Best Travel Tips to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia (For Your First Trip)

kota kinabalu sunset

Kota Kinabalu is one of the most exotic places in Malaysia and one of the most attractive tourist destinations across Southeast Asia.

The city was founded in 1882 by the British.

It is situated in the northwestern part of Sabah state on the coast of South China Sea.

Together with the small surrounding towns it has a population of about 1,000,000 inhabitants.

Today, the pearl of Malaysia enjoys the fame of dynamic economic center, which combines the modern with the traditional and the business with exotic environment.

The best time to visit Kota Kinabalu

kota kinabalu sunset
If you have decided to spend your vacation in this attractive Malay city or in some of the lovely resorts that surround it, will be best to travel during the period from January to April when the rainfall quantity is most scarce.

What clothes to wear in Kota Kinabalu?

Traveling to this exotic destination is best to wear only thin summer clothes.

Here temperatures are quite high throughout the year.

Light open shoes, slippers and sandals are best suited to local conditions.

Get your swimsuit, sunglasses, sunscreen and an umbrella, because here, although short rains are quite frequent.

What does Kota Kinabalu can offer to the visitors?

shangri la kota kinabalu
Kota Kinabalu is a world class tourist destination and those who have already visited the resort city can confirm that Malaysia is among the most exciting holiday destinations in the world.

The whole city and its surroundings are bathed in lush equatorial vegetation and places for pleasant walks are numerous.

In the city itself there are many modern shopping centers and restaurants that will appeal even the most discerning visitors.

In its vicinity you can find some of the most luxurious hotels in Southeast Asia.

Kota Kinabalu offers a great variety of entertainment options.

Here you will find beautiful parks, golf courses and what not!

The atmosphere of the city is an unusual mix of Asian and European spirit, because of the European cultural influence in the past.

Like any East Asian city, Kota Kinabalu is dynamic, but in a peculiar way.

The streets are always full of people, but pedestrians never seem rushed.

The reason lies probably in the high humidity and thirty degree heat, not allowing a person to maintain a fast pace for long time.

And if you want to experience true Asian atmosphere then you should visit some of the local markets.

The loaded stalls with coloured goods and noise will remind you that you are on the Asian continent.

North of Kota Kinabalu are located two of the most famous resorts in Malaysia – Nexus Golf Resort and Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria.

The both resorts are in close proximity to each other on the coast and here you will find some of the most beautiful beaches in the vicinity.

The hotel’s base is situated amidst the equatorial rain forest, which makes its location unique.

Not far from the 5-star Shangri-La Rasa Ria complex is one of the sanctuaries for orangutans in the country.

Here on an area of 64 acres the people make a big effort to protect this endangered species.

Contact with these creatures is something very special because they are among the most intelligent representatives of the animal kingdom.

The climate of Kota Kinabalu

waterfall kota kinabalo jungle
The weather is warm and humid all year around with constant temperatures of about 29 – 30°C.

Precipitation generally is high throughout the year, most insignificant in the period from January to April.

Tourists however do not have to worry about the rainfalls, because in these latitudes the rains are not continuous, but rather short and heavy.

Nature of Kota Kinabalu

kota kinabalu sabah
Nature in the vicinity of Kota Kinabalu is the most lush and rich of animal and plant species that one can imagine.

Known fact is that Borneo is one of three places on our planet with the greatest bio diversity (the other two places are the central parts of Africa and the Amazon jungle).

The hills surrounding the city are covered with thick and impenetrable jungle that is home to some of the rarest creatures in the world.

Besides lavish forests near the city, Kota Kinabalu also offers beautiful beaches with white and very fine sand.

The waters of the sea have a constant temperature between 28 and 30°C throughout the year.

Below the water surface of the South China Sea flourish gorgeous coral reefs, making Malaysia one of the world top destinations for diving tourism.

About half an hour drive from Kota Kinabalu is Kinabalu National Park, which is a part of the world natural heritage under UNESCO protection.

It covers Mount Kinabalu, which is approximately 4,095 m high.

The park is unbelievable natural treasure, and some species that thrive here are just stunning.

One of these is the plant Nepenthes rajah.

This is one of the most bizarre life forms in the plant kingdom.

Special about it is the way to eat.

Unlike other plants, its menu consists mainly of insects that accidentally fall into his cup.

In the opposite direction amidst the waters of South China Sea lies the island of Palau Gaya.

It is just a little more than a kilometre from Kota Kinabalu.

It has some excellent secluded beaches and the whole is covered with dense rain forest.

The location is wonderful for diving and for the practice of Eco tourism.

In some places the vegetation is so dense that casts a shadow on the beaches and can even save you the need for beach umbrella.

Population of Kota Kinabalu

street view kota kinabalu
The local population consists mainly of Malays, Chinese, Filipinos and Bajaus.

The main religions in Kota Kinabalu are Islam and Buddhism, the first one is the main religion the Malays believe in and the second one is main for the Chinese population.

In Kota Kinabalu lives also a small percentage of Europeans.

Here are speaking different languages – Malay, English, Chinese and others.


kota kinabalu panoramic view
Kota Kinabalu is a rich city with developed industry.

Industrial production here has always been a major source of income.

However, in recent years the services sector has an increasing share.

Banks and insurance companies set up branches here.

The importance of tourism industry also increases.

This do not have to surprise anyone, as the state of Sabah possesses an exceptional natural beauty and will not be an exaggeration to say that is among the most beautiful places in Asia.

All this combined with excellent infrastructure helps Kota Kinabalu to become a dream destination for tourists from around the world.