Kinabalu Park covers a wide area, and there’s much to see, from Mount Kinabalu and its surrounding base to Poring Hot Springs. Accommodation can be found in and around the park at both the headquarters and at the town of Poring, one hour away, or you could base yourself in between at the transit town of Ranau — not much to see, but the best variety of eating options can be found here.
If you’re climbing the mountain, it will be difficult to avoid staying in one of the overpriced options inside the park run by Sutera Sanctuary Lodge. Much better value accommodation can be had along the highway nearby. Many offer views and mountain chalet ambience. The area gets very busy on weekends and holidays and prices are at a premium at these times.
Ayana Holiday Resort was one of the new kids on the block when we visited in 2016, and a welcome addition to the mountain accommodation scene. Sitting on the main road, less than one and a half kilometres towards Kota Kinabalu from the park entrance, Ayana Holiday Resort overlooks stunning mountain and valley scenery over the Kundasang region. ###5273 Three styles of rooms are on offer.... Read our full review of Ayana Holiday Resort.
A hop, skip and a jump—and a very steep driveway—from Kinabalu Park entrance, J Residence offers a handful of comfortable chalets clinging to the forested sloping mountainside. The modern wood and metal-framed, glass-fronted chalets come in duplex or family-style, with wide furnished balconies, some with swinging rattan pod-chairs to enjoy the mountain and valley vistas. Spacious and bright... Read our full review of J Residence.
If laying in bed and staring at the magnificent Mt Kinabalu is your desire, Puncak Borneo Resort offers the best seats in the house. The imposing white-framed building climbs the hill on a corner of the main road about two kilometres west of Kinabalu Park entrance. By climbs, we mean there is a multitude of stairs, so if you’re heading here after conquering the peak, you may want to... Read our full review of Puncak Borneo Resort.
If you wish to stay within Kinabalu Park, your only option is to book overpriced accommodation through Sutera Sanctuary Lodge, who have the monopoly. The options offered by Sutera are both clean and comfortable and some are decked out with wood burning fireplaces for that cosy mountain ambience. Non-package rates that include breakfast range from 310 ringgit for a dorm—yes that’s ONE... Read our full review of Sutera Sanctuary Lodge.
Secluded in a quiet location on a side road off the main highway about two kilometres from Kinabalu Park entrance, Nikgold Garden surveys the surrounding countryside and offers comfortable rooms in large double-storey dark wooden structures. The east-facing rooms don’t directly view the mountain, nevertheless the outlook is still excellent, and if you’re up early enough, you’ll catch a... Read our full review of Nikgold Garden.
Poring is an excellent recovery stop after climbing Mount Kinabalu, however much of the accommodation both inside and outside the park isn’t great value, with the exception of a quite marvellous, but very basic jungle stay. There’s only one street, so you won’t get lost.
Lupa Masa Rainforest Camp is more than just a place to stay, it’s a destination in itself. On the edge of Kinabalu Park set amid primary rainforest in an idyllic riverside position, open-air huts and basic facilities contribute to an authentic jungle experience. “Lupa Masa” means “forget time”, and this is indeed the place to snub the schedule and follow the primitive tempo of mother... Read our full review of Lupa Masa.
After you’ve climbed Mount Kinabalu and managed to crawl to Poring Hot Springs for a soak, the last thing you’ll want to do is move on immediately. Ernah Lodge, just outside the park, offers simple clean budget accommodation, so you can take your time and enjoy this lovely neck of the woods. Positioned on the main (only) road in Poring behind the owner’s laundry business, you can... Read our full review of Ernah Lodge .
As is the deal at Kinabalu Park at the base of Mount Kinabalu, Sutera Sanctuary Lodge continue their monopoly into the Park at Poring Hot Springs. If you book a two-day climbing accommodation package, the less expensive option is to spend one night at Poring (although this will increase your travel time). Unlike nearer the mountain, where there is a range of good options outside the park that... Read our full review of Sutera Sanctuary Lodge Poring.
For single travellers, if all you need is a dorm, and can’t come at the overpriced offer inside the park, Tahubang Lodge directly opposite the Kinabalu Park entrance has the best dorms in the area. The lodge is run by the friendly Sabah Park staff cooperative, who also run Restaurant Panataran Kinabalu, next door. By dorm standards, they are not a bargain, and cheaper (but not as good)... Read our full review of Tahubang Lodge.
Ranau is not much more than a transit town, but sitting approximately halfway between Kinabalu Park HQ and Poring, it’s a good budget option to base yourself for visiting both and is convenient for onward travel. Most hotels are aimed at local businesspeople or truck drivers, and all can be found on the levels above the shops — look up, then look for the often difficult to find street level entrance. Ranau is a small town and easily walkable.
The smartest business hotel in town is MK Hotel by a wide margin. Located in the back corner of a quiet-ish lane above Mama Kopitiam (where the MK name comes from), MK Hotel’s difference from its competitors is noticeable as soon as you walk in the door — it’s clean, bright and stylish. Artwork adorns the freshly painted mossy green walls of the narrow corridor leading to the rooms and... Read our full review of MK Hotel.
It’s hard to miss Lodge 88 with its snappy bright orange facade; in fact it’s hard to miss both of them, as there’s both Lodge 88 I and Lodge 88 II. The colourful promise of the exterior, however, doesn’t extend inside and what’s on offer are rather austere no-frills rooms with just the essentials and not a hint of colour. It's no frills, but neat and clean. Comfortable beds... Read our full review of Lodge 88.
Don’t let the name fool you, this is no stately country club, but it is Ranau’s best budget sleep, offering a range of bare-bones options from dorms to private rooms with both share or private bathrooms. For single travellers the air-con dorms are a great deal, as it’s likely during the week you’ll have it mostly to yourself. Solid wooden bunks offer a comfortable sleep in the... Read our full review of Ranau Country Lodge.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.