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque at night to see the lights hit the lagoon. 

2. Kota Kinabalu Waterfront

The KK Waterfront is one of the most popular areas in the city and contains tons of bars, restaurants, shopping malls, and live music. People visit the waterfront during the day, but many prefer to wait until night to watch the beautiful sunset over the South China Sea and see Kota Kinabalu’s amazing nightlife. 

Also, locals and tourists alike eat at the waterfront to experience delicious foods from Indian cuisine to fusion food. 

3. Mount Kinabalu 

Standing at 13,000 feet, Mount Kinabalu is Kota Kinabalu’s main attraction right outside the city of Sabah. This sacred mountain is part of the Crocker Mountain Range and Kinabalu National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

UNESCO runs a World Heritage Program that maintains a list of sites worldwide with cultural or natural significance. They chose to add Kinabalu National Park in 2000. 

Kinabalu National Park has a wide array of landscapes, and people love to climb the tallest mountain to see its beautiful flora and fauna flourish across the range.

There are also many different trails to hike up and climb Mount Kinabalu, and you should camp overnight to see the magnificent sunrise at the summit.

4. Mount Kinabalu Park Botanical Garden

Mount Kinabalu Park Botanical Garden is a leisure walk among floras, faunas, and 5,000-6,000 different plant species. This site is perfect for nature lovers as they can view all types of endangered plants. 

You can either hike or leisurely walk the luscious botanical gardens to see landscapes ranging from green grasslands to high alpine mountains. Overall, this trip is perfect for everyone, from botanists to everyday plant lovers. 

5. Lok Kawi Wildlife Park 

If you came to Malaysia to see wildlife, but don’t have time to travel to far off reserves, the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park is for you. Lok Kawi is just outside of Kota Kinabalu, making it an excellent day travel trip.

Wildlife here includes elephants, reptiles, tigers, deer, monkeys, gibbons, and orangutans. Because this park is small, you will have a better chance to see wildlife up close and admire them in awe. 

6. Tanjung Aru Beach

Tanjung Aru Beach is the perfect spot for beach-goers and water lovers. Here, you can sunbathe, enjoy water sports, and walk along the beach. 

Overall, the beach is one of the best things to do in the city of Kota Kinabalu and will give you a true experience of the area’s urban life.

The beach also has tons of food stalls that offer fresh seafood and drinks. Thus, you can get your full downtown Kota Kinabalu experience at the sands of Tanjung Aru Beach. 

7. The Atkinson Clock Tower

The Atkinson Clock Tower is one of the most famous landmarks in the city center. The tower dates to 1902 and honors Francis George Atkinson, a district officer during Kota Kinabalu’s colonial period. 

The tower lies on top of a hill that gives you views of the city, and if you walk up the hill further, you will reach the Signal Hill Observatory Platform and see the Signal Hill Observatory Tower. 

8. Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is the place to island-hop in Kota Kinabalu and the main reason people travel to Sabah. The park consists of five islands just off the coast of Kota Kinabalu: Sulug, Gaya, Manukan, Sapi, and Mamutik. 

Popular activities on the islands and the marine park include scuba diving, sunbathing, boating, hiking, and swimming.

The islands have beautiful sights to see as well as fun nightlife on Gaya Island (also called Pulau Gaya), specifically Gaya Street. The huge Gaya Street Sunday Market is also the best place to find souvenirs.

9. Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market 

The Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market sits on the Kota Kinabalu Waterfront. This market is also known as the Filipino Market or Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu. 

This spot is another great place to buy souvenirs such as pearls, shirts, or wood carvings.

10. Poring Hot Springs

The Poring Hot Springs are large pools formed in Malaysia during the Japanese occupation of Sabah. The hot springs exist because of the naturally hot water found in this area. 

After a long day of hiking, stop by to soak your muscles in the natural, sulfur-infused pools. 

11. Mari Cultural Village 

This cultural village is an educational spot to learn about Kota Kinabalu’s indigenous groups, mainly the lives of the Sabahan Tribes. Here, you can take a walking tour of Mari Cultural Village to view the traditional houses, take in their livelihood patterns, and try the food of the Sabahan Tribes. 

The cultural village is only 30 minutes outside of Kota Kinabalu. 

Other Things To Do in Kota Kinabalu

Besides the main attractions listed above, there are plenty of other points of interest in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. So, here is a list of easily accessible things to do on the northwest coast in Kota Kinabalu. 

  • Sabah State Museum, also just called the Sabah Museum
  • Kilas Wildlife Safari River Cruise
  • Sabah Tea Garden Resort
  • North Borneo Railway, also called Sabah State Railway
  • Heritage Village and Museum Complex
  • Green Connection Aquarium
  • Ziplining on Pulau Sapi
  • Pulau Manukan
  • Klias River Cruise
  • Sabah State Mosque and its gold dome
  • Padi Certified Diving Courses
  • Other state and national parks
  • Science and Technology Museum
  • Night Market
  • Klias River

Conclusion

So, come and experience Southeast Asia’s culture by visiting Kota Kinabalu. Here, you can immerse yourself in nature by viewing wildlife, exotic plants and fauna species, and stunning mountain ranges. 

However, if you are not here for nature, you can experience street food on the waterfront, nightlife on the islands, or museums in the city. Kota Kinabalu contains plenty of food, beaches, hikes, and everything you can imagine, so anyone can find something to do. 

This city welcomes the adventure-seeker, the sunbather, the nature-lover, the night-owl, and more! Kota Kinabalu truly is the city that has it all. 

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