There are places in the world that will not immediately strike you as beautiful. You have to immerse yourself in these kinds of places to appreciate its hidden charm. One such place is the coastal city of Kota Kinabalu, located in the state of Sabah in Malaysia.
It may not be instantly recognizable when you set foot on this place, but Kota Kinabalu has it all: from mountains to sunny beaches to friendly residents who have a very interesting culture. There are also things to do in Kota Kinabalu for everybody: food enthusiasts, trekkers, beach bums or just casual tourists who want to get a glimpse of Malaysian culture in this city rich in cultural and natural resources.
Things to do in Kota Kinabalu
Here are some suggested things to do in Kota Kinabalu, depending on your interests, with some tips on how best to enjoy these activities.
1. Conquer Mount Kinabalu
Conquering this 4,095-meter World Heritage Site is one of the most challenging things to do in Kota Kinabalu. The hike to the summit is said to be relatively easy, with some experienced hikers being able to reach it within a day. For those who are just new to hiking, it is suggested that the hike be scheduled for three days, to allow the body to acclimatize. Casual tourists can also to the botanical garden at the mountain’s base.
2. Witness cultural diversity at the Mari Mari Cultural Village
The best way to appreciate a place is to learn its ethnic culture. A visit to the Mari Mari Cultural Village is therefore a worthwhile thing to do in Kota Kinabalu. This village is located at a forest area where five ethnic communities present in Sabah are showcased: the rice farmers of Dusun, the sea gypsies of Bajau, the fishermen of Lundayeh, the builders of Rungus and the hunters of Murut. Here you can learn about where they live and how they live, from their cooking practices to their traditional attires.
3. Get a glimpse of ancient history at the Sabah Museum
Another knowledge-filled thing to do in Kota Kinabalu, especially if you are a history buff, is to visit the Sabah Museum. This place provides a good introduction about Sabah’s ethnicities and environments, and is conveniently located at the heart of Kota Kinabalu. Expect to see traditional tribal dwellings and a rich collection of ancient artefacts.
4. Marvel at the beauty of the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque
One of the things that should also be definitely included in your list of things to do in Kota Kinabalu is a visit to the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque. It is one of the grandest structures in the city, and is particularly beautiful during sunsets. With a small manmade body of water at its back, it also creates an illusion that this is a floating mosque.
5. Get a bird’s eye view of the city at the Signal Hill Observatory
If you want a panoramic view of the city, then going to this area is perfect thing to do in Kota Kinabalu. It will just take 10 minutes to go up the stairs of this area, and you will be rewarded with majestic views of the city.
6. Island hop at the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
Of course, your list of things to do in Kota Kinabalu will not be complete without visiting the beautiful nearby islands. A good starting point is the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, which is just a 15- to 30-minute boat ride from Kota Kinabalu. From here, you can hop to at least five other islands: Gaya, Sapi, Manukan, Mamutik and Sulug.
7. Appreciate religion at the Che Sui Khor Moral Uplifting Society
Also a rewarding thing to do in Kota Kinabalu is to visit the Che Sui Khor Moral Society. The centerpiece of this place is an 11-storey pagoda which shimmers in orange and green. The goal of this place is to showcase the best of what four different religions—Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam—have to offer.
8. Cruise down the Klias Wetlands River
This interesting thing to do in Kota Kinabalu will definitely appeal to nature lovers. Spend a relaxing afternoon cruising down the mangrove area of the Klias Wetlands River, where you can get a glimpse of unique fauna like the long tail macaques and the elusive Proboscis monkey.
9. Learn more about Islam at the Islamic Civilization Museum
If you’re having a slow afternoon, then strolling through the Islamic Civilization Museum can be an enriching thing to do in Kota Kinabalu. The museum has six galleries that offer insights on Muslim culture as well as Malaysian history.
10. Indulge in the multicultural local cuisine
Because of the city’s multiculturalism, a food trip is definitely a must-do thing in Kota Kinabalu. Indulge in a great mix of Malaysian and Chinese cuisines at the night markets. You can also get some good seafood at the SEDCO Square.
There are so many things to do in Kota Kinabalu. You just have to take your time and appreciate its hidden beauty, found from the mountains to the seas.
Feature Image Credit: Xiquinho Silva