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10 Things to Do in Kinabalu 2024

10 Things To Do in Kinabalu

Once known as Jesselton, Kota Kinabalu has grown from a humble fishing village to being Sabah’s bustling, commercial capital city. Luxurious shopping malls dot its landscapes and a new cultural scene is set to take centre stage in a few years. Despite all of these, Kota Kinabalu is still one of the most versatile vacation hot spots catering to the different needs of every travellers, from family, business to adventurers.

What To Do in Kota Kinabalu

1. Explore Kota Kinabalu city centre and nightlife

Every city boasts its own city life and nightlife culture, and Kota Kinabalu is no different. Head down to the city centre and you’ll see what we mean.

Starting from the beautiful floating city mosque, Masjid Bandaraya, located in the city centre, the mosque is built with splendid soaring minarets and stand majestically resembling the Holy mosque of Medina.

Just 10 minutes from the mosque, you will be able to visit the popular Filipino Handicraft Market. Stroll through the different sections and purchase local souvenirs such as clothings, wood carvings and snacks at affordable rates. Make sure you have polished your bargaining skills before entering this market.

For art and culture, get creatively inspired at The Art Attic, located on Lorong Dewan. The Art Attic is a curated lifestyle marketplace and cafe featuring selected craft goods, furniture, clothing, homeware, gifts and fine art from local Sabahans. It also conducts workshops where you can work with your hands and learn candle-making amongst other crafts. 

Another creative space is Tao Art Studio where handcrafted pottery workshops are conducted and you can bring home a customised pottery of your own creation besides the therapeutic educational experience.

By evening time, start your night with a variety of the freshest Sabahan seafood delicacies on offer and eat to your heart’s content! After the delicious and satisfying seafood dinner, if you are craving for a pint with a few friends or wanting to dance the night away, the many bars and clubs at KK Waterfront certainly won’t disappoint.

2. Snorkel, dive and relax at Kota Kinabalu Islands

Visiting Kota Kinabalu islands is surely one of every travellers’ bucket list to do, and to start off your island exploration, Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (TARP Islands) is definitely a safe bet. Comprised of 5 Islands namely, Manukan, Sapi, Mamutik, Gaya, and Sulug, you can enjoy a variety kinds of water activities such as snorkeling, diving, trekking, hiking, jetski, parasailing and many more water sports.

Other than TARP islands, you might also want to explore other pristine islands such as, Mantanani, Pulau Tiga or the private Ara Dinawan Island.

3. Catch a sight on one of world’s best sunsets

Let’s not forget that the city also boasts a reputation for being one of the world’s Eight Great Places to Watch The Sunset (Huffpost). Visit Tanjung Aru beach during golden hours and get ready to be stunned. Stroll through the beach while watching the sunset touches the sea.

Alternatively, hop on to the sunset dinner cruise to watch this gorgeous sunset from the sea or go for a staycation at Sutera Harbour Resort to get this amazing view from the sunset bar.

4. Go for an adventurous white water rafting

Watch out adrenaline-junkies out there!

Kota Kinabalu rivers provide you a diverse rapids suited to every kind of adventurers of differing abilities and fitness level, from the rapids for leisure travellers to the rapids that challenge even the most fearless.

Some of the best locations to go white water rafting are the longest and most popular, Kiulu river (Grade 1-2); the newest attraction, Kadamaian river (Grade 1-2); and the most challenging, Padas river (Grade 3-4), where you can also experience riding on an old diesel train from Beaufort to Pangi.

5. Proboscis Monkeys & Fireflies sightings on a river cruise

Sabah is blessed with abundance of river systems along with Borneo’s most unique species and endemic wildlife. In Kota Kinabalu, you can grab the opportunity to spot long-tailed macaques, rare silvery langurs and of course the Proboscis Monkeys – which can only be found right here in Borneo by joining a relaxing river cruise.

Some of the renowned river cruises places in Kota Kinabalu are Klias, Kawa Kawa and Weston Wetland, also known as “The Little Kinabatangan” River Cruises. When you are onboard these cruises during evening time, fireflies will entice you for a magical display of twinkling lights to lead your way along the river. 

6. Learn About Sabah’s Culture at Cultural Villages

Aside from its beautiful city, mountain and islands, Kota Kinabalu is a perfect city to gain insight on Sabah’s heritage in the form of cultural villages. Some popular and unique cultural villages are Mari Mari Cultural Village, KDCA Cultural Village and Walai Tobilung. These villages aim to share the knowledge, history, and traditions of Bornean ethnic culture in the form of a live museum, ensuring that the traditional way of life will never be forgotten.

At Mari Mari Cultural Village, you can enjoy activities from rice-wine making to blow-pipe shooting and fire-starting, as well as sampling Sabahan delicacies and snacks while watching traditional performance.

For KDCA Cultural Village, it is highly recommended to visit during Kaamatan (Harvest) festival, an annual major festival celebrated widely by the locals in Sabah during the whole month of May.

Situated at Kampung Minansad, Walai Tobilung is one of the last place displaying and preserving the culture of Tobilung tribe. Witness the native’s way of living by visiting their traditional houses decorated with ancient paintings, crafts and tools. You may also sign up to see the Bobolian Ritual Show, one of the near extinct spiritual ceremony in Sabah.

7. Climb Mount Kinabalu

For adventurers alike, climbing Mount Kinabalu is always one of the top bucket list activities in Sabah. Not only it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its wealth of flora and fauna, but also recorded as Malaysia’s tallest mountain. Towering at 4,095.2 metres above sea level, Mount Kinabalu is no small feat to climb. This is why, a minimum of 2-day hike with a one night stay at Panalaban Basecamp is required for climbers to take a rest before reaching the summit.

Avid climbers can also try the World’s highest via ferrata (Low’s Peak Circuit or Walk The Torq) where you would descend back using the challenging ‘iron road’ (pathway consisting ladder, bridges, cables with special equipments).

Nevertheless, climbing Mount Kinabalu is worth conquering due to the rewarding sight of breathtaking scenery when you arrive at the Low’s Peak Summit.

8. Explore Kundasang

A trip to Kota Kinabalu will not be complete without stopping by Kundasang Town. It is located in the highlands of Ranau, near Kinabalu Park, just below Malaysia’s tallest mountain, Mount Kinabalu. The place is well known for its cooling weather and countless of popular attractions from Nabalu Handicraft & Souvenir Market with an open viewing platform and one of the best scenic views of Mount Kinabalu, to Desa Cattle Dairy Farm where you can enjoy the fresh milk or gelato in the cool air, as well as the Alpaca Club, home to the first and only alpacas in Sabah – spend an afternoon hand feeding these adorable animals.

Kundasang has managed to build a reputation of its own and attracts thousands of tourists all year round. It is a destination that is perfect for anyone looking for stunning scenery, culture, history, and unique Malaysian delicacies.

9. Try your hands at arts and crafts in Kota Kinabalu  

Channel your inner Picasso and spend a relaxing afternoon creating new arts and crafts. Bring along your family and friends to make your own scented candles, or tap into the traditional art of batik and create your own handkerchief and scarf with a painting that is uniquely yours! If you want to create a personalised gift for your loved ones, you can also try the pottery class or the leather keychain workshop and bring back the finished art as a present. 

You do not need prior experience to join any of these! An instructor will be with you throughout the class, teaching and assisting you in creating your masterpiece. Besides that, all equipment and materials needed are provided, so all you need to do is come and enjoy yourself becoming an artist for the day! 

10. Explore Tuaran Countryside on a Bike and Kayak

Just 34 kilometres (40 minutes) from the city centre, you will be able to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of Kota Kinabalu countryside at Tuaran. Ride out the hustle and bustle of the city while passing through the rustic villages, local market, fruit farms, suspension bridge and beautiful waterways. And of course, this activity can be enjoyed by cyclists of all ages (as long as you are fit for cycling).

Another way to enjoy the beautiful countryside scene is by kayaking through Serusup Bay with Tembara Kayak. Whether you are going for its morning or sunset session, you will always be in awe by its lush mangrove forest. This activity is perfect for adventurers looking for a good workout without going too far away.

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