Kota Kinabalu

Photo of Kota Kinabalu

About Kota Kinabalu

Gateway to all the wonders of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu is a balmy, tropical city, ripe for explorers and adventurers, but also for those who just want a beautiful backdrop against which to relax. Most of the best places to stay in Kota Kinabalu cater to both types of travellers, but we’ve broken up our Guru’s list of the best places to stay in Kota Kinabalu into holiday types too.

The best places to stay can generally be found along the coast, overlooking the South China Sea, or else on the islands in the city’s harbour. The five islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park are especially beautiful and are just a short speedboat ride from town.

What not to Miss

  • One of the reasons Kota Kinabalu is such a great place to come to relax is the weather. It’s a balmy 22-32 degrees centigrade every day and the humidity is high. But the weather does mean that you’re more likely to get around by cab or tour bus than walk.
  • Most tour operators will pick you up from your hotel so you can visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, the Poring Hot Springs, the Orchid Gardens of Mt. Kinabalu, and Mt. Kinabalu itself, Lok Wildlife Park and the local stilt villages direct from the comfort of your hotel.
  • It is also possible to arrange pick ups for diving, white water rafting and sailing tours.
  • You’ll also want to head out onto the water and see the coastline from the sea and the islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.
  • Kota Kinabalu town has a large mall and, on the right day, some bustling markets which are the kind of place you can buy anything and everything.

With such a lot to see and do in the area many of the best places to stay in Kota Kinabalu are quickly snapped up so do plan ahead and book early.

The Best Places to stay in Kota Kinabalu

For a romantic beach break

  • The Bunga Raya Resort is a collection of wooden villas on stilts sitting out over beautiful waters and surrounded by jungle and white, sandy beaches. This is the perfect honeymoon spot, with luxurious suites and villas, a 25 metre infinity pool and an excellent Malaysian restaurant.
  • The Gaya Island Resort is a collection of fantastically canopied rooms and suites set in amongst the mangroves and rainforest - right beside a private beach. This is a great place to bring your family to experience some of the wonders of Sabah's rainforests - there's great birdwatching within the grounds of the hotel. There's also a luxurious spa, a good seafood restaurant and a kid's club.

For an eco-retreat

  • The Gayana Eco Resort is associated with a marine research centre, so as well as staying in a wooden villa on stilts hovering over the aqua sea below, you're helping to fund local marine research. There's a dive school, fabulous spa and a very good Malaysian restaurant.

For an Apartment or Villa

If you’d prefer to stay in an apartment or private villa we recommend you visit our online partner booking.com.

Travel Information

  • Kota Kinabalu airport is Malaysia’s second busiest, but most visitors arrive via Hong Kong, Singapore, Perth or Kuala Lumpur - it’s a long haul flight from Europe and the UK.
  • If you want to hire a car we recommend you visit our online partner Rentalcars.
  • Kota Kinabalu is protected from the worst storms of the ‘wet season’, so it’s considered a year round destination. But it’s still probably best to avoid visiting between July and September if you can. Borneo is the kind of place where the rain comes in downpours and clears quickly, so even if you travel during the wet season it’s probably not going to put too much of a dampener on things.

Still not sure?

Best Hotels in Kota Kinabalu

  • Gaya Island Resort 120 rooms from £150

    Kota Kinabalu (Pulau Gaya)

    Fantastic canopied rooms and suites set amongst mangroves and rainforest with its own private beach and pontoon. Luxurious Village Spa, fresh seafood restaurant, and chic suites with all the mod cons. Kids club too. Perfect for a beach paradise, romantic, and family friendly.

    Beach Life
    Birdwatching  -  Rainforest surround the hotel, and plays home to many birds and wildlife.
    Check prices
  • Gayana Eco Resort 52 rooms from £166

    Kota Kinabalu (Taman Tunku Abdul Rahman)

    An eco resort with wooden stilted villas that hover over the aqua sea below. Luxury sophisticated interiors with all the mod cons, including DVD players. Some interconnecting rooms. Marine research centre, diving school, fabulous spa, and excellent Malay restaurant. Families and nature lovers.

    Eco  -  Ecology is at the heart of this resort.
    Eco break
    Spa breaks
    Recommended by  -  Mr & Mrs Smith, Kiwi Collection
    Check prices
  • Bunga Raya 48 rooms from £218

    Kota Kinabalu (Kota Kinabalu,)

    A laid back tropical paradise. Wooden villas on stilts, white sand beaches, promenades, luscious jungle, marine life, and a Borneo-style spa. Superbly luxurious suites, two to three in each villa, all the mod cons, a 25 metre infinity pool, and an excellent Malay restaurant. Honeymoon perfect!

    Honeymoons  -  An ultimate beach, jungle, spa location for honeymooners.
    Spa breaks
    Beach Life
    Recommended by  -  Mr & Mrs Smith
    Check prices