Top 14 Attractions in Kota Kinabalu (2024)
The capital city of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, is a great place to explore due to its diverse culture and authentic beauty. These reasons, alongside its rich history, have established itself as a popular travel destination. With so many things to do here, below are the top 9 attractions in Kota Kinabalu that you should visit.
1. Atkinson Clock Tower
At 127 feet high, the Atkinson Clock Tower is one of the oldest and most well-known attractions in Kota Kinabalu. This four-story tower has been standing strong for 115 years and is easily viewed from anywhere in the city, and it has served its purpose as an observation point throughout World War II and a signal of time for villages nearby. It is still used today, and you can catch this iconic landmark at Taman Budaya, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens, near the City Hall area of Kota Kinabalu’s capital city. The view from the top of the tower is magnificent, as you can easily see Mount Kinabalu, the most prominent mountain in Southeast Asia.
2. Gaya Street
Ask any Sabahan, and most of them will recognize Gaya Street. This is because it has been the hub for business for over a hundred years, with all kinds of food sold to satisfy your palette. Gaya Street will transport you to a different world, as the colourful buildings decorated with traditional Asian designs will make you feel like you’re venturing into the streets of Bangkok or Delhi. Furthermore, walking to other tourist attractions like Warisan Square and Waterfront Promenade is a mere stone’s throw away, so the fun never ends here.
3. Signal Hill Observatory Platform
Located along the roads to the Atkinson Clock Tower at 800 meters high, the Signal Hill Observatory Platform is the perfect Kota Kinabalu attraction to get a panoramic view of the East side of downtown KK. The mix of old and modern buildings surrounded by the ocean with islands is a sight to behold. One should take up this opportunity to appreciate the beauty of Kota Kinabalu.
4. Lok Kawi Wildlife Park
Officially opened to the public in 2007, Lok Kawi Wildlife Park is one of the best attractions in Kota Kinabalu for visitors to experience a wildlife adventure. It is home to various animals like gibbons, macaques, and deer, eventually transforming into a hotspot for curious visitors hoping to be closer to these exotic creatures. Animal experts from all over the globe are also available to answer your questions, as the park frequently organizes events. Additionally, the parking is free once you’ve paid the entrance fee.
5. Sabah State Museum
If you’re a history buff interested in Sabah’s history, the Sabah State Museum is one of the best attractions in Kota Kinabalu to check out. The museum sheds light on how life used to be before modernization and globalization. An exhibition of a myriad of artefacts from as early as the first human settlement in Borneo from Malaysia and the Asia Pacific region is displayed, besides a Heritage Village and a botanical garden.
It has also been awarded as one of Asia’s top museums by Lonely Planet magazine in 2011 and won UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation in 2014.
6. Monsopiad Heritage Village
Monsopiad Heritage Village is a fascinating heritage site that gives visitors a chance to understand the culture and lifestyle of the indigenous people in Sabah, particularly the Kadazan-Dusun people, as it houses traditional homes, gardens, and food sources. Visitors are also given the pleasure of experiencing authentic cultural performances held throughout the day. Monsopiad Heritage Village has a vast cultural significance as it safeguards this vanishing way of life by educating others about the customs and traditions, making a mark in this world.
7. The Green Connection
Built to protect marine life and ecosystems through sustainability, The Green Connection is the first of its kind in Sabah and a platform for visitors to witness marine life worldwide. Besides being a fun Kota Kinabalu attraction to visit, it educates the general public on the importance of being environmentally friendly through workshops and events for people of all ages. Visitors can learn about recycling, going green, and respecting our natural environment for future generations to appreciate.
8. Mount Kinabalu (Gunung Kinabalu)
Mount Kinabalu, one of the most famous attractions in Kota Kinabalu, needs no further introduction. As the highest mountain in Malaysia, it is also one of the most challenging hikes in the world. The several trails that lead to its summit each have varying difficulty levels, depending on the length.
The beauty of the landscape and the vastness of its natural resources have made it attractive to travellers worldwide. Fret not about getting lost, as both guided and unguided tours are provided, regardless of your fitness level or experience with hiking. Just be sure to train yourself physically before climbing, as you will require a lot of stamina.
9. Mari Mari Cultural Village
Another one of the many culturally prominent attractions in Kota Kinabalu, Mari Mari Cultural Village, offers traditional food and souvenirs for tourists to enjoy. It also has a museum that carries different artefacts from the past that have been preserved to portray the culture of the Kadazan-Dusun people. Like Monsopiad Heritage Village, visitors get a peek at their traditional life and practices, with the option of staying overnight. The locals here would be more than happy to share their stories from their history or show you how to make handicraft items.
10. Manukan Island (Pulau Manukan)
Located just a short boat ride away from Jesselton Point, Manukan Island is a beach paradise with long sandy beaches and crystal clear sea. Though it is not the largest island (second largest island) in Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, its developed facilities attracts almost 200,000 visitors annually. Among the facilities that you can expect here are resorts, clubhouse, restaurants and also a diving centre.
11. Sapi Island (Pulau Sapi)
Sapi Island is located 7km away from the city centre and is one of the most visited attractions in Sabah. Located just a short boat ride away from Jesselton Point, you will be greeted with many colourful marine species which can be seen from the jetty due to the crystal clear sea. Not only does this place offer a more natural experience compared to the other islands, it also has the world’s longest island to island zipline.
12. Filipino Market
Another place that you should visit in Sabah is the Filipino Market, located along the Waterfront. Over here, you will be able to find many local produce that you can buy back as souvenirs such as dried seafood, salted fish, fruits and local snacks. There are also rows of food stalls, where you can have some delicious seafood.
13. Kokol Hill Elf
Kokol Hill Elf is one of the latest and most popular attractions in Sabah, offering visitors an amazing panoramic view of Kota Kinabalu city. Located 800 metres high on Kokol Hill, not only will you be able to catch a beautiful sunset here, you will also get to take many ‘Instragram-worthy’ pictures. If you are not afraid of heights, you can try the ‘Mega Swing’ whereby you will swing above the hill, similar to the one in Bali.
14. Tanjung Aru
Tanjung Aru is located 6km away from the city centre and is one of the locals’ favourite beach. This beach got its name from the casuarinas that are available here along the white sand beach. On top of that, you will be able to catch one of the most beautiful sunsets here, apart from the many good and luxury resorts that are available here.
With all the natural, cultural and beautiful attractions in Kota Kinabalu, it is no wonder that this city is a popular tourist destination. Not only that, you will get to enjoy delicious and cheap seafood when you visit this city.