Kota Kinabalu

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Eco-friendly travel guide to Kota Kinabalu advises how to be a responsible tourist. Learn how to explore the attractions in a sustainable way and how to respect the local people and culture. Make your trip green by supporting locally owned hotels, organic restaurants and other businesses. Read more on how to protect the environment by making conscientious choices and how to travel green in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

Sutera Harbor in Kota Kinabalu

  • Air quality: 4 / 5
  • Exploring by foot: 3 / 5
  • Exploring by bicycle: 3.5 / 5
  • Public transportation: 4 / 5
  • Parks: 3.5 / 5
  • Outdoor activities: 3 / 5
  • Locals' English level: 3.5 / 5
  • Safety: 4 / 5
  • Accommodation: US$50 - $200
  • Budget per day: US$250 - $400

Responsible Travel

When you travel to the city of Kota Kinabalu, you will want to get the best experience out of your travel to be worth all the money you spend. In the current scenario, you must follow various eco-friendly measures and participate actively in protecting our earth. To have a fantastic trip, you need to travel responsibly. Responsible travel refers to traveling in such a way that your actions don't cause any harm to the local communities or the environment. Here are some tips and advice that you can choose to follow accordingly to help you travel responsibly and get the best out of your trip.

  • You should make use of public transport and avoid using plastic containers at the most. The next thing that you need to keep in mind while traveling in the city of Kota Kinabalu is to minimize your carbon footprint. The carbon footprint refers to the number of greenhouse gases released into the local environment by your activities. If you want to travel to the city of Kota Kinabalu in the best way possible, you need to avoid any activities that will harm the local environment.
  • After landing in the city, you will want to stay at a 5-star hotel with a good reputation and luxury facilities. Instead, it would be best if you preferred opting for eco-hotels, hostels, guest houses, and apartments to get the right amount of exposure to the local culture. But, in reality, these hotels are not the best choice if you are a foreign tourist as they will provide you with world-class facilities but will fail to give you proper exposure to the local culture.
  • Your responsible travel measures need to start way before you visit the country. After booking your flight, you need to do extensive research about the current country scenario, the culture, things you need to avoid, and the laws you have to follow as a tourist. If you ignore this vital step, you will be clueless about your environment and not get the best experience.
  • Suppose you want to get a close picture of the culture and livelihood of the local people. In that case, you need to avoid visiting international brands like McDonald's, K.F.C, Starbucks, 7-Eleven, H&M, Sephora, etc., as you can find them in your city. It would be best if you prefer visiting and buying from local businesses as they will give you deep insights into the lives of the people and their traditions and culture.

Air Quality and Pollution

The Air Quality of any tourist location or place is a crucial thing to keep in mind because not all tourists can adapt to a city where air pollution is low, and the air quality is good, especially for people who belong to a sensitive group. The city of Kota Kinabalu mostly has good air quality, and pollution levels aren't bad. One can say that automobiles' effect is more than that of the people who visit the city. Other than ground transportation, the shipping industry has contributed a lot to air pollution. If you wish to get fresh and clean air in Kota Kinabalu, you prefer visiting the outskirts and the hilly regions.

Respect the Culture

Being the state capital of Sabah, this city is the cultural center of the country. You will get to see different ethnicities in this city, mainly Chinese, Malays, and Indians. So, you will be able to see many different traditions here of all the different cultures. But the unique culture of this city also helps you witness the Punjabi culture and the Orang Asli. On your tour to Kota Kinabalu city, one of the best and attractive things is the place's culture. Without witnessing the culture, you will not be able to get the best experience of your tour. You will get to meet new people, traditions, lifestyles, culture, and many other things. Apart from the landmarks and beautiful places, this city's unique culture is another thing that pulls the tourists here.

Top 10 Places to Visit

  • Tunku Abdul Rahman Park: Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is one of the famous national parks in the city of Kota Kinabalu. It is located in Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.
  • Manukan Island: Manukan Island is one of the famous and second-largest islands in the city of Kota Kinabalu. It is located in the East Malaysian state of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

Mount Kinabalu: It is a mountain located in the city of Kota Kinabalu. It is the highest peak in the Crocker Range. The elevation of the mountain is about 4095 meters.

  • Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu: Masjid Bandaraya is one of the famous mosques in the city of Kota Kinabalu. It is located in Kampung Likas, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. It is styled in Islamic style.
  • Sabah State Museum: Sabah State Museum is a museum in the city of Kota Kinabalu. It is located in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. It was established in the year 1984.
  • Mari Mari Cultural Village: Mari Mari is a famous tourist attraction in the city of Kota Kinabalu. It is located in Inanam, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.
  • Satay Legend Lok Kawi 1: Satay Legend Lok Kawi 1 is a night market in the city. It is a famous outdoor market featuring vendors cooked food, souvenirs, selling produce, and local crafts.
  • Atkinson Clock Tower: Atkinson Clock Tower is a historical landmark in the city of Kota Kinabalu. It is located in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. It is the oldest standing structure in the city of Kota Kinabalu.
  • Filipino Market Kota Kinabalu Sabah: Filipino Market Kota Kinabalu Sabah is the night market in the city of Kota Kinabalu. It is one of the famous night markets in the city of Kota Kinabalu.
  • Tanjung Aru Beach: Tanjung Aru Beach is one of the famous beaches in the city of Kota Kinabalu. It is located in Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.
Manukan Island


Kota Kinabalu is one of the most visited cities globally due to its numerous exciting and breathtaking sites. The city is rich in culture and has many museums to commemorate its rich and amazing history. Exploring the city is an enjoyable experience as it is very safe for tourists, with no violent crimes against tourists. The cost of living is relatively low, making it an awesome place to go on vacation. The choice to visit the city of Kota Kinabalu is, without a doubt, a great one, and it will be worth your time and every cent spent. Keep reading to be able to find out more about this fantastic tourist destination. The city is buzzing as it is the center of commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and entertainment.

City Parks

The city of Kota Kinabalu has many gorgeous parks and gardens, with some being for exercise, family time, and amusement parks, to name a few. Listed below are the most popular parks in the city.

  • Kota Kinabalu City Park
  • City Park Roll Of Honour
  • Likas Bay Public Park
  • Taman Awan Teluk Likas Kota Kinabalu Sabah
  • Hibiscus
  • Merdeka Square Kota Kinabalu
Kota Kinabalu City Park

National Parks

The country has always been famous for its beautiful and graceful natural resources, and so that this city has a wonderful collection of national parks and a zoo. We are listing down a few of them that may not exactly be located in and around the city but are not very far away from the city.

  • Padang Merdeka
  • Tunku Abdul Rahman Park
  • Sabah Parks
  • Taman Negara Gunung Kinabalu, Kundasang, Sabah
  • Rasa Ria Reserve By Shangri-La
  • Wildlife Park


There are several beautiful beaches in and around the city of Kota Kinabalu that are worth visiting for a day of relaxing or doing other beach activities. Below is a list of the most popular beaches in the city.

  • Tanjung Aru Beach
  • Ums Odec Beach
  • Likas Bay Beach 2
  • Pulau Mamutik
  • Tanjung Aru Beach 0
  • First Beach, Tanjung Aru
  • Teluk Likas Beach
Tanjung Aru Beach


The city of Kota Kinabalu also has its share of memorable landmarks and monuments. You must try and visit as many as you possibly can. While the list is quite long, we are mentioning a few of them for our readers' benefit.

  • Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal Labuan Ferry & Boat
  • Signal Hill Observatory Tower
  • Tun Mustapha Tower
  • Poring Hot Spring Ranau Sabah
  • Sulug Island
  • Kota Kinabalu Wetland Ramsar Site
Tun Mustapha Tower


The fact that Kota Kinabalu is the state capital city means that there are many stories it has to tell. There are multiple museums across the city that help to commemorate and keep Malaysia's story and culture alive. Numerous museums are worth a visit to ensure that you leave the city has learned about its history, amongst other things. Below is a list of some of the most prominent museums in the city.

  • Sabah State Museum
  • Aquarium & Marine Museum
  • Sabah Islamic Civilization Museum
  • Sabah State Archives
  • Petrosains Play Smart Kota Kinabalu
Sabah State Museum


There are several traditional Malaysian foods found in the city of Kota Kinabalu. Trying various local dishes is one of the best things about being a tourist as you get to experience multiple dishes that you probably could never come across anywhere else. Several restaurants and street vendors sell different dishes that you could try, whether it is out of curiosity or so that you can have a story to tell later.

Traditional Local Restaurants

If you want to try some traditional foods in Kota Kinabalu, you do not have to find much. Multiple restaurants offer mouth-watering traditional dishes. Some of the best ones are given below.

  • D’place Kinabalu
  • Gibing Traditional Food And Café
  • My Native Sabah
  • Inanam Capital Food Court
  • Sino Taste Kitchen
  • Qian Tang Fu
  • Yen Ai

Vegetarian and Vegan

Eating healthy vegetables and different vegan dishes helps travelers to stay healthy and fit. If you are one of them, you do not need to worry much as there are many different vegan restaurants available in the city.

  • Gaya Vegetarian
  • Liew Chai Vegetarian
  • You Tuen Vegetarian
  • Vege Garden
  • Usagi
  • Good Friends Vegetarian Restaurant
  • Tyug Yuen Vegetarian Food Hall

Street Food

Kota Kinabalu is very popular for many food lovers for having different and famous street foods. You will be amazed to see the street food options, and it will surely wake up the real foodie in you. Some of the best street foods that you need to try in Kota Kinabalu are given below.

  • Mee Tuaran
  • Sang Nyuk Mian
  • Roti Cobra
  • Laksa
  • Pan Mee
  • Bak Kut Teh
  • Ngau Chap


There is an endless variety of non-alcoholic drinks, excluding water, to choose from in the city. In its various types and flavors, tea is loved by most people, and in most cases, they drink it even on a hot day. Other choice beverages include soft drinks, lemonade, milkshake, vegan shakes, and even iced tea or coffee. On the colder days, especially during winter, the beverages of choice are usually hot, with things like tea, coffee, and warm milk being the most sought after drinks. Alcohol consumption is relatively high in the city of Kota Kinabalu as alcohol is a source of entertainment or a way of cooling down after a long and hard day at work. There are several bars and pubs where people can go for a relaxing drink and hang out with friends, while some people prefer to drink in the comfort of their own home.


The tap water of Kota Kinabalu is not safe for travelers to drink. It is better to drink water from the packed bottles instead of the local ones. Many locals might suggest filtering the tap water before drinking it to get the bad properties out and make it clear to drink. But it is better to avoid the tap-water as you might still get sick after drinking the filtered water as a traveler. Many shops are available in Kota Kinabalu that has a huge collection of bottled water, both local and international. They are not so cheap, but you have to use them if you are worried about your health. In places where you cannot get the bottled water, make sure to boil the tap water from the nearest places or carry one boiled tap water bottle with you as it is safe to drink once boiled.

Organic Cafés

Organic foods are foods that are grown without artificial nutrients, pesticides, or other chemicals. Eating organic has become a widespread trend where people are very selective about what they put in their bodies. Several organic cafes attract patrons of all ages who are careful about nutrition. There are many cafes in the city that cater specifically to this group of people.

Below is a list of some of the organic cafes that one could try in the city:

  • Pando Café
  • Vege Garden
  • Fresh And Healthy Vegetarian Eatery
  • Chiu’s-The Modern Local
  • Biru Biru
  • New Moon Vegetarian Restaurant


The local beer brewing industry of Kota Kinabalu is quite active as the locals prefer to drink local beer above imported brews. Numerous breweries are responsible for making local liquor, with the most popular being lagers. Malaysian breweries produce mainly light lagers. These breweries are responsible for supplying a majority of the bars and pubs in the city. The most popular breweries are:

  • The Beer Factory Kota Kinabalu
  • Beer Palace
  • The Shamrock Irish Bar
  • Uinah Sabha
  • New Beer Time
  • Ipong Kk Waterfront
  • Bottle Haus


Foreigners hate getting bored when in a new city, so you would see those seeking locals' recommendations. You may even come across hidden gems of the culture and make your trip even more fantastic than you planned. However, this is not the case for people who wish to visit the city as there is always something to do. The city is best known for its art and culture in tourism, and it has many places to explore. These activities will not only help you create a memorable time in the city but will also make your heart race. These activities are the best way to experience the local culture and be a part of it. If there is not much to do in a city, then what is the point of visiting there.

Yoga and Retreats

You will find that young people are the ones that like to participate in such fitness exercised. There are many yoga institutes in the city where you can train under a qualified and experienced yoga teacher. With increasing awareness of the need for a healthy and fit lifestyle, the local people are gaining interest in yoga. Here are some of the famous yoga centers in the city of Kota Kinabalu:

  • Fitworks Studio
  • Kk Pilates Studio
  • Pac Yoga
  • Sun Yoga Be The Light
  • Gokul Yoga Surya
  • Borneo Fitness Academy
  • Fitness Factory Kk


There are many green hotels, camping sites, and couch-surfing hosts that offer accommodation at much cheaper rates and are ideal for those with a tight budget. It would be best to do whatever works best for you. The price you would get depends on your accommodation option. We would not say that accommodation in this city is cheap, neither would we say that it is expensive. These accommodation options range from hotels to apartments, and much more. There are many hotels, hostels, and guest houses that offer various rooms according to your budget's affordability. These places help the tourists to have a comfortable and convenient stay in the city of Kota Kinabalu. It may not be as low as what you would get in some cities, but it is not the most expensive in the world. With this clear, we know that the next question concerns the pricing as people want to know to plan their budget.

Green Hotels

There are several eco-friendly hotels in the city. They have the same aim of sustainability of the environment. These hotels tend to offer safe, non-toxic, and energy-efficient accommodation. Other characteristics include using renewable energy, organic soaps, energy-efficient light fixtures, and recycling programs. A few of the most popular ones are:

  • Green Apple Boutique Hotel
  • Green View Motel
  • Raia Hotel Kota Kinabalu
  • Hashtag 12 Boutique Hotel
  • Hilton Kota Kinabalu
  • Gaya Center Hotel

Hostels and Guest Houses

The city offers a luxurious yet comfortable stay to its guests but at affordable prices. Here are some comfortable and affordable guest-houses as well as hostels in the city. They are given below:

  • Homy Seafront Hostel
  • Masada Bed & Breakfast
  • Seaview Capsule Hotel
  • Skypod Hostel
  • Eb2 Hostel
  • Dimple Life Hostel
  • Kinabalu Youth Hostel


If you want something more flexible for your accommodation in Kota Kinabalu city, renting an apartment is an excellent choice for you. It helps to save a lot of money while staying comfortably as long as needed. Renting service helps you to find some of the best apartments in the city and save time searching manually. Make sure to take the help of these services and book an apartment before reaching the city.


Couch surfing refers to staying with a host family that rents out a part of their house to tourists. This is a trend that is gaining popularity in the city of Kota Kinabalu. There are several websites where people who are willing can put their homes on offer, and tourists can book the most interesting or convenient one. One such website is called couch surfing.


Campers describe the experience as exciting, and it lures those who have never been camping before. It helps you meet new people, and you get to do things you have never done before. If you a lover of nature and the outdoors, we know that you would wish to experience camping in whatever form when you are in a new city. Among the best ways to do this is camping. Kota Kinabalu's main island and many offshore islands possess all requisite ingredients for high-quality experiences, a moderate climate, natural splendors in singular abundance, and diversity considering its comparatively small size something which amazes many international visitors who get out of the cities and easy access to quality sites. The thing with camping is that there are particular areas for it; else, the whole purpose is defeated. Thus, it is right to know about camping sites.

  • Norminal Point Sukg
  • Bukit Sepanggar
  • Tontolob Green Valley
  • Baptist Retreat Center
  • Vv Land
  • Kasalagan Park
  • Shittim Camp
  • Polumpung Melangkap View Camp Site

How to Get There

One of the most important things that you need to know before planning on your tour is the best option to reach the destination quickly and at a reasonable price. You need to know every single detail of different transport options, which can help you in your journey. You will get different options like cars, airways, trains, and many others. However, most people from different countries choose the airways as the best option for reaching Kota Kinabalu and saving a lot of time in the process.


Kota Kinabalu International Airport is located about 8 kilometers away from the city center. The airport serves over 50 million passengers every year and is considered the busiest airport in the country. It offers many international and domestic flights to various major cities.

Kota Kinabalu International Airport


Most companies serve the same west-coast routes. Buses are reliable, cheap, and comfortable. Some companies offer large, cozy airplane-style reclining seats. Reservations are advisable on weekends and holidays. The bus terminuses are chaotic, and you may have to take some local help to determine which bus to choose for your requirements. This is because the intercity bus terminus is located around one hour from the city.


The city provides regional, inter-city, national destination trains. This public mode of transport is quite popular amongst the locals as a cheap and convenient mode. The railway station also includes a metro line and a tram line used daily by locals and tourists to reach different city areas.


Hitchhiking is not a common way for locals to travel except when returning to town from the mountains, but there's almost zero fear of hitchhikers, and many locals are happy to help. There is a common perception that hitchhiking is only easy for women and foreigners, but it appears not true. Local people are amicable and usually very honest.


Other modes of traveling to the city of Kota Kinabalu like rental car services, trams, trains, and private planes can help you conveniently reach the city, but not all of them are the best choices. Although such transports are very comfortable and convenient, if you want the best city experience without any guilt, you should prefer vehicles that are less harmful to the environment.

Moving Around

Private transport consists of motor scooters, private cars, taxi cabs, and bicycles. These modes of transportations are efficient in helping you move around the city and discover the city's hidden gems. Walking is an alternative mode of moving around but is the healthiest and cheapest mode. Motor-scooters often weave between cars and occasionally through oncoming traffic. The Station serves as the comprehensive hub for the subway, bus, conventional rail, and high-speed rail.


Despite numerous attempts to decongest the city, including increasing the parking cost in town and banning public service vehicles from accessing certain parts of the town center, the streets have continued to be congested. Away from the city and into the residential suburbs boasts of many trees along many avenues that provide shade and fresh air as you stroll along. Whether you prefer a more natural setting or prefer to take in the sights, these are the best places for walking in the city.


Riding a bicycle is undoubtedly one of the best eco-friendly options that help keep nature clean and help you get to your destination faster. The lanes and roads are very well maintained by the city officials, helping the riders ride safely and comfortably in the city. If you want to take care of your health and prevent pollution on your tour, then a bicycle is the best travel option. There are many rental services online and offline that will give you a bicycle on rent for limited days. Make sure to book them faster to avoid any hectic issues last time.

Electronic Vehicles

The government promotes electronic vehicles by setting up various charging stations and parking areas for such cars. The users of electronic cars and bikes also receive relaxation for taxes. You can easily find many electronic vehicle stores in Kota Kinabalu, but you may need to make a booking to ensure that you can get a vehicle the day of your travel.

Public Bus

Public buses in the country are the cheapest mode of moving around the city. You can easily find these buses in all areas of the city and can take a ride on them by paying a small but reasonable ticket charge. These buses are a standard mode of transportation for the locals and are entirely safe for tourists. You can use public buses to travel to different city areas and gain some useful information from the locals on the bus. These buses provide an accessible transportation mode for locals and tourists to places inside and outside the city.

Tram, Train and Subway

Tram is an excellent way of moving around the city and exploring the local culture, heritages, and landmarks. Railway stations in the city of Kota Kinabalu serve the locals and tourists for moving around the city. These railway networks are some of the fastest ways of moving around the town and getting some beautiful city views. The metro system in Kota Kinabalu is one of the biggest networks for metro trains in the World. It is the fastest mode of moving around the city and is the most popular public transport for working-class people and students. The metro trains can help you reach any part of the city with ease and safety.

Sustainable Shopping

You will find many Malaysian models and actors promoting the use of such items. These items are sourced from locally available resources and consider all environmental aspects to avoid any negative impact. There are many places where you can shop sustainably and act as a responsible person. These places are the local food markets, flea markets, second-hand stores, and eco-fashion stores.

Food Markets

These markets serve as the primary source of fresh and quality food products in the city of Kota Kinabalu. You will find that these markets home local businesses and people that sell high-quality products at a reasonable rate. These markets are better options as they are relatively cheaper and better sources than the frozen and preserved food in the supermarkets and departmental stores. By buying produce from the local fishermen, farmers, and producers, you can help them grow their business.

  • Night Food Markets
  • Api-Api Night Food Market
  • Kk Containers Street Foods Night Market
  • Satay Legend Lok Kawi 1
  • Local Fruits Market
  • Pasar Malam (Food Night Market Asia City)

Flea Markets

These markets consist of local businesses and people that sell second-hand products that are reusable. These markets are run by local people and the best places to find local art and craft items. You can find these markets fill with handmade products and represent the local culture and people. These are must-visit markets where you can buy souvenirs for your trip.

  • China City Sabah
  • Pasar Minggu Gaya Street
  • Filipino Market Kota Kinabalu Sabah
  • Cold Brew Coffee Sabah
  • Handicraft Market
  • Exchange4U

Second Hand Stores

These stores are some of the most common places for shopping for lower-income groups and budgeted travelers. These stores sell second-hand products that possess the potential for reuse. You can find many antique items at low rates as well.

  • Kk Thrift Shop
  • Kims Gaelleoli
  • Joy Of Bundle
  • Kim’s Trading
  • Shung Fung Marketing
  • Blossom Boxes


Eco-fashion is a new way to look stylish without polluting the environment. Many travelers prefer to buy eco-friendly fashion from the stores in their travel destinations. Finding eco-fashion stores in Kota Kinabalu city will not be very hard for you. From popular branded stores to local shops are available here to help you get eco-fashions.


The need for proper recycling and waste disposal is essential to protect and conserve the environment. You will find many recycling stores in various districts where you can take your recyclable waste and get it appropriately recycled. These stores offer various monetary or store voucher services that you can use for buying other recyclable items and services. The government has also provided multiple incentives to people following various recycling waste measures and saving natural resources.


The city is trying to lower the waste produced by different things. They are trying to promote recycling products, and there are many shops in the city that offer mind condition recycled essentials. Most travelers like to buy those recycled products to keep the waste low. In the past free years, the locals are also trying to cope with the changes and adopt recycled products as the pollution index is god in this city. As an eco-friendly traveler, you will get green hotels, green shops, to organic restaurants here that will help you to keep the waste minimum.

Work and Study Abroad

Kota Kinabalu holds a lot of significance as it is the financial center of the World. There are two major stock exchanges in the city that are many decades old and hold a lot of significance to the current world economy. As the financial hub, you will find that the educational and career opportunities in the city of Kota Kinabalu are the best on the Continent. All you need to do to get admission is apply to the various institutions and meet their requirements.

Exchange Student

Exchange Students is an excellent and popular thing in this city that helps international students study in the best colleges. Some of the education institutes have started offering exchange students to their partners in different countries. There are many exchange student opportunities that are there in the city for students to choose from. There is a specific semester in the city that is getting famous and inviting students from other countries. Many other countries do not have this opportunity and study options like this one. However, most exchange students that come to the city are from neighboring countries and Asia. But some students take part in other faraway countries. Shortly, the exchange student concept is set to grow more and have an outstanding impact on the educational system of Kota Kinabalu.

Au Pair

Au pairing is a relatively new concept in Asian countries where a foreign couple helps out a family in meeting their responsibilities and managing a household. The couple helps the family members in education and career to help them build a better life with lots of potentials. You will hardly find an Au Pair or a family participating in such activities as they are accustomed to managing by themselves or with the help of their close relatives or neighbors. Au Pair is a great option for tourists to stay in the city like locals and help people. Not only that, but you also get food and money for this service, which helps you to stay as long as you want comfortably with earning money—many people in Ipoh city like to get an Au Pair to help them out.


Many volunteering organizations in the city of Kota Kinabalu are fighting to resolve various cultural, environmental, and social problems such as violence against women and children, child labor, animal protection, environment protection, humanitarian rights, etc. By participating in these organizations' activities, you can play your vital role as a responsible tourist and help out someone who needs your help. Want to keep the city clean and good for tourists? Well, volunteering is the best option to do it. You will find many other tourists with you who are volunteering in the city. It will help you to learn their language and get close to the local people.

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