The capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu enjoys a prime location on the shore of the South China Sea and is an inspired choice for exciting holiday and breaks. KK, as it's also known, is surrounded by tropical rainforest and enjoys some of the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets in the world. The city is on the beautiful island of Borneo, and Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is a major attraction, while the Koto Kinabalu National Park is also within easy reach. Fish to your heart's content in one of the world's top fishing spots, or explore the history and culture of the region. With spectacular beaches, Mount Kinabalu, historic sites and national parks within easy reach, you can easily tailor your holiday to your personal preferences.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is about 20 to 30 minutes from the city by boat, and divers from all over the world come to explore popular dive sites like the Gaya wreck. The islands and beaches throughout the national park are breathtaking, and offer a wide range of snorkelling and diving opportunities.
Learn more about the history of the city by visiting some of the local museums such as the Sabah State Museum, or take in local art at the Sabah Art Gallery or Borneo Art Gallery. Local sights such as the Atkinson Clock Tower which was built in 1902 when the city was still part of the British Commonwealth, or take a walk up to the Signal Hill Observatory for superb views.
Be sure to see the fabulous city mosque and the Sabah state mosque, as well as the amazing Che Sui Khor Pagoda. Each is an impressive structure and a stark contrast to the modern buildings in the downtown area.
No visit to the city would be complete without trying some of the many local foods and there are dozens of food stalls or kedai kopi (coffee shops) offering everything from Malay and Chinese to Javanese food.
When to fly to Kota Kinabalu
Lying between the coast and Mount Kinabalu means that rain showers are an almost daily occurrence in the city. However, they are normally short and refreshing. Temperatures are an average of 28C (82.4F) all year round, and the hottest months are April and May. January is the coolest month and also one of the best times to plan a visit to catch the Chinese New Year celebrations. Thanks to stable weather conditions, any time of year is perfect for a holiday in the city, though it is drier in February and March.
Because weather is reasonably stable and the difference between wet and dry season is not marked, flights to the city don't fluctuate in price much over the course of the year. School holidays and the Chinese New Year combined with the dry season make the months of January to April slightly more expensive, while the 'wet season' from September to the beginning of January tends to be slightly cheaper.
Getting around Kota Kinabalu
There are minibus and van services which locals use to get around the town, and these are a budget-friendly option for travellers. Taxis are plentiful, but unlike the airport service, you will need to haggle to agree the fare you want to pay. The city is small and getting around on foot is relatively simple if you're aware of traffic.