Kota Kinabalu

88° - January
88° - February
89° - March
91° - April
91° - May
90° - June
90° - July
90° - August
89° - September
89° - October
89° - November
88° - December
Dec avg
Avg Hotel
Est. Airfare

Best Known For


KK is on the Malaysian island of Borneo and lies by the coast overlooking South Chine Sea. This prime real estate, with its lush rain forests, has been growing in population like wildfire as people try desperately to get land before it's all gone. This has made for a melting pot of cultures. Most of the city speaks at least basic English, and many of the residence speak Chinese, as well, which makes traveling to Kota Kinabalu relatively easy despite its foreign feel. There is no shortage of things to do in KK, especially when it comes to activities that involve water. From deep sea fishing to cruises and rafting, visitors can embrace Kota Kinabalu's natural habitat and may even catch glimpses of wild monkeys or other jungle animals. Diving and snorkeling is extremely popular along the beautiful coast and it's made even more interesting by World War II wrecks that are accessible for scuba diving. If you prefer to be educated on "the wild" from a slightly more comfortable distance, wildlife parks, zoos, aquariums, and professional guided nature tours might be the way to go. As with any good island vacation, the shopping and eating are experiences all their own. Bargaining for good prices on handicrafts and pearls makes for a fun afternoon at the market. Likewise, trying to choose where to eat in this melting pot of a city will not be easy when you're trying to choose between Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese, Filipino, or European food, or even something that combines all 30 ethnic groups present on the island.
Photo Credit: Jon Ng
Photo Credit: Martin Boulanger

SE Asia Like Never Before

Welcome to an exquisite slice of Southeast Asia you don’t want to miss!

Kota Kinabalu, also known as KK, is the quintessential off-the-beaten-path adventure for any travel junkie. From the freshest seafood to underwater explorations and the daringly majestic Mt. Kinabalu, you’ll be happy you wandered off the well-worn Asian travel circuit and into Malaysian Borneo.

A few “musts” for an incredible adventure:

• Grab your flippers and head 20-minutes off the coast by ferry through the sparking turquoise waters of the South China Sea. Dive, snorkel, swim and soak up the rays beach-side on any one of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park’s five islands. The islands also offer lush jungle hikes and camping under a beautiful, unpolluted, star-studded sky.
• Head to the ‘old bus station’ and hop on a local mini-bus (or charter your own transportation) to conquer the granite rooftop of Mt. Kinabalu. At just over 4,000m, it is Borneo’s highest mountain. It kicked my butt but was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had traveling.
• Come sunset, there is only one place to be—the waterfront esplanade. Marvel at the colorful bursts of sun setting over the islands as you stroll the waterfront. Afterwards, make your way to the night market, one of SE Asia’s best, which comes alive with dozens of stalls selling everything from fresh fish to spices and fruit.

Helpful tips:

• Contrary to what many guidebooks recommend, in my experience (during high season no less) it was NOT necessary to pre-book Mt. Kinabalu. In fact, booking ahead of time through a travel agency would have resulted in paying two to three times more than it did booking directly through Sutera Sanctuary Lodges, which operates the majority of the park. Upon arriving in KK, stop by Sutera Sanctuary Lodges to make your arrangements (leaving yourself a few days wiggle room wouldn't hurt). As of July 2013, a 2D/1N climb cost slightly over $200 USD (including all entrance/park fees, guide, lodging, meals).
• If possible, head to Mt. Kinabalu 1-2 days before climbing to acclimate, as the elevation is significantly higher. Partake in mini hikes around the park and venture out to the canopy walkway as preparation for the ultimate and all-natural “Stairmaster”. Save Poring Hot Springs as a finish line treat to soak your tired (and triumphant!) legs post-climb.
• Malaysian Air and Air Asia are great economical options to get conveniently to/from KK. If booked ahead of time, Air Asia offers the best deals. However, if you are checking luggage, Malaysian Air might be your best bet as costs are included in the price.
• Don’t forget to pack your sunblock, comfortable hiking boots, and GoPro camera to document the amazing adventure above ground and below sea.

Happy jaunting!

-Mandy Moran, CWE Candidate 2013

Mari Mari Cultural Village

A historic museum with old houses you can walk through. You'll learn about the history behind the area and how they survived. They have demonstrations of the way the people cooked, made clothes, and more.
Cost: Children: RM 130, Adults: RM 150
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Snorkeling or Scuba Diving

Take a tour and see the unique underwater life of this beautiful area. A guide will be there to show you where to go and what to do to be sure you'll have a safe and fun experience.
Cost: Varies
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High Adventure Tours

Local guides will take you on a number of different tour and attractions depending on what you are looking for! Take a 10 day bike tour around the area, do some rock climbing, or even get the thrill of white water rafting. With tons to do you better make your trip long enough!
Cost: Varies
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[MYR] Malaysian Ringgit


Kota Kinabalu Airport [BKI]