The capital of the state of Sabah located on the island of Borneo, this Malaysian city is a growing resort destination due to its proximity to tropical islands, lush rain forest and Mount Kinabalu. Constantly referred to as KK, it is located on the west coast of Sabah within the West Coast Division. KK is one of the smallest districts in Sabah but has the largest population and is the largest city in the state.
KK lies by the coast overlooking the South China Sea on a narrow flatland and occasional hills bordered by the Crocker Range which hosts Mount Kinabalu. Hence the urban sprawl is concentrated along the coast towards the north and south of the city.
Kota Kinabalu is a growing city of around 500,000 inhabitants. Recent economic growth has resulted in urbanisation of the city reaching adjacent districts of Penampang and Putatan with a total population of almost 800,000. Recent growth and importance is due to being the administrative capital, a major transportation hub, growing port, manufacturing hub, growing tourism as well as being the major gateway into Sabah and East Malaysia. Kota Kinabalu was granted city status in 2000 becoming the sixth city and also currently the sixth largest urban/metropolitan area in Malaysia.
Kota Kinabalu was previously known as Jesselton while under British colonial rule from the late 1800s until 1963 when the British left and after Sabah became part of Malaysia. Most of the town was destroyed due to bombings during World War II hence there are not much pre-war historical sites around the city. Before the British arrived, the area was also known by a number of other names such as Deasoka (below the coconut tree), Singgah Mata (pleasing to the eye), Api-Api (fire!) and Gaya Bay.
The people of KK consists of Chinese, Kadazandusun, Bajau, Brunei Malays, as well as significant migrant population from Indonesia and Philippines, many of which are naturalised citizens. There are also many migrant/expat population from India and a growing number from Korea.
Central Kota Kinabalu is often referred to as Kota Kinabalu City Centre or the Central Business district (CBD) or simply Downtown KK and is located on the narrow coast overlooking Gaya Island. This is where most hotels, travel agents, transportation bases and most of the action are found. Most of the city centre lies on reclaimed land due to shortage of land in the area as it is blocked by Signal Hill (Bukit Bendera). Areas which lie within the city centre includes Kampung Air, Api-Api, Segama, Sinsuran, Bandaran Berjaya, Gaya Street, KK Port and towards south are Karamunsing, Sembulan, Tanjung Aru and Sutera Harbour.
Due to lack of land in the city centre, other important commercial areas have sprouted outside CBD. Some of these areas have been long in existence as small townships (pekan) such as Luyang, Inanam and Menggatal and in adjacent districts of Penampang (Donggongon) and Putatan while some are recently developed residential-commercial areas such as Alam Mesra, Kingfisher and 1Borneo near Menggatal; Lintas, Penampang Baru and Bundusan.
The climate in KK is characterised by uniform year-round temperature of 32°C (avg. high) and 22°C (avg. low). Rain falls quite often with occasional dry streaks. Low rainfall begins in January till April, increasing in May till August, intensifying in September till November and slows down in December. Climate summary:
Kota Kinabalu International Airport (IATA: BKI), abbreviated to KKIA, is Malaysia's second busiest airport and the main gateway to Sabah and situated around 7 km from the city centre. There are two terminals in the airport, Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Terminal 1 serves full-service airlines such as Malaysia Airlines, Asiana Airlines, etc. while Terminal 2 serves budget airlines such as AirAsia and Cebu Pacific.
Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 are located on different sides of the runway, so it is not advisable to walk between terminals as it is quite far from each other (but if you insist, the journey might take about 50 minutes). Apparently there are no shuttle buses between the terminals and the most convenient way is by taxi which might cost around RM15-25. Terminal 1 is accessible from Jalan Kepayan near Kepayan and Terminal 2 is accessible from Jalan Mat Salleh in Tanjung Aru.
There are ATMs and a currency exchange in Terminal 1 and 2 of the airport but if you're arriving late it will almost certainly be closed and the ATMs are not always working. Make sure you've got some Malaysian ringgit before you arrive as you'll need it for the taxi or the bus. If you find yourself having just arrived and without any ringgit, you can have a taxi take you to an ATM on the way to wherever you're staying.
As of 2013, there is some (not always reliable) free Wi-Fi in the departure zone of the airport.
There are direct international flights from these destinations to KKIA:
- Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei on Royal Brunei Airlines
- Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia on AirAsia
- Hong Kong on Dragonair, Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia
- Jakarta, Indonesia on AirAsia
- Manila, Philippines on AirAsia and Cebu Pacific airlines
- Shenzhen, China on AirAsia
- Seoul, Korea on Asiana Airlines, EastarJet, Jin Air, Korean Air and Malaysia Airlines
- Singapore on AirAsia, Silkair, Tigerairways and Jet Star Asia
- Taipei, Taiwan on Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia (Taoyuan), on Mandarin Airlines (Songshan)
- Tarakan, East Kalimantan, Indonesia on MASWings
- Bintulu on MASWings
- Johor Bahru on Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia
- Kota Bharu on AirAsia
- Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia
- Kuching on Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia
- Kudat on MASWings
- Labuan on Malaysia Airlines and MASWings
- Lahad Datu on MASWings
- Lawas on MASWings
- Limbang on MASWings
- Miri on AirAsia and MASWings
- Mulu on MASWings
- Penang on AirAsia
- Sandakan on AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines and MASWings
- Sibu on MASWings
- Tawau on AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines and MASWings
Getting out from the airport
The airport is 7 km away from the city.
Leaves approximately every hour and drops passengers off at the Wawasan Centre south of downtown Kota Kinabalu. No buses depart from Terminal 2 after 7PM.
Bus 16c stops at terminal 2 (the Low Cost Carrier Terminal), right outside the north-most entrance into the terminal where all cars drops passengers off (there is no bus sign or anything though). The bus cost RM1.50 and goes to the Kota Kinabalu bus terminal, Terminal Wawasan. The bus only goes once an hour or so and the schedule is highly irregular. The last bus leaves at about 5:30-6PM.
For terminal 1, Minibus No. 17, Kota Kinabalu-Putatan buses, will bring you to the city. Minbuses are available along the main road away from the airport and the bus stop is next to the bridge. Cost RM1.50 each way, will stop you at the south end of the City Centre, at Terminal Wawasan. It is around 1 km to the centre.
From Terminal Wawasan, you can take City Bus into the city centre for RM0.50.
These are hired by buying a ticket from the window on the Arrivals level, then presenting ticket to the driver.
The standard rate from the airport to the city is RM30.
Walking into town from the airport is possible if you like walking and have 1-2 hr to spare. Pick up a city map in the airport terminal, and you won't have any problem finding your way. You can also stop by the Sabah State Mosque on the way.
Another option is to walk from Terminal 2 into Tanjung Aru by Plaza Tanjung Aru and look for the bus stop, here you can catch van number 16 that goes to the bus station by Plaza Wawasan, from there walk along the waterfront. Cost is RM1.
All main roads in Sabah radiate out from Kota Kinabalu. The main road to the Sarawak border at Sindumin heads south from the city through the suburbs of Kepayan and Tanjung Aru and goes past Papar, Kimanis, Beaufort and Sipitang. From Sindumin, the road continues to Lawas and on to Brunei and it is possible to travel from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei by land. Another main road goes north to Kudat via Kota Belud. The main road to the East Coast (Sandakan and Lahad Datu) branches off from this road at Tamparuli. Another main road heading southeast leaves the suburbs of Penampang and Donggongon towards Tambunan, Keningau and Tenom. Travel by private car to KK is quite popular with visitors from around Sabah including Sandakan and Tawau, Labuan, Miri and Brunei.
There are two long-distance bus terminals.
- South Bus Terminal, is across the road from Wisma Wawasan and serves destinations south of Kota Kinabalu, Beaufort, Sipitang and Lawas.
- North Bus Terminal, is in Inanam, 10 km to the northeast of the city centre. This terminal serves buses going north and east of Kota Kinabalu, including Mount Kinabalu, Sandakan, Semporna and Tawau.
From east and north Sabah
- From Sandakan, it takes 5-6 hr, RM43.50. Several express bus companies operate buses between the Kota Kinabalu North Bus Terminal and Sandakan.
- From Semporna, is very far so the distance to reach quite long and takes 9-10 hr. Dyana Bus, leaves twice daily from Inanam station around 7:30AM and 7:30PM. Shuttle from Kota Kinabalu city to Inanam is RM1.50, 20 min, departs from bus station on Jalan Padang.
- From Tawau, ~9 hr, RM55. Several express bus companies operate bus between the Kota Kinabalu North Bus Terminal and Tawau.
- Tung Ma Express ☎ +60 198827334
- Andisba Express ☎ +60 881 3879 7779
- Alitopan Express ☎ +60 881 3886 2348, +60 881 9863 4797, +60 888 976 7858. Bus from Kota Kinabalu at 7AM, 8AM, 10AM, 12PM, 2PM.
- To/from Mount Kinabalu and Ranau 1.5-2 hr, RM25-35. All the above buses pass by the entrance of the Mount Kinabalu National Park, Kundasang and Ranau (for Poring Hot Spring). You can get off or board at these locations. You can also catch buses/minibuses doing the shorter run to Ranau. The journey from Kota Kinabalu to Mount Kinabalu should take about 2 hr.
- From Lawas:
- Lawas Bus Company also operates an express bus daily to Lawas, departing Lawas at about 8AM and returning from Kota Kinabalu City Centre terminal at 1PM. Both buses go through Beaufort and Sipitang. You can also make the journey by minivans but you may have to change at Beaufort or even at Papar and Sipitang. Catch them from the minivan station opposite Wawasan Plaza. If you are continuing to Brunei, see Kota Kinabalu to Brunei by land.
- From Beaufort and Sipitang:
- Sipitang Express Bus departs the City Centre Terminal for Beaufort (1 hr 45 min, RM9) and Sipitang (2 hr 45 min, RM14) at 8:30AM, 12PM and 2:30PM. The 7:30AM bus to Lawas also goes through Beaufort and Sipitang. From Sipitang, buses depart at 8AM, 12PM, 1:30PM (bus comes through from Lawas) and 4:30PM and 1 hr later from Beaufort.
- Lawas Bus Company's express bus between Kota Kinabalu and Lawas. Again, you can do this do this by minivans throughout the day, although they are more frequent in the morning. You may also have to change at Papar if you cannot get a direct minivan.
- From Menumbok:
- From the City Centre terminal to Menumbok - multiple bus companies operate express buses between KK and Menumbok where there are ferries to Labuan. They depart frequently in the morning since 6AM from KK City Centre terminal next to the City town hall. From Menumbok, buses depart at 10:15AM and 3:15PM. One way tickets cost is RM18. Minivans also do the journey although you may have to change at Papar and Beaufort.
- From Papar: Regular minivans run to this coastal town 38 km south of Kota Kinabalu.
From south-west interior
- From Tambunan, Keningau and Tenom
Most public transport to this part of Sabah is by minibuses and vans which leave from the minibus station opposite Wawasan Plaza. Again, it's best to get started early. You should be able to catch a direct minibus from Kota Kinabalu to Keningau. Change there for Tenom.
The only regular access to Kota Kinabalu by sea is from Labuan. The ferry service takes about 3 hours and there are two services from Labuan every day: 8:30AM and 1PM. From Labuan, you can continue on to Bandar Seri Begawan in one day if you get an early start. A package ticket to Brunei costs RM56. See the Kota Kinabalu to Brunei by land page for details. Ferries from Labuan docks at Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal on the northern edge of the city centre.
Kota Kinabalu is one of the port of call for many cruise ships passing through east Asia such as Queen Victoria, Queen Mary 2, Diamond Princess, MV Arcadia and SuperStar Virgo via cruise lines such as Cunard, Star Cruises, Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises. Cruise ships will usually dock at Kota Kinabalu Port north of Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal.
The city centre is quite small, and you can walk from one end to the other in less than 30 min. Safely crossing the street can be an issue, but most streets are at least equipped with sidewalks. You can also walk to and from the airport (1-2 hr each way). Even the highways outside of town usually have a walking path or a wide grassy shoulder to walk on.
Short fares are around RM10, longer trips around RM20. A whole day shouldn't cost more than RM300. Haggling is absolutely vital in order to get a fair price. Many taxi drivers in Malaysia are infamous for raising their fare prices, even after a price has already been determined by thorough prior negotiation. They frequently attempt to manipulate and deceive unknowing tourists by feigning ignorance and delivering tourists to the wrong hotels, which sometimes provide kickbacks to the drivers. Mentioning a call to the authorities may resolve the situation quickly.
Bus and minibus (van)
The main depot for buses and minibuses from the city center to the suburbs such as Putatan, Tanjung Aru, Kepayan, Luyang, Penampang, Likas, Inanam and Menggatal is the Wawasan Bus Terminal opposite Wawasan Plaza. All buses coming in from the suburbs can only stop in this depot to avoid congestion in the city center. Bus fare is around RM0.50 to RM2 depending on the distance.
Wawasan Bus terminal also serves as a depot for long-distance buses towards south of Kota Kinabalu. A new southbound long-distance bus terminal has been planned for construction near Terminal 1, KKIA in Kepayan. North- and east-bound long-distance buses departs from the North Bus Terminal in Inanam, 25 minutes from the city centre. There are shuttle buses between the terminals.
To travel within the city centre, the City Bus is used. The green and yellow City Bus departs from Wawasan Bus Terminal and circles the city center using 4 routes: Route 1A, 1B, 2A and 2B. City Bus fare cost RM0.50 and are quite frequent. However the conductor and driver often encourages more people to get on the bus until totally crowded before it leaves.
- Route 1A: travels along Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens until Jesselton Point and returns along Jalan Tun Razak and Jalan Coastal.
- Route 1B: travels along Jalan Coastal and Jalan Tun Razak and returns along Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens.
- Route 2A: travels along Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman via Karamunsing and Jalan KK Bypass all the way to Sabah Trade Centre in Likas and returns the same way.
- Route 2B: travels along Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman until the roundabout near Australia Place and returns the same way.
Road signs in Malay
Some road signs does not have English translations. Here are some of the important ones:
Cars can easily be hired on the spot from the hire car counters in the arrivals hall in the airport. Rates can be negotiated so compare the offers. Rental companies do not offer hand-controls for the disabled. There are also many car rental companies in the city:
- JoyDrive KK - Car Rental Kota Kinabalu, Lintas Plaza, Kota Kinabalu, ☎ +60 138810882. Budget Car Rental in Kota Kinabalu. Online Booking available.
- Kinabalu Rent A Car, Wisma Sabah, Jln. Tun Razak, ☎ +60 88-232602.
- Kings Car Rental Services, Jln Murni, Tanjung Aru, ☎ +60 88-878282.
Road signs are prevalent throughout KK and Sabah. So driving within KK and towards other parts of Sabah is not difficult. There are however some signages which are only in Malay. Signboards in brown colour indicates recreation / places of interest. Most major roads in the city are dual carriageways however highways leading towards other towns are mainly single carriageways which might put your overtaking skills to the test especially in hilly areas. Be very careful when overtaking and no overtaking over double lines. More information on Malaysian road signs: or check out the Malay phrasebook.
Highways are sometimes marked according to their numbers. The following are some of the major highways from Kota Kinabalu:
- Highway 1 (formerly A2): Highway heading south of KK towards Putatan, Kinarut, Papar, Kimanis, Beaufort, Kuala Penyu, Sipitang, Lawas, Brunei and Sarawak.
- Highway 1 (formerly A1): Highway heading north of KK towards Telipok, Tuaran, Kota Belud, Kota Marudu, Pitas and Kudat.
- Highway 22 (formerly A4): Highway heading east (from Berungis Roundabout, Tuaran) towards Tamparuli, Kundasang, Ranau, Telupid, Beluran, Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Tawau and Semporna.
- Highway 500 (formerly SA3): Highway heading east of KK towards Penampang, Tambunan, Keningau and Tenom
- GG Rent A Motorbike Provides scooters and semi automatic motorbikes for tourists at a price of RM20 (5 hours) and RM40(whole day). They provide maps and plan your itinerary with you to maximise your schedule and minimise the time.
Sabah State Railway recommenced operations in February 2011 using new air-conditioned trains on a single 134 km route from Tanjung Aru south of the city centre to Tenom in the interior via Papar, Kimanis and Beaufort. Four trains operate daily except for Sunday, when there are only two trains, running between Tanjung Aru station ☎ +60 88254611 and Beaufort, where you change trains if you want to continue your journey to Tenom. Journey time between Kota Kinabalu and Beaufort is about 2 hr, making it more attractive for travellers to take the bus for part of the journey. The train stops the following places: Kota Kinabalu (Tanjung Aru), Putatan, Kinarut, Kawang, Papar, Kimanis, Bongawan, Membakut, Beaufort, Saliwangan, Halogilat, Rayoh, Pangi and Tenom.
Trains for Tenom run from Beaufort once a day at 7:45AM so to take the train to Tenom, you will have to stay over night in Beaufort. Full details on the refurbished. Train schedule are available online:
A leisure train service known as North Borneo Railway caters to tourists and uses an old steam train and designed to resemble trains in the colonial era. This is a joint venture project between Sabah State Railway and Sutera Harbour Resort. Currently trains only travel up to Papar. Tickets cost RM270 and RM170 for children and includes breakfast and lunch. Official website with information:
There are speedboat services from KK to the islands in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park just off the coast of Kota Kinabalu from Jesselton Point Jetty with regular departures to Manukan, Sapi, Gaya and other islands. Cost per person is between RM17 and RM40 depending on island. There are also departures from the Sabah Parks Jetty behind Wisma Merdeka and Sutera Harbour. There are also speedboats for charter where travellers can have the flexibility of time and destination.
Like most other Malaysian cities, Kota Kinabalu is a melting pot of various cultures. Almost all locals are able to understand and speak at least basic English. There is an emerging community of educated locals who are able to converse in fluent English and, in fact, speak English as their first language. As almost 50% of Kota Kinabalu's residents are of Chinese descent, visitors who speak Chinese will not encounter any language problems. The main dialect spoken by Kota Kinabalu's Chinese community is Hakka, but Mandarin and Cantonese are also widely understood and spoken. Unlike many other Malaysian cities with substantial Chinese communities such as Kuala Lumpur and Penang, the Hokkien dialect is not in common use among Kota Kinabalu's Chinese residents. In addition to English and Chinese dialects, Bahasa Malaysia (Malay) is also widely spoken, albeit with a distinct Sabahan flavour. Some residents also speak the languages of native Sabahan races such as Kadazandusun and Bajau, but these are not commonly used in daily conversation. Additionally, a small number of the younger generation speak limited Korean and Japanese.
- Atkinson Tower (on a hill beside Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, just a few min away from the city centre). Built in 1902 in memory of Francis George Atkinson, the first district officer of Jesselton, as Kota Kinabalu was then called. He died of a tropical disease in the same year at the young age of only 28.
- Signal Hill Observatory (10 min walk up hill from the Atkinson Clock Tower). Offers a good view of the city centre.
- The Green Connection Aquarium (located 10 min outside the downtown area by taxi), ☎ +60 88-263326, fax: +60 88-263327, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 8:30AM-5PM. The best place to see the aquatic wildlife of Borneo without leaving the city. Help conserve Sabah wildlife by visiting here. Lots of things to see and do - touch a shark, stroke a snake, watch a turtle. Opportunities for interns & volunteers or simply to dive in the giant tank and feed the fish.
- Tanjung Aru Beach. A 10 minutes drive from the city centre is the most popular public beach in the city. Usually frequented by locals for weekend stroll or picnics. There are many foodstalls and a couple of bars.
- Likas Bay Beach (along Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens). This smaller and less pretty beach is also popular among locals. An interesting sight where the beach is surrounded by the city with a view of anchored ships off Sepanggar Port.
- Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. A collection of 5 islands (Gaya, Manukan, Sapi, Sulug and Mamutik) just of the coast of the city. Travel by speedboat takes about 15-30 minutes depending on the island and departs from the Sabah Parks jetty behind Wisma Merdeka or from Jesselton Point Waterfront jetty.
- Double Six Monument, Grace Point, Sembulan. A memorial site on the location of the 1976 plane crash which killed the state chief minister Tun Fuad Stephens and other state cabinet members. There is a nice new food court on site called Grace Point Food Court offering local Sabah, Malaysian, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Thai and other cuisine.
- The northern coast of Kota Kinabalu is contains undisturbed scenic geographical features including Karambunai and Dalit Beach and behind these beaches is a lagoon-type estuary containing Mengkabong and Salut rivers. The Lagoon Park in Karambunai could be a good place to start in order to explore this area as there are boat rides or jet-skis for rent. The Mengkabong water village is also an interesting sight to explore. Salut contains two popular seafood reastaurants situated by the lagoon/lake in Salut called Salut Seafood and Gayang Seafood. Nearby Borneo Kellybays offers various watersports and camping activities around mangrove forest, river and beach.
- City Park. a small park and the only park in the city center located opposite the court complex. It contains the British North Borneo Memorial which commemorates the soldiers who fought and died defending the British Empire during World War I. The memorial was built in 1923.
- Kokol Hills in Menggatal offers a very nice view of Kota Kinabalu, the coasts and the sea from about 30 km away. The hills are pretty undeveloped but the road is good and new. As of January 2012, there is only one resort and restaurant called Kasih Sayang Resort. Kokol is also fast becoming a hotspot for paragliding. Info on paragliding in Sabah .
- Lok Kawi Wildlife Park (about 30 minutes south of Kota Kinabalu). 9:30AM-5:30PM. Adult RM20, Child RM10.
- Inobong Visitor and Research Center perched 600m above sea level in Penampang is a Crocker Range Park substation and the nearest access to the Park from Kota Kinabalu.
- Kinarut a small town 40 minutes south of KK contains quiet beaches, Pulau Dinawan, the 'sininggazanak' statues, and still existing wooden shophouses built around 1930s to 1960s.
- Tambalang Racecourse, ☎ +60 88-25 2705. Is a horse-racing track operated by Royal Sabah Turf Club in Tuaran.
- Chinatown. also known as Gaya Street, it’s located in the city centre surrounding Gaya Street and Beach Street. There is a Sunday market here and many Chinese coffeeshops and restaurants. This area together with the adjacent area around Australia Place near the city police station has the highest concentration of budget hostels in KK. The name "Chinatown" is mainly a tourism gimmick after the arch gate was erected not more than after 2005, so many locals would not know what Chinatown is. Use instead "Gaya Street".
- Tun Fuad Park (located on the eastern edge of the city, 15 minutes drive from city center). Where the city meets the hilly jungles of Crocker Range. The park contains 2 restaurants, hawker centers, the Water World theme park, a lake and jogging track.
- Perdana Park, an 18-acre new park in Tanjung Aru completed in 2011 featuring a light and musical water fountain, greenery, children's playground and jogging tracks. The park was built on the land formerly known as Hone Place where British government quarters stood. Fountain show starts at 7PM.
- Petagas War Memorial, located about 10 minutes outside the city center, is dedicated to the 176 members of the Kinabalu Guerrillas who attacked the Japanese occupying forces during World War II, in what was known as the "Double Tenth Revolt" (10/10/1943), who were subsequently detained and executed in Petagas.
- Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre, formerly known as Kota Kinabalu Bird Sanctuary, is a 24-hectare mangrove conservation area used for recreation, education and research. It is located in Likas along Jalan Bukit Bendera Upper just 5 minutes drive from city centre (15 minutes walk from Signal Hill Observatory). The area is managed by the Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society. Tel: +60 88-246955; Website:
- Sembulan Riverfront, located around the confluence of Sembulan and Karamunsing Rivers behind Sadong Jaya, is the latest urban feature in KK. Phase 1 nearing its completion stage as of April 2012.
Museums,galleries and libraries
- Sabah State Museum located in Jalan Kebajikan, has 3 storeys of exhibits. A good place to understand the history of Kota Kinabalu and Sabah. The museum complex also features the Science and Technology Museum, Sabah Art Gallery and a heritage village. Tel: +60 88-253 199
- Islamic Civilization Museum, ☎ +60 88-253 199. Located behind Sacred Heart Cathedral and nearby the State Museum on Jalan Menteri has a history of Islamic civilization in Sabah.
- Science and Technology Museum located within the State Museum complex.
- Sabah Art Gallery, ☎ +60 88 268798. Contains artworks by local artists. Also located within the State Museum complex.
- Borneo Art Gallery, ☎ +60 88-280707. Located in Asia City Complex, contain art works by local and regional artists. Art works are for sale.
- Sabah State Library (SSL), manages and operates most public libraries in Sabah. In Kota Kinabalu, SSL has a library between City Hall and the court (KK Regional Library), Suria Sabah (Library@Suria; Level 4) and the State Library along Jalan Penampang near Luyang (biggest; SSL HQ; 10 minutes drive from city center). Tel: +60 88 214828
Places of worship
- Sacred Heart Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church located along Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman. It is the seat of the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu and the cathedral is one of the largest in Sabah.
- Sabah State Mosque - located on Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman in Sembulan is the largest mosque in Sabah. Its dome and minaret is decorated with real gold.
- Puh Toh Tze Chinese Temple, located along Jalan Tuaran near Kolombong.
- Kota Kinabalu City Mosque, a 'floating' mosque located along Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens overlooking Likas Bay is another major mosque in the city with interesting contemporary Islamic architecture.
- Sri Pasupathinath Alayam Hindu Temple, one of two Hindu temple in the city. Located in Bukit Padang about 20 minutes drive from the city.
- Sri Subramaniar Hindu Temple, a small south Indian-style Hindu temple located about 40 minutes away in Lok Kawi.
- Che Sui Khor Chinese Temple, contains an interesting 12-tier pagoda and is part of the Moral Uplifting Society located along Jalan Tuaran at Mile 2.
- Gurdwara Sahib Sikh Temple, the only Sikh Gurdwara in Kota Kinabalu. Located along Jalan Mat Salleh near Sembulan.
- St. Michael's Church, located in Donggongon, Penampang, was built around 1940-1950s which still retains its old-style architecture.
- Tzer Ying Buddhist Temple, a pure Buddhist temple located along Jalan Kolam Minintod near Bukit Padang.
Scuba diving & snorkelling
Try dives, leisure diving, technical diving and snorkelling are all available from Kota Kinabalu.
Several interesting dive sites can be enjoyed as day trips from Kota Kinabalu with nearby World War II wrecks accessible for scuba diving. Some are in the 24-45 m depth range whilst other wrecks are only suitable for technical diving. Advanced and basic diver training courses are run from Kota Kinabalu by several dive centre operators.
- Usukan Bay near Pulau Mantanani, suitable for recreational diving. Located near the fishing port of Kota Belud 30 nautical miles north of Kota Kinabal these dive sites are ideal day trips from Kota Kinabalu. Boat trips north from Kota Kinabalu normally depart from Sutera Harbour Marina or Jesselton Point and take approximately 2 hr. These dives are only suitable for divers that already have PADI Advanced Open Water Diver or similar certification and some previous wreck diving experience is advised. There are three popular wrecks spread over a distance of about one kilometre lying 7 n.m offshore.
- Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park offers many snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities between 20 and 30 min from Kota Kinabalu by boat. Dive operators depart from the Jesselton Point Jetty and Sutera Harbour Marina. Islands and beaches are beautiful, even though the water color is very green and not transparent. Underwater visibility can be an issue around the entire park: It sometimes drops below 3m due to dirty river water from Mt. Kinabalu by everyday-pouring rain. If you are used to snorkelling or diving in good visibility, you may be disappointed.
- The Gaya wreck lies in 50m of water within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and is a 30 min boat ride from Kota Kinabalu. The wreck is thought to be that of the Japanese ship Nittetsu Maru.
- Mayne Rock has large white boulders rising 7 m-15 m from the ocean floor and is surrounded by a coral reef.
- Palau Tiga offers coral reef dives.
- Asia Dive Holidays (Asia Dive Holidays), ☎ +60 88 257 669, fax: +60 88 264 639. PADI Dive Courses and Diving holidays in Kota Kinabalu's Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Lankayan island, Pulau Sipadan, Pulau Mabul, Kapalai & Mataking. Full PADI dive training from open water course to divemaster. Trips to the Semporna area and other dive sites available. Multi-Lingual dive staff: English, Malay, Chinese, French, German, Spanish, etc. Diving permits to Sipadan.
- Scuba Junkie KK, G23a, Ground Floor, Wisma Sabah, ☎ +60 88 255816, +60 145618947, fax: +60 88 255816, e-mail: email@example.com. 8AM-6PM daily. 5 Star Gold Palm IDC PADI Licensed Dive Operator. Arranges daily dive and snorkel trips to over 15 islands in the Kota Kinabalu (KK) area including the world famous KK Marine Park (Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park) which features 5 amazing islands including Gaya Island and Sapi Island. Whale Shark Dives in the blue and wreck diving also available. PADI dive courses from Discover Scuba Diver up to Instructor.
- Borneo Dream, F-G-1 Plaza Tanjung Aru, Jl. Mat Salleh, ☎ +60 17 811 8149, fax: +60 88 244 931, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A boat transfer service is available to Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park for snorkelling or diving trips. Over 20 sites for diving and protected areas for snorkelling. Suitable for day trips. Goes to four of the main wreck dive sites on a regular basis. PADI Dive Boat, 10mx4m catamaran and a 9mx3m RIB, SDI resort dive centre, BSAC diver training centre, TDI resort dive centre and IANTD facility. Also offer SCR courses and training certified via the PADI with both a semi closed rebreather diver speciality course and closed circuit rebreather (CCR) training courses.
- Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures, Lot B-3-12, Kota Kinabalu Times Square, Jl. Coastal, ☎ +60 12 866 1935, fax: +60 88 485 300, e-mail: email@example.com. PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Centre is based on Gaya Island in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. The dive centre offers learn to dive courses, advanced courses from PADI Advanced Open Water Diver up to PADI Master Instructor & PADI Course Director, snorkelling, sea kayaking and jungle trekking. 1 on multi-day diving in the TAR Park and diving Pulau Tiga. Island facilities caters to individuals, groups and corporate events. High staff-to-diver ratios with professional, highly trained & experienced staff and quality, regularly serviced gear and equipment.
- Sabah Divers, G27, Ground Floor, Wisma Sabah, ☎ +60 88 256483, +6 12 8339901, fax: +60 88 255482, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 8:30AM-5:30PM daily. Provide SDI courses in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. Diving tours to popular dive destinations all over Borneo, such as Sipadan and Layang Layang. Tunku Abdul Rahman fun dive packages available departing Jesselton Point Jetty including equipment, boat transfers and 2-3 dives. No shower facility. Guests will be left alone to walk back to the office after TAR fun diving. Beware - they ask credit card numbers including cvc for advanced booking. Notorious for arrogant office staff.
- Sensi Borneo Diving Resort & Tours (Diving Live-Aboard ‘Orient Explorer’), ☎ +60 88 788 111, +60 17 402063, e-mail: email@example.com. Provide scuba diving trips and PADI courses. Also operate the 796 ton, 56.6m motor yacht Orient Explorer as a live aboard and floating hotel off shore from Kota Kinabalu. Originally launched in 1943 it has a dive deck, passenger cabins including family cabins, luxury and economy cabins, a restaurant, bar, lounge and a sick bay. The dive services offer a full range of PADI scuba diving courses from open water, divemaster, technical diving and rebreather courses. Trips to the Usukan Bay wreck dives and many other dive sites are available.
Deep sea fishing
Kota Kinabalu is also one of the best and cheapest places in Malaysia for exciting deep sea fishing trips. Boats depart from the makeshift jetty next to the Kota Kinabalu Central Market, the boats are to be found behind the small night market/parking lot.
Trips of all kinds can be arranged with the charter operators. Popular options include day trips that go for prices that start from around RM 2,000/boat and 2D/1N or 3D/2N trips (you sleep on the boat) that go from RM 3,000/boat. Most boats take around 10 persons per trip. Locals usually head to the Mengalum and Mantanani islands or near some oil rigs that are all a few hours away from Kota Kinabalu. Beginners can also opt for shorter trips to fish in a shipwreck off Gaya Island. For the very adventurous and advanced anglers, there are also several fishing competition held annually. The most popular one is the Labuan IGFA Competition which is usually held around the Layang Layang island (Swallow Reef) area. The trips for this competition last for almost 1 week and cost at least RM 15,000/boat.
The boats are mostly pretty rudimentary medium sized wooden fishing vessels, don't expect any luxury or too much comfort for those prices. Basic toilets are available on board, but you won't be able to shower for the duration of the trip. Basic meals are also usually available and included in the hire price. Rental of fishing equipment can also be arranged by most of the boat charter providers. Do ensure that life vests are provided for all occupants well before setting out.
If you want to check out the boats before you head out, just drop by the open air parking lot near the Central Market and Hyatt Hotel, most of the for hire fishing boats are parked there. You can also see some of the catch for yourself when the boats return from their trips at around 2PM. You will probably see more boats coming and going on Sunday or Monday.
- Borneo Crystal Sdn. Bhd. (Borneo Crystal), ☎ +60 17 860 32 05, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Offering private charters, diving trips , island / sunset cruises as well as deep-sea fishing tours on a 60ft American Sport Fishing Yacht.
The boat is berthed in one of the most beautiful marinas in South-East Asia - Sutera Harbour Marina.
- 7 star fishing. A more expensive option but the website has some nice pictures and videos to give you a glimpse of what you can expect from a fishing trip in Kota Kinabalu
- Mr. K.K. Law, ☎ +60 16 826 4588, e-mail: email@example.com. A budget friendly option popular with the locals. The boat owner himself will be happy to come on the trip himself or help you arrange for more people to fill up the boat if your group doesn't have enough people. From RM2,000.
White water rafting
The nearest place for rafting would be in Kiulu River, Tamparuli, about 1 hour away (by coach and 2 open-door trains) from KK. The white water is classified Grade 1-2 which is suitable for beginners. A more adventurous rafting experience is Padas River near Tenom which is about 2-3 hours away from Kota Kinabalu. Padas is classified as Grade 3-4. There are many tour companies offering day packages for rafting in Kiulu and Padas and would normally include return transfer and meals.
Wetland river cruise
Klias River is located within the Klias Wetland Mangrove Forest Reserve which is located near Kuala Penyu district about 1.5 hours away from town. The cruise offers visitors a chance to see various wildlife including the proboscis monkey and fireflies. There are also other river safaris nearby Klias in Garama and Weston which are also interesting in their own right albeit slightly further away from KK.
Sailing and yachting
The main starting point for sailing or boating is in Sutera Harbour Marina which has 104 berths. Yacht charter is offered by North Borneo Yachting. Tel: +60 88-318888 Kinabalu Yacht Club in Tanjung Aru offer various boating activities. Tel: +60 88 240070
Parks, walks and traditional village visits
- Lok Kawi Wildlife Park. Located near the small town of Lok Kawi a short distance south of Kota Kinabalu. It features Orang-Utans, Proboscis Monkeys, Gibbons, a Sumatran Rhinoceros, some tigers, local deer, various birds in a large aviary, elephants, and other animals. A reptile section will be opened soon. A good alternative to visiting the nature reserves around Sabah for those on a tight schedule, as well as giving you the chance to see the animals much more up close than you would in the jungle. Entrance fee: RM20 for adults, RM10 for children, half-price for Malaysians. It is a little difficult to get to as there is no public transportation that goes right to the park, and it is about 10 min drive outside of Lok Kawi (and about half an hour outside of Kota Kinabalu). Take a 17B or 17C bus to Lok Kawi town at RM3 a head, then a local taxi for around RM12-15 to the park. It is advisable to get the phone number of the taxi driver or arrange pickup from the park at a set time to go back to Lok Kawi as there are no taxis or buses at the park. Alternatively pay some RM80-100 to have a taxi take you there from Kota Kinabalu and back.
- Monsopiad Cultural Village. Located about half an hour south-east of town, this small park shows the traditional way of life of the Kadazan ethnic group and tells the story of Monsopiad, a Kadazan warrior who lived some 300 years ago and who killed 42 men who attacked his village. The 42 skulls can be viewed in the Hall of Skulls. Entrance fee is RM50 for adults, RM10 for children (prices for non-Malaysians). To get there you can hire a taxi from Kota Kinabalu and arrange to be picked up some hours later. The rate should be around RM80, or RM20 one-way.
- Eco and Natural Tour. Explore the rich and diversified treasure of nature on the island.
- Mari Mari Cultural Village. Located near the jungles in Kianson, Inanam about 25 minutes northwest of the city center, showcases the culture and lifestyle of various indigenous groups of Sabah. The tour offers visitors the opportunity to see and experience the culture and lifestyle of how the indigenous ethnic groups of Borneo used to live in the olden days when electricity had not yet been introduced in their land. The village features five different ethnic tribes: the Kadazan-Dusun rice farmers, the longhouse resident Rungus tribe, the Bajau hunters and fisherman, the cowboy and sea gypsey Bajau tribe, and the famously feared headhunting Murut tribe.
- Stilt villages, are houses found along the coast of ethnic Bajau, Suluk, Iranun, Malays, and Ubian people. Some villages are made up of people who have been here since 15th -18th century from Sulu Archipelago (now southern Philippines) who are considered natives under Sabah law. However massive influx if new migrants from this same region beginning 1970s have occupied these same villages mostly due to similar heritage and ethnicity as these local inhabitants. Some new migrants are illegal with no proper documentation. Illegal migrants would normally occupy deeper parts of these stilt villages in slums. These slums are significantly dirtier and dangerous since the people and their homes are illegal. Stilt villages can be found in Kampung Tanjung Aru, Kampung Sembulan, Kampung Kasuapan (Pulau Gaya) and Kampung Pondo (Pulau Gaya). Since there is no real boundary between a traditional stilt village and the slum, visiting these places is generally considered dangerous and very dirty and not recommended even for locals unless accompanied by tour guides. There may be stilt villages further out of the city such as in Mengkabong which are safer and cleaner. If you are interested in slums, perhaps some speedboat drivers in Jesselton Point Jetty who live in Pulau Gaya would be pleased to show you around their stilt village / slum for a little extra fee.
Likas Sports Complex is the main sporting venue in Kota Kinabalu and Sabah. The complex includes a soccer stadium and fields, hockey fields, badminton courts, tennis courts, squash courts, swimming pool, gymnasium, and many more. The complex also play host many local, regional and international sports event.
There are also many golf courses in Kota Kinabalu including the Sabah Golf and Country Club (18-hole) in Bukit Padang, Kinabalu Golf Club (11-hole) in Tanjung Aru, Sutera Harbour Golf Club (27-hole), Karambunai Golf and Country Club (18-hole) and Dalit Bay Golf and Country Club (18-hole). Driving range available in Lintas and Likas.
- Golf Academy Borneo, 1st Floor, Likas Golf Driving Range, Jl. Istiadad, ☎ +60 14 334 3565, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Private golf lessons with British PGA-accredited professional golf tutors, short game clinics, kids golf clinics and a Junior Programmes.
- b3 (bike, blade, and board). Skateboarding, Inline Skating and BMX stunts with extreme sports community group in Kota Kinabalu.
- Trinity Self-Defence, Lot 12 1st Floor Likas Plaza, Phase 1, Mile 4 1/2 Jl. Tuaran 8. Learn some self-defence skills at a Kota Kinabalu Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Gym classes include Brazilian jiu-jitsu, CMB, Judo and Shootfighting. Experienced trainers. (email@example.com).
- Ultimate (Frisbee), Tue & Thu: 1st Beach Tanjung Aru & Sun; Tanjung Aru Rugby Field (On the beach and field near KKIA Terminal 2 in Tanjung Aru), ☎ +60 12 829 7881, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tue & Thu: 6:30PM-8PM, Sun 4PM- 6PM. Frisbee for all ages and abilities. Show up with enthausiasm and a basic knowledge of Ultimate rules and enjoy a game with the Ultimate players of Sabah. Free.
Festival and events
- Harvest Festival, a festival celebrating the harvesting of paddy by the Kadazandusun people. Typically held during the end of May every year, one of the most popular venues to witness the celebration is in KDCA, Penampang. Events include "Unduk Ngadau" beauty peagant, cultural dances, food, and plenty of drinking.
- City Run, annual marathon held around March or April.
- Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market (Next to the waterfront). Formerly known as "Pasar Filipino". Synonymous with pearls, local handicrafts, home decorations and lately crystals. Don't forget to bargain for good prices. The attendants here are very friendly and will always greet you with a warm smile. You can also find souvenirs such as keychains, t-shirts with Sabah themes, carved wooden statues, batiks and sarongs, rattan handicraft and floor mats, Islamic calligraphy and broaches. Some of the items are imported from Australia and others from neighbouring Asian countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Korea, and there is little actual Sabah handicraft available, but it is a very colourful place that will stay in your memory as a 'souvenir' from Sabah.
- Gaya Street Tamu, Kota Kinabalu's Sunday market with everything from Malaysian delicacies, ground coffee, t-shirts, handicrafts, hardware to anything in between at bargain prices. Held every Sunday morning, 6AM-1PM, along Jl. Gaya right in the heart of town.
- 1Borneo Hypermall, the largest mall in Sabah and possible the whole of Borneo. Located about 20 minutes drive from the city centre. There is a free shuttle bus from the city centre from Warisan Square.
- Suria Sabah, the newest and most modern mall in Sabah located between Wisma Merdeka and Jesselton Point. The food court, located on the 4th floor, offers a nice view of the sea and Pulau Gaya. Shop consists of mainly branded goods compared to other malls in KK.
- Wisma Merdeka, one of the oldest and smallest malls but still very popular.
- Kompleks Karamunsing, an older but large mall specialises in computers and electronics.
- Centre Point Sabah, a large mall adjacent to Asia City, Api-Api, Warisan Square and Sinsuran.
Kota Kinablu is a cultural melting pot. Here Chinese meet Malays and Bruneis, Javanese, Filipinos and even a couple of Europeans, all of whom have brought along their own cuisine. Try out the many specialties offered at the various kedai kopi (often in buffet form making it easy to order) and shun fast food chains.
For meals, head to the outdoor food stalls fronting the sea or coffee shops along the streets. The less adventurous could make a beeline for fast food outlets in the Centrepoint shopping centre while those with deeper pockets could try the pier-side restaurants just after the open air fish market. The promenade restaurants between the Filipino Craft Market and the fish market are poor value and only frequented by tourists. Try SEDCO Square in the evening for top value.
- Fook Yuen, a nice, clean, modern looking kopitiam with self-service concept offering various types of food such as dim sum, pick-yourself dishes, nasi lemak, roti kahwin (bread, butter and kaya), etc. They have branches in Gaya Street, Karamunsing Capital and Damai (original branch). All branches serve halal food except Damai branch.
- Kah Hiong, specialises in "ngau chap" noodles (beef soup noodles). Offers a variety of beef parts such as beef brisket, stomach, stew, omasum, tongue, etc. The main branch is in Kolam Center (Hilltop) in Lintas.
- Kak Nong, serves Malay/Malaysian food located in Harbour City opposite Sutera Harbour. The restaurant won the Sabah Tourism Award 2007 for the category Best Kopi Tiam.
- Man Tai Restaurant - Located in Likas, Dah Yeh Villa. Beaufort-style Fried Noodles. They serve Chinese style a-la carte dishes as well.
- Peppermint, a fast-food concept restaurant serving Vietnamese food. Try the spicy chicken rice and beef stew. They currently have 3 branches: Gaya Street, Asia City and Karamunsing Capital.
- Pete's Corner, Located in Asia City in the heart of Kota Kinabalu. A breakfast place which specialises in steaks and other western dishes for RM10-18.
- Indo Food, located on 2nd Floor, Wisma Merdeka (near food court), is a nice small restaurant serving spicy Indonesian food. Popular dishes include nasi penyet, ikan asam pedas and soto bakso. A little bit expensive, but not exactly mid-range.
- Salim Lintas Square. (Approximately 20 min drive from the city) Supper spot specialising in many local "mamak" foods and delicacies including the Malaysian roti styled bread, cooked over an open flat iron skillet which is bathed in oil. The meal along with a cup of Teh Tarik Madras would range at around RM5-8.
- Restoran Taufik, located in Kampung Air (opposite Shell), serves cheap Javanese/Malay food such as soto (beef soup), bakso and rojak. More branches in Inanam and Putatan.
- Yu Kee's Bak Kut Teh, Located along the famous Gaya Street, its a Chinese operated restaurant that serves pork dishes for dinner time only (usually opens after 4PM until night time). A small single dish costs about RM4, soup top up is free. All types of pork meat and organs served with special Chinese herb soup.
- Wah Juan, is popular for their "chu chap" noodles (noodles served with pork and pork innards). Located in Pekan Tanjung Aru facing the main road (Jalan Mat Salleh). Served only in the morning and finishes by 11AM. The small restaurant is always crowded and patrons may need to wait for an empty table.
- Yuit Cheong Coffee Shop. 昌悅, 50, Jl. Pantai. Satay and cosy environment.
- Anjappar, ☎ +60 88 227969. Asia City Complex (facing Api Api centre, diagonally across the street from CentrePoint), . Chettinad (North and South Indian) cuisine. Serves authentic Indian food such as banana leaf meals, biriyani, naan and roti, tandoori dishes, and dosai. Prices range from RM3.50-RM10.00. Hours 10:30AM-3:30PM and 5:30PM-10PM. Anjappar is an Indian franchise with branches in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sri Lanka and Canada.
- Borneo 1945 Museum Kopitiam, ☎ +60 19 883 3829. No. 24, Jl. Dewan. (Under Borneo Backpackers). They serve the best coffee in town. Malaysian food is available. Great price for bike rentals to tour around city. It is also has a museum with a focus on the Second World War on Sandakan Death March. Contains many pictures and antiques.
- Choice, serving mainly Indian Muslim food as well as other Malaysian food. Their briyani rice is quite popular. Branches in Taman Millenium, Kepayan and in the city center opposite Wisma Merdeka.
- El Centro, 32 Jalan Haji Saman (Opposite Wisma Merdeka). 12pm-12am. Popular cafe restaurant with tourists and expats. Has regular themed nights such as Mexican Monday, Tequilla/Taco Tuesday and Wednesday’s Pub Quiz.
- Grazie Ristorante, ☎ +60 19 821 6936. Wawasan Plaza Complex, (Next to Tang Dynasty Hotel). An Italian restaurant. Serves no pork.
- Jeff De Corner Grd Flr, Luyang Ph 6, Shophouse, approximately 15 min from the city. Dishes include lamb and beef steak, oxtail soup, lamb shank, BBQ lamb and the exclusive Wagyu beef steak. Please call for reservation. ☎ +60 19 8818427
- Hi Seoul, pretty good Korean restaurant in Likas Square near Sabah Trade Center.
- Jothy's Fish Head Curry and Banana Leaf Restaurant, Api Api Centre. An eat with your hands restaurant. A chicken dish RM8, a mango lassie RM4. Fish head curry, fish cutlets, fried fish pieces, chicken nasi biryani, assam soup and dried bitter gourd. They'll bring you a spoon and fork if you wish. Ask for a banana leaf (for additional 50 cents) and eat with your hands. English menu.
- Little Italy (opposite Wisma Merdeka), ☎ +60 88 232231. The most popular Italian restaurant in Kota Kinabalu. Usually crowded during lunch and dinner by locals and foreigners. Operated by an Italian man.
- Kohinoor, ☎ +60 88 235160. North Indian food by the waterfront. Claims to have invented the "Chicken Cheese Tandoori Tikka". Indoor and alfresco seating.
- Mario's Pizza. 1 Borneo Hypermall, Jl. UMS. Mario's Pizza at 1 Borneo C-702 Lower Ground. Serve Italian pizza slice or Pizza al Taglio.
- Nok Thai, ☎ +60 88-538055. Located in Damai Plaza in Luyang, is perhaps the best Thai restaurant in Kota Kinabalu.
- Pirates Rib Shack Diner. In Asia City. Pork and lamb ribs, steaks, burgers and seafood, on Sunday they hold a weekly BBQ Pork roast.
- Old Town White Coffee a modern kopitiam franchise from Ipoh with branches in Menara Jubili on Gaya Street, Karamunsing Capital and others. Popular for their 'hor fun' noodle soup, nasi lemak and, of course, their white coffee. The biggest kopitiam chain in Malaysia.
- The Stonebridge Galley Provides all day English Breakfast.
- Charles Cafe Halal food and drink.
- Sushi Tei, a Singaporean-based sushi franchise with branches throughout Asia Pacific. Reasonably good food and price. Located in Ground Floor, Suria Sabah.
- Tambayan at Kainang Filipino, ☎ +60 16-8182008. A Filipino restaurant offering typical Filipino dishes such as lechon kawali, sisig, crispy pata, etc. Located in Block 3, Api-Api Centre.
- @mosphere, ☎ +60 88 425100. Menara Tun Mustapha. Revolving restaurant in Borneo's tallest building serving predictably generic "Pacific Rim" cuisine. Open throughout the day and for drinks at night.
- Bella Italia, ☎ +60 88313366. 69 Jl. Gaya. (Under the Jesselton Hotel in Kota Kinabalu's business area). Italian restaurant serving pizzas and pastas and if you get there early there are discounts.
- Ferdinand`s Italian restaurant (At the Magellan Sutera Harbour Hotel), ☎ +60 88 303900. Italian restaurant an Sutera Harbour hotel, next to the international airport.
- Nagisa, a Japanese restaurant in Hyatt Regency.
Seafood in Kota Kinabalu is very popular, so getting a dose of it is a must. Here are some places to try:
- Kampung Nelayan Floating Seafood Market Restaurant, ☎ +60 88 8823 1003. 10 min drive away from Kota Kinabalu city, this seafood restaurant is built within a botanical park/lake using Malay architecture. There is a nightly cultural performance with a fire show performed during the weekends.
- New Gaya Seafood Restaurant, ☎ +60 88 8838 5020. One of the most visited seafood restaurant by locals. Prices are fixed and maybe 20%-30% cheaper than some city seafood restaurants. Deep fried crabs with egg yolk & butter prawn. Its located next to Gaya Sports Recreation Centre. ☎ +60 88 88426075, Inanam. 20 min by taxi, highly recommended for visitors who have spare time.
- Ocean Seafood Restaurant, Right next to the Promenade Hotel and Parkson Grand. The restaurant faces the coastline. You can take a pick on your seafood orders by the fishtanks, or if you prefer, you can let the waiters recommend at your table.
- Portview Seafood Restaurant, There are 2 branches of this in Kota Kinabalu. One of them is opposite Centrepoint Shopping Centre, called The Waterfront. This one is quite new, a very popular place for tourists and orders can be taken either way similar to Ocean Restaurant. This restaurant is nestled amongst other popular nightlife hangouts, mostly bars and clubs, but also cafes like CoffeeBean. The other older one is in front of a pier.
- Salut Seafood Restaurant, It takes about 20 min car journey from the city centre to Salut where the restaurant is located near the Sepanggar Bay and Telipok. It is a famous place for cheaper seafood dishes as the prawns are bred by the restaurant owner.
- Sutera Rimba, 7PM-12 midnight.
- Welcome Seafood, ☎ +60 88 447 866. A popular new seafood restaurant with 2 branches in Asia City Complex and in the deep suburbs in Bundusan. Usually packed due to cheap price and decent food. (Asia City)
The main entertainment areas in Kota Kinabalu can be found in KK Waterfront (opposite Warisan Square) and Times Square. Other areas include Beach Street, Jalan Datuk Salleh Sulong and Tanjung Aru (First Beach). There also smaller bars concentrated in the areas of Inanam, Lintas, Donggongon and Penampang Baru. Types of drinking places popular in Kota Kinabalu are coffee shops (kedai kopi), cafes, normal bars, karaoke joints and nightclubs. Most nightclubs and some bars would have live bands performing almost everyday except Mondays. Some karaoke joints have private rooms for big groups who prefer some privacy. Some nightclubs and karaoke bars have hostesses especially for male customers in exchange for buying them 'ladies drink'. Intuition would be needed if you need to look for or avoid these establishments as they are not explicit.
- AruBa, a lounge / bar at First Beach Tanjung Aru has a nice environment facing the beach.
- Pirates Bar. Located in Asia City in the 3 colour T food Court across the road from Centrepoint behind the Mercedes Benz Dealer. Features the largest outdoor bar in Kota Kinabalu with prices from RM 25+ for 5 cans of house beer. Live sport including AFL, NRL, Rugby, Cricket. Live music at weekends
- Cock & Bull Bistro. Winner of Best Entertainment Outlet awards for Night Spot Experience 3 times in a row (2005, 2007, 2009). Located on the waterfront facing the South China sea with cool sea breezes and a beautiful view of the sunset. Featuring a live band, 2 projector screens and an American pool table.
- Shenanigan Fun Pub, Located at ground floor of the Kinabalu Hyatt Regency.
- Shamrock Irish Bar, The Waterfront Lot 6. Pint of Tiger or Guinness RM20+. The usual Irish fare, with outdoor seating. Add 16% tax.
- Sunset Bar, at Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort (STAR), one of the best place to drink and catch the sunset. Newly renovated chic style and quite expensive.
- Chocolate Factory, a funky new club in Times Square with live band. Popular with younger crowds.
- Cocoon Restaurant & Bar, One of Kota Kinabalu's most notable nightspots. It is a relaxed bar in the day and a lively bar/club by night, with the action carrying on into the small hours.
- Bee Kim KTV, Sadong Jaya around Karamunsing area.
- Strawberry KTV, Segama and Central market.
- Razz-Ma-Tazz, Just outside the central business district along Jl. Tuaran, it is one of the largest and most popular nightclubs in the city. Features two rooms, the larger one, Z'Razz, features a live band rotated with DJ spinning mainly hip-hop tracks. The smaller room, Zuave, plays mainly house, trance, and other dance tracks.
- Bed. Located on the Promenade near the night markets. One room with a cover band, pool table and DJ.
- BB Cafe, at Beach Street has an interesting setting under a huge canopy with occasional events.
- Firefly Bar & Grill, Live band in Kota Kinabalu Times Square. Hot place to hang out, dance and chill.
- Upperstar. a popular local dining and drinking joint with branches near Hyatt (see map), Suria Sabah, Damai and Lintas.
- White Room, perhaps the hippest and glamorous club in KK where people go to be seen. Prices are slightly expensive. Located in Times Square.
Kota Kinabalu has accommodation in all price brackets. For lodgings in and around Mount Kinabalu, see the Mount Kinabalu article. Backpacker dorm beds cost approx RM30 and their very basic private double rooms with shared bathrooms cost approx RM80. For more delux budget en-suite rooms priced RM99 to RM200, try the close together hotels Little Gaya and Eden54.
- Akinabalu Youth Hostel, Lot 133, Jalan Gaya, ☎ +60 88-272188, e-mail: email@example.com. Two computers with free internet access, TV and DVD, and free breakfast. Safe and clean with friendly staff. Dorm RM25-30, double RM70-80.
- Asia Adventure Lodge, 112, Jalan Gaya, ☎ +60 88255422, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Smaller hostel with a friendly family feel located right in the heart of town next to Internet cafe, banks, travel agents, supermarkets and nightlife, plus the colourful and deliciously diversified Sunday Market. Free Wi-Fi. Fan dorm RM17, A/C RM22, single RM40, double RM58.
- Borneo Adventure Center and Lodge, ☎ +60 88 241515, e-mail: Borneoadventurecenter@yahoo.com. Double, triple as well as backpackers dormitory beds. All rooms have fan, A/C at night and either a common or an ensuite shower room with hot water shower. Self service kitchen equipped with refrigerator, microwave oven, stove, toaster, coffee making facilities, CCTV security, electronic card access system, in-house laundry service, cable TV at the lobby, Wi-Fi. Rates inclusive of simple breakfast (toast with coffee/tea). Dorm RM21, twin or dbl room RM55.
- Borneo Backpackers, 24 Lorong Dewan (In central Kota Kinabalu, not far from Gaya street), ☎ +60 88234009, e-mail: email@example.com. Clean bathroom, toilets, pantry area, internet, laundry, cosy lounge area, roof garden deck, 24-hr security, and a tour information counter. Friendly, helpful and knowledgeable local staff. A/C or fan rooms. Large dormitory with 10 beds, medium dormitory 4-6 beds and private rooms. Each room has small storage compartment for personal items. Dorm RM35, single RM60, double RM80.
- Borneo BeacHouse Backpackers, 122 Lorong Ikan Lais, Jalan Mat Salleh, Tanjung Aru (Now that all flights go to Terminal 1 you will be forced to go to the bus station and from there you can take buses 16A-B-C (ask to be drop near Tanjung Aru beach and then you walk).), ☎ +60 88 218331, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Fairly good backpackers hostel. Located far outside the city next to Tanjung Aru Beach(good for sunset). Staff are friendly. Good wifi, hot water. Located near some hawker stalls where you can get cheap Malay food for RM5-6. During the day the beach is empty and you can enjoy free. Fan dorm RM29, A/C dorm RM39 (after tax).
- Borneo Gaya Lodge, 78 Jalan Gaya (Nearby to Sunday street-market in central of Kota Kinabalu.), ☎ +60 88 242477, e-mail: email@example.com. First opened 2008. Bed sheet and towel, free hot & cold drinking water, complimentary breakfast. Spacious carpeted living area with LCD TV (AstroChannel) but without window, free WiFi, books and a small kitchen with refrigerator. No curfew and 24 hr security with CCTV and computerised door lock. Friendly staff. Tour information available. A/C dorm RM25, double room RM69.
- Borneo Global Backpackers, Lorong Karamunsing C, ☎ +60 88270976, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan dorm with outside hot-water bathrooms. Free breakfast and slow internet. The bus from the KK Airport goes right past the hostel. Has to be the most low cost dorm bed in KK but is far from the city center. There are a few restaurants around. Dorm RM15, double room RM60.
- Century Hotel Inanam, ☎ +60 88 380222. Located next to the Inanam Bus Terminal (North) Inanam. Spacious rooms, with TV and hot shower provided. 15 min drive from the city centre. Varieties of food and beverage nearby the hotel.
- Globetrotters Lodge (Formerly New Horizon), ☎ +60 88272796, e-mail: email@example.com. Small, opposite British Council, just off Gaya St, street market every Sun morning, lots of cheap restaurants, banks nearby.
- Hamin Lodge, ☎ +60 88 272008, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Boutique budget hotel in the heart of Kota Kinabalu City. Borneo tour packages, traditional massage, spa, restaurant and bar. Full A/C. Budget hostel rooms suitable for backpackers to deluxe rooms with ensuite.
- Hotel Holiday (City centre), ☎ +60 88 213116. 1Mb WiFi, laundry, friendly staff. Room with A/C and private bathroom. Standard RM95, deluxe RM105, family room RM130.
- Hotel Sadong 88, Lot 4, 5&6, 1st-3rd Floor, Block A, Sadong Jaya,Karamunsing, ☎ +60 88 268699. Single RM55, twin RM77, family room RM98.
- Kinabalu Backpackers, 2 Lorong Dewan, ☎ +60 88 253385, e-mail: email@example.com. Centrally located in Australian Place. All rooms have A/C. Free breakfast, free coffee or tea all day and free Wi-Fi, airport pickup service. A/C dorm RM20, double room RM65.
- Lavender Lodge (In the CBD), ☎ +60 88 217119, fax: +60 88 218077. Clean and comfortable rooms, friendly staff
- Lucy Backpackers (Lucy's Homestay), Lot No.25, Lorong Dewan, Australia Place, ☎ +60 88 261495. Look behind a stamp-makers shop for this nice little house with two dorm rooms available at a competitive rate. B&B. Friendly owner, friendly cat. Free, secure Wi-Fi. Nice and central. Safe lockers available. Dorm RM30, single RM48/double: RM58.
- Megah D’Aru Hotel, No. 2, Jl. Kinabalu, Tanjung Aru township (In the heart of Tanjung Aru Township), ☎ +60 88 239666, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 12 noon. Less than 5 min drive south of Kota Kinabalu city centre, and north of the Kota Kinabalu International airport. 72 rooms. RM128-RM188.
- Stay In Lodge, ☎ +60 88 272986. Gaya St., where the famous street market is held every Sun. Clean and comfortable.
- Step-in Lodge, ☎ +60 88 233519. Painted in a zany combination of purple and bright green, this is a cosy little hostel in the middle of the city, with very friendly staff. Toilets and shower stalls are immaculate. From RM25 per person for a dorm, A/C double RM80, including a simple continental breakfast.
- Summer Lodge. Convenient central location with a nice lobby, free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, and very helpful staff. Clean, decent bathrooms, however dorm rooms leave a bit to be desired (cramped, bed frames falling apart). All rooms have A/C. RM22/night mixed dorm; RM28/night male or female only, plus private rooms.
- Tropicana Lodge, From RM25 per person
- Travellers' Light Backpackers Lodge. Two computers with free Wi-Fi, TV and DVD. Safe and clean with friendly staff. CCTV, large free lockers, open 24 hr. RM24 for dorm room with fan and shared bathroom.
- Tune Hotel - 1Borneo, Kota Kinabalu. No-frills hotel located within 1 Borneo, East Malaysia's largest shopping complex. Far from city but free shuttle bus is available daily. Online booking only. Rate might as cheap as RM1++, but understand that all requirements provided are likely to be charged as extra costs.
- X-plorer Backpackers, 1st Floor, 106/108, Jl. Gaya, ☎ +60 88 538780, fax: +60 88 538781, e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 1PM. Near Gaya Sunday morning street market. Reservations can be made by phone, online or by SMS text message to mobile phone ☎ +60 128399328. Complimentary breakfast, free Wi-Fi, all rooms are A/C. Dormitories, private rooms, family rooms available. Some ensuite rooms with attached bathrooms were recently upgraded. From RM25.
- Hotel Kotajaya and Back Packers, ☎ +60 88 222715. (Sinsuran Complex), Short distance to Centre Point, Api-Api Centre, Kompleks Asia City and waterfront bars. Budget rooms with private bathroom are available. Friendly host.
- Impiana Mutiara Hotel, No.12, Jl. Perpaduan, Kampung Air, ☎ +60 88 231991, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Budget hotel with 27 rooms. Every room comes with an attached bathroom with hot and cold shower, individual A/C and TV with cable channels. Reservations can be made online. Promotional rates from RM65.
- King Park Hotel, Jl. Masjid Lama, Bandaran Berjaya, ☎ +60 88 270500, e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 12 noon. Clean, 14-storey 3 star hotel. Panoramic views of the city and Tunku Abdul Rahman Park from the upper floors. Online reservations available. RM128-RM198.
- Myne Hotel, Lot 21, 1st Floor, Block A, Warisan Square, Jl. Tun Fuad Stephens (Hotel reception is on the 1st floor of Warisan Square shopping paradise), ☎ +60 88 448787, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. New 5-storey boutique hotel with 72 rooms. Online reservations. Waterside location. LCD TV, AstroTV, IDD phone, free WiFi, tea and coffee making facilities, room safe. RM150-RM480.
- Promenade Hotel, ☎ +60 88 265555, fax: +60 88 246666. Sdn Bhd. 451 rooms, swimming pool, gym, beauty salon and health spa. 2 restaurants specialising in local and Asian cuisine, 2 cafes, lobby lounge, promenade floor lounge and a karaoke bar.
- Grand Borneo Hotel (Formerly Mercure Kota Kinabalu), ☎ +60 88 526888, e-mail: email@example.com. Grand Borneo Hotel. 325 rooms. Part of the largest mall in Sabah, 1 Borneo Hypermall; an entertainment complex with over 400 stores of leisure, entertainment and culinary delights.
- Novotel Kota Kinabalu 1Borneo, ☎ +60 88 529888, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 1Borneo Hypermall, Jl. UMS. Part of 1 Borneo Hypermall, the largest mall in Sabah. 263 rooms, an outdoor pool and jacuzzi on the 7th floor and a business centre.
- The Palace Hotel (formerly Berjaya Palace Hotel), 1 Jl. Tangki Karamunsing, ☎ +60 88 211911. Blends old architecture with modern facilities. Hilltop location, 15 min drive from the airport.
- Jesselton Hotel, ☎ +60 88 223333, fax: +60 88 240401, e-mail: email@example.com. Www.jesseltonhotel.com 69, Gaya Street., ) Jesselton was the initial name for Kota Kinabalu during the British colony. Boutique hotel built in the early 1920s. Hotel has their own limousine, a imported British cab.
- Kasih Sayang Health Resort, Kokol Hill, Menggatal, ☎ +60 88 246 404. Located 45 minutes east of the city center at 2,400ft above sea level offering nice view of the city and Mount Kinabalu. There is a spa and conference facility but nothing much in the vicinity but jungle and some houses. Nearest town is Menggatal 15 minutes drive downhill. RM130-RM250.
- Lembah Impian Country Homes Km 4, Kg. Kandazon, Jalan Putatan-Ramayah,
89500 Penampang, Sabah, Tel: 088-766117, (Fax ) 088-768858 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.lembahimpian.com.my/ offers 32 rooms and chalets with breakfast included. The resort sits in a large green garden, has a bakery house, a restaurant an pool and a bar. Rooms are large, nicely decorated. There is also a SPA and a gym. Anyway, a car to the city of Kota Kinabalu and to visit nearby attractions is necessary - contact Bernard Bauwens,very knowledgeable local touristic guide, tel: 0060138897809, e-mail: email@example.com, http://bernard-borneo.com/home.html, who is able to organize different tours to nearby as the Monsopiad House of Skulls, to Kota Kinabalu city, but also to Mount Knabalu,and to other places in Sabah.
- Hyatt Regency Kinabalu, Jl. Datuk Salleh Sulong (In the city centre), ☎ +60 88221234, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Recently renovated 5-star resort hotel. Good for business people who just want to eat, sleep and work. This hotel has an impressive choice of restaurants and a coffee shop serving Malaysian food, a Chinese restaurant with 'dim sum' or 'yum cha', a Japanese restaurant with teppanyaki and a fresh bakery. Close to shopping centres, fast food outlets and cafes. From around US$100.
- Bunga Raya Resort, ☎ +60 88 380390. Located in Pulau Gaya facing away from the city, is one of the few luxury resorts in Malaysia. Rates range from RM1,700.00 to RM8,000.00 per night.
- Le Méridien Kota Kinabalu, Jl. Tun Fuad Stephens, ☎ +60 88 322222. 306 rooms. Gym, seaview pool. Next to Centrepoint shopping complex.
- Nexus Resort Karambunai, (30 km northeast of Kota Kinabalu). 485 rooms, 8 restaurants, golf course, spa.
- Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort 5 star hotel located on beach. 18 hole golf course, excellent kid's club and has an orangutan sanctuary where guests can see young orangutans up relatively close. A resort suitable for families, pools with small but good water slide equipment, watersports activities. Coast restaurant is beachside. RM90 taxi ride of about 40 min from the airport.
- Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort, ☎ +60 88 225800. An older, grand and comfortable 5 star hotel. The rooms in the old wing are confined inside the building and look out to the pitch-and-put golf course. A tiny jungle is built in the middle of the corridor leading towards the rooms of the old wing and the rooms there are larger than the new wing. The new wing overlooks the sea or the swimming pool and is a bit more secluded for those who enjoy lazing out in the sun. A taxi ride from the Terminal 2 is about RM10, but to the city centre is RM15. Shuttle from the airport to the hotel is available upon request.
- Sutera Harbour Resort (Includes the 5* Pacific Sutera hotel and the 5* Magellan Sutera resort hotel (formerly Pan Pacific)), Sutera Harbour Blvd (A RM10 taxi ride to town, or a 20 min walk (if you're in good shape)), ☎ +60 88 318888, fax: +60 88 317777. 27-hole golf course, fully equipped marina, 2 spas, squash, badminton and tennis courts and various other sport and leisure activities. The rooms are of a high quality with either a sea view, a golf course or a Mount Kinabalu view at the Pacific Sutera. The Magellan Sutera has views of the garden or a sea-view. You can easily book trips to the islands, starting at RM35. The Magellan has an awesome buffet style breakfast included in the room rate. Enjoy freshly made roti and omlettes. The resort has a free shuttle bus going to town every hour until 9PM. Cross-signing facilities mean that if you stay in one hotel, you have access to the entire resort. An internal shuttle takes guests between the properties, the marina and the golf club. From RM 400.
Kota Kinabalu is a very safe city by Malaysian standards. The crime rate is lower than in the likes of Kuala Lumpur or Johor Bahru, or any city of similar size in Peninsular Malaysia. Violent crime is especially rare, and it's generally safe to roam the streets at night, though of course it's still best to remain alert as you would in any other city.
The telephone country code for Malaysia is +60 and the area code for fixed-line telephones in Kota Kinabalu and for most districts in the west coast of Sabah (including Papar, Kota Belud, Ranau and Kudat) is 088. Mobile phone numbers normally begins with 01x throughout the country. If a telephone number is not displayed in international format, such as "088-222222" or "012-222222", simply add "+6" before the number, e.g.: "+60 88-222222" and "+60 12-222222". The zero need not be repeated.
WiFi is available in most lodgings. There are also internet cafes (aka cyber cafe) in most places.
The following countries have set up consulates in Kota Kinabalu. For other countries, you may need to contact the respective embassy in Kuala Lumpur or nearer consulates in Sarawak. There are British and Chinese Consulate offices in Kuching and British and Dutch Consulates in Miri.
- Bruneian Consulate, Grace Square, ☎ +60 88 236 113. Moved from Menara MAA in the city to Grace Square next to Grace Park in Sembulan.
- Finnish Consulate, c/o Uli Motors SDN BHD, Jl. Miniyak, Off Mile 5.5, Jl. Tuaran, ☎ +60 88 431336, +60 88 431337.
- Consulate General of Indonesia, Lorong Kemajuan, Karamunsing, ☎ +60 88218600, +60 88218258, +60 88 218518, +60 88 219110.
- Consulate General of Japan, Wisma Perindustrian 18F, Jl. Istiadat, Likas, ☎ +60 88 254169.
- Honorary Consulate of Sweden, Jl. Minyak off Jl. Tuaran, Mile 5 1/2, Inanam, ☎ +60 88 431336.
- Labuan - duty free paradise, fairly decent karaoke nightlife, offshore banking and Pulau Kuraman.
- Head to the Mount Kinabalu National Park 80 km east of Kota Kinabalu and hike the 8.9 km to the summit.
- Kundasang, outside and nearby Mount Kinabalu is a cool place with various markets, plantations, farms. Many resorts here. Popular with locals from all around Sabah during weekends and public holidays.
- Tenom Farmstay Holiday visitors can stay in the homes of local farmers, allowing them a unique opportunity to experience an entirely different way of life.
- Head to the cities of Sandakan, Tawau, Lahad Datu and Semporna in the East Coast, either by plane or by bus, for wildlife and world-class diving.
- Kuala Penyu district located about 2 hours southwest along the coast contains Klias River, Pulau Tiga (site of the first series of TV show "Survivor") and Menumbok jetty (to get to Labuan by car or boat).
- Maliau Basin, Sabah's "Lost World", located in the middle of Sabah somewhere between Kota Kinabalu and Tawau; said to be one of the oldest undisturbed rainforest in the world.
- Experience rural lifestyle around Kudat, Tambunan, Tenom, Kota Belud, etc. all along the west coast of Sabah and within 2-4 hours drive from Kota Kinabalu.