Tourist’s guide to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia: attractions, beaches and prices

A traveler who is looking for true Asian color can safely go to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. This contradictory city has long gained popularity due to its picturesque landscapes, sufficiently developed tourist infrastructure and numerous islands. Fans of shopping will appreciate the abundance of its shopping centers and markets, gourmets will enjoy dishes for every taste, and seekers of new knowledge will surely attract cultural attractions. What is this small Malaysian town like?

Cities of Kota Kinabalu

General information

Top view of the city of Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu is the capital and largest city of the state of Sabah in Malaysia, located in the north of the island of Borneo. Its area is 351 square meters. km, and the population is 618 thousand people. Located at the foot of Mount Kinabalu and washed by the waters of the South China Sea. Most of the inhabitants here are Malays, but Indians and Chinese also live. Islam is the official religion of the country, but in Kota Kinabalu you can easily meet representatives of other religious movements: Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism. The city is known not only for its developed tourism industry, but is an industrial and commercial area of ​​Malaysia.

Kota Kinabalu is a place of contrasts where, along with modern hotels and shopping centers, you can see children asking for alms and dilapidated buildings. However, the central streets of the capital are relatively well-maintained and are of interest to the traveler who has appeared here. So, the embankment is considered to be the main gathering point for visitors, along which numerous cafes and restaurants are concentrated.

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Kota Kinabalu Sunset

In the evening, you can admire the setting sun and taste exotic Malay dishes. The embankment itself is quite unusual, as it is lined with wooden parquet. Some travelers note that the whole impression of the embankment is spoiled by the unpleasant smell inherent in the local area and the abundance of garbage left by the Malays themselves.

Although the roads to Kota Kinabalu are quite wide and good, constant traffic jams are observed here due to the high traffic intensity. In addition, the parking of the vehicle itself causes particular difficulty for tourists: parking spaces are sorely lacking even in shopping centers. Therefore, salaries here are paid hourly parking.


Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia has long been an active player in the travel services market, so in the territory you can find a variety of options for accommodation and meals.

Room in 3 * hotel Grand Borneo Hotel
Grand borneo hotel

Visitors have the opportunity to relax in luxury five-star hotels, as well as in budget 3 * hotels and modest guesthouses. You can be located in the city limits or outside the capital on the picturesque islands. However, the main entertainment and walking areas are located in Kota Kinabalu, so if you are interested in outdoor activities, it is still better to see a hotel in the capital. So, to settle in a budget guesthouse, you will pay $ 10-15 per night in a double room. If you plan to live in more comfortable conditions in a 3 * hotel, you will have to pay an amount varying between $ 20-60.

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Shark fin soup in a restaurant
Shark fin soup

Kota Kinabalu with confidence can be called the epicenter of gastronomy. The environs and central streets are full of eateries, cafes and restaurants, where along with the traditional dishes of Malaysia, European, Chinese and Indian menus are presented. The basic product of local dishes is “nashi” rice, and various additives served to it are called “onions”. Seafood dishes, in particular the famous fish curry, are especially popular among tourists. We recommend trying an unusual soup of shark fins and fried scallops, chicken skewers in spicy sauce, as well as a salad of exotic fruits.

Lunch at Kedai Kopi Yee Fung

The cost of lunch at different establishments can be very different. So, for one serving in an inexpensive restaurant you will pay $ 2.25. A three-course dinner for two in a mid-level cafe will cost $ 14-15. Also, you always have the opportunity to eat in a fast food for 3-4 $. As for the cost of drinks, the following picture is observed:

  • Local beer (0.5) – $ 3.85
  • Imported beer (0.33) -3.5 $
  • Cup of cappuccino – $ 2.7
  • Bottle of Pepsi (0.33) – $ 0.65
  • Water (0.33) – $ 0.35

If you do not want to spend your time looking for the perfect restaurant, then go to the central city promenade. Most of the establishments are concentrated here, where dishes are served for every taste and pocket.

Shopping centers
Suria Sabah Shopping Center
Suria sabah

Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia will delight shopping lovers: after all, in the city you can find shopping centers literally at every step. Among them, it is worth looking at both modern complexes and shops for the Malays. Most shopping centers are rather inconspicuous from the outside, and inside are no different from standard shopping centers. Often, branded clothing sales are held here, so it is likely that you can make a successful purchase. But in order to penetrate the Malay flavor and gain new impressions, we recommend that you look into the shops for the locals.

The main attractions

This is not to say that Kota Kinabalu is rich in attractions, but there really is something to see. The city is a combination of Malay, Chinese and European cultures, so the local architecture is distinguished by contrast and diversity. Moreover, in the capital of Sabah you can stroll through the markets and parks, so tourists are definitely not bored here. What is worth seeing in Kota Kinabalu?

City Mosque (Kota Kinabalu City Mosque)
Kota Kinabalu City Mosque

The main attraction, stretching off the coast of a picturesque pond, is the largest mosque in the capital Sabah is a magnificent building, executed in white and blue colors. Located on the street Jalan Teluk Likas, Kampung Likas, which can be reached by bus, but more conveniently by taxi. Tourists have the opportunity to see the situation inside the mosque, if at the time of the visit there is no service. If you don’t have clothing that is appropriate for the Muslim canon, you can immediately rent it for $ 1-2. Tourists note that the mosque is especially transformed in the evening, when its lights turn on, and the building is beautifully reflected in the reservoir.

Sabah State Museum
Sabah State Museum

Among the attractions of Kota Kinabalu, the Sabah State Museum, located on Jalan Muzium Street, is worth a look. This is a museum of local lore, where an exposition telling about the history and culture of local tribes is presented. The gallery is famous for its unique exhibit – the skeleton of a huge whale. Here you can also look at retro cars and stroll through a real tropical forest with an artificial pond. For children, the museum has a center of logical puzzles, over which adults themselves often puzzle. During the tour, you can study the texts and videos attached to the exhibits. Ticket price for children and adults is $ 4. The museum is open daily from 9.00 to 17.00.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park
The transparent sea of ​​Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

This natural attraction is located 3 km west of Kota Kinabalu, whose beaches can be reached in 20 minutes by hourly cruising motor boat from the Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal. The park consists of five islands: Gaia, Manukan, Sapi, Mamutik and Sulug. It attracts travelers with its clear sea and rich flora and fauna. This is a great place for diving and snorkeling: masks and fins can be rented on the islands.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

The beaches are equipped with showers and toilets, but there are no sun loungers. There are also several cafes where you can eat after an active holiday. The cost of entry to each island is $ 6 (the price includes a round-trip boat trip). The park is open from 7.30 to 17.00.

Night Market
Grilled fish at the Kota Kinabalu market

The Grand Bazaar is another exotic attraction that sells meat, spices, fruits, souvenir trinkets, but most of all the market is famous for its rich assortment of seafood (address – 401, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu). Here are several cafes where everyone has the opportunity to choose their favorite fish (an average of $ 10 per kg), which will be cooked on the grill right before your eyes.

Night Market, Kota Kinabalu

Experienced tourists are advised to bargain, because, seeing a foreigner, the seller inflates the price several times. If you are not a special lover of seafood, then you can see the market as part of an educational tour: after all, here the traveler is imbued with the very Asian atmosphere.

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Beach Tanjung Aru Beach

A beach holiday in Kota Kinabalu is best organized outside the city or on the islands. One of the most visited beaches here is Tanjung Aru Beach. It is located near the airport and about 5 km south of Kota Kinabalu. It combines several beaches that smoothly flow from one to another.

Tanjung Aru Beach has a very long coastline along which eateries and restaurants huddle. The beach is covered with sand, the bottom also consists of sand, the entry into the water is gentle and uniform. To get to the depth, you need to go through the water a few meters. It is always crowded here: among vacationers there are not only foreigners, but also local residents. Many who have visited the beach note that it is rather dirty. Sun beds, locker rooms and showers are not here.

Sunset from Tanjung Aru Beach

Tanjung Aru Beach is famous for its juicy sunsets, for which seekers of natural beauty come to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. In general, the beach is more suitable for unhurried evening walks and contemplation of the sunset than for swimming.

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