Borneo is known for its abundant natural wonders, but Kinabalu National Park may just be the most spectacular. The main attraction is Mount Kinabalu, a 4,095-metre-tall monster of granite that takes the title of the tallest mountain in Malaysia by a long shot.
If you've been hoping to cross "climb a mountain" off your bucket list, this is the place to do it. No special equipment is needed to climb Mount Kinabalu -- just a good pair of shoes and a light jacket -- and more than 40,000 people attempt to reach the summit each year. The youngest climber on record was just four and the oldest was 90. Most climbers take two days to reach the summit, but if you're in excellent shape it's possible to do it in one day. All climbers require a climbing permit, insurance and a mountain guide.
Even if you have no plans to climb the mountain, Kinabalu National Park has plenty to offer nature lovers. The park was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000 for its spectacular flora and fauna, like insect-eating pitcher plants, wild orchids, giant Rafflesia flowers and tropical birds. Also in the surrounding area are the Kundasang War Memorial and the Poring Hot Springs, where you can soak your weary legs in pools of mineral water.
As Kinabalu Park is run more like a business than a national treasure, if you want to stay within the park or climb the mountain you'll have to deal with overpriced Sutera Sanctuary Lodge. Alternatively, a number of simple guesthouses and chalets lie within walking distance of the park entrance.
As Kinabalu National Park is just 88 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu (the city was named for the mountain, not vice versa), it's possible to visit as a day trip. However, we highly recommend an overnight stay to enjoy the cooler clime and glimpse the peak at sunrise before it disappears into the morning mist.
All visitors to the park pay a conservation fee of 15 ringgit for adults and 10 ringgit for children under 18. Malaysian citizens pay significantly less.
Kinabalu National Park is located about 88 kilometres east of Kota Kinabalu along the road to Sandakan. You'll find everything you need clustered around the park entrance including restaurants, guesthouses, taxi stand and bus stop. The nearest ATM is in the town of Kundasang eight kilometres away. It's a further 40 kilometres to Poring Hot Springs.