The truth is that when most consider planning a trip to Malaysia, many may not have Kota Kinabalu on the top of their bucket lists. Rather, they would most likely decide to embark on a city adventure to Kuala Lumpur or a historical trip to Malacca.
Why should you deprive yourself of a trip to the beautiful town of Kota Kinabalu? There is so much to explore, so much to do and you are almost guaranteed a fantastic time.
For an insight into what Kota Kinabalu offers, here are 18 Sights & Attractions Worth Booking A Trip To Kota Kinabalu RN. Time to get started on planning your itinerary!
ATKINSON CLOCK TOWER
If this is your first time visiting Kota Kinabalu, a visit to Atkinson Clock Tower is a must. Found at the foot of Signal Hill, the Atkinson Clock Tower is a 15.24 metres high wooden structure created in 1905 that survived the Allied bombing of Jesselton in 1945.
At present, the Atkinson Clock Tower is protected under the Sabah Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Enactment 1997 and its Antiquities and Treasure Trove Enactment 1977. Did you also know that the Atkinson Clock Tower is made entirely from wood and without any nails? It continues to keep the city’s time until today.
Atkinson Clock Tower
88400 Kota Kinabalu,
Tel: +60 88 212 121
Daily: Open throughout the day
Yes, now this is what beachgoers have been waiting for; the sun, the sand and the sea.
Kota Kinabalu is home to a multitude of excellent beaches that will be your dream getaway from home. Their beaches are also a popular tourist destination and they are known for leaving many in awe of mother nature’s beauty.
Some beaches that you can consider visiting include Tanjung Aru Beach, Police Beach in Gaya Island and Beach at Mamutik Island.
CHE SUI KHOR PAGODA
A 12-tiered pagoda located in the city of Kota Kinabalu, Che Sui Khor Pagoda is a majestic piece of architecture modelled after the Leifeng Pagoda in Hangzhou, China. Completed in 2006, the Che Sui Khor Pagoda was since given the nickname “Liu He” which translates to ‘peace, prosperity and harmony’.
The pagoda is currently under the care of the members of the Che Sui Khor Moral Uplifting Society which promotes understanding and tolerance between all major religions of the world.
One of the highly recommended things to do when in Kota Kinabalu is island hopping. This will allow you to gain a deeper appreciation of Kota Kinabalu and its surrounding islands and best of all, you will be able to get involved with exciting activities that include snorkelling, scuba diving, water sports and more.
Some islands that you should put into your itinerary include the Manukan Island, Sapi Island Mamutik Island and Sulug Island.
KLIAS WETLANDS RESERVE
If you are planning to spend more than 4 days in Kota Kinabalu, why not cater some time to take a trip out of the main town? Located approximately 110km south of Kota Kinabalu lies the Klias Wetland, a Mangrove Forest Reserve all nature lovers should visit.
For just a two-hour drive from the city, you will be treated to the sights of tree-dwelling animals, the orangutan and even the proboscis monkey. Other animals you may spot include macaques, crocodiles, monitor lizards and more. If you are lucky, you may catch a natural light show by hundreds of fireflies at the jetty!
Klias Wetland Reserve
Lot F-3-30, Tanjung Aru Plaza,
Jalan Mat Salleh, 8810 Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu,
Tel: +60 88 315 666
KOTA KINABALU CITY MOSQUE
Built atop a 2.47 acres site at Likas bay, the City Mosque is one stunning piece of architecture not to be missed. An exemplary example of contemporary Islamic architecture, the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque is currently the second main mosque in Kota Kinabalu.
The architectural design of the mosque drew inspiration from the Nabawi Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia, and the dome of the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque is blue and gold, as inspired by similar Arabic architecture.
One interesting activity that you can participate in at the mosque is their paddle boat rides. This gives visitors the opportunity to admire the mosque from the water—truly an experience like no other.
Kota Kinabalu City Mosque
Jalan Teluk Likas, Kampung LIkas, 88400 Kota Kinabalu,
Tel: +60 88 435 891
Sat to Thu: 8am – 5pm
KOTA KINABALU WETLAND CENTRE
If you are a nature or bird lover, you need to make a stop by the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre. As the last 24 hectares of the only remains of mangrove forest that once lined the coastal region of Kota Kinabalu, the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre is considered a key refuge and feeding ground for many species of resident and migratory birds.
Some common sightings here include the Little Egret, Striated Heron and Common Redshank. Others such as Lesser Adjutant Stork and Nankeen Night Heron have been sighted as well. What will you discover here?
Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre
Jalan Bukit Benderea Upper, Taman Likas, 88400 Kota Kinabalu,
Tel: +60 88 246 955
Tue to Sun: 8am – 6pm
LOH KAWI WILDLIFE PARK
The Loh Kawi Wildlife Park is just about an hour’s drive away from Kota Kinabalu, and a convenient option to experience Sabah’s creatures in their natural environment. The park comprises of 2 sections—zoological and botanical.
However, do take note that the animals are not kept in the best enclosures and there are certain touristy activities that animal lovers may not be comfortable with i.e. orangutans are made to peel coconuts for tourists.
Either way, if you do decide to drop by, do take note to bring along plenty of water, sun protection and snacks as there is no store within the park’s premises. Admission fee for an adult is RM$10 and for a non-Malaysian adult, RM$20.
Lok Kawi Wildlife Park
63 Jalan Penampang, 88200 Penampang,
Tel: +60 88 765 710 / +60 88 765 793
Daily: 9.30am – 5.30pm
MARI MARI CULTURAL VILLAGE
Mari Mari Cultural Village is nestled deep in the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle of Kota Kinabalu. But this is not just a village; it is a museum that seeks to preserve Borneo ethnic culture and share the knowledge, history, culture and tradition of Borneo with visitors.
There are 5 different ethnic tribes housed in one village, and this includes the famous and feared headhunting tribe, Murut.
Mari Mari Cultural Village
Inanm, 88450 Kota Kinabalu,
Tel: +60 13 881 4921
Daily: 10am – 10pm
MONSOPIAD CULTURAL VILLAGE
Tucked away beside the Penampang River is the Monsopiad Cultural Village, which is a living museum comprising of many traditional buildings that all culture enthusiasts will go crazy over. Just a half an hour drive away from the city centre, this is a must-do for those who want to learn about the Kadazandusun culture in just under half a day.
During your visit, do drop by the Tangkok or Grainery as well as the Kotos Di Monsopiad or Monsopiad’s Main House, which is dedicated to the history and life of Monsopiad and his descendants. Other attractions worth your time include the Siou Do Mohoing or the House of Skulls—not one for the faint-hearted as you would be viewing 42 ‘trophies’ i.e. skulls, hanging from the rafters of the premises.
Monsopiad Cultural Village
Kampung Kuai Kandazon, Peti Surat 740 Malaysia,
Penampang, 89507 Kota Kinabalu,
Tel: +60 11 1419 6484
Daily: 9am – 5pm
If you love hiking and are up for the challenge, why not try scaling Mount Kinabalu? Protected as Kinabalu Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, Mount Kinabalu claims the title as the highest peak in Borneo’s Crocker Range and the highest mountain in the Malay Archipelago and Malaysia.
Before you decide to climb up this mountain, it is advised that you do your research in advance with regard to the weather conditions during your trip and if there are any other vital pieces of information you need to bear in mind. Remember, safety is key.
MUSEUM OF ISLAMIC CIVILISATION
For a deeper appreciation of Muslim culture and Malaysian history, a trip to the Museum of Islamic Civilisation would be a good choice. Consisting of six galleries, exploration of the entire museum will take you about a good one to two hours.
Upon reaching the museum, you would also notice that there are five domes included in the museum’s architecture, which actually represent the Five Pillars of Islam i.e. the five basic acts in Islam which form the foundation of the religion.
Museum of Islamic Civilisation
Jalan Menteri, 88300 Kota Kinabalu,
Tel: +60 88 538 234
Sat to Thu: 9am – 5pm
NORTH BORNEO RAILWAY TOUR
Albeit not a tourist destination per se, the North Borneo Railway tour would be a good option if you are looking for an easygoing day of fun. The railway runs 36 miles between Kota Kinabalu and Papar, an agricultural town that is regarded as the rice bowl of Sabah.
It features a British Vulcan steam locomotive and passengers will be greeted by the beauty of the countryside and the gorgeous Sabah landscape. There will also be multiple pit-stops along the countryside (Yes, many #OOTD opportunities), a visit to the local wet market and more.
Prices start at S$153 per person, with a minimum of two to go.
OCEANUS WATERFRONT MALL
It never hurts to say yes to a little retail therapy. Take a break from all the hiking, nature trails and scenic views in exchange for the wonderful, welcoming Oceanus Waterfront Mall. Found right beside The Waterfront Kota Kinabalu, Oceanus Waterfront Mall officially opened its doors to the public on 15 December 2014.
With more than 200 outlets in this 4-storey complex, you will be able to find both international and local brands here. Visitors also have the opportunity to dine in alfresco settings, coffee houses and indulge in entertainment and recreational activities.
Oceanus Waterfront Mall
Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen, Kota Kinabalu,
Tel: +60 88 274 333
Daily: 10am – 10pm
PUH TOH TZE BUDDHIST TEMPLE
Built in 1980, Puh Toh Tze Temple is an excellent place to visit for a taste of Sabah’s multiculturalism. Located just off Tuaran Road, this temple is identified by its traditional Chinese roofing and structure.
There are ten large statues of deities lining the stone staircase pavilion of the temple and the Goddess of Mercy, Kwan Yin, stands tall at the main entrance of the temple. Admission to the temple is free.
Puh Toh Tze Buddhist Temple
Tel: +60 88 212 121
SABAH STATE MOSQUE
Another place to add on your architectural trail is the Sabah State Mosque, another outstanding piece of architecture in Kota Kinabalu. Just a stone’s throw away from the city centre, the mosque is a unique harmony of both Islamic architecture and contemporary design.
Do note that visitors are advised to abide by the dress code when visiting this place—as with all places of worship. Visitation on Fridays is also not recommended as it is the day of prayer for Muslims.
Sabah State Mosque
Jalan Tunku, Abdul Rahman, 88100 Kota Kinabalu,
Mon to Thu: 8am – 12pm, 2pm – 5pm
Fri: 2pm – 5pm
Sat & Sun: 8am – 12pm, 2pm – 5pm
SABAH STATE MUSEUM
Located just off Jalan Penampang, Sabah Museum Kota Kinabalu is surrounded by lush gardens and houses the Main Building, Science and Technology Centre, Heritage Village, Ethno-Botanical Garden and the Sabah Islamic Civilization within its premises.
The museum was built in 1985 and it is one of the best places for tourists to experience different types of traditional housings of the various indigenous groups of Sabah. However, do note that picture-taking is not permitted within the buildings.
Sabah State Museum
Jalan Muzium, 88300 Kota Kinabalu,
Tel: +60 88 253 199 / +60 88 263 551
Daily: 9am – 5pm
SIGNAL HILL OBSERVATORY PLATFORM
After visiting and taking part in all the above-mentioned sights and attractions in Kota Kinabalu, finish off your time in this town with an eagle’s eye view of the city.
At Signal Hill Observatory Platform, this is one of the best places to view Kota Kinabalu in its full glory as it is the highest point in the city. Just a couple minutes by car from Padang Merdeka, you will be in for breathtaking views of the city that extend to the outlying islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park and more.
Signal Hill Observatory Platform
Jalan Bukit Bendera, 88400 Kota Kinabalu,
Daily: 8am – 12am