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Top 21 Things to Do in Kota Kinabalu on your Honeymoon

In this issue, we take you to discover Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah in Malaysia. Famous for the Mount Kinabalu climb, this coastal city has more gems than you can imagine – from pristine islands to bustling markets to incredible wildlife.

Kota Kinabalu – Home to the tallest peak in SouthEast Asia, this city sees many travellers coming to scale Mount Kinabalu. In fact, the mountain is so famous that the city of Kota Kinabalu is named after it! But this coastal city is also home to far more gems that many of us overlook, which makes it ideal for a week-long vacation, even two! Its beautiful waterfront, mesmerizing sunsets, bustling markets, pristine beaches, and diverse nature is bound to overwhelm you. We visited this quaint city earlier this year and found its old-world charm so mesmerizing. Despite it’s slower pace of life, the city is brimming with culture, heritage, and friendly locals who will no doubt win you over with their genuinity. I can’t wait to show you our favourite picks here, let’s go!

Before we get started on the things to do, here are our recommendations on the best places to stay at in Kota Kinabalu!

p.s. A short disclaimer that some of our links below are affiliate links – which come at no cost to you if you decide to click and purchase. But if you do book through our site, we get a small commission which keeps our site running and allow us to create content for you – for free! That being said, we only recommend picks that we ourselves would use. Thank you for your support! For more information on our disclosure policy, please click here.

Best Places to Stay in Kota Kinabalu:

1. Enjoy the best sunset in Borneo and experience luxury beachfront living at Shangri-La Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu

Shangri-La Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu - Paradise in tropical retreat

Many people say that Borneo has some of the most stunning sunsets in the world. And true enough, with the mesmerising views and its beachfront location, a honeymoon at Shangri-La Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu will be one for the books. For starters, this resort is home to the famous Sunset Bar, which is regarded as one of the top seven places in the world to watch the sunset and witness Kota Kinabalu’s picturesque, colourful skies. Once the sun sets, relax in one of Shangri-La Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu’s contemporary rooms and suites charmingly inspired by Borneo’s rich cultural heritage. Spacious and comfortable, these hotel suites are the perfect place to experience the tranquil and tropical island life of Kota Kinabalu. The best part is that you can actually see the azure South China Sea (or the majestic Mount Kinabalu) right from the comfort of your own suite! 

Shangri-La Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu also offers many amenities which would make your honeymoon even more fun. The resort boasts a beachfront mini waterpark that caters to both the young and young-at-heart, featuring 100-metre slides, water battle stations with a giant water bucket, and an infinity pool. Thrill-seekers can indulge in professional water sports and scuba diving excursions at STAR Marina, the resort’s very own water activities centre. Alternatively, you can opt for more relaxed water activities, such as a romantic sunset sail towards the breathtaking South China Sea. Then, once all the excitement has subsided, indulge in traditional Borneo spa treatments at Chi, The Spa, a unique hideaway located on a small island connected to the resort. 

Book a romantic beachfront honeymoon at Shangri-La Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu >
📍 No.20, Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
📞 +60 88-327 888
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2. Immerse in the natural and cultural wonders of Sabah at Shangri-La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu

Sabah at Shangri-La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu’s beauty is simply unmatched. With its lush surroundings, sparkling blue sea, and majestic mountain, there is an abundance of natural wonders to explore in this city alone. But what if you can experience all this in one place? Stay at Shangri-La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu, a luxurious 400-acre resort where the sea meets the rainforest. This resort allows you to experience Kota Kinabalu’s nature in its full glory, from admiring the stunning South China Sea right in the comfort of your hotel suite to soaking in awe-inspiring rainforest views on one of the resort’s hiking trails. 

Shangri-La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu has everything you could possibly want for an unforgettable honeymoon in Kota Kinabalu. Nature enthusiasts will love exploring the resort’s very own forest reserve – the Rasa Ria Reserve, where they can hike, bird watch, and learn about the local wildlife. Meanwhile, those into fitness could try playing in the resort’s 18-hole championship golf course or sign up for thrilling water activities. Then, after a day of adventure, unwind with a luxurious spa treatment or simply relax in a gorgeous pool while watching Kota Kinabalu’s captivating sunsets. The sky is painted with such romantic colours, like a scene from a painting, and it will be even more breathtaking when shared with your beloved.

Romantic Kota Kinabalu sunsets from Shangri-La Rasa Ria
Romantic Kota Kinabalu sunsets from Shangri-La Rasa Ria

Undoubtedly, food is an essential part of any honeymoon. Shangri-La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu, there will be 10 dining options for the ultimate gastronomic adventure. From fresh seafood and Western food at Oceano Modern Grill (must-tries are the Meat Platter and Prawn Aglio Olio) to a delectable Oriental fare at The Eight and a unique Japanese dining experience at Kozan Teppan-yaki, every dish at the resort is sure to tantalise your tastebuds. Honestly, Shangri-La Rasa Ria has provided us with one of the best dining experiences we have ever had in terms of taste, so we highly recommend that you stay at the resort for at least 4 days and 3 nights to fully enjoy the resort’s culinary offerings, among many other things. Even their breakfast selections and in-room dining offers are remarkable and worth trying!

Read our full review for Shangri-La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu here >
Book your honeymoon at Shangri-La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu >
📍 Pantai Dalit, Tuaran, Sabah 89208 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
📞 +60 19-884 6929
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3. Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu, for an upscale waterfront urban sanctuary with sweeping sunset views

le meridien exterior

Situated at the heart of Kota Kinabalu’s central district and edging the waterfront, Le Méridien Kota Kinabalu provides the best of both worlds with stunning panoramic sunset views and luxurious comfort for a romantic honeymoon getaway. The stylish 5-star hotel is the first in the city to feature two-storey suites – the Duplex Sea View Suite and the Loft Suite which come with access to the Club Lounge. The Duplex Sea View suite features an outdoor jacuzzi for added pampering while enjoying the panoramic view of the South China Sea, whereas the Loft Suite gives added privacy with a separated living room and bedroom floor.

When it comes to satiating your palate, Le Méridien Kota Kinabalu offers refreshing culinary experiences with an extensive variety of cuisines and cocktails. For Italian cravings, Favola’s upscale setting will definitely provide a romantic dinner experience for you and your partner. Then comes our personal favourite, the Rooftop @ Le Méridien on the 15th floor. An ideal spot to catch the famous Kota Kinabalu fiery yet magical sunset, the evening gets even better with their exquisite cocktails. We certainly had one too many, as we tried almost every cocktail on the menu. Highly recommending the Dirty Banana cocktail, it’s too good to be missed out on!

le meridien kota kinabalu logo

Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu
Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens, Sinsuran, Kota Kinabalu  88000 Malaysia | +60 88-322 222
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4. Reside in modern comforts at Hilton Kota Kinabalu

In the heart of this balmy tropical city, is Hilton Kota Kinabalu. Hilton KK is one of our top picks on where to stay in Kota Kinabalu, for this upscale hotel is located in the centre of it all, making it a good base to explore the city’s sights during your honeymoon. They have a selection of luxurious rooms and suites, each boasting contemporary design, spacious interiors, and deluxe comforts. The natural light coming through its large windows and natural wood accents on the furnishings made us feel energized yet relaxed during our stay. Hilton Kota Kinabalu is in close proximity to main attractions such as the KK Waterfront, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, and Gaya Street Sunday Market, making it super accessible for you to be out and about. Even if you wish to stay indoors and spend a day just relaxing, you can do so at the rooftop pool. 

For dining options, Urban Kitchen serves up local specialties and western favourites in a buffet set up. Zest Cafe is a great place to grab a quick bite, and The Breakout Lounge is a perfect setting for afternoon relaxation. Our favourite spot is the Rooftop Poolside Bar & Grill, the dishes are delicious (try the Cod Fish!) and you can admire the sunset in the distance as you dine. The Mediterranean-inspired interiors are relaxing, and you can whiff the delicious smells from the open-concept kitchen as you watch the chefs fire up your meal. Seafood lovers will be excited to know that Welcome Seafood Restaurant, one of the popular seafood restaurants in Kota Kinabalu is just opposite the hotel (See #2 below). 

Hilton Kota Kinabalu

Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Asia City, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, 88000, Malaysia

Click here for rates via or Agoda >
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Top 21 Things to Do in Kota Kinabalu

1. Admire the Floating City Mosque


Commonly termed as the ‘floating’ city mosque due to its reflection in the man-made lake surrounding it, the City Mosque in Kota Kinabalu is one of the most beautiful structures in Malaysia. You will find many stunning photographs of this majestic white mosque on the internet, and the best spot to capture the entire mosque and its reflection is outside the entrance. Though second to the main Sabah State Mosque, the architecture of the City Mosque is exemplary. It has a prayer hall which houses three madrasahs and can accommodate 9,000 to 12,000 people at a time (as compared to 5,000 in the State Mosque)! When visiting the mosque, observe a proper dress code and wear conservative clothing that covers your knees. If you plan on going into the prayer hall, you are required to rent clothing and a headscarf for RM5 (~S$1.60).

Floating City Mosque
How to get there: It is located about 3 kilometers from Kota Kinabalu City (10 – 15 minutes drive away).
Opening hours: open for public visits daily except Fridays (their day of worship) from 8 am to 5 pm. Free for visitors.

2. Tuck into a delicious seafood feast at Welcome Seafood Restaurant


Seafood lovers rejoice! If you are staying at Hilton Kota Kinabalu, simply cross over to Welcome Seafood Restaurant where you can tuck into fresh and delicious seafood at reasonable prices. Choose from a wide variety of seafood such as prawns, lobsters, clams, squid, abalone. The seafood is displayed in aquariums, so you can be assured of freshness and quality. Some of the lobsters are bigger than my forearm! During our visit, we were shocked at how many people were dining here, their space stretches over the entire mall’s first floor and there are over a hundred tables. We suggest calling for a reservation prior to your visit. They also have a branch at Penampang. 

Welcome Seafood Restaurant (Asia City Branch)
Lot G 18, Ground Floor, Kompleks Asia City, Phase 2A, Jalan Asia City, 88300 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Tel: 088 447 866 / +6 011 3162 3812
Opening hours: 12 pm to 12 am

3. Scale the tallest peak in Southeast Asia, Mount Kinabalu


If you can only visit one place in Borneo that exemplifies the island’s very best, it has to be Mount Kinabalu. This world heritage site stands majestically at 4,905 metres above sea level. It is the highest peak in Malaysia and makes for a challenging but extremely rewarding climb. During your climb, soak in the majestic views, stargaze at the night sky and admire the morning sunrise. The climb is relatively safe. The cost to climb will be about RM250 (~S$80) and you get a climbing permit, a guide, transfer to Timpohon Gate, accommodation at Laban Rata, insurance and entry to the Kinabalu National Park.

The climb takes 2 days – you will trek 6 km to Laban Rata on the first day which will take about 4 – 5 hours, before climbing to the summit early on the following morning, where you will see the incredible sunrise and feel all your efforts pay off. The round trip from Laban Rata to the summit takes about 6 – 9 hours, following a descend to the park headquarters which will be about 3 – 4 hours. Click here for details on the climb. After your climb, we suggest you head to The Chi Spa or Jari-Jari for a soothing massage to ease the tension from the climb.   

Mount Kinabalu

4. Go Island hopping at Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park


Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park is a cluster of 5 islands located off Kota Kinabalu. namely Gaya Island, Manukan Island, Mamutik Island, Sapi Island, and Sulug Island. A short 15-minute speedboat from Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal will take you there. Boat transfers to the islands are available daily from 7.30 am to 5 pm. Click here for the admission and boat charter fees. 

The islands are hilly and forested, with a mixture of rocky coastlines and white sand beaches. Gaya is the largest island with Manukan coming in second, following the remaining three which are very small. That being said, Manukan is the most developed followed by Sapi. On the islands, you can go on jungle treks, mangrove walks, snorkel the reefs, go scuba diving, or engage in water sports! We did banana boating and parasailing at Sapi Island during our trip. This tour brings you to Manukan and Sapi Island. 

5. Zipline from one island to another


One of our most memorable activities was ziplining from one island to another! From Sapi Island, we hopped on a boat to Gaya Island. It took less than 5 minutes, and a short walk through the jungle to reach the zip line. Coral Flyer is Borneo’s longest zip line at 250 metres long. You will experience zipping over the crystal clear waters, with the wind blowing in your hair as you see the stunning view between the two islands. Before you know it, you’re back on Sapi Island, wishing to go again. The zip line costs RM68 (~S$23) per person and includes the boat transfer from Gaya to Sapi Island.

6. Soak in the mesmerizing Kota Kinabalu sunset

Kota Kinabalu’s sunset is mesmerizing and romantic to watch. As dawn turns to dusk, the sky dramatically lights up into a warm glow. Somehow the sunset here seems to linger a little longer. One of the top places to admire the sunset is at Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa’s Sunset bar. It sits right on the edge of the island and presents you an uninterrupted panoramic view of the sunset. Come early to reserve a spot on one of the lounge beds and order a cocktail to fully enjoy the spectacular sunset experience. If you prefer watching the sunset from a vantage point, another popular sunset spot is at Signal Hill observatory tower that overlooks the city. Alternatively, you can also take a sunset cruise around the islands here

7. Unwind over good music and drinks at the waterfront


Bar Street, the waterfront of Kota Kinabalu is a great spot for you to hang out and chill over drinks and live music as you admire the waterfront scenery. The 1.4km boardwalk is ideal for a leisurely stroll and a relaxing evening. Later at night, the bars along the waterfront comes alive with DJs and live bands, making it a vibrant and exciting place to be. Head to The Beer Factory for good spins and a lively ambience – this is their 11th chain, which speaks for itself! Cocktail lovers, you may find that Beernest Mixo goes right up your alley for you can request any special cocktails mixed by their mixologist. If you are looking to take it up a notch, go to BED (Best Entertainment Destination) at the Waterfront. It’s regarded as one of the best nightclubs in Kota Kinabalu. The drinks are a little pricey, but there is no cover charge.

8. Go on a cultural expedition to Mari Mari Cultural Village


Kota Kinabalu is ethnically very diverse. It is home to 32 different indigenous groups that consist of over 30 ethnic races and over 80 local dialects spoken. It is Malaysia’s most diverse state. On your trip, discover Kota Kinabalu’s culture and heritage by visiting Mari Mari Cultural Village. You will get to see 5 ethnic communities present in Sabah – the Bajau, Lundayeh, Murut, Rungus, and Dusun and see the daily routines of traditional Sabahan life. Grab the chance to see a blowpipe-making demonstration, a fire-starting demonstration using bamboo, and even a tattoo-making demonstration. You can also sample traditional delicacies made by each ethnic group – it does not get more authentic than this! Click here for the Mari Mari Cultural Village tour. 

Another alternative is the Borneo Cultural Village located 50 minutes away from the city. If you are looking for a farm stay,  you can opt for a Maranjak Longhouse Homestay or Kiulu Farmstay.

9. Feed cows at Desa Cattle Dairy Farm


At the foothill of Mount Kinabalu is Desa Cattle Dairy Farm. Surrounded by 199 hectares of grassland, here you will find one of the most amazing sceneries in Kota Kinabalu, which is why many couples come here to take their wedding photos! The farm produces over 900,000 liters of milk per year! Here you can bottle feed baby calves, and feed grass to goats! You can also see how milking is done, how it is processed, and even try it for yourselves! Be sure to have the yogurt and ice cream! It takes about 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours by car from Kota Kinabalu. The admission fee is RM5 per adult. 

Desa Cattle Dairy Farm
P.O.Box 71, 89308 Kundasang, Ranau, Sabah
+60 88-889 562
Opening Hours: Daily, 8 am – 5 pm

10. Do tandem gliding with a view of Mount Kinabalu at Kokol hill


About an hour’s drive from Kota Kinabalu city will bring you to Kokol hill, where you will have a panoramic view of the entire city. Standing 800+ metres above sea level, you will also get an amazing view of the sunset and Mount Kinabalu in the distance. Try tandem paragliding for an even more breathtaking experience. You will gently glide past the forests and spotted colours of the Menggatal town below. Cost wise, for Malaysians it is RM300 (~S$100), for non-Malaysians it is RM400 (~S$130+) and you can opt for sunset paragliding at RM500 (~$160+). For those who wish to stay longer, there are several homestays ranging from RM100 per night.

11. Embark on the Canopy walk at Kinabalu Park


Kinabalu Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and dubbed to be the Centre of Plant Diversity for South East Asia. It has over 5,000 species of flora and fauna for you to discover. Head to the park and cross the 175 metres long Canopy walkway. Standing at 60 metres above ground, it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. To get to the canopy walk, you will take a trail about 550 metres. Do wear comfortable shoes and bring some water along. The park is about 3-hour drive away from the city. 

12. Take a warm soak at the Poring Hot Springs


After the Canopy walk, head over to Poring Hot Springs to take a relaxing soak. The hot sulphuric minerals of the spring’s water are said to have healing properties that could help soothe your aching muscles as well as improve blood and lymphatic circulation. Entrance to the springs is RM15. Aside from the hot springs, you can also visit the butterfly farm, Poring Orchid Conservation Centre, Rafflesia flower site, the tropical garden, and waterfalls, which are all located within the same Kinabalu Park. When visiting the springs, it is advised to bring your swimwear, a change of clothes, rubber slippers, and a towel. Click here for the Canopy Walk and Poring Hot Springs tour. 

Poring Hot Springs
Opening Hours: Daily from 7 am to 6 pm

13. Go whitewater rafting at Kiulu River or Padas River


Whitewater rafting is one of the more adventurous things to do in Kota Kinabalu and is a popular activity in Sabah. You can either do so at Kiulu River or Padas River. Kiulu River has a rafting distance of 15 km and is great for even beginners. You can even spot some rare Proboscis monkeys while on your rafting journey! Click here for the Kiulu rafting tour and click here for the Padas rafting tour. 

14. Go on a sunset cruise & see monkeys & fireflies

Weston Wetlands is one of the largest wetlands in Sabah and a naturally stunning place. Go on a river safari cruise around the wetlands and marvel at the beautiful landscapes. Be sure to keep your eyes open for proboscis monkeys. Paired with a delicious buffet, you also get an amazing sunset view. You even get to see fireflies! A guide will be with you on the tour to share everything he knows about the wetlands. Click here for the tour. An alternative place to see fireflies would be the Kilas wetlands. Click here for the tour.

15. Discover Borneo’s amazingly diverse wildlife and florals


Borneo has abundant flora and wildlife. The Borneo Rainforest is actually much older than the Amazon Rainforest. 75 milion years older, to be exact. The Amazon is at 55 milion years old, whereas the Borneo rainforest is over 130 million years old. Over 15,000 of plant species and 210 mammal species live in Borneo, which leaves you so much to discover. You can visit the Mount Kinabalu Botanical Garden to see many unique species of trees and flowers, such as the Medinilla speciosa (Showy Asian Grapes), the Nepenthes rajah (pitcher plant), and Paphiopedilum rothschildianum (Rotchcild’s Slipper Orchid) which is the state flower of Sabah.

Sadly, due to forest logging and burnings for palm plantations back in the 80s and 90s, much of the rainforest has been destroyed and species such as the Bornean Orangutan is endangered. Luckily, Kota Kinabalu is home to many sanctuaries that take care of the wildlife, such as the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, Tuaran Crocodile Farm, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, and Kipandi Butterfly Park, which are worth a visit.

16. Shop at the Tamu markets and eat out along Api Api Night Food market


When traveling, I always love to visit the markets of each place, for it is at the markets where you can see where the hawkers run their daily businesses, and how the locals shop. Back in the early days when there were no malls, vendors like farmers, hawkers, and fishermen will gather each week to barter trade their goods at the tamu (market). The most famous tamu in Kota Kinabalu is in Kota Belud. It is 75km away from the city. You will see many goods on display such as local cakes, tapai (rice wine), and local handicrafts. The markets usually operate from as early as 6 am in the morning to about 2 pm. You can check out the night markets (also known as Pasar Malam) here. For souvenirs, you can go to Handicraft Market at Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens.

Another market that shouldn’t be missed when visiting Kota Kinabalu is the Api Api Night Food Market. Opened in December to increase tourism and promote local businesses, it immediately became a hit among tourists and locals alike. We visited last month this 2019, and we can totally understand why. Api-Api Night Food Market is out of the ordinary, with stalls offering a variety of food and drinks such as seafood barbeque, oyster omelette, Penang char kway teow, carrot cake, beard candy, and durian – there’s so much to try out. There are even some local handicrafts. Food trucks are also a thing in a section called Lintasan Deasoka where performances of some local artists are also held.

17. Savour Must-Eats around Gaya Street

Gaya Street, chosen as the venue for the night market because of its historical features dating back to more than a hundred years, becomes a lively city centre when each store lights up as they open. Going around the area give you an easy route to various food stalls, restaurants and cafés.

Have a delicious bowl of laksa from Yee Fung Restaurant

kota kinabalu


Strolling around the night market made us really hungry so we decided to stop at Yee Fung Restaurant to try some of their laksa and beef noodles soup. Laksa is part of the Peranakan cuisine and what makes it stand out among other South East Asian dishes is its spicy curry coconut milk. However, the laksa here is not that spicy; and although it carries a slightly different taste and consistency from similar typical Singaporean dishes, the beef noodle soup grows on you. The dishes are at RM8.50 per order.

怡豐茶室  Kedai Kopi Yee Fung
No. 127, Gaya Street, Kota Kinabalu City, Sabah, Malaysia.
+6088 312042
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday 6:30 AM – 6 PM | Saturday/Sunday/Public Holidays  6:30 AM to 4 PM

Munch on the chicken rice at Wiya Nasi Ayam Dan Kedai Kopi

kota kinabalu


A short walk away from Gaya Street is one of Kota Kinabalu’s most famous chicken rice restaurants: Wiya Nasi Ayam Dan Kedai Kopi. And of course, we didn’t miss the chance to sample their famous dish. The restaurant was nearly packed when we got there which proved us even more how good the food is. Segama complex where the restaurant is housed in is apparently a prime spot among locals and foreigners despite the crowd and the lack of parking spaces.

There wasn’t really anything visually impressive about the dishes when they arrived. The chicken is served on a simple plate with some sauce. The rice, on the other hand, was served in an interesting pyramid shape. The rice really matched the chicken well, though. It is fragrant and light, not too oily. The chicken was well-cooked, tender, and juicy. The taste and aroma of the chicken come out when mixed with the sauce. The chilli was not too spicy and added a really savoury flavour to the dish. Aside from chicken rice, the restaurant also sells roasted pork, dumpling soup, and vegetables at a minimum price of M8.50 per plate. Their coconut pudding is also a crowd favourite. Served in a young coconut shell with the flesh still inside, it makes a delicious and refreshing treat.

味雅海南雞飯茶餐廳 Wiya Nasi Ayam Dan Kedai Kopi
Block F, Segama Complex, 4, Lorong Segama, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
+60 88-214 378

Grab a meal at a modern rustic-themed Nook Cafe

kota kinabalu


If you missed the Api Api Night Food Market on Gaya St, the Sunday Market is another area you can visit. Open from 6 am to 1 pm, it offers a variety of products from food and drinks, fruits and vegetables, clothes to flower plants and pets. The market is also a perfect place to find sarong, local delicacies, or any trinkets you can bring home as souvenirs.

Market adventure can be exhausting, but with the number of food stalls and restaurants lining the street, you can quickly fill the churning stomach. We walked and explored a bit more though and found this cosy little cafe along Lorong Dewan called Nook Cafe. From the rustic decors to the friendly staff and the soft background music, the atmosphere of the cafe is very homey and inviting. It’s impossible not to feel relaxed once you’re inside. The cafe offers a mix of Asian and Western cuisine as well as options for vegetarian customers. Their pricing is a bit on the pricey side with each dish ranging from RM18-25, but the ambience makes up for it. We tried their scotch eggs and grilled cheese sandwich which are both good. Their sweet potato chips are also a must-try. It comes as a side, but you can order it separately.

Nook Cafe
8 Jalan Dewan, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
+6088-275 834

Learn how to eat xiao long bao at Emperor’s Delight

kota kinabalu


Also not far from Gaya Street where Sunday Market and Api Api Night Food Market are held is Emperor’s Delight restaurant where you can enjoy authentic Chinese cuisines. The interior of the restaurant is very oriental with red, black, and white as predominant colours. The kitchen, on the other hand, is exposed. It is separated from the dining area by a clear glass wall where customers can see their noodles being kneaded from scratch, pulled, and twisted until they become the right size for whichever La Mian dish they ordered. They have a lot of options to fit whatever flavour you’re in the mood for – either beef, pork, or seafood.

Aside from their hand-pulled noodles, another specialty of Emperor’s Delight is their Xiao Long Bao. They have two versions of the popular dish: the original Shanghai steamed pork dumpling which is available at RM9.80 for 6pcs, and crab meat steamed pork dumpling which is at RM12.80 for 5pc. Both are very delicious and mouthwatering. Each bite brings out the rich flavour of the meat and broth.

The restaurant also serves other dishes such as meat, seafood, and dim sum. Their mapo tofu (RM11.90) and egg custard bun (rm8.50 for 3 Pcs) are also worth a try.

Emperor’s Delight
Lot 6, Jalan Pantai, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
+60 88-288 686

18. Go on a heritage walk and see the Atkinson Clocktower


To discover Kota Kinabalu heritage, go on a walking tour here. It will also bring you to see the Atkinson tower, which is the oldest landmark in Kota Kinabalu and dates back to pre-war. This all-wood-no-nails structure even survived the bombing in WWII. Built in the memory of Francis George Atkinson, this tower stands prominently along the Signal Hill Road and is often used as a landmark. 

19. Spend a night on Survivor Island


Did you know that the first season of Survivor was filmed on one of the islands in Borneo? That’s how Pulau Tiga got its name as ‘Survivor Island’. The island has active mud volcanoes and is infested with snakes but there are now resorts on the island that you can stay on. The island is great for snorkeling, kayaking, and even diving! Diving lessons are available for beginners.

20. Visit an organic tea farm


Tea drinking is a huge part of Sabah’s culture. The Sabah Tea Garden is the largest plantation in Borneo, with over 2,408 hectares of lush tea plantation. It is the only organic tea farm in Borneo and one of the few in the world. Surrounded by misty rainforest, away from the city in the cool mountain air, this plantation is a good place for a refreshing day trip! Apart from learning about how tea is planted and made, you can enjoy recreational activities such as obstacle-crossing in the Sapaon Recreational Area, trekking along the trails to the peak of Kamunsu Hill or embarking on a night walk to check out the unique insect life. Try the freshly-made tea pancakes and Sabah Tea Pandan teh tarik, both of which are popular menu items available only at the Tea House. If you wish to stay for long, there are a few accommodation options for you such as a traditional longhouse, a cosy bungalow or even for those who wish to sleep under the stars, a campsite.

21. Ride on a steam engine train


The North Borneo Railway Train transports you back into time. This British Vulcan steam locomotive dates back to the 1900s and can seat up to 180 passengers. It has been refurbished to bring you the nostalgic experience of the bygone era of the colonial days. Hop onto the train as it carries you through Kinarut before stopping at the town of Papar. On your journey, you will pass by lush paddy fields, traditional village houses on stilts and livestock, allowing you to admire the countryside of Sabah. The ride includes a Tiffin-style breakfast and lunch, truly bringing the nostalgia of a 1900s movie. The ride takes about 4-5 hours in total, runs 35 miles, and you have to make bookings at least a day in advance. The North Borneo Railway runs two weekly return departures (Wednesday, Saturday) from Kota Kinabalu to Papar, year round. Click here for the tour.

North Borneo Railway
The Magellan Sutera Resort

Level 2, 1 Sutera Harbour Boulevard, Sutera Harbour, 88100 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
+60 88 308 500

When is the best time to visit Kota Kinabalu?

January to March is the best time to visit Kota Kinabalu as it is relatively cool and dry, allowing you to enjoy relaxing outdoor activities. May to October are the wetter months, and the weather tends to be more humid. Festivals are often held at the year-end from November to January, so be wary of more crowds during this period.

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