Top 5 Day Trips From Kota Kinabalu

There are a number of short excursions you can take from Kota Kinabalu to explore the surrounding area of Sabah. Borneo’s rainforest is the third largest in the world, and so Kota Kinabalu is the perfect place to visit its many attractions from. So here are the top 5 day trips from Kota Kinabalu.

Mount Kinabalu

A meadow in the foreground, Mount Kinabalu in the background - day trips from Kota Kinabalu
Photo credits: Shubham Mansingka

At 4095m above sea-level, Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Sabah and you can reach to the foothills in less than a few hours from Kota Kinabalu. You can reach here by both public transport and private taxi. There are many options to stay in the foothills of Mount Kinabalu and many of them offered guided hikes into the mountain.

You can hike to and from the top of Mount Kinabalu in two days and one night.  However, to climb this mountain you do need a permit, so you cannot just go here and climb it without a guide. The website recommends booking it 3 months in advance. Check out Mount Kinabalu National Park if you want to explore the rich biodiversity that is present in Sabah in a guided manner.

Also read: Various things to do in and around Kinabalu National Park.

Kawa Kawa River

a proboscis monkey on branch - day trips from Kota Kinabalu
The proboscis monkey. Photo credits: Kamya Buch

One thing that Sabah is known for it is highly diverse wildlife. Along the Kawa Kawa river, you can take a boat or go in a group to explore this area and observe many different types of birds, mammals, and plants.

In particular, the Kawa Kawa River is home to the endangered proboscis monkey, which is a rare species of monkey with a large snout instead of a nose. You can easily see them in large numbers hanging from the trees.

If you are into wildlife photography, the Kawa Kawa river provides you with ample opportunities. And at night, you can go out on a boat and see hundreds of fireflies surrounding you from the bushes. These are like tiny little moving lights which will actually come onto your boat and can be compared to stars falling down from the sky.

Also read: 5 really cool things to do in Sabah

Mari Mari Cultural Village

A woman in traditional attire at Mari Mari Cultural village in Sabah - day trips from Kota Kinabalu
Photo credits: Kamya Buch

Most of the people who live in Sabah originate from different tribes, and although they may live in the city, there are still people who live in the forest and practice the original tribal culture. The cultural village of Mari Mari has been constructed for tourists so they can see and learn about the tribal way of life without travelling for hours into the wild trying to find them.

In this cultural village, you will see how the tribal people build their own houses, make their own food, and conduct their own rituals. You can watch their performances and interact with the tribal people easily in English. Towards the end of the village, there is a shop where you can buy local tribal items.

Also read: The fascinating traditions and culture of the indigenous tribes of North Borneo

Manukan Island

The pier at Manukan Island - day trips from Kota Kinabalu
Photo credits: Kamya Buch

Only a short boat ride away from the port of Kota Kinabalu lies the beautiful Manukan Island, which has a number of resorts and hotels for all budgets. The water here is a clear turquoise colour and is one of the best places to see the sunset in Sabah.

You can also zip line from neighbouring islands Gaya to Sapi, and see the ocean from a height. Manukan island itself has plenty of opportunity for short hikes as well as exploring the surrounding marine life. Another activity you can take up here is sea-walking, as well as scuba diving and snorkelling. From Manukan Island, you can also reach the other islands easily close to Kota Kinabalu. These include Sapi and Mantanani islands which are also similar in aesthetics.

Also read: Why Manukan Island is the ultimate hidden paradise

Padas River

Getting ready for river rafting on the Kadamaian river - day trips from Kota Kinabalu
Picture Credits:

Another excursion you can easily do from Kota Kinabalu is the Padas river. This is a huge river with over 30km of rafting across both small and large rapids. Here you can go in a group and experience a full day’s worth of exploration of the river, with a raft. The views along this river are amazing, and you’ll see Mount Kinabalu at various points along it.

If you want to go to this river there are several guided groups that can take you and provide you with all the necessary equipment to explore it. The river is very fast – levels 3 and 4, and so it is not recommended to go without proper guidance or supervision. Kadamaian and Kiulu rivers are other options for rafting, with rapid levels of 1 and 2.

Also read: A non-swimmer’s experience of rafting on the Kadamaian River.

Want to know more about the barely explored land of Sabah? Read more here.


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