Sabah Destination

Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu or KK is the state capital of Sabah. Its coastal location and mountain backdrop give it one of the most spectacular settings of any city in Malaysia.

One of the great things about KK is the streetlife – the busy coffee shops, the waterfront markets and general buzz about the place.

The city has a population of around 600,000 and was previously known as Jesselton when under colonial rule. The city centre is relatively compact so it is fairly easy to get around.

Kota Kinabalu has seen rapid development over the last decade. It is now a modern city with high rise hotels, expensive waterfront apartments, fancy shopping malls and all the trappings of a thriving Asian city.

Despite this modern veneer there is enough of the old KK to give the city character. One section of the waterfront is home to the central market, fish market and the Filipino market. This is the place to go to immerse yourself in local culture and the colours of Kota Kinabalu. At night this place comes alive with hawker stalls selling a wide variety of tasty local food.

The waterfront esplanade has an excellent range of bars, cafes and restaurants. It’s the place to go to see the stunning sunsets that KK is famous for.

Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) is the second busiest airport in Malaysia so KK has excellent connections to a wide range of cities around Asia. KKIA is the best connected airport on the island of Borneo.

Kota Kinabalu also has an excellent range of accommodation from luxury resort hotels to budget inns and backpacker hostels. Some of the best seafood in Malaysia can be found in the restaurants of Kota Kinabalu.

The beaches, reefs and islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park are just a 15 minute boat ride from the city centre.

Kota Kinabalu serves as the jumping off point for a range of tours and activities such as white water rafting at Padas and Kiulu, day tours to the Rungus longhouses at Kudat, Klias wildlife cruises, overnight trips to Pulau Tiga and tours of the magnificent Kinabalu Park and nearby Poring Hot Springs.

Kota Kinabalu is an attraction in itself and worth a few days but it also the gateway to Sabah. It is from here that you will connect to Sabah’s famous natural attractions located further afield. Places such as the Kinabatangan River (accessed from Sandakan); and Danum Valley and Tabin Wildlife Reserve (accessed from Lahad Datu).

View more destinations on our Borneo Destination Map.

  • Proboscis monkey, Sabah, Malaysia.
    Kota Kinabalu Tours

    Klias River Safari

    See the fascinating proboscis monkey and other wildlife on a river cruise of the Garama / Klias Wetlands, located approx. 2 hours drive from Kota Kinabalu.

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  • Rungus ladies in traditional dress, Kudat, Sabah, Malaysia.

    2 days / 1 night tour of the Kudat region to experience Rungus native cultural traditions, includes overnight stay in a Longhouse plus a visit to the Northern Tip of Borneo.

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