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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.

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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 sun dips below the horizon. Find yourself a good position, grab a cocktail and sit back and watch the show. Here are some of our favourite spots.

Sunset Bar at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort
Sunset Bar at Tanjung Aru Beach is one of the more expensive and crowded sunset viewing options. Non-guests pay an entry free of 25 ringgit, which includes a drink from a small selection. Seating is ‘restricted view’. To get a full-view seat, there is a 60 ringgit minimum spend, which isn’t too difficult to hit here with beers 25-35 ringgit and cocktails around 35 ringgit. A selection of bar snacks such as chicken wings, satay and mini burgers range from 35 to 50 ringgit. Some evenings they have live jazz. Get here early for a good seat at this popular bar.

A number 16 bus from Warasan terminal will drop you near Tanjung Aru beach (1.5 ringgit), then it’s a 15-minute walk to the resort. A taxi from the city is about 25 ringgit.

Sky Blu Bar at Hotel Grandis
Sky Blu Bar on the outdoor rooftop of Hotel Grandis is an excellent viewpoint, located next to Jesselton pier. A small swimming pool is available for use by outside guests if you eat and drink at the bar. It’s the best pool deal in town so you can make an afternoon of it. The menu is a little more substantial than just bar snacks and includes soups, salads, curries and noodle dishes at 16 to 25 ringgit. Wine by the glass is 25 ringgit and cocktails 27-35 ringgit.

KK Waterfront
KK Waterfront is a multicultural mix of bars at the southern end of Kota Kinabalu. Irish bar, Aussie Bar, Indian bar, Korean bar, Karaoke bar, Italian bar — take your pick (OK, some of these are restaurants, but all are good for having a drink and watching the sunset). The Aussie Bar has the cleanest toilets. If your sunset continues into the night, the popular Bed nightclub is just behind.

Jesselton Point
If you’ve spent the day over on the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, hang around Jesselton Point on your return. Several cafes and restaurants have tables outside in prime viewing positions, or just wander to the end of the pier looking back as the city is cast in an orange glow.

Signal Hill Observatory Tower
Signal Hill (Bukit Bendera) requires a little more energy to get to. The highest point in town can be reached via a jungle pathway from Australia Place. Two routes, one longer route behind Lucy’s Homestay, and the other 250 metre path behind Green Hotel, both require climbing a lot of stairs. Don’t worry if you think you are having visions at the top — the aliens haven’t landed, it’s the UFO shaped observatory tower. KK View Cafe next to the tower is open daily 09:00-23:00. A public toilet is available for 0.30 ringgit. If you don’t feel like walking, a taxi fare is about 15 ringgit from the city.

Sunset Point, Pulau Manukan
The island of Pulau Manukan in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park has a spot so good for sunset viewing they named it Sunset Point. Unfortunately, the only way you can view sunset is to stay overnight, as the last boat leaves at 17:00. The only accommodation on Pulau Manukan is 800 ringgit per night Manukan Island Resort. To get to sunset point, it’s a 1,500 metre undulating paved path from the jetty.

Sunset Bar at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort: 20 Jalan Aru, Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu; T: (088) 327 888;; open daily 14:00-23:00.
Sky Blu Bar at Hotel Grandis: Suria Sabah Shopping Mall 1, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens, Kota Kinabalu; T: (088) 522 888;;; open daily 11:00-24:00.
KK Waterfront: Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen, Kota Kinabalu
Cock & Bull Bistro: Lot 3, Anjung Samudra, The Waterfront, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen, Kota Kinabalu, T: (088) 250 982;; open daily 15:00-01:00.
Kohinoor: Lot 4, Anjung Samudra, The Waterfront, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen, Kota Kinabalu, T: (088) 235 160;; open daily 11:00-14:30, 17:30-23:00.
The Aussie Barbecue and Bar: Lot 5, Anjung Samudra, The Waterfront, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen, Kota Kinabalu, T: (088) 243 449; open daily 11:00-02:00.
The Shamrock Irish Bar: Lot 6, Anjung Samudra, The Waterfront, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen, Kota Kinabalu, T: (088) 249 829; open daily: 12:00-01:30.
Gusto Food & Wine: Lot 17, Anjung Samudra, The Waterfront, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen, Kota Kinabalu, T: (016) 824 1829; open daily 11:00-23:00.
Jesselton Point: Lorong Satu, Kota Kinabalu; T: (088) 235 787;; open daily 11:00-24:00.
Signal Hill Observatory Tower: Jalan Bukit Bendera, Kota Kinabalu
KK View Cafe: Jalan Bukit Bendera, Kota Kinabalu;; open daily 11:00-23:00.
Sunset Point, Pulau Manukan, Manukan Island Resort: T: (088) 487 466;

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Kota Kinabalu.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Kota Kinabalu.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Kota Kinabalu.
 Read up on how to get to Kota Kinabalu.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Kota Kinabalu? Please read this.
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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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