UPDATED Kota Kinabalu Travel Guide 2019: Itinerary, Places to Stay, and More

Sunset in Kota Kinabalu
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The Complete Travel Guide to Kota Kinabalu for 2019

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia — Formerly called Jesselton, Kota Kinabalu is the capital and the biggest city in the state of Sabah. Kota Kinabalu is recognized as an island paradise by nature lovers. Kota Kinabalu houses some of the most inspiring natural ecosystems in the world. With its picturesque coastal beaches, verdant plants, swarming wildlife, virgin coral reefs, and rainforests, people love to visit this place.

Travel Guide to Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
Travel Guide to Kota Kinabalu Malaysia

Kota Kinabalu is one of the incredible locations you have ever been to. Situated on the tropical island of Borneo, Kota Kinabalu is an amazing location accessible from the airport by a short ride. Championship golf courses, sailing marina, supreme holiday resorts, and good hotels are the main attractions of this place. Kota Kinabalu is also a wonderful destination for scuba diving, deep sea fishing, water rafting, and snorkeling. There is a lot to explore in and around Kota Kinabalu.

Kota Kinabalu on a Budget Travel Guide Blog

In this 2019 Travel Guide to Kota Kinabalu Blog, we listed some tips on how you can do your own DIY Day trip to Kota Kinabalu. We also included Kota Kinabalu Itinerary, Things to do and see, how to get there and more travel updates.

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Sunset in Kota Kinabalu
Sunset in Kota Kinabalu

Best time to visit Kota Kinabalu

January to March are the best months to visit Kota Kinabalu due to a relatively colder climate. This is the perfect time to do island hopping, city tour, and other adventure activities.

April to May are considered the peak of the summer season and the weather is hot and humid making it a bit uncomfortable to do various activities.

How to Get There

Kota Kinabalu is the busiest airport after Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia. It is the main link to Sabah. Kota Kinabalu International Airport has flights arriving from Kuala Lumpur and international destinations such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Bangkok, Manila, Brunei, and Taipei. To and from domestic flights are also available to other Sabah cities as Tawau, Lahad Datu, and Sandakan.

There are direct international flights from these cities to Kota Kinabalu:

  • Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei on Royal Brunei Airlines
  • Fuzhou, China on XiamenAir
  • Hangzhou, China on AirAsia
  • Hong Kong on AirAsia
  • Manila, Philippines on AirAsia Zest and Cebu Pacific airlines
  • Perth, Australia on Malaysia Airlines
  • Seoul, Korea on Air Seoul, Eastar Jet Eastar Jet, Jeju Air, and Jin Air
  • Shanghai, China on Malaysia Airlines and China Eastern Airlines
  • Shenzhen, China on AirAsia
  • Singapore on AirAsia and Silkair
  • Taipei, Taiwan (Taoyuan International Airport) on AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines
  • Tokyo, Japan on Malaysia Airlines
  • Wuhan, China on AirAsia

Getting out from Kota Kinabalu Airport

The airport is 7 km away from the city.

Underwater world
Sutera Harbour Marina & Country Club

Shuttle bus – Leaves approximately every hour and drops passengers off at the Wawasan Center south of downtown Kota Kinabalu.

By minibus – Bus 16c stops at terminal 2 (the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal), right outside the north-most entrance into the terminal where all cars drop 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 5:30-6 PM.

For terminal 1, Minibus No. 17, Kota Kinabalu-Putatan buses, will bring you to the city. Minibusses are available along the main road away from the airport and the bus stop is next to the footbridge. 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 center. From Terminal Wawasan, you can take City Bus into the city center for RM0.50.

By Taxi – These are hired by buying a ticket from the window on the Arrivals level, then presenting the ticket to the driver.
The standard rate from the airport to the city is RM30.

Kota Kinabalu is a beautiful treasure-trove of islands and a scenic place one should never miss.

Things to do in Kota Kinabalu

Hike Mount Kinabalu

Adventure in Kota Kinabalu
Adventure in Kota Kinabalu

The most exclusive thing for adventurers at Kota Kinabalu is to climb Mount Kinabalu. 4,000 meters above the horizon of sea level, the mountain is the center for passionate climbers.

Island Hopping in Kota Kinabalu

The Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park with marvelous tropical islands is only few minutes away from the city. The Park comprises five islands: Gaya Island, Manukan Island, Sapi Island, Sulug Island and Mamutik Island. These islands present you with crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, coral gardens, lowland rain forests and pleasant walking paths.

Borneo Reef World
Borneo Reef World

Visit Tun Mustapha Tower

Tun Mustapha Tower is yet another sight one shouldn’t miss. It is a 30-storey and 122-meters high tower. This splendid building with a glass façade has a hanging structure, which is a feature it shares with only three other buildings in the world. It has an exclusive 72-sided polygon, column-free floors and is the tallest building in Borneo. The Sabah state mosque is a magnum opus with dove-grey walls and sparkling majestic arches with gold enameling. It is capable of accommodating 5000 worshippers at a time.

Visit Kota Kinabalu City Mosque

Kota Kinabalu City Mosque is the second main mosque situated at Likas Bay over the north coastal highway. The City Mosque is erected on a man-made lagoon, which generates a sense that the mosque is floating above the water. This amazing architecture brings to mind the design of the Prophet´s Mosque in Medina, in Saudi Arabia.

Shopping at Suria Sabah
Shopping at Suria Sabah

Visit Signal Hill Observatory

The Signal Hill Observatory gives an excellent picturesque view of all the islands in Kota Kinabalu, and the South Chinese Sea. The Sabah State Museum is a major museum in Kota Kinabalu, situated at old Palace Hill. It is an exclusive complex constructed in 1985 with a museum, a zoological garden, an ethno-botanic garden, and a heritage village.

Sutera Harbor Marina
Sutera Harbor Marina

The island is blessed with beautiful flora and fauna. Kota Kinabalu also has a lot of Museums to visit. If you love scuba diving, snorkeling or simply island hopping, there’s definitely a place for you to visit in KK. Check out my post about Things to do in Kota Kinabalu.

Places to stay in Kota Kinabalu

Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa Resorts in Kota Kinabalu
Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa Resorts in Kota Kinabalu

Check out our list of the Best Hotels and Resorts in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Also read: Horizon Hotel Kota Kinabalu Review

Eat and Dine at Kota Kinabalu

There is an extensive range of cuisine varying from Thai to Indian, Filipino to Italian, among Kota Kinabalu restaurants. Kedai kopi, Sedco Square are some of the places to dine at. Kota Kinabalu is famous for its seafood which is cheap, and tasty dish based on clams, crab or prawns.

Sutera Harbour Marina & Country Club
Sutera Harbour Marina & Country Club

Have you been to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia? Help us improve this 2019 Travel Guide to Kota Kinabalu by sharing your personal Kota Kinabalu travel tips and recommendations.

Internet in Kota Kinabalu

WiFi is available in most hotels. There are also internet cafes (aka cyber cafe) in most places.

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