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Kota Kinabalu

Posted by on Aug 4th, 2009
Filed Under: Sabah

Formerly known as Jesselton, Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, was virtually rebuilt after the World War II and is a modern city with good air links to Kuala Lumpur now. It is a vibrant city on Sabah’s west coast and the gateway to eco-adventures such as mountain climbing, whitewater rafting, caving, diving and river cruising. Located in the South China Sea, Kota Kinabalu is a bustling city with a mixed population.

Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah state in Malaysia, is also the capital of the West Coast Division of Sabah. It is located on the northwest coast of Borneo facing the South China Sea. The Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park lies on one side and Mount Kinabalu gave the city its name. Kota Kinabalu has a population of 579,304 while the larger urban area has an estimated population of 700,000 make it the largest urban centre in Sabah and the sixth largest in Malaysia.

Kota Kinabalu is normally known as K.K. within Malaysia and internationally. Nowadays, it is a major tourist destination and a popular gateway for travelers visiting Sabah and Borneo. Kinabalu National Park is about 90 kilometers away from the city. There are many tourist attractions in and around the city.

One of that is the Sabah Museum, which situated near the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Around the vicinity of the museum, you can find the Science and Technology Centre, Sabah Art Gallery, and the Ethno Botanic Garden. The Hongkod Koisaan building in Penampang, home to the Kadazan-Dusun Cultural Organisation (KDCA), hosts the annual Kaamatan or Harvest Festival and the concurrently held Unduk Ngadau beauty contest in March. On the other hand, Monsopiad Cultural Village (Kampung Monsopiad) that named after the legendary Kadazan-Dusun headhunting warrior, Monsopiad features cultural shows relating to the Kadazan-Dusun culture.

If you are in Kota Kinabalu, you must visit the Mount Kinabalu area even if you are not going to climb all the way to the summit. This mount is the highest mountain on the island of Borneo. The summit Low´s Peak has a height of 4.095 meters and it is the third tallest in South East Asia. The Low’s Peak can be easily climbed by a person with basic fitness and requires no mountaineering equipment, but other peaks along the massif require rock climbing skills. It is really worth a visit because when you stand there at the highest summit, you can see the splendor of Sabah from all directions.

Kota Kinabalu is one of the most fantastic cities you ever have been to. It is a modern capital with a warm hospitality that you hardly find in many places around the world. Just around a corner, you can have long sandy beaches, paradise islands, virgin coral reefs, tropical rain forests and the mighty Mount Kinabalu is just 90 minutes away.

Why Not Go

You shouldn’t go to this place for holiday if you don’t really enjoy outdoor activities such as mountain climbing, white-water rafting, diving and even golfing.

Why Go

Kota Kinabalu is an amazing destination for adventure seekers, nature lovers, water sports enthusiasts, holiday makers and even business executives.

The main charm of Kota Kinabalu might be lies at its Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, which is a taste of paradise. This Marine Park with amazing tropical islands is only minutes away from the city, so at least one of the islands is a must visit when you are in Kota Kinabalu. There is nowhere else in this world you can find a cluster of exotic unspoiled islands so close to a city. The Marine Park has five islands Pulau (island) Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug. White sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, reefs in shallow waters, coral gardens, lowland rain forests and nice walking paths are the things that you can find on these islands. Others than that, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is also an ideal location for beginners that will dive, as well as a perfect spot for more experienced divers. Don’t forget to bring along your underwater camera, there are many rare marine creatures like scorpion fish, blue-spotted rays, bright blue starfish, sea fans, cuttlefish and mantis shrimps.

Besides that, Kota Kinabalu is picking up as one the best places to whitewater raft. Whitewater Rafting involves rafting down a river with foaming, turbulent rapids and this exciting sport is getting popular especially among tourists. There are a few places to whitewater raft but the most outstanding one is the Kiulu River. Just a mere one and half an hour drive from Kota Kinabalu, it boasts turbulent rapids with calm stretches hence it is suitable for whitewater rafting beginners. Apart from whitewater rafting, you also can go swimming or picnic by the riverside.

Another lure of Kota Kinabalu is golfing at the award winning championship Golf Course. Golf courses in Kota Kinabalu are amongst the best in Malaysia. Located right in the heart of Kota Kinabalu city center, The Sutera Harbour Golf and Country Club features a 36 hole Graham Marsh designed course. Other luxury resorts that boast top golf courses are the Nexus Karambunai Golf Course and the Borneo Golf Resort which was designed by Jack Nicklaus. If you are golfing buffs, start packing your clubs now and head over to Kota Kinabalu for a relaxing Golfing getaway!

Best Time to Visit

The best time to go this city is NOT during monsoon seasons from November to January, especially during the religious festive periods such as Christmas, Easter and Lent. The city is very busy because many Christians and Catholics converge to Kota Kinabalu and surroundings.

Where to Stay

The location of the Kota Kinabalu city is absolutely amazing. From the airport, it is just a short ride to mostly any hotel. At there, you can find a world class sailing marina and championship golf courses as well as both first class holiday resorts and good hotels for the budget traveler. For budget backpackers, Borneo Backpackers is your first choice. It is centrally located in the heart of Kota Kinabalu and it offers good facilities and friendly services. For luxury, it is highly recommended to stay at Shangri La Tanjung Aru Hotel. This luxury resort is set on a peninsula surrounded by the waters of the South China Sea. It is set amidst twenty-five acres of lushly landscaped gardens and features a beautiful sandy beach. Hence, stay at the Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort Kota Kinabalu and feel how idyllic this luxury retreat can be.

Where & What to Eat

The food at Kota Kinabalu is varied in a way that only a state with 30 ethnic groups can offer. Firstly, if you like Italian food, you shouldn’t miss out Ferdinand`s Italian restaurant. It is located in the prestigious Magellan Sutera Harbour hotel, next to the international airport. This restaurant serves superb Italian food with high standard service. Besides that, the delectable Italian and fusion menu is complemented by carefully selected wines.

And if you really like Italian, don’t miss out Bella Italia also. It is right under the Jesselton Hotel in KK’s business area. This Italian restaurant pops up unexpectedly as one of the tourists’ favourites. If you reach there early, there are big discounts. So, don’t miss it!

Don’t miss out the Portview Seafood Restaurant also. There are two branches of this in Kota Kinabalu, one of them is right opposite Centrepoint Shopping Centre, called The Waterfront. This restaurant is very popular place for tourists and orders can be taken either way similar to Ocean Restaurant. It is nestled amongst popular nightlife hangouts, such as bars and clubs, and also cafes like CoffeeBean.


In Kota Kinabalu, your nightlife can begin with the sunset, go on with karaoke and finish with the sunrise. Enjoy the sunset with food and drinks. Just to sit there at the promenade or in some of the hotel gardens and watch the sun going down, it will be very enjoyable.

Around the city, you can find many places where you can sing in front of a big crowd or in private rooms together with friends. If you are not in the singing mood, there are also places with live bands, in the bigger hotels every night. And if you can stay up real late, watch the sunrise. It is as breathtaking as the sunset and it will be an enjoyable experience.

My to do List

– visit Atkinson Clock Tower
– go to Sabah State Mosque
– visit the State Museum
– Whitewater rafting
– take photo with giant Marlin Statue
– Lok Kawi Wildlife Park
– Monsopiad Cultural Village

Stay Away From

Getting There

The best way to get to this place is by plane. Kota Kinabalu has the second busiest airport in Malaysia. It is also the central gateway into Sabah. Kota Kinabalu International Airport, KKIA, has flights coming in from Kuala Lumpur and international destinations which includes Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Manila, Bangkok, Taipei and Brunei. There are also domestic flights to and from other Sabah cities such as Sandakan, Tawau and Lahad Datu. From Kota Kinabalu Airport, you may take a taxi to the city centre (8 kilometers away) which will cost you around RM 25. There is no bus service at the airport but you still can walk to the main road and take a bus there to the city centre which only cost RM 1.50.

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2 Responses »

  1. Theres a place called Little Italy near Gaya street right smack in town where they serve really good authentic italian food. Some of their must trys: Sea Food chowder soup, any of the pizza and the tiramisu cake!

  2. There are alot of places to unwind and chill out in town.
    Some of the popular places are:
    Shenanigan’s Fun Pub (located at Hyatt Hotel KK) – they have a live band and they normally have alot of theme parties.
    Bar and Restaruant located at Times Square KK – a pretty new area located near the Sutera Harbour. They serve nice meals and their beer prices are reasonable.