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Popular Places in Kota Kinabalu Sabah

Kota Kinabalu Popular Places To Visit

This list of popular places in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah is created for travelers who want to see the best of KK city in a short time.

As you know, Kota Kinabalu or KK as it is commonly called is a seaside city where there are quite a several interesting things to do there.

I frequently visit KK for work and hence have come up with a list of popular places you can go to KK. It may be subjective but then again, only a guide.

Popular Places to Visit in Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu city can be covered by foot in under two days, which is considering visiting the very popular tourist places around KK.

Some attractions may require driving there but this can be arranged by any of the local registered tour counters found in the city. They are usually in shop lots or shopping mall kiosks.

A general reminder is never to sign up with an unregistered tour guide or company as it can lead to all sorts of complications.
Suria Sabah Kota Kinabalu
Suria Sabah, a popular shopping mall in KK town

Shopping in Kota Kinabalu

From modern shopping malls to bazaar-style markets, you get the best of both worlds in one city. For the shopping mall fans, there are about five main malls in KK town are;

  1. Suria
  2. Wisma Merdeka
  3. Centerpoint
  4. Warisan Square
  5. KK Plaza

Update: There are Imago and Oceanus Shopping Malls in Kota Kinabalu

Just around the vicinity, there are bazaars and markets like the KK Handicraft Market (Old Philippines Market), KK Wet Market, Salted Fish Market, and Fruit Market.

Bazaars are found in the old area of Sinsuran, Segama, and Kampung Air. One recommended popular Sunday Market is held at Gaya Street from 6.00 am till about 3.00 pm.

Here you will find an interesting variety of local produce and handicraft to all sorts of everyday items including plants, flowers, and even natural herbs.

Many other new shopping malls are built outside of the city which can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes' drive.

Notable ones are 1Borneo Shopping Mall, City Mall KK, Mengalong Mall Penampang and soon to open Oceanus Waterfront Mall at the KK Waterfront.

Hinava Fish
Hinava, a popular local Sabahan rice dish that can be found at certain places

Eating in Kota Kinabalu

As many travelers love to eat or try new foods, Kota Kinabalu city is well known for its Seafood and Chinese food and also a mix of other local and international food.

Seafood is mainly popular by the KK Waterfront or Esplanade, while traditional Chinese food can be found at numerous places.

Gaya Street Area

Gaya Street is one place to start exploring, especially the old coffee shops as this is the main Chinatown of Kota Kinabalu. Most of the restaurants and coffee shops here serve Chinese food and are non-halal.

The best time to explore Gaya Street is in the mornings right through lunch. In the night, a number of popular places sell the famous Sabah Bak Kut Teh.

Bottled Coffee Sabah
Kopi Botol or Bottled Coffee from KK City
For your breakfast or tea break, there are a number of Cafes and Coffee Shops to explore around Gaya Street where some notable ones are the Museum Kopitiam Restaurant at Australia Park (Now Closed), try the Kopi Botol or Bottled Coffee.

Another two at Gaya Street is called Foong Ip Cafe and also Fook Yuen just next to the Sabah Tourism Board office. Great coffee and a decent variety of local food which is pork-free.

One interesting place to explore is the Grace Point Food Court or Double 6 Food Court which is at Grace Point, Sembulan.

This is about 5-10 minutes drive from KK town and the Double 6 Food Center is quite modern with a nice touch of design.

It is clean, spacious and the choices vary from local to international. There is a Seafood Restaurant and Japanese Restaurant here as well.

Usually, I visit this place to have my fix of local Sabahan Kadazan Food, the Hinava Rice as in the picture above and the place is very recommended by me and many other Sabahans. 

Seafood in Kota Kinabalu

For the seafood lovers, check out Welcome Seafood Restaurant at Asia City in KK while another local popular place is the seafood restaurant at Sedco which is like a giant food court in town.

At the waterfront, Ocean Seafood seems to be the popular one while the most famous seafood restaurant would be Nelayan Seafood Restaurant which is out of KK town.

This is a themed restaurant with cultural performances so if you are up for it, catch the local Sabahan Cultural Shows while having your dinner here.

Tanjung Aru Area

A 10 minutes drive from the city center will take you to the Tanjung Aru Beach and this is the most popular public beach in the city. Usually frequented by locals for weekend stroll or picnics.

There are a number of food stalls and a couple of bars located here. Asia City is another place to explore as there are various coffee shops and restaurants available there.

The Fook Yuen Cafe is a recommended place for all-day dining. Asia City is located across the road from Center Point Shopping Mall in KK.

There is also an open food area at the KK Waterfront where a myriad of local Muslim stalls sells all kinds of fresh seafood that are either cooked or barbequed.

You can find this place behind the Handicraft Market at the Waterfront area. Rows of stalls sell BBQ fish, crabs, and huge prawns.

Other local dishes are available as well but the seating conditions are outdoor and basic. Avoid if you have a weak stomach.

Kak Nong Restaurant in KK
Kak Nong Restaurant in KK (Image by queeniechamber.wordpress.com)

Halal Food or Muslim Food in Kota Kinabalu

For Muslim travelers, it is not that easy to find a full Malay cuisine restaurant in Kota Kinabalu. However, there are some within the city areas, which you need to ask around.

One popular place is called Kak Nong Restaurant at Harbour City which is just opposite the junction to Sutera Harbour. This is a halal Malay award-winning restaurant too.

As for more Muslim Food in KK, there a number of choices found around the Api Api Center in KK which is where the McDonald's is located.

For international cuisines, there are Italian, Mexican and Western restaurants found around town and at most hotels and shopping malls.

Mari Mari Cultural Village Kota Kinabalu
Murut 'Warriors' at the Mari Mari Cultural Village in KK, Sabah

Other Places to Visit in Kota Kinabalu

For sightseeing, there a limited places but some interesting spots like the Atkinson Clock Tower, KK War Memorial, Signal Hill Observatory, Sabah Museum, Jesselton Pier and of course, the KK Waterfront.

For those who want to know more about the historical part of Kota Kinabalu, there is a Kota Kinabalu heritage walk tour available from some tour companies.

Slightly out of Kota Kinabalu is the world-class Mari Mari Cultural Village, 20 minutes to be exact, and you can step into the living museum of Sabah where you can see the main ethnic races in their traditional settings.

Mari Mari is worth a visit if you like to know more about the people of Sabah, and it is also a half-day trip here.

For a nostalgic trip on an antique steam locomotive, try the North Borneo Railway that offers guests trips from KK to Papar town and back in just 4 hours.

This classic and unique train tour can be arranged by most tour companies in town, and it is operated by the Sutera Harbour Resort, which is a five-star resort here in Kota Kinabalu.

Manukan Island Picture
Manukan Island in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Island Hopping at Kota Kinabalu

This is one of the most popular things to do, which is exploring a group of islands under the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (TAR Park).

The islands are only a 15-minute boat ride from KK where you can get clear blue waters and white sand beaches.

Manukan Island, Mamutik Island and Sapi Island are very popular for day trips as tour companies offer day packages from Sutera Harbor jetty and also the Jesselton jetty in the town area.

Day trip packages include boat transfers and lunch. Best to go in the morning and back to the mainland after lunch.

One of the latest attractions at Sapi Island is the Floating Marine Pontoon Reef in KK which is priced at RM295.00 per adult RM195.00 per child.

This Pontoon is a floating platform with the largest reef activity in southeast Asia and located at Sapi Island which is only a 10 minutes speed boat from city of Kota Kinabalu.

You can spend a good full or half-day here with undersea activities like diving or snorkeling with food and beverages included in your package.

Upper Star Cafe KK
Upperstar Cafe in KK town near the Waterfront

Entertainment in Kota Kinabalu

A few good entertainment places in Kota Kinabalu are available for those looking for nightlife here and the KK Waterfront is one of the oldest places where there are numerous clubs, restaurants, bars, and discos.

For one of the best experiences, one should have dinner at the KK Waterfront while watching the famous Kota Kinabalu Sunset and then end the night with some cocktails and drinks here.  

If you head slightly out of the main city area, you will find the KK Times Square with quite a few new bars and clubs but you need a short taxi ride there.

Irish Bars, Clubs, Cafes, Restaurants and more can be found at KK Times Square. There is also another project next door called KK Times Square 2 which is soon to be opened.

Did you know that there is a Hard Rock Cafe in Kota Kinabalu? Yes, it is at the Oceanus Waterfront Shopping Mall area, in front of the Promenade Hotel. This would be perfect for those wanting to experience Borneo's only Hard rock Cafe.

There is a new shopping mall called Imago, which is currently the most happening place in Kota Kinabalu. This lifestyle mall attracts all walks of life, and you can find the trendiest of shops in the entire Sabah here.


With the above, I do hope that you will make the best out of your trip to Kota Kinabalu and if you need more information, you can always visit the Sabah Tourism Board Information Centre as they have full information about the entire Sabah Borneo.

Whenever I visit KK, I usually make it a point to check out anything new around here, and I will do my best to update this list.

Finally, I hope that you enjoyed the list of popular places in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and if you have questions or comments, please leave them below. 


Diana Diane Teo said...

Great post to share with my friends who plan to come KK for visit. Hey, let's meet up if you are coming to KK =D

Meitzeu said...

KK always been lovely!

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Malaysia Asia said...

Thank you Diana and Meitzeu. Yes, next time I visit, I will let you all know and we can do a KK meet up!

Anonymous said...

Food ok..but overprice even chicken rice(normal chic rice shop )rm6 huhu..can say kk got most Expensive Food now a days