Kota Kinabalu Things to Do

One of the most popular tourist spots in Malaysian Borneo, no wonder tha Kota Kinabalu offers plenty of activities for travellers to enjoy, whatever your interests. Most people head here either as a gateway to join tours that run across Sabah, or as a base to explore the local beaches, marine life and national parks. There are lots of great options for doing this, from diving and snorkelling to hiking in Kinabalu National Park.

Beaches in Kota Kinabalu

For starters, if you’re looking for a more relaxing break but want to enjoy the Kota Kinabalu coastline, why not head to one of the local beaches to enjoy the sun. Tanjung Aru beach is the most popular one locally, and is only ten minutes from the city centre, with plenty of food outlets and bars available. There is also Likas Bay, although this is less photogenic, it does tend to be quieter and less busy than Tanjung Aru. It’s also possible to take a day boat trip across to some of the nearby islands to enjoy beaches and marine life.

Diving and snorkelling

Kota Kinabalu is a very popular spot for scuba diving, with a vast number of dive shops in and around the area. For experienced divers there are nearby sites where you can dive with shipwrecks from the Second World War as well as some coral reef sites. Usukan Bay is a two hour journey and a common day trip offered by local dive companies, where there are three ship wrecks available to dive.

Many also snorkel and dive in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, although sometimes visibility can be a problem and the water tends more towards green than the crystal clear conditions that many divers prefer. Here you can also dive The Gaya, another ship wreck which is thought to be the Japanese Nittestsu Maru. Other popular dive spots include Mayne Rock and Palau Tiga which both have coral reefs with many interesting tropical fish.

If you don’t have previous experience but want to dive, there are many places in Kota Kinabalu where you can dive as a beginner or even take your PADI open water certification. Do be sure to check the reviews and credentials of your chosen dive shop carefully as whilst most places are reliable, safety standards can be different in this part of the world and it’s important that you feel fully comfortable diving with the company who you have chosen.

Deep sea fishing

Deep sea fishing is another exciting way to explore the seas around Kota Kinabalu, with many boats running tours. They usually cost from around MYR2,000 or overnight trips from MYR3,000 where you can sleep on the boat overnight and have a real adventure. Usually up to around ten people join each boat and fishing takes place a few hours off the coast around nearby islands and oil rigs. Be aware that the boats are very basic with limited facilities and do check that there are life jackets available in your vessel before leaving. These trips can be arranged easily through most hotels and tour companies in the city.

Kinabalu National Park

One of the final major activities is to visit nearby Kinabalu National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, and to either hike around the base of or hike Mount Kinabalu itself. This is a highly famous mountain in Borneo and indeed the whole of Southeast Asia, standing at 4,075m. The climb is challenging and must be booked well in advance of your trip as numbers are limited, it costs from around USD300 per person for the trip, which takes a minimum of two days and one night to provide sufficient time for acclimatisation. Tours can be organised online, through local agencies or accommodation, or if you just want to visit the park and hike the smaller trails then you can reach it easily by local bus which takes around 2 hours and costs MYR20 per person.