Photo: Eat and eat some more.

Things to see and do

Mantanani Island

I have met many a traveller at the airport who has just stepped off a twin-otter flight from the interior, their bags heavy with damp clothes that have been unable to dry under the canopy of the forest and their legs pock marked with leech bites; the residue of the rainforest lingers darkly on their faces as they collapse into their taxis and head straight for the nearest shower. I call this ... Read more about Mantanani Island .

Forget time at Lupa Masa

Just 15 metres from the Poring National Park boundary in Sabah, East Malaysia, the forest is alive with birds making their early morning ablutions. Resident-volunteer Graham stares into the forest and gestures to me with two fingers from his eyes outwards. I don't believe you can count a creature unless you've looked into their eyes, he says. That would make my count the morning after the night ... Read more about Forget time at Lupa Masa .

Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu

Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu, Kota Kinabalu’s city mosque, is often referred to as the floating mosque. It doesn’t float, but is surrounded by a moat and looks very picturesque — a fine example of contemporary Islamic architecture. Overlooking the South China Sea on Likas Bay and flagged by waving palm trees, it’s particularly lovely to photograph at sunset. The mosque welcomes ... Read more about Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu .


West-facing Kota Kinabalu is famous for its stunning sunsets over the South China Sea, punctuated by the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Here you can truly appreciate how spectacular this seemingly ordinary daily occurrence can be — particularly during electrical storms. Being equatorial, the event religiously begins around 17:30-18:00 and it's all over in about half an hour once the ... Read more about Sunsets .

Proboscis monkeys and fireflies tour

While you are in Sabah, you will probably plan to visit some of wildlife areas where proboscis monkeys spend their days, such as the popular Kinabatangan region near Sandakan. However, if you are just on a quick visit to Kota Kinabalu, it’s still possible to see them on a day tour, just a couple of hours outside of ... Read more about Proboscis monkeys and fireflies tour .

North Borneo Railway
The Magellan Sutera Resort, Level 2, 1 Sutera Harbour Boulevard, Sutera Harbour, Kota Kinabalu
T: (088) 308 500

Confession time: we like trains. We have to admit we were a little bit excited to travel on the historical North Borneo Railway, but you don’t have to be a trainspotter kind of person to enjoy the romance of a steam train. The North Borneo Railway isn’t a regular train service, although a regular service does follow the same route, but rather a manufactured tourist attraction recreating the ... Read more about North Borneo Railway .

Sabah Museum
Jalan Muzium, Kota Kinabalu
T: (088) 225 033

This multi-part museum offers a crash course in Sabah’s culture and history, and is a lifesaver on a rainy day. The unusual fish-bone-like architecture of the Sabah Museum was inspired by traditional tribal dwellings and houses a diverse, yet slightly dry, collection of ethnographical and historical artefacts and zoological specimens labelled in English. It’s dusty and old-fashioned, but ... Read more about Sabah Museum .

Gaya Street
Gaya Street

Gaya Street, the oldest street in Kota Kinabalu, has been the best place to shop and eat since the early 1900s. In its early life, known as Bond and Dunlop Streets, the area was filled with Chinese traders, and it’s still buzzing ... Read more about Gaya Street .

KK  Heritage Walk
Central Kota Kinabalu
T: (012) 802 8823

You can read about the history of Kota Kinabalu in most guidebooks or do a bit a googling, but nothing beats walking down the street with a well-informed guide pointing out things and telling you its hidden story. A boring looking plaque comes alive and a fading building has more layers than the peeling paint ... Read more about KK Heritage Walk .

Central & Handicraft Markets
Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens, Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu’s Central and Handicraft markets are both worth checking out for a taste of local life and to see how many mass-produced souvenirs can be stuffed into a single ... Read more about Central & Handicraft Markets .

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

A short boat ride from KK, the five islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park offer squeaky white sands, azure waters and hiking trails though areas of old growth forest and mangroves, with an abundance of wildlife both below and above the waters. It’s a highly recommend day trip, but you won’ t be alone. Unfortunately, much of the more accessible coral has been damaged by the ... Read more about Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park .

Mari Mari Cultural Village
Kionsom, Inanam, Kota Kinabalu (30 minutes outside downtown Kota Kinabalu)
T: (016) 821 5689

Mari Mari Cultural Village is a little bit amusement park, a little bit museum and completely manufactured tourist attraction. Yes, it’s every bit as cheesy as it sounds, but despite ourselves, we found it interesting and ... Read more about Mari Mari Cultural Village .

Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Kota Kinabalu? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Malaysia.

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