Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah ⏤ Malaysia, is a very small city packed with personality! KK is the starting point of most holidays to Sabah and is a great destination to get a feel for the Malaysian way of living.
Tourism here is great; nothing is too expensive, cheesy or hard to find. If you are stopping for a few days, here are a few things to do in Kota Kinabalu:
Observe the City Lookout
At the back of the city are a flight of stairs heading up into the jungle! The 10-minute walk up the relatively steep stairs will take you to a beautiful lookout over the entire city. With a lovely view of the water, it is a great place to see a sunrise or sunset. Highly recommend!
Visit the Museum
The Sabah State Museum is around 15 minutes by taxi which will cost you between 15-30 ringgit ($5-10AUD). The museum itself is quite small and constantly under renovation. It does, however, give you a great insight into the culture of Borneo and has a huge skeleton of a Whale in the centre.
The best part about this museum is the Heritage Village. About a 5-minute walk around the beautiful, rugged grounds will take you to a small water village. It shows you the old housing and boats of the indigenous tribes and has a lovely rope bridge over a small lake. A very calming place and a good start to Sabah.
Make sure you take your insect repellent! Sandflies are a little vicious here.
Walk the Boardwalk
The boardwalk along the water in KK is lovely. Although most of the bars and restaurants are closed during the day, you will still have the opportunity to see the local fishing boats and fishermen along the way. You can chat with locals and take in the view of the surrounding islands. There are lovely handicraft stores and shopping on the waterfront also!
Explore the Local Markets
Markets are everywhere! Along the waterfront, you will find fish markets, fruit markets and a market selling handicrafts. They are packed with stock, merchandise & produce and are a great way to learn about local goods… There is a lot to see; head towards the water and you won’t miss them!
Day Trip to the Local Islands
Manukan, Sepi and Gaya Island are a short 15-minute boat trip away!
You will need to get a 15-minute taxi to the Marina just out of the city, but the boat trip itself is very short. The islands are stunning; there are beautiful white sand beaches and lots of snorkelling right off the bay. There is everything from water sports to relaxing sun beds that you can enjoy on your day trip!
I stayed at Manukan Island for 2 nights during my visit, and it was so beautiful. You can certainly visit them in a day on an island hopping tour if time is restricted. Boats leave almost every half hour, so you can have as little or as much time as you like!
On the contrary, if you’re looking to spend more time in Borneo, there are some amazing scuba diving sites in Malaysia to experience the underwater world. Some are a little harder to get to, but others are only a short flight away!
Do Some Shopping
There are around 3 major shopping centres in the city. Varying from small and local, to big and extravagant. If you want to do some serious shopping, Imago is the place to go! This shopping centre is huge and has a lot of shops that are seen around the world. Wisma is a little more local, and Centre Point is quite new so shops are sparse.
Simply Walk Around the City
There is so much to see in this small city; the locals will chat to you, you will see how they live and you can immerse yourself in their culture. Lots of local shops, cafes and sites to see. You could spend a whole day wandering the streets without being bored, so take your time to relax.
Enjoy KK and Sabah, it really is a beautiful place!