kota kinabalu waterfront borneo
Home. Travel Guide » Asia » Borneo » Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu

Welcome to Sabah’s capital city. On first glance this city looks like it could do with a good lick of paint and a bit of a clean up.  It’s hot and dusty and the streets feel quiet for a capital city. You generally don't see many tourists around during the day and that's because they're all out island hopping! In the evening the streets around the waterfront and the night market will be bustling again. 

Population: 245,000

Vibe: Quiet for a capital city with locals going about their business and shopping at the markets, fishermen pulling in their nets. 

Known As: The capital city of Sabah, Borneo

Must Do: Go Island Hopping

Things to see and do

kota kinabalu day trip borneo

Go Island Hopping

If you’ve got a full day free in Kota Kinabalu, head down to Jesselton Pier in the morning and choose an island hopping trip and spend the day swimming and snorkelling around the islands just a short way off shore. There are five islands you can visit within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and tours usually consists of visiting 3 or 4 of these islands: Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug. There’s plenty of marine life to see in the water and on the islands themselves you’ll see birds, lizards and perhaps even monitor lizards. Some of the islands have restaurants so you don’t need to take your lunch with you. 


Signal Hill Observatory Platform

If you don’t have a full day available and want to see some of the main sights of Kota Kinabalu, take a walk up to the Signal Hill Observatory Platform. This is the highest point in the city and from here you’ll see the layout and architecture of the city, out to the water over the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, the airport, the Golden State Mosque and the Atkinson Clock Tower.  The stairs are reasonably steep but shaded by forest, you might also see a few cheeky monkeys as you climb. If you want it check it out but you don’t want to hike, you can get a taxi to the platform. It’s free to go on to the platform and soak up the views. 


Sunset at the waterfront 

After a day of sightseeing, what better way to soak it all in than by watching the sunset over the harbour at one of the waterfront restaurants or bars. There’s a strip of different bars and eateries to choose from. 

kota kinabalu night market borneo2

Night Market

After the sun has set, wander along the waterfront to the night market which will be coming alive as the sky grows dark. Here you’ll find a row of seafood restaurants, their catch of the day displayed over ice. The locals come down here to eat too, so you can enjoy a seafood dinner in the open air while feeling like a local. 


Take me Island Hopping! 

Borneo Explorer - 10 Day Tour