Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Malaysia’s Sabah State, could not have a vibe more estranged from Malaysia’s other capital, Kuala Lumpar. Even geographically these cities sit miles apart with Kota Kinabalu located in the Borneo region of Malaysia.
The city itself is most famous for its waterfront city mosque, bustling markets and surrounding rainforest. But its location, as gateway to the Mount Kinabalu National Park, is the reason most tourists visit – me included. Well I say me included but really I travelled to the region to meet up with my sister who had just finished climbing Mount Kinabalu!
Now, when it came to booking this trip I asked my sister probably the question that everyone asks when they think of travelling to the city (or at least I like to think they do) – apart from climbing the mountain what is there to do in Kota Kinabalu? So I decided to write this blog post to, hopefully, help answer that question…
1. Visit the Poring Hot Springs
Located outside of the city itself the Poring Hot Springs is a lowland area that is to be placed on any tour of the region. The main attraction is the hot spring water which is channelled into “outdoor bath tubs”. The hot sulphuric minerals in the water are reported to have healing properties and the baths themselves are very popular with locals and tourists alike.
Now one caveat – these are not luxurious spa baths but instead more conventional tiled baths that can, at times, get very busy. If like us, you don’t fancy adorning a bathing suit in front of crowds of people to have a bath – there are foot baths or if you really want to get your whole body wet private baths can also be rented.
The Poring Hot Springs Park also has a canopy walkway and waterfalls that can be visited, as well as a community garden that grows the national flower, the Rafflesasia.
2. Visit the Markets
Kota Kinabula is located on the seafront and is home to a number of markets selling fish and local crafts. Whether it is some local food or some souvenirs you are after I would definitely recommend heading to one or two of the markets to get a better taste of the local culture here.
Our hotel, the Le Meridien, was actually located right by the Filippino Market, so visiting a market can actually also be super convenient!
3. Explore the Mount Kinabalu National Park
The Mount Kinabalu National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to not only the start of any Mount Kinabalu trail but also a small botanical garden.
Unfortunately by the time we reached the park as part of our tour the sky’s had opened so we didn’t get to see very much at all but on a clear day it is definitely worth a visit.
4. Visit Nabula
We made a brief stop on our tour at Nabula, a small area where locals gather to sell their produce. Much like the markets in Kota Kinabalu itself there are also numerous stalls selling souvenirs and local hand-crafted goods. But the main attraction is the view . On a clear day you are able to see Mount Kinabalu in the background, although this is slightly masked by clouds in our photo!
5. Climb the Mountain?!
Have you been to Kota Kinabalu? What were your highlights?