Kota Kinabalu

Elderly farmers on a suspension bridge, with Mount Kinabalu in the background

Where to stay

  • Goldenhill Hotel, Lot 10, Pekan, Tanjung Aru, Jln Pinang Tanjung Aru; +60 88 232 823; www.goldenhillhotelsabah.com. A quiet and peaceful hotel despite its location near the airport. It’s also just five minutes away from Tanjong Aru Beach.
  • Hotel Eden 54, 54 Jln Gaya; +60 88 266 054; www.eden54.com. A modern hotel with 31 chic guestrooms and a pleasant common lounge.
  • Hotel Sixty3, 63 Jln Gaya; +60 88 212 663; www.hotelsixty3.com. A modern hotel that’s adjacent to the bustling Gaya Street Sunday Market.
  • Likas Square Apartment Hotel, 1 Lorong Likas Square, Jln Istiadat Likas; +60 88 252 233; www.likassquare.com.my. The hotel offers a free shuttle service to various points in the city.
  • Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort & Spa, Dalit Bay Golf & Country Club; +60 88 797 888; shangri-la.com/kotakinabalu/rasariaresort. The rooms at this tropical resort boast spacious balconies offering views of the South China Sea on one side or the lush canopies of a 400-acre rainforest on the other.
  • Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa, No. 20 Jln Aru, Tanjung Aru; + 60 88 327 888; www.shangri-la.com/kotakinabalu/tanjungaruresort. A posh resort paradise 10 minutes from the city center, with lush décor inspired by Borneo’s rich cultural heritage.
  • The Klagan Hotel, Block D – Warisan Square, Jln Tun Fuad Stephens; +60 88 488 908; theklagan.com. This hotel in Central Kota Kinabalu is a good base while you’re in town. It’s near the KK Waterfront Esplanade, many restaurants, the Filipino Market, and the Centre Point Sabah shopping mall. The rooms here are sleek and spacious, and some offer have views of the sea.

Where to eat

  • Chilli Vanilla, 35 Jln Haji Saman; +60 88 238 098. Everything at this little Hungarian eatery is homemade. Try the Hungarian Goulash (beef and potato stew) and the Hungarian Chicken Special (grilled chicken breast, sautéed mushrooms, melted cheese and parsley potatoes).
  • Emperor’s Delight, G/F Lot 6, Jln Pantai; +60 88 288 686. Must-tries at this Chinese restaurant include the spicy la mian (hand-pulled noodles) and liu sha bao (salted egg yolk custard buns).
  • Hua Hing Seafood Restaurant, Block B, Lot 4, Sedco Square, Kampung Air; +60 88 231 668. A popular eatery with live seafood in tanks.
  • Kota Kinabalu Night Market, Jln Tun Fuad Stephens. Its many stalls serve up a mouthwatering selection of Malay, Chinese, Indonesian and even Filipino street food.
  • Little Italy, G/F Hotel Capital, Jln Haji Saman; littleitaly-kk.com. For hearty and authentic Italian fare. The Pizza Carnivora is a must-try for meat lovers.
  • Oceana Italian Restaurant, Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort and Spa, Pantai Dalit Beach, Tuaran; +60 88 797 888. A rustic restaurant serving up authentic Italian fare prepared using farm-sourced ingredients.
  • Peach Palace, 1/F Blue 7 Building, Mile 3.5, Jln Penampang; +60 88 725 011. Don’t miss the signature crabmeat fried rice at this popular Chinese restaurant.
  • Sinsuran Night Market, Lorong Guamantong. Enjoy a smorgasbord of fresh seafood, from enormous lobsters to grilled squid.
  • Upperstar, Block C, Lot 8, G/F Segama Complex; +60 88 270 775. Offers hearty fare like steaks and grilled chicken chops at affordable prices.
  • Yu Kee Bak Kut Teh, 75 Jln Gaya; +60 88 221 192. Head here for a taste of the eatery’s famous bak kut teh, a local dish of pork and organs simmered for hours in a peppery broth.

What to do

  • Desa Cattle Dairy Farm, Kundasang; +60 88 889 562. Admire the striking views at this dairy farm, located at the foothills of Mt. Kinabalu. Try your hand at feeding the calves, learn more about the entire milking process, and sample some of the farm’s premium fresh milk.
  • Gaya Street Sunday Market, Jln Gaya. Head here to purchase afforable souvenirs like colorful batik textiles, and antique bowls and plates. The market closes early at 1pm, so time your visit accordingly.
  • Jungle trekking. Contact L.O.S.T. Borneo (+60 13 877 6671; nabaluadventurecamp.webs.com) for exciting jungle expeditions that include hotel transfers, accommodation, a guide, insurance, trail and conservation fees, and a certificate of participation.
  • Manukan and Sapi Islands. Less than a 30-minute boat ride away from the city, these islands are perfect for a spot of swimming, snorkelling and kayaking.
  • Mari Mari Cultural Village, Inanam; +60 13 881 4921; www.marimariculturalvillage.com. Join a guided tour of this remote village, which is a microcosm of ethnic Borneo culture. You’ll get to try your hand at various cultural activities, such as bamboo cooking and traditional dance.
  • Mesilau Nature Resort, Pekan Ranau; +60 88 871 519. Enjoy the chilly climate at this resort, also located at the foot of Mt. Kinabalu. While there, have a hearty lunch or join a guided nature walk for an additional MYR5.
  • Mount Kinabalu. A trip to Kota Kinabalu isn’t complete without hiking up the tallest mountain in Borneo, which stands at a towering 4,096m!
  • Mount Trus Madi. Consider climbing the second-highest mountain in the country. It has fewer tourists, but with the same abundant flora and amazing scenery. On a clear day, you can even see Mount Kinabalu in the distance.
  • North Borneo Railway, Tanjong Aru Railway Station; +60 88 308 500. Hop on a refurbished 19th-century steam train and admire views of paddy fields and traditional village homes en route to Papar, Sabah. There are two weekly departures, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and the journey typically lasts for four hours.
  • Rumah Terbalik Upside-Down House, Kampung Telibong, Batu 21, Jln Telibong, Tamparuli; upsidedownhouse.com.my. A traditional Sabah kampung house fashioned to look as though it’s entirely upside-down. Great for photo ops.
  • Sabah Museum, Jln Muzium; +60 88 225 033; www.museum.sabah.gov.my. Discover Borneo’s rich history through the state museum’s extensive collection of ethnographic, archaeological, historical, botanical and zoological exhibits.
  • Signal Hill Observatory Platform, Jln Bukit Bendera. Head to the highest point in the city for spectacular views that extend to the outlying islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.
  • Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Take a day trip and explore the islands that make up the marine park, such as Pulau Manukan and Pulau Mamutik. The marine life is diverse, so whether you’re a snorkeler or a scuba diver, there is lots to see underwater! Book your island-hopping tours from the travel agencies located at Jesselton Point for cheaper rates.

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