Kota Kinabalu, widely known as ‘KK’, is a buzzing gateway to nearby tropical islands and the ever-popular Mount Kinabalu. But stop to take a break here and you’ll quickly fall under the spell of this charming and lively capital situated on the northwest coast of Borneo.
Kota Kinabalu is perhaps best know for its natural wonders and population of wild orangutans. But this seaside city also delivers an enjoyable nightlife experience and a sensational open-air night food market – the perfect place to chow down on freshly prepared seafood alongside the friendly locals.
Hop in a cab and head south of the city centre to Sabah Museum where you’ll get an excellent insight into the culture and history of this region. The museum houses many fascinating historical and tribal artefacts and, outside in the heritage village, traditional houses are open for visitors to explore.
Don’t forget to take some time to visit Kota Kinabalu’s orangutans. Lok Kawi Wildlife Park houses orangutans, along with other exotic animals, in a zoo environment. Alternatively a full day tour to the Sandakan Sepilok Orangutan rehabilitation centre is a great way to see orangutans in their natural environment.
Take a day trip away from the bustle of Kota Kinabalu and into rural Sabah to visit this interactive cultural village. Adults and children alike will enjoy learning about the indigenous ethnic groups of Borneo and seeing how they lived before the days of electricity. Taste traditional wine and foods and try your hand at playing the Murut warrior pipe.
Eat and Drink
Kota Kinabalu’s night market is the place to be for dinner in KK. Located near Le Meridien Hotel, this lively open-air eating hub sets up shop in the early evening and serves authentic cuisine from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and China. Enjoy fresh local seafood cooked on-site and take in the festive buzz of the locals and tourists who flock here for delicious cheap eats.
As far as nightlife goes, you’ll find bars, pubs and clubs along the Kota Kinabalu waterfront and within Times Square. Settle in for a quiet drink in a relaxed atmosphere or get set for a raucous night of dancing until the wee hours – the choice is yours.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of resorts and hotels centrally located near the Kota Kinabalu waterfront, which will keep you close to the action. For a quieter, more up-market experience – not to mention harbour, island or tropical views – stay a little further out from the centre at one of the plush 5-star resorts that fringe the city. Golf the day away on a championship course, take a sunset cruise, pamper yourself with a spa treatment or just kick back and enjoy a cocktail in your little piece of paradise.
Shop for souvenirs and mementos at the Handicraft Market that runs along the waterfront (Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen). This is the place to sharpen your bargaining skills and browse through a lovely range of sarongs, textiles, pearls, jewellery, woodcarvings, ceramics, woven crafts and trinkets galore.
If you want a taste of a local mall, shop up a storm for big name brands in fashion, cosmetics, toys, electronics and more at Imago Times Square, which is just one of the many shopping centres you’ll find around town.
Kota Kinabalu Like a Local
If you want to experience KK like a local, you’ve got to eat like a local. Try Kon Lau Mee, a popular egg noodle dish served with your choice of pork or chicken. Then sample a bowl of fragrant Tom Yam seafood noodle soup. Neither dish will disappoint.
Catch a sunset with the locals down at the boardwalk or, for something a little more adventurous, head to the Sabah Indoor Climbing Centre where you’ll find locals (and tourists in the know) scaling the colourful walls.