Kota Kinabalu is in the island of Borneo and the capital of Sabah, Malaysia.
It is a major tourist destination primarily for its mountain, Mt. Kinabalu, which, at over 4,000 meters, is the highest peak in Southeast Asia.
For a weekend trip, however, climbing the mountain may not be a practical option. (Besides, it is so expensive to climb there!) Here are a few things to do in one of the fastest growing cities in Malaysia.
Enjoying Nature at Kinabalu National Park, Malaysia
The Kinabalu National Park surrounds the mountain and is easily accessible from town. It surrounds Mt. Kinabalu at over 700sqm big and offers a lot to local and foreign visitors.
As Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site, Kinabalu Park is called a botanical paradise. Most visitors who come to this site don’t climb all the way to the peak—there are enough things to do inside the park for days.
Among the attractions offered by the Park includes guided trail walks with an opportunity to see Sabah’s rare flora and fauna, swimming at the Poring Hot Springs, visiting the Butterfly Farm, and if one is lucky, maybe even a glimpse of the rafflesia, the world’s biggest (and extremely rare) flower.
To go there, it is best to arrange transport and accommodation from travel agencies in town.
Diving and Island Hopping the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Malaysia
This marine park is composed of five islands a few minutes’ speedboat ride from the town of Kota Kinabalu. These are Pulau Gaya, Manukan, Sapi, Mamutik, and Sulug.
Hiking, swimming, and boating are among the best things that these islands could offer. Waters are shallow and the coral gardens boast of varied marine life, making these the perfect sites for diving and snorkeling.
There are many authorized dive centers in KK, and they offer services ranging from arranging dive trips, to introductory dives, open water/advanced courses, and scuba equipment rental as well.
Due to the island’s accessibility, island hopping daytrips are a favorite tourist attraction. Numerous tour operators in Kota Kinabalu arrange such trips although it is also possible to just get a ticket at the Jesselton Port to anywhere in the islands.
Food Tripping and Other Things to Do in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
The town also is known as well for its cuisine, especially for their fresh seafood dishes. However, one can also find the influence of several cultures in KK’s food industry. There are a host of Chinese, Indian, and Malay restaurants all over town, not to mention the numerous kedai kopis (coffee shops) scattered all over the place.
For those who like shopping, there is the Filipino Market at the harbor. Every Sunday as well, there is a Sunday Market along Gaya Street that is famous for its variety of goods on sale.
Located in the backpacker district, the whole Gaya Street is closed to traffic. All sorts of goods are on display from fruits and vegetables, to lucky charms and clothes, pet dogs and cats, food, home decorations, souvenir items, and even Chinese medicine and local handicrafts. The market opens early at 7am and packs up around noon.
There are More to See in Sabah
If one has more than a weekend to spend in Malaysia, it would be worthwhile to explore Borneo outside of Kota Kinabalu. There are mountain treks, whitewater rafting activities, and exploration of Sabah’s eco-treasures. (I arranged my whitewater rafting trip to Padas Gorge through the hostel I stayed in, Borneo Backpackers, which is near Gaya St.)
No matter how short the time spent in Sabah, however, every visitor is assured of a good and fun time in such a timeless place!
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