We did not expect that our trip to Kota Kinabalu would be such a fulfilling and exciting trip. Two and half days of exploring the capital of Malaysia’s Sabah state in Borneo Islands. We were not aware that there are so many interesting places in Kota Kinabalu one can visit and experience.
From a perfect hotel selection of Dreamtel hotel in Kota Kinabalu, to booking the right cultural village tour of Mari Mari, to enjoying a wonderful evening in the waterfront of Kota Kinabalu, the visit to Desa Dairy farm and the Kota Kinabalu national park and the poring hot spring, the trip was a perfect combination of amazing beautiful places to relaxing views of the majestic Mount Kinabalu.
Here are some top 10 places one should visit in Kota Kinabalu
Kokol hill – for the breathtaking views.
Waterfront Kota Kinabalu – For the happening night life
Mari Mari village- experience rich cultural village of Kota Kinabalu
Tanjung Aru beach- To view the perfect sunset.
Jari jari Spa – For the relaxing body massage
The City mosque of Kota Kinabalu
Desa Dairy Cow Farm: for the yummiest yogurts and country experience
Kinabalu national park: The dense Borneo rain forest with canopy walk
Rafflesia Flower: A parasitic plant which is the national flower of Malaysia
Poring hot spring: The sulphur hot water spring.
The best thing about this place is that it is a wonderful peaceful drive from the Dreamtel hotel in Kota Kinabalu where we were staying. The drive is just perfect on winding roads which are solitary and have a Kokol hill home stay cottage. We had hired a car for a day and the one hour drive from our hotel was completely worth it. There was amazing views of the entire city and cool fresh air to enjoy.
On the way to Kokol hill we saw many paragliding schools from where tourists can experience the tandem paragliding, though pre booking is required. We did not have much time to explore that but seemed things to be done. There were ATVs etc also on those roads which were not so tempting. Over all the drive to Kokol hills was worth the time.
Waterfront Kota Kinabalu
Waterfront is the one stop dining, drinking and entertainment stop for everyone visiting Kota Kinabalu. You have wide variety of places to match your mood, be it Thai, Asian or western cuisines. The views from waterfront kk is nothing short of breathtaking, whichever restaurant you choose you are bound to have a good view and a great time.
There are foot massages available as well, if you want to just sit and enjoy the view and not indulge in drinking and eating. It goes without saying that the entire place is a little more expensive than usual as it is one of the most visited places for nightlife in Kota Kinabalu. The only cheap thing we got was our Grab ride from Dreamtel hotel to waterfront which was just 4 MYR.
Mari Mari Village – Cultural Village of Kota Kinabalu
If you want to experience the tribal life and savour the experience of tasting regional food, and meeting locals then one of the cultural villages is a must. The Mari Mari village is open every day and has two slots which you can choose for booking one at 10:00 AM and 2 PM. The duration of the tour last for 3-4 hours and includes a meal. The entry price if you have your own transport is RM 85.
The village features 5 different ethnic tribes in one village. They are the rice farmer Kadazan-Dusun, the longhouse resident Rungus, the hunters and fisherman Lundayeh, the cowboy and sea gypsey Bajau, and the famously feared headhunting tribe Murut. In every village you see how the houses were and also taste some of the tradition freshly made food, like local wine, banana fritter, and raw mango in spices etc .All of the food served is fresh and yummy.
You have various activities as well along the tour, like you could get a tattoo done, become a leader of your clan, enjoy a jumping wooden rack and see how fire was made in the traditional way of rubbing stone. At the end of the tour the tribes perform a dance and music program which is very entertaining and fun to see. The guide provides you small interesting facts about the village.
The food is a buffet style with vegetarian options (if requested earlier) and the freshness and simplicity of the food make is yummy. The spring rolls were the best. The village tour experience is amazing and highly recommended. The place allows you to relax and feel the village life. It always rains so a raincoat is advisable.
5 mins from the Mari Mari village is the Kiansom waterfall which is very beautiful and only a few stairs climb/walk down. The place is very slippery though and one should be very comfortable. There were locals having a bath in the waterfall we went. We just visited the spot admired the beauty and the mysterious feel of the place before making our way to the next point.
Tanjung Aru Beach
For us this was an unplanned stop while going back to Dreamtel hotel in the Kota Kinabalu centre; however we are so glad we did stop. Parking was crazy and there were hardly few mins left for sunset, we could already see at the horizon. The beach at Tanjung Aru was super crowded and when we reached the spot we knew why. There was this picture perfect sunset view which you could enjoy in the sea horizon. I have never in my life seen such a wide variety of colours and sharpness in a sunset. A must visit and hear warming experience.
Jari Jari Spa
Jari Jari Spa is an award-winning spa that offers a range of treatments and healing rituals that cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world. It is a wonderful experience while in Sabah. Thought the prices are a little high, compared to the others in area, if you like massages like we do, it is highly recommended. We took 90 minutes massage for around 200 MYR. There are three outlets; however we went to the one in the Palace hotel which provides an overall experience. The massage was relaxing and worth the money we spent.
The City mosque of Kota Kinabalu
The mosque is built at the Lika Bay and is a perfect example of the contemporary Islamic architecture. The mosque is the city’s iconic feature and its beauty stands out distinctively. It is the second main mosque in Kota Kinabalu but more visited because of its beauty. You need to be properly dressed to enter the mosque; however you can rent the clothes at the mosque to cover yourself appropriately. We did not enter the mosque itself, however really enjoyed the beauty and peace around the area. If you are moving around the city you would not be able to miss the unique beauty of this place.
We had booked a tour for the next day which covered what we saw, however if you have an international driving license, we would suggest that most of it can be done on your own through a drive which is more enjoyable and relaxing.
Desa Dairy Cow Farm
This place is a little New Zealand in Sabah. The drive to Desa Dairy Farm rakes around 2 hours from the city and is located at the the foot of Mount Kinabalu in Kundasang, Sabah. The place houses a lot of cows and goats and has feeding sessions etc which kids and adults can take part in. The open green landscape with grazing black and white collared cows is a view you could only imagine seeing in New Zealand or in some movies.
The real attraction here is the cattle farm, producing about 90000 litres of milk per year. The farm is 199 hectares and most of the milking cows are Friesians, the highest milk producers of all cattle breeds. The place is very cool and refreshing because of the cool breeze and open space.
Opening hours of Desa Dairy farm is 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM and the entry fee is as low as RM5 for adults and RM4 for child. Wedding photography is allowed though you need to do prior booking; however the place is ideal for the same.
Oh! I almost forgot about all the good stuff you can taste and drink in this farm all very fresh and yummy. They serve flavoured milk, strawberry chocolate and plain in various sizes. The yogurt gelato is so fresh and creamy; you immediately wish that you were growing in a farm having such organic and fresh raw ingredients for your meal.
Kinabalu national park
We went to the Kinabalu national park after the Desa Dairy Cow farm with the bus tour. Before the tour we had a local lunch, which was very unique. The best part of the lunch was the use of banana leaves for plates and also the cutlery used was all re-usable cutlery made from Bamboo and wood etc. They looked unique and definitely helped the environment.
The Canopy walk which we were going to do in the national park is open from 10 AM to 4PM. The entry fee is RM 5 and for camera you have to pay extra. Poring Canopy Walkway is not for those who have height phobia. The canopy is over 175 Meters long and 41-43 Meters in height, which is higher than an 8-floor building. It was much fun to walk on the wobbly thin bridge (canopy) in the rain. Yes it started raining heavily and we wore raincoats and walked, however the walk in the 100 million old dense rainforest over such a height was a very thrilling experience.
Due to the tour, we did feel that we could not do much of the national park, would have loved to stay for some more time in the forest doing small treks. Also the viewpoint of Mount Kinabalu on our way was very pretty and gave an idea of how big the mountain is. Mount Kinabalu is 4.095.2m with cloud-hugging peaks and shady valleys which is a breathtaking sight.
Have you noticed the flower which is on the currency of Malaysia, especially 10 MYR notes? That is the Rafflesia flower which is a parasitic plant found in South-East Asia. It is one of the rarest flowers which are gigantic. It can grow up to 107 mt. It takes about nine months for the flower to bloom and it can only last for a week. A Rafflesia flower can grow up to a metre in diameter, and the biggest can weigh up to 7kg.
The flowers are pretty to look at with leather-textured, dull-red spotted petals and with a bowl-like centre that swallows up flies and insects for its own sustenance. We were lucky to have two flowers blooming at the time we visited. The biggest one was 85 cm and was very nice to look at. They charged up a price, and the place where the flower bloomed was a little dirty, but then you can’t decide where the flowers would bloom. It was a nice experience to view such a rare flower and that too national flower of Malaysia.
Poring Hot spring
Poring is a small tourist resort in Sabah, Malaysia. It is located 40 km south-east of the Kinabalu National Park. It is very famous for its hot springs which was built by the Japanese during the World War 2. The day we went the hot springs were very crowded and the place was very occupied so could not enjoy it that much. However the place is filled with hot water springs containing sulphur which is very good for relaxing the sore muscles from the walks and hikes in the national Park. There are private baths available but need to be booked early.
There are other things one can enjoy in Poring, like the Butterfly farm or the orchid farm. The Rafflesia flower site is also near to the hot springs. There are resorts and accommodation in and around the area which can be used for a relaxing stay and exploration of Kinabalu national park.
You will love a visit to this wonderful place. So do not wait and book your hotels using the link below –
14 thoughts on “Top interesting places in Kota Kinabalu to visit in two days.”
The rafflesia flower is amazing, isn’t it? I hired a guide to do a jungle walk to see them in the wild. It was well worth it.
Thanks for taking us with you! Photo’s are mind blowing beautiful! Envious of your trip!
The cultural village of Kota Kinabalu seems really authentic and interesting! I’ll definitely be adding this to my Malaysia itinerary!
Mindy on the Move
The canopy walk in Kinabalu national park looks like a brilliant adventure!! What a beautifully dense rainforest!! Never knew of this incredible National Park before – thank you for sharing!
These all sound and look like amazing places to visit. Especially Kokol hill – there’s something extra special about climbing a hill and being rewarded with an amazing view. Seeing a Rafflesia flower has been on my list for ages, think Attenborough first told me about it… They look incredible.
Linda de Beer
What an amazing destination. I would love to visit Kota Kinabalu. It has everything I love – nature, mountains, beaches, good food, cultural experiences. Thanks for the introduction!
This place looks incredible, you have captured it so well. The architecture of the mosque is beautiful. Love this
What an amazing place to visit! Everything looks incredible, specially the Rafflesia flower. I had no idea it was the national flower of Malaysia, actually I had no idea such flower existed! Can we talk about the spa please! It must have been amazing especially after a long hike!
Zoe | Together In Transit
Wow love your post. I think if I ever had a chance to visit, I’d want to go for at least one month!! Thank you for sharing with your gorgeous photos!
So true, Desa Dairy Cow Farm could easily be part of New Zealand 🙂 This trip is a combination of everything I love – beaches, hiking, spa, history and wonderful food. Will definitely explore when I visit the area. Loved your photos as well 🙂
Ok i had not heard about Kota Kinabalu before. It looks absolutely stunning because it has everything a tourist would want to visit it for. Mosque at kota kinabalu and Desa Dairy cow farm would be my top places to visit followed by others. Lovely article and thanks for sharing 🙂
A Fantastic guide to this beautiful destination, your photos of the beach sunset are amazing! I’d love to hike up Kokol hill as well 🙂
I’ve been dreaming about Kota Kinabalu ever since my friend visited back in March. It seems like an under-the-radar destination, which is important to me when choosing the next place to visit. I want to witness a sunset at Tanjung Aru beach for myself! Great photo compilation!
Kwok Siu Hong
Thanks for sharing. Where did you stop for the nice view point on Kokol Hill? I have the impression that you need to pay some entrance fees.