Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia: Up Close and Personal


The reputation of Sabah, Malaysia is not exactly that pleasant especially when territorial disputes come to mind. Contrary to popular perception, Sabah is actually a peaceful and beautiful place. Kota Kinabalu has all the elements of a great vacation: hospitable people, beautiful beaches, rich culture and history, and exhilarating activities. People of all ages will definitely have something to enjoy when they visit Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia.

We only spent two short days in Kota Kinabalu, but these two days were brimming with everything we could ask for. Having a bubbly guide who knows how to speak Tagalog and loves Filipino food made our trip really interesting – Philip, our tour guide, gave us both a scenic and informative tour of Kota Kinabalu’s attractions.


Philip, our bubbly tour guide

If and when you do decide to take a trip to this vacation destination, here are some places to visit and things to do in Kota Kinabalu:

The Sabah Museum Complex

If you want a concise historical tour of any city, you can choose to visit their museums. This complex holds historical treasures that tell the story of how this fascinating place came to be. The main building of the museum complex is inspired by the traditional Rungus longhouse. Just as the exterior takes you to the past, what this building’s interiors hold promise to show you more than just a glimpse of what used to be found in this destination. The exhibits inside are curated and classified into categories such as Ethnography, Natural History, Ceramics, and Archaeology. There is also a space dedicated to temporary exhibits at the Marble Hall of the Main Building. One of the main attractions in this museum complex is the 24-meter long Bryde’s whale skeleton. I just can’t show you pictures of these historical finds since taking photos is not allowed inside the exhibit areas.


The Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

This is a great place to visit for water sports lovers or those who are interested in the sights of the sea. It’s actually not just one place to visit but a cluster of 5 islands that make up this marine park. The islands of Palau Manukan and Palau Sapi were in our itinerary. There are lodging accommodations in Manukan Island, the second largest of the 5 marine park islands. Here, vacationers can swim, dive, and snorkel to their hearts’ desire. The views are breathtaking – they’re perfect for taking those postcard-worthy photographs.






Pinoy Travel and Lifestyle Bloggers with Jim and Lydia Paredes in Palau Manukan, Kota Kinabalu (Photo by Jim Paredes)

The smaller island of Sapi is not small in its offerings. It is actually the second most developed island in the park. The waters in this island are characteristically shallow, making them ideal of fish feeding and snorkelling. Those who are interested in the creatures of the island will be happy to find biawaks or monitor lizards in this island.





Monitor Lizard

The Pontoon

Otherwise known as the Borneo Reef World, this place has more water activities in store for vacationers. I just cannot get enough of snorkelling and seeing the marine life.


On the pontoon, which is the largest in South East Asia, there are amenities that make it comfortable for vacationers. There’s a unique Underwater Observatory that allows you to watch the marine life without actually getting into the water.




Andrea, Ruth and Marj

There’s also a sunbathing deck and a children’s pool, carpeted walkways and shaded seating areas, and freshwater showers. For those who would like to dive into the waters, sea sports activities can be enjoyed from the pontoon’s sea level platform 5.


I love snorkeling!!! DCIM100GOPRO

I’ve already tried snorkelling before, but it was my first time to try sea walking or helmet diving. It was a different experience. I felt the pressure as we were going down. It was a good thing that I paid attention to the instructions during the briefing. The tip about pinching your nose just as you would when you are trying to get rid of air pressure while flying was especially helpful. It only took me a few seconds to get rid of the discomfort in my ears and fully enjoy the view.


To infinity and beyond!!! LOL!  Nope, that’s not Buzz Lightyear! That’s me enjoying the very unique and fun experience!



You may watch the short video I made about our tour in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park and the Pontoon

The Mari Mari Cultural Village

More hospitable people like our tour guide Philip met us at this village. We had to go off to the remote forest away from the city center. At Kionsom, Inanam, we were greeted by the untapped beauty of nature. The traditional homes of the Bajau, Lundayeh, Murut, Rungus, and Dusun tribes were built without destroying the natural landscape. It was a trip through time, getting up close and personal to the ethnic culture.






We would have seen more of the village’s beautiful features, but the night time skies did not give us enough lighting. It was an experience of a lifetime nonetheless. With the sights, sounds, and feel of this village, I could not help but think about their similarities to our own culture. They also have a bamboo dance that is comparable to our own tinikling. Even their language have similar sounding words to the Tagalog language.


True to its meaning, Mari Mari or come come as well as the rest of Kota Kinabalu beckons everyone to enjoy its offerings. Whether you are traveling with your family, with your friends, or even just with your partner, you will surely love everything about this Asian destination. Our two days in Kota Kinabalu were over before we even knew it. There was not enough time to go around and explore all the nooks and crannies. This gives us all the more reason to plan our next Kota Kinabalu adventure soon.

Zest Air flies to Kota Kinabalu from Manila Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. With their budget friendly fares, it will not be difficult to save up some money for our next Kota Kinabalu vacation.

Related Articles:

Where to Stay in Kota Kinabalu? 

Some places to visit and things to do in Kota Kinabalu

Where to Eat and Where to Buy Pasalubong in Kota Kinabalu

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  1. I was not able to have a tour in Kota Kinabalu Malaysia, but I was there 2 or 3 years ago, in their airport. I was on my way to Kuala Lumpur and the plane that I boarded made a quick stop in Kota Kinabalu. I am glad that you have seen the beauty of the country and the beauty of its people. Sometimes we really need to experience the place and the people first hand before judging them of what we see on TV.

Mommy Iris

I'm a lifestyle and mommy blogger from the Philippines. Pinay Ads was created to share bits and pieces of my life and my family. I have a wide array of interests that include entertainment, movies, music, gadgets, traveling, food, baking, and more. So, I hope you’ll stick around and enjoy reading!