10 Things to Do in Kota Kinabalu

The days of my travel fiasco has recently dropped down a little. Anyway since I have been traveling all these while, why not some tips and things you can do while traveling in East Malaysia. This time we will look at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, East Malaysia. Many people would know that Sabah is known for it’s rich fauna and flaura. It is also the place which the tallest mountain in South East Asia resides. That’s the Gunung Kinabalu.

If you missed my other 10 Things You Can Do In Series, here is my 10 Things You Can Do in Kuching

There are many things one can do in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah but here are my top 10 things that one can do in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah or Sabah as a whole.  (based on personal experience)

1. Visit Religious Architectures

Kota Kinabalu City Mosque

Mosque on Water Kota Kinabalu

In Kota Kinabalu, this mosque is built on top a lake. It is known as the floating mosque in Kota Kinabalu. Well, the photo above was taken from the outside but you can see the magnificent architecture from the outside and the awesome reflection. For those not sure, Muslims go to the mosque for the Friday prayers.

Puh Toh Tze Temple

Puh Toh Tze Temple

Puh Toh Tze Temple is another place where most tours will bring you if you were to go for a guided tour around the town area. This Buddhist temple is located off Jalan Tuaran. Beyond the gate, there is a Kuan Yin deity statue about 15 – 20 meters high (based on own estimation).

Puh Toh Tze Temple Beyond

This is what you see if you go beyond that gate. The Kwan Yin statue is situated on the left of this photo. If you would like to see more photos of this temple, you can view them by going to one of my posts in Sabah. If you are worried about the admission, the admission is free.

There are many more religious buildings with beautiful architecture but the people there would definitely recommend the two buildings above.

2. Visit Mari-mari Cultural Village

Blowpipe Testing

As with my post on 10 Things to do in Kuching, visiting the Mari-mari Cultural Village is also a great place to get to know about the history of this state Saah. One will get to know about the different ethnic living in Sabah. One can also try the blowpipe (the real deal) during the visit into the cultural village. In Sabah, the Kadazans are the majority of the locals here. If you would like to take a photo with a local in their traditional dresses, this would be the best place to take a photo with one.

Daniel Chew with Kadazan Girl Photo

And so I did.

2. Go on Island Hopping

There are a few islands one can go during their visit to Kota Kinabalu. These islands are different compared to the ones in Peninsular Malaysia. Sipadan island though is a tad bit further so we would only cover those that are of vicinity around Kota Kinabalu.

Pulau Manukan

pulau manukan jetty

Pulau Manukan is the biggest island for the island hopping enthusiast. Since it’s the biggest, there are more crowds here than the other islands. Food can also be bought here as there would be chef manning the area. One can also go for a swim in the sea, though I had a swim once on this island and found out that it was infested with miniature jellyfish. No pain but definitely felt some sting. It all depends on the weather and the temperature of the sea though.

World War 2 Manukan Island

In Pulau Manukan, one can also witness the remains of World War 2 artifacts. These are 1941 – 1945 bomb shells that were uncovered from the sea. How about the crowd? How many were there?

Manukan Island Full of People

Now that is a lot of people on a beach with a lunch buffet on. Yes, one can buy the ticket for a lunch buffet there.

Pulau Sapi

Pulau Sapi Rocks

I still remembered I only had a Nikon D40 then when I took the above photo. Sapi is another island within this vicinity, and it has beautiful rock formations around the island. As the island is smaller, the crowd is lesser. Another crowd puller for this island is it’s natural inhabitants which are the monitor lizards.

Sapi Monitor Lizard

There should be about 5 to 10 lizards around the island. They are so used to humans that they are not bothered at all. If you prefer a quieter beach, this island would be the preferred choice. I haven’t been to the other islands yet, but will do so in the future.

3. Visit the Poring Hot Springs

poring hot springs

Poring Hot Springs is one of them places that one have to visit when in Kota Kinabalu. Located about 20 to 30 minutes from town, this place is a must for any person who have just came down from climbing the famous Mount Kinabalu. What better place than to dip your feet in after the perilous trekking up and down the mountain trail.

Actually why is this place called Poring? To the locals, Poring means bamboo, that’s why this place is called Bamboo area. If you were to walk a bit further you will see a bamboo park nearby the hot springs. In Malaysia, you will only be able to get the hot springs from a tap.

If you were wondering how big is the tub, wonder no more as I will showcase how many people could fit in the tub.

poring hot spring tub

The year was 2010. That’s like 5 years ago. Gauge yourself. Sometimes we do crazy things but it was worth it when we were young.

What else can one do while around the Poring Hot Springs is to go deeper into the jungle trail and witness the beautiful and also deadly wonders of the earth.

DanielCtw Kung Fu in Waterfall

Yes, if you go deeper, you will be able to go and withness this wonderful waterfall. Okay, I was having too much fun in it but with this, you will now know how deep was it. Waterfalls are indeed beautiful but they are also deadly. Caution: Do not go into the waterfall area after a rain.

4. Visit the Kundasang Memorial Park

Kundasang War Memorial Park

Kundasang Memorial Park is one place where we remembered the brave Australian warriors and soldiers that served during the World War 2 in Kundasang. Who would have thought that there would be an Australian Memorial all the way here. The place is well kept and also requires donation from the public to sustain it. The entrance was RM2 the last time I was back there in 2009.

Inside Kundasang Memorial Park

This is also one place where couples go to take their pre-wedding photos. Definitely a must go for visitors before their trip to climb up the mountain.

5. Taking photos at Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu) Waterfront

Kota Kinabalu Jetty Perspective

One will never know how long this port will last given the developments in the state itself. The waterfront is one place where photographers would love to get the photos. Imagine the blue hue ambiance from the sunset.

Evening Came Jesselton

These are all the photos one can take from the jetty. As the city faces the setting sun, photo enthusiast would definitely enjoy taking photos here.

Jesselton Point Kinabalu

One also should not forget to take this landmark, the famous Jesselton welcome arch. Being a port, there are bound to be ships and sailboats around. Fishing boats are abundant here. Now who says there aren’t anything interesting in town?

Jesselton Bay

Jesselton Bay is where one can take the boat trip to the islands.

6. Visit the Mount Kinabalu Botanical Garden

Those who love flowers, this place would just be perfect for you. There are loads of orchid and other exotic plants grown in the equator and since it’s in the highlands, the flowers thrive even further.

girl taking photo of flower

The flowers are aplenty and one can’t stop taking photos of the flowers over there. I had to make do with a 50mm prime lens but I would suggest a macro lens or just use a P&S camera for this function.

Here I got to witness one of the smallest orchid ever known.

smallest orchid kinabalu botanical garden

There are other variety of flowers in the park, and as an added bonus, each of these photos would be shown their settings in which they were taken.

pink flower kinabalu botanical park

One of the ways to go to this park is by chartering a van/bus or just go for the land tour at your respective hotels.

7. Buy Fresh Seafood from the Morning Fish Market

If you are into seafood and would like to get the freshest one out there while in Kota Kinabalu, do get up early and visit the market that is situated just alongside the parking lot out there along the Kota Kinabalu. One of the things that I would go is to find those seafood that I would hardly eat if I were in Kuala Lumpur. Not withstanding the fact that most of the restaurants charge higher for seafood in town center, it is back to buying your own seafood.

Lobster for Dinner

This lobster was at a bargain as it was bought at a price of RM18 for the whole thing. Its pincer was gone hence the price. The meat was fresh when it was cooked. Anyway just found out it was called the Filipino Wet Market. Well, there are lot of Filipinos in Kota Kinabalu, so it was not surprising.

big prawns filipino wet market kinabalu

One can also stay till the night or evening and have fried lobsters, fishes (local and exotic ones), sting ray, eels and many more. If you love to go to a restaurant and be entertained, then the next one would be something you could try.

7. Kampung Nelayan Seafood Market Restaurant

If you are those who would like the tourist type of seafood and with shows while having your dinner, this place is located in Luyang. For more info one can go to Kampung Nelayan Seafood webpage. This place is built as if it is a floating restaurant on top the water. Other than the usual seafood, and some exquisite taste on their selected dish, the other part of the experience is having a show during your eating session.

kampung nelayan luyang

Diners could also take part in the activities after their food and after the presentation where one can play along on the galah dance (bamboo pole dance).

bamboo dance sabah

You will also be prepared to be entertained with fire breathing humans and some cultural dances. If you somehow already visited the cultural village, the dances would not be foreign to you.

fire swallower kampung nelayan

8. Taking Photos at the viewing station view of Mount Kinabalu

It is like a given that those that go to Kota Kinabalu would definitely think of climbing Mount Kinabalu. Before reaching the base of the start of the climb, many would be trekkers would stop at Pekan Nabalu for breakfast and also for a breathtaking view of the mountain.

pekan nabalu viewing tower

From the top, one can view the glorious mountain. Also tourist would get a chance to buy some souvenirs from the market below. Bargaining is allowed, though make sure do be sensible. If you are bargaining for items, do ensure you have the intent to buy.

pekan nabalu area of interest

The market has multiple variety of souvenirs and things the local made. The Mount Kinabalu and Sabah tshirts are a norm around here too. If you ever thought of buying any t-shirts, here would be the best place to buy one. Buying from here is definitely way cheaper than buying from town based on my experience.

pekan nabalu market

Back to the viewing station, this is one for the camera. Sometimes if one is lucky then you would have a clearer photo of the mountain in the background.

photoshoot at the viewing station

Gotten to comfortable that I just wore japanese slippers, shorts, tshirt and a top for this in this 2010 photo. Really thin those days (that’s beside the point).

So be creative and get some photos up there.

9. Canopy Walk at Kinabalu Park

If you love to trek through the jungle, this one is another experience one can enjoy. Canopy walk on the suspension bridge at Kinabalu Park is definitely one for the experience. Hanging up high and looking down is a breath taking experience. There is another suspension bridge high up the mountains, if one is more keen on being high up the mountains.

daniel chew kinabalu park suspension bridge

The suspension bridge is narrow, and only 8 person is allowed to go on it at one time.

suspension bridge kinabalu park

The bridge joins at one end to another end. If you haven’t try this, go for the experience.

10. Climb Mount Kinabalu

As expected for every tourist or visitor to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, this is a must do list to most of them. In most places where one visits, one usually do some things which they would do in order to make the trip complete.

To go up Mount Kinabalu, one can do two trails up the mountain. One is the Timpohon trail and another is the Mesilau trail (heard that this trail is currently off limits due to the recent earthquake happened at 2015).

The Terror Hill Path

Here are some shots with my trusty D40 during the early days. The trail was a long and grueling session but it was worth it. The variance of flora along the way would feel like you are one with nature.

The trek would be to ascend to Laban Rata, the last camp before ascending to Low’s Peak, Mount Kinabalu. Laban Rata would be the place for travelers and tourist to have their dinner and then proceed to get some rest before ascending the mountain some time around 230am in wee hours.

Night Climb Peak of Mount Kinabalu

Yes, trekking is done during that time in order to avoid the hot blazing sun and also for the best part of it, the view of the sun rising. Temperatures could be as low as -3 Degrees Celsius or around 16 Degrees Celsius. Sometimes ice could be seen forming around the mountain.

Always bring a torch light or better still a headlamp (the light to be strapped on your forehead) if you’re thinking of climbing the mountain. Wear enough warm clothing and try not to rush. The air is thin, so move carefully. There are some steep moments up the trek but it was well worth it.

On a fine weather, this would make a great profile photo.

Lows Peak Summit Reached

So if you’re lucky and the weather was good, be thankful. This is how Low’s Peak look like on the way up.

Lows Peak Kinabalu

It will be a grueling 4 hours (some people take 2 hours) to go up the mountain and enjoy the breathtaking view and finally one could say that, “I made it. One thing off the checklist“.

If you would like to know more of my experience in climbing the mountain, you can browse through the different Sabah posts I have on the blog.


There are many things one can do in Sabah. You may browse through my Sabah travel tag and see what else one could do. These are but the few notable mentions that I could list out. The list could go on and on. One thing for sure, if you are a nature lover, this is a place to go.

Writing this piece of material took a lot of my time, and I would appreciate feedback. If this is great for your reading, then I might start writing more articles like this. Until my next travel and adventures, till then signing off.

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