Kota Kinabalu

Bordered by a patchwork sea of turquoise and azure on one side and ringed by rainforest and the majestic Mount Kinabalu on the other, dynamic Kota Kinabalu, or KK for short, is the perfect gateway into untamed Borneo. Established as Jesselton in the late 1800s by the British North Borneo Company, the city was renamed after independence. Today, Kota Kinabalu is, despite its rapid expansion, a pleasant, comfortable city.


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Several excellent beaches are within reach from central KK. Tanjung Aru Beach makes for a fine picnic destination, while Likas Bay Beach along Jalan Tun Fua Stephens offers views of Sepanggar Port and the anchored ships off the coast. Farther afield is Rasa Ria, a private beach exclusively accessed by guests of the luxurious Shangri-La Resort.

Filipino Market

Visit the bustling and friendly Filipino Market, and have a seafood buffet in the port at the well-known Port View Restaurant, serving up Kota Kinabalu's freshest catch.

Green Connection Aquarium

Sharks, snakes and turtles can be seen at the Green Connection Aquarium, which has interactive displays, including tanks where guests can touch some of the more docile creatures.

Mount Kinabalu

An early morning drive (2-3 hours) from central KK will deliver you to the base of the sacred Mount Kinabalu. At 13,513 feet, it is the largest peak between the Himalayas and Papua New Guinea. The mountain sits in a national park of the same name, and has excellent hiking trails, with ample opportunities to spot rare local flora, such as carnivorous pitcher plants and wild-growing orchids. Stretching from lowland rainforest to alpine meadows, the park was Malaysia's first World Heritage site, recognized for its rare ecological wealth. Spend the day hiking through the terrain surrounding the peak, or, alternatively, hike to the mountain's summit. (This requires two days with an overnight stay at the Laban Rata mountain hut maintained by the park.) The striking granite peaks of Kinabalu will be a long-remembered highlight of your trip to Borneo.

Museum of Islamic Civilisation

The Museum of Islamic Civilisation offers an historical look at Islamic influence on Malaysia. Islamic art, writings and religious artifacts all form an interesting mosaic that has been ingrained in Malaysian society.

Petagas War Memorial

The Petagas War Memorial is a must-see for World War II history buffs. It has been set up to remember and honor the 176 Kinabalu Militia who engaged in the “Double Tenth Revolt” on October 10th, 1943 against the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces. All of the attackers were summarily executed by the Japanese.

Poring Hot Springs

Near the base of Mt. Kinabalu is Poring Hot Springs, Japanese-style onsen tubs that were first built during the occupation of WWII. A number of hot and cold, private and public pools are available. There is also a canopy walk nearby, where you can wander through treetops hundreds of feet above the jungle floor.

Tambunan Rafflesia Reserve

Drive to the Tambunan Rafflesia Reserve, out in the Crocker Range Mountains, where you can see the indigenous rafflesia, the largest flower in the world.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Marine Park

Spend the day visiting the nearby Tunku Abdul Rahman National Marine Park, a series of beautiful islands just a short boat ride from the city center. Go snorkeling or swimming and just enjoy the beach.

Walking Tour

Start at the Atkinson Clock Tower and wend your way to Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, a major thoroughfare near the center of the city. If you are near Gaya Street at lunch, be sure to stop in one of its delicious local eateries. End up at the Signal Hill Observatory, which is an excellent location to watch the sunset.

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