Things to do in Kota Kinabalu

Things to do in Kota Kinabalu | Borneo Dream Dive Shop

Kota Kinabalu, often referred to as KK, is a coastal city located on the west coast of Sabah and is the main gateway for other destinations in Sabah. Being the Capital City of Sabah Kota Kinabalu is a busy, yet relatively compact City making it really easy to explore. A popular question we often get asked by our customers is about things to do in Kota Kinabalu. Below we have shared our view on the top 10 things to do in Kota Kinabalu – so sit down, read on and start planning your holiday adventures in Sabah.

Things to do in Kota Kinabalu with Borneo Dream Dive Shop

In at Number 1 – Climb Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Malaysia, and one of the highest peaks in South East Asia. Kota Kinabalu acts as the gateway to Kinabalu National Park, the home of 4,095m-high Mount Kinabalu. So, it’s not surprising that climbing Mount Kinabalu is one of the most popular requests for things to do in Kota Kinabalu. Climbing Mount Kinabalu can be done as a 2 day or 3 day trip. It’s a challenging trek up (and down) but the views from Low Peak’s Summit are breath-taking as you watch the sunrise over the Crocker Mountain Range. There are limited permits issued each day for climbing Mount Kinabalu so Mount Kinabalu climbing trips do tend to get fully booked in.

TOP TIP – book well in advance for climbing Mount Kinabalu. If you fancy reaching a summit that’s less well-travelled then check out Mount Trus Madi, the second highest peak in Sabah.

A Toasty Number 2 - Test out the Tropical Waters and Islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

Visiting Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is a great choice when looking at things to do in Kota Kinabalu. Located just in front of Kota Kinabalu and accessible by a short boat transfer it is very easy to visit the Marine Park. Home to five islands – Sapi, Gaya, Mamutik, Manukan, Sulug (private island) – you can choose from chilling out on the beach, snorkelling, scuba diving and water sports activities. There’s even an island to island zipline between Sapi and Gaya. Cool! The best way to explore the coral reefs and see some of the amazing tropical reef life is by boat – either snorkelling or scuba diving. As Sabah is located in the Coral Triangle there is a surprisingly wide variety of marine life living in the coral reefs – from Black Tip Reef Sharks, Turtles, Seahorses through to several species of Clown Fish. We even have an ‘Orangutan Crab’ that can be found living on the soft coral in the Marine Park. For those on a tight budget, there are island boat transfers allowing you to visit the islands independently.

TOP TIP – during peak periods the islands/beaches can get very busy. Choose a trip where you will snorkel or scuba dive from a boat so you get away from the crowds and see more of the coral reefs.

Amazing sunsets | Things to do in Kota Kinabalu

Setting in at 3 - Watch a Stunning Sunset

We are blessed in Kota Kinabalu with amazing sunsets on a regular basis. The sky literally glows orange/red as the sun sets out to sea. As the sun sets around 6:30 pm (give or take a few minutes) you need to be setting yourself up at a good viewing location around 6:00 pm (preferably with a cold drink) then just sit back, watch and enjoy! This has to be one of the best free things to do in Kota Kinabalu.

TOP TIP – visit the rooftop bar at the Grandis Hotel for fantastic views of the sunset. It’s a nice bar too!

An Adventurous Number 4 - Go White Water Rafting

For some fun and adventure white water rafting is a good choice when it comes to things to do in Kota Kinabalu. Choose between the gentler, family friendly Kiulu River what water rafting trip (Grade I – II) or the ‘scream if you wanna go faster’ adrenalin rush offered by the Padas River white water rafting trip (Grade III – IV).

Roaring In At 5 - See Wildlife

The most popular location for seeing wildlife from Kota Kinabalu is Klias Wetland Mangrove Forest Reserve. Here you will find river cruise tours in search of wildlife along the Klias River and Garama River. It’s a ~ 2.5-hour journey to Klias River but worth it if seeing Proboscis Monkeys, Fireflies and seeing wildlife in its natural habitat is on your list of things to do in Kota Kinabalu. If you are wanting a half-day activity closer to Kota Kinabalu for seeing wildlife then you have the option of visiting Lok Kawi Wildlife Park or Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre.

TOP TIP – if you have 2 or 3 days free in Kota Kinabalu, and seeing wildlife is your priority, then visiting the Kinabatangan River is a better option for seeing wildlife.

Malaysian food | Things to do in Kota Kinabalu

Nom Nom Nom at 6 - Try out the Local food

You can’t visit Kota Kinabalu without wanting to try some of the tasty local dishes. You’ll find a mix of traditional Malaysian dishes with a range of Asian influences and often at very affordable prices. This makes eating as one of the popular things to do in Kota Kinabalu. A popular choice is to visit the Night Market located on the waterfront. It offers hawker stalls selling a range of tasty, freshly cooked food – from noodle dishes to kebabs and every choice of fresh fish from the day’s catch. It starts at ~ 5 pm and worth a look around. For fresh fish check out Sedco Square which offers a choice of cafes with open court style seating. There are myriads of local cafes to choose from – if you walk down Gaya Street and the nearby streets you’ll be spoilt for choice. For some of the best KK street food try Yee Fung Laksa on Gaya Street or for the best crispy pork in KK try Kuo Man restaurant coffee shop. If you fancy having a go at learning to cook some of the local dishes as one of your things to do in Kota Kinabalu then join a traditional cooking class and learn to create tasty dishes such as Hinava and Manuk Tinapah.

TOP TIP – if a local café is busy it typically means it’s good. Wander around and try a few – you’ll be surprised at the tasty local dishes and the cheap price.

Enlightening at Number 7 - Learn about Sabah’s Rich Culture

Sabah is rich in history and culture which makes learning about the culture of Sabah as one of the worthwhile things to do in Kota Kinabalu. If you would like to join an organised tour then visiting Mari Mari Cultural Village is popular. If you are happy to explore Kota Kinabalu independently then you could visit the Sabah State Museum and Heritage Village, the Monsopiad Cultural Village or the two famous mosques in KK – the State Mosque and the City Mosque also known as the ‘Floating Mosque’.

TOP TIP - Guided mosque tours are offered at the Floating Mosque. Remember to dress respectfully when visiting a Mosque.

Picking up the Pace at 8 - Go Trekking

Sabah is home to the stunning rainforest and, luckily, there are trekking options within easy reach of KK making trekking through the first, or ‘jungle’, an option for one of the things to do in Kota Kinabalu. In Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park you could join a guided trek through the rain forest on Pulau Gaya with a choice of marked trails from 2km to ~ 7km. Slightly further away is trekking in Kiulu Valley which can be joined as a day trip from Kota Kinabalu. There are also marked trails in Kinabalu Park Headquarters for those who want to visit the National Park, a ~ 2-hour journey from Kota Kinabalu.

Jungle and Wildlife in Sabah | Things to do in Kota Kinabalu

Stepping Away from the City Centre at 9 - Explore KK’s Public Parks

Visiting one of the parks is a cheap option for things to do in Kota Kinabalu. Go for a stroll in the newer Perdana Park located in Tanjung Aru with the water fountain light show every night at 7pm. On the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu is Bukit Padang – here you will find a range of marked trails as well as the option of trekking up to the top of Bukit Padang (at 477 feet). Bukit Padang is also home to a water park which is popular on a weekend with local families. Just north of central Kota Kinabalu you’ll find Likas Bay which is ~ 7km in length. Likas Bay Public Park is popular with the locals – especially at the weekend – you’ll also find cycle / foot path along the length of the Bay which passes by the ‘Floating Mosque’.

Dare I Say it, at 10 - Go Shopping

Personally, I think there are better cities in Asia for Shopping – think Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur. However, shopping is a popular pastime for many and has to be on our list of things to do in Kota Kinabalu. For a more local experience check out Gaya Street Sunday Market which starts early and starts wrapping up around 12 noon. You’ll find many stalls selling everything from ground coffee, Chinese medicine, sun glasses through to hand-made bags. There is also a Handicraft Market located on the Waterfront (next to the Night Market) which offers a range of local trinkets ideal for souvenirs and gifts. For more western shops visit one of the larger shopping malls such as Imago Shopping Mall, Suria Sabah Shopping Mall. At these latter shopping malls you’ll also find food courts, restaurants and a cinema.

We hope you enjoyed our Top 10 of Things to do in Kota Kinabalu!!

MYR 1,970.00  

This 2 Day trek via Timpohan Gate is the most requested tour for climbing Mount Kinabalu during a holiday in Sabah, Borneo. Climbing Mount Kinabalu is an amazing, once in a lifetime, physically demanding experience. Book your Mount Kinabalu trip with Borneo Dream and enjoy a dedicated Mountain Guide per booking offering you a personalised trekking experience. Please note this particular package can only be booked maximum 30 days before a trip date (our other Climb Mount Kinabalu tours can be booked several months in advance).

MYR 2,080.00  

The 2 Day Mount Kinabalu climb via Ferrata is an ideal choice for those wanting to climb Mount Kinabalu and you only have two days free during your holiday in Sabah, Borneo. The via Ferrata activity - Walk the Torq offers an added adventure during your climb of Mount Kinabalu. For those new to 'via Ferrata' the Walk the Torq activity is your ideal choice. Book your Mount Kinabalu trip with Borneo Dream and enjoy a dedicated Mountain Guide per booking offering you a personalised trekking experience.

MYR 225.00  

The Guided Snorkeling Tour with Borneo Dream offers guided snorkeling tours from our boat along tropical coral reefs fringing the islands in nearby Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. You will be guided by one of our experienced, friendly qualified PADI Crew who have fantastic eyes for spotting a wide variety of marine life. Expect to see a wide range of colourful tropical fish life during your snorkeling sessions, including Nemo's cousins - and a Turtle if we're lucky :-)

MYR 295.00 MYR 312.70  

The PADI Discover Scuba Diving Experience is a wonderful way to experience scuba diving for the first time. This one day try dive with Borneo Dream includes a diving skills training session and two dives. You'll have the chance, under the guidance of our experienced PADI Instructors, to go scuba diving in the tropical, warm waters of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and see an amazing array of colourful marine life including a Turtle if we're lucky!

MYR 285.00  

Scuba diving in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is a popular choice for certified divers visiting Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. The Marine Park is home to five islands fringed by tropical coral reefs. Go scuba diving in tropical waters along shallow coral reefs in search of marine life including Clown Fish, Barracuda, Blue Spotted Rays, Hawksbill Turtles and macro life including nudibranchs and seahorses.

MYR 1,195.00 MYR 1,266.70  

The PADI Open Water Diver Course is the most popular course for learning to dive in the World!! Choose the full PADI Open Water Diver Course (3.5 days) with Borneo Dream during your holiday in Kota Kinabalu and enjoy small groups per PADI Instructor, nice diving boats, friendly crew offering great service, tasty lunch on an island and learning to dive in tropical waters along coral reefs.

MYR 190.00  

The Kiulu River White Water Rafting day trip is a great choice for families and those wanting a lot of fun and adventure but are newer to rafting or want a gentler ride. The Kiulu River offers a grade I - II white water rafting experience and is nestled in the scenic Kiulu Valley. You'll raft along ~ 15 km of the Kiulu River followed by lunch at the Adventure Centre located on the banks of the Kiulu River. Safe and lots of fun!!

MYR 235.00  

Looking for an adrenalin fuelled day trip? Then look no further then the White Water Rafting trip along the Padas River. Offering a grade III - IV white water rafting experience, the Padas River offers something for experienced 'rafters' and those who want that 'rollercoaster' rafting experience. Lots of fun, swirling rapids and getting very wet!! It's early start from Kota Kinabalu to the Padas River but riding on an old train in the Sabah countryside makes for an interesting journey!


MYR 200.00  

If you are staying only in Kota Kinabalu during your holiday in Sabah and seeing wildlife, especially the Proboscis Monkey, is on your 'to do' list then the Klias Wetlands River Cruise is your best choice. The Klias River is ~ 2 hours south by road from Kota Kinabalu and located in the largest protected Wetlands Reserve in Sabah. This makes it a great location from Kota Kinabalu for spotting wildlife as you join a late afternoon river cruise along the Klias River. Your trip ends with a 'sparkle' as Fireflies normally come out on display after sunset in the trees surrounding the river.

MYR 225.00  

The Borneo Traditional Cooking Class is a great opportunity to learn how to cook three typical dishes found in Sabah, Borneo. The Traditional Cooking Class is suitable for cooking enthusiasts, as well as those who typically do not go near an oven. The mix of activities you join provides for a fun, interactive day - visiting a local market, being taught by a Chef how to cook three traditional dishes, having a tasty lunch and also visiting Rumah Terbalik (Upside Down House) and the 3D Wonders Musuem. You'll be provided with the recipes for your three traditional dishes so you can try out your new dishes once back home :-)

MYR 175.00  

Mari Mari Cultural Village provides the opportunity to learn more about the rich culture and traditions of Sabah, Borneo. At Mari Mari Cultural Village you will learn more about the major tribes found in Sabah including the Rungus tribe from Northern Borneo and the Murut 'Headhunter' tribe from Southern Borneo. Choose from a morning or afternoon session - an ideal choice when you only have half a day free. Mari Mari Cultural Village can also be visited as part of a 'combo trip' with Kiulu River rafting, or a Klias River Wildlife Cruise.

MYR 255.00  

The Jungle Trek & Guided Snorkeling Trip is a unique trip offered by Borneo Dream. Bringing together two lovely experiences into one trip - a walk through rainforest on Pulau Gaya, and a guided snorkeling tour along a tropical reef in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. You can add more adventure to this trip by adding on a Coral Flyer zip line ride during your lunch break. A popular trip with families, groups of friends and couples.

MYR 265.00  

Fancy going jungle trekking during your stay in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah? Then check out this day trip to the Kiulu Valley. You'll join a ~ 5km trek (graded: Easy) through secondary rainforest in the Kiulu Valley, learn about simple jungle survival skills and learn more about the plant life found in the forest - what can be eaten, used as medicine etc. Once back at the Adventure Centre located along the banks of the Kiulu River you'll have the opportunity to join the Flying Fox zip line ride across the Kiulu River. A fun, and informative, day out for all!!

MYR 275.00  

A unique jungle trekking day tour offered by Borneo Dream from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. During this day tour you will complete a ~ 9km trek through the rainforest on Pulau Gaya located in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, including trekking to the highest point on Pulau Gaya. You can say you've been to the 'summit' of Pulau Gaya :-). After you morning trek you'll after a relaxing lunch break at a cafe located next to a beach. You'll have the opportunity to go snorkeling from the beach during your lunch break as an added bonus!