If you’ve never considered a visit to Kota Kinabalu (or KK as it’s called by locals), you might want to consider adding the captivating capital of Sabah in Borneo to your travel wish list. Most people stop by on their way to hike Mount Kinabalu, to do some rainforest trekking, or to go diving in the tropical waters around Sabah, but the city itself is well worth spending a few days in. Here are some of the best things to see and do during a visit to KK.
Perdana Park is a popular place for locals to go for their daily workouts. The landscaped green space has a nice jogging track around a lake, as well as exercise areas for a workout scattered around the water should you want to supplement your cardio with a few muscle-building moves. There is also a reflexology path that you can walk through barefoot, and two colourful playgrounds for kids. If you get hungry from all that fresh air, there are some nice eateries and cafés right in the park to choose from.
It’s also worth visiting the park in the evening to catch a glimpse of the musical water fountain. At 7pm, the park’s fountain comes to life with water sprays synchronised to music and light. The show runs daily from 7pm to 9pm Monday to Thursday, and at 9:30pm Friday to Sunday. Entrance to the park is free, but you will have to pay for parking if you drive. The park is located close to Tanjung Aru First Beach, the most popular public beach in KK, making it easy to combine both into a day or half-day excursion.
KK is known for its beautiful sunsets, and one of the best places to watch one is with a cold drink in-hand at Sky Blu Bar at the Grandis Hotel. The rooftop bar offers unobstructed, panoramic views of the sea and no matter what time you visit, it makes a nice spot to relax. There’s a pool here, as well as loungers if you want to come a bit early to take a dip before the sun starts to go down.
If you’re a coffee connoisseur, then you might want to head to Inch Coffee in Perdana Park for a caffeine fix. The owner has been in the specialty coffee business for over a decade and takes a lot of care in making the best brews in town with cutting-edge machines. On a hot sunny day (which is almost every day in KK), try one of their cold brew (ice drip) coffees paired with their decadent Earl Grey pie if it’s available.
Donggongon Street Market, or Tamu Donggongon, is known as one of the biggest and best markets in Sabah. It’s not located right in KK, but rather in Penampang, which is a 15-minute taxi ride from the city centre. This is where to catch a glimpse of colourful piles of local produce like jungle ferns, rambutans, cassava, jungle durians, mangoes, and more. You’ll also find spices, dried fish, rice wine, and local handicrafts. This market is open Thursdays and Fridays from 6am to 2pm.
Formerly the KK City Bird Sanctuary, the Kota Kinabalu Wetlands are the perfect place to see mangrove forests and birds right in the city. This is a hidden gem tucked away that not many people know about. The 60-acre mangrove forest is managed by a local NGO, Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society, and used primarily for education and research. There’s a 1.5-kilometre boardwalk into the mangroves that takes about 45 minutes and offers the chance to experience nature without having to leave the city. Admission is only RM5 for Malaysians and RM15 for foreigners. Children under 6 years old get in free. The park is open Tuesday to Sunday 8am to 6pm.