Kota Kinabalu is the capital city and the main gateway to Sabah. Kota Kinabalu City is compact and you can easily explore the city by foot. We recommend you to spend 3 days 2-night in the city and if you can take a day trip away from Kota Kinabalu if you have additional days. To give you an idea what to do in Kota Kinabalu City Center, we compile a sample 4 days 3 Nights stay in Kota Kinabalu City.
To start exploring Kota Kinabalu City, make sure you download our Kota Kinabalu Food Trail Map. Physical copy of the Map is available at Sabah Tourism Board, Hotels, Cafe and KKIA Arrival Hall.
Arrived in Kota Kinabalu and checked into Hotel. Take some rest and start exploring the city. You can take a walk around Kota Kinabalu City center and wait for the sunset. Sunset at Kota Kinabalu Waterfront Relax by the seaside at Kota Kinabalu Waterfront area and enjoy the beautiful sunset view. Kota Kinabalu is voted as top 10 places to watch the sunset and you will surely love the beautiful sunset color while enjoying a glass of wine or cocktail.
IloveKK sign at Todak Waterfront. Another great location to watch the sunset in Kota Kinabalu City Center.
Dinner at D Place Kinabalu
Looking to experience local dish of KadasanDusun tribe of Sabah. Head to Plaza Shell and have your dinner at D Place Kinabalu. Enjoy a wide spread of Buffet showcasing the KadazanDusun tribe of Sabah. You can also enjoy the cultural performances during the dinner which is included in the buffet price.
Explore Gaya Street Sunday Market (only on Sunday)
If you visit Kota Kinabalu on Sunday, explore the Sunday Market at Gaya Street. You can find a good variety of handicraft and souvenirs. You can also find local fruits and vegetables. Gaya Street market open from 6am to 12pm.
Breakfast at local coffee shop around Gaya Street
After a walk around Gaya Street, drop by the local coffee shops and try some of the famous local dishes famous for the tourists and the locals. One of the most popular Coffee Shop is Yee Fung which is famous for their Laksa.
Chicken Rice and Fried Durian Puff at Fong Ip
Kota Kinabalu City tour
After exploring the city area, you can join the City tour by the local travel agent or you can also do the tour on your own using Uber/Grab/Taxi.
City Tour: Atkinson Clock Tower
The first stop for Kota Kinabalu City tour is visiting Atkinson Clock Tower. Atkinson Clock Tower is the oldest standing structure in Kota Kinabalu (over 100 years) built in the memory of Francis George Atkinson, Jesselton’s first district officer. The Clock Tower is located at the edge of Kota Kinabalu City and used to function as the reference for ships.
City Tour: Signal Hill Observatory Platform
Located at Signal Hill and 5 minutes drive away from the City, You can enjoy the beautiful view of Kota Kinabalu City from Signal Hill Observatory Platform. There is a stair leading to SIgnal Hill Observatory near Jalan Dewan Area should you decide to trek up to SIgnal Hill Observatory Platform.
City Tour: Kota Kinabalu City Mosque
Kota Kinabalu City Mosque, also known as floating Mosque is one of the most popular landmarks in Kota Kinabalu. The mosque sits alongside Likas Bay, 5 minutes drive away from City Center and It is partially surrounded by a human-made lagoon. The Kota Kinabalu City Mosque is the 2nd main Mosque in Kota Kinabalu and has a capacity of 12000 at any one time.
Non-Muslim visitors can only enter the mosque when prayers are over and they must be appropriately dressed. That means no sleeveless shirts, shorts or skimpy clothing. But, if you have come ill-prepared, as we did, headscarves and robes can be borrowed from the Information Counter in front of the Mosque.
City Tour: Tun Mustapha Tower (Sabah Foundation Building)
Tun Mustapha Tower, or better known as Yayasan Sabah used to be the tallest building in Kota Kinabalu.
City Tour: Sabah State Administrative Center
Sabah State Administrative center is located next to Tun Mustapha Tower and it is also the tallest building in Sabah.
City Tour: Puh Toh Tze temple
Puh Toh Tze temple is a Buddhist temple located at Tuaran Road. A 10-meter tall, 30000-pound Goddess of Mercy statue standing tall at the main entrance.
Lunch at Tuaran Mee Restaurant
Tuaran Mee originated from Tuaran Town is one of the most popular noodles in Sabah. Tuaran Mee is usually fried and serve with Chun Kien slice (Sabah Hakka Spring roll), Char siu and Vegetable. While Tuaran Mee is originated from Tuaran Town, there are coffee shops around Kota Kinabalu serving good Tuaran Mee. One of the good place to have Tuaran Mee isat Tuaran Mee Restaurant at Inanam.
Afternoon Tea at Jalan Dewan
Jalan Dewan is located conveniently near Gaya Street, right at the edge of KK City. The Street used to be a printer street where all the printers located but with the booming of KK as a tourist city and high rental, the printers move out from the area and Cafes start moving in.
Discover Cafe at Jalan Dewan
Sunset at Sunset Bar, Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa
Kota Kinabalu is renowned for its sunset and one of the most popular spot to watch the sunset is Sunset Bar at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa. The Sunset Bar is located in a small peninsular attached to the resort.
Sunset at Tanjung Aru Beach
Another famous spot to enjoy sunset is at Tanjung Aru Beach. The Beach is open for public and you can walk on the beach from one end to another end.
Dinner at Lucy’s Kitchen KGC
After enjoying the sunset at Tanjung Aru Beach, you can take a visit to Lucy’s Kitchen for dinner. Lucy’s Kitchen served a wide variety of Malaysian Food at reasonable price
If you want to have seafood for dinner, head to Asia City area and dine in one of the many Seafood Restaurants. One of the most famous restaurants for Seafood is Welcome Seafood.
After spending 1 full day in the city area, you can consider taking a day trip to nearby island or activities. Start your day with local foods at Coffee Shop in the city area. Indian Food is one of the popular food in Malaysia and you can enjoy Banana Leaf Rice or Roti Canai for breakfast.
Option 1: Cooking class
If you want to learn more about Sabah’s food culture, join one of the many cooking class offers by the travel agent. We visited Borneo Cooking Class by Top Peak Travel with our friend from Japan previously and we have
Option 2: Island Hopping
Another popular day trip is Island hopping at Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. The Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park comprises a group of 5 islands located between 3 and 8 km off Kota Kinabalu. There are 3 official Jetty at Kota Kinabalu City which is located at:
- Jesselton Point
- Sutera Harbour Marina Jetty
- STAR Marina at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa
Day trip: Other options
If you are not into cooking or sea, you can also join other popular tours such as a visit to Kota Kinabalu National Park and Kundasang, River Cruise at Klias, a day trip to Sandakan to meet the famous Orang Utan and Proboscis Monkey
Sunset Cruise on North Borneo Cruises
On the last day in Kota Kinabalu, see the beautiful sunset of Kota Kinabalu from the sea. North Borneo Cruises offers scenic cruises around Kota Kinabalu complete with lavish dinners and buffet meals. The cruise will take you pass by water villages and Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine park, enjoy the sunset while enjoying the buffet meal.
Cruise alongside Kota Kinabalu City shoreline on board North Borneo Cruises. Dinner with Bah Kut Teh
If you still have space for more food, head to Gaya Street and have Bak Kut Teh for dinner (Non-halal). The 2 famous Bak Kut Teh in Kota Kinabalu City are Yu Kee Bak Kut Teh at Jalan Gaya and SIn Kee Bak Kut Teh at Jalan Pantai
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