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Suggested Itineraries: 3 Days in Kota Kinabalu

By Viator, March 2015

4 14 Reviews | Add your review

Borneo. The name alone conjures images of exotic, unknown experiences steeped in adventure and environmental wonder. A land of wild orangutans and oversized rafflesia flowers, the capital city of Kota Kinabalu is the perfect (and most practical) place to start your Borneo adventure. Here’s a quick guide to kick off your first three days in Malaysia’s most mystical destination.

Day 1: Get lost in the Kota Kinabalu markets

Although it can be a heavily industrialized city in many parts, the most vibrant aspect of Kota Kinabalu is undoubtedly the amount of colorful and exotic markets which lay scattered about town. Plan on starting your day by wandering down to the Central Market, a non-descript looking warehouse where you can find anything from ripe red rambutans to caged snakes ready for boiling. Located next door is the Filipino handicraft market which slings inexpensive souvenirs ranging from bamboo handiwork to pearls of questionable authenticity.

If you need a break from all of the haggling the KK waterfront is an excellent place to go shopping for a drink, and seeing as the city faces due west the sunsets afforded from the oceanfront bars are some of the best in all of Sabah. If you still haven’t found exactly what you’re looking for head over to the Kota Kinabalu night market, a frenetic maelstrom of knockoff wares that encapsulates the authentic flare of a true Southeast Asian market.   

Day 2: Take a cultural or eco-tour

Most visitors travel to Borneo for the environmental and cultural diversity, and just because you’re in the city center doesn’t mean you can’t take part in the indigenous or ecological attractions. Early risers can start their day at dawn for the best chance of seeing an exotic purple heron at the Kota Kinabalu Bird Sanctuary, or, those looking to sleep in are better off taking a speedboat from the waterfront to the offshore islands which comprise Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. Diving and snorkeling opportunities are available for those wanting to experience the tropical marine life, or, for a more relaxing afternoon, while the day away strolling the length of multiple white sand beaches.

Combine your eco-adventure day with a cultural tour of either the Mari Mari cultural village or with a visit to the Heritage Village located in the state museum complex. At both locations it’s possible to get a feel for indigenous Borneo ways of life, although the Mari Mari village offers visitors a more hands on experience.

Day 3: Explore Kinabalu National Park

Located about a two hour drive from the city of Kota Kinabalu, Kinabalu National Park is the most widely visited attraction in the Sabah area and home to towering Mt. Kinabalu, the park’s 4095m namesake. Although climbing to the summit of Kinabalu requires an overnight stay on the mountain (and early reservations), day trippers from the city can still amble amongst lowland trails which are surrounded by over 5,500 plant species and over 100 species of mammal.

While the cooler air of the uplands can be a welcome respite from the tropical heat, those who need to warm up again can pay a quick visit to the Poring Hot Springs located 30 minutes from the Park Headquarters.

Tours & Tickets

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Kinabalu Park Canopy Walkway and Poring Hot Springs Full-Day Tour from Kota Kinabalu

4 star rating: Recommended 10 Reviews

Trek across Kinabalu Park for a magnificent view of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Mt Kinabalu. With an area covering 754 square kilometers, Kinabalu Park ...  Read more

Location: Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

From USD $81.81

Kota Kinabalu by Night with dinner

3.5 star rating: Worth doing 3 Reviews

Feel the dynamic heartbeat of Kota Kinabalu at night as you explore its colorful night market, enjoy its panoramic night skyline from above and dine on ...  Read more

Location: Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Duration: 3 hours (approx.)

From USD $62.65

Private Tour: Gaya Island Hike and Zipline Adventure from Kota Kinabalu

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 1 Reviews

Go hiking and ziplining through Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park on this private eco-adventure from Kota Kinabalu. Boat to Pulau Gaya (Gaya Island) and trek ...  Read more

Location: Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Duration: 5 hours (approx.)

From USD $62.50

Mari Mari Cultural Village Tour

Delve into the culture and traditions of Sabah’s tribal inhabitants on a tour of Mari Mari Cultural Village in Kota Kinabalu. Winding your way through the ...  Read more

Location: Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Duration: 4 hours (approx.)

From USD $187.50

2-Day Pulau Tiga Island Tour from Kota Kinabalu

Pulau Tiga might be best known as the first filming location for ‘Survivor,’ but there's more to the island than what meets the reality TV viewer's eye. See ...  Read more

Location: Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Duration: 2 days (approx.)

From USD $332.00

3-Day Tour from Sabah: Sandakan Sightseeing and Wildlife Experience in Sepilok and Selingan

Get up close to Malaysia’s nature and wildlife on this 3-day tour to Sandakan from Sabah. At two animal conversation facilities, you have the opportunity to ...  Read more

Location: Sabah, Malaysia
Duration: 3 days, 2 nights

From USD $1,236.36

2-Day Small-Group Tour: Kinabalu National Park and Poring Hot Springs from Sabah

Discover the rich natural environment of Malaysia on this 2-day guided tour of the Kinabalu National Park and Poring Hot Springs from Sabah. Walk among the ...  Read more

Location: Sabah, Malaysia
Duration: 2 days, 1 night

From USD $946.66

2-Day Small-Group Tour: Sandakan City and Wildlife Experience from Sabah

Take a 2-day small-group tour that combines a discovery of Sandakan’s history and heritage with fascinating excursions to two animal conservation facilities. ...  Read more

Location: Sabah, Malaysia
Duration: 2 days, 1 night

From USD $937.33

Kota Kinabalu International Airport Plaza Premium Lounge

While waiting to catch your flight at Kota Kinabalu International Airport, relax at the Plaza Premium Lounge. Head to either the domestic or international ...  Read more

Location: Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Duration: Varies

From USD $38.72

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