Kota Kinabalu may be famous for its wealth of outlying islands all reachable via a short boat ride, but the city also offers other forms of day trips without battling the waves.
Thanks to the resumption of interstate travel, Sabah is back on the map for people on the peninsula from November 1. Follow our SOP updates here before boarding. With Kota Kinabalu, the state capital and tourism mecca, a 2.5-hour flight away, it’s as satisfying as flying overseas for many vacation-deprived Malaysians. Kota Kinabalu’s strategic location, with mountains rising into the clouds at one end and islands rising from the depths of the ocean at another, the only thing you will ever miss here is not the activities you can undertake but the time – too little for so much to do.
As if that weren’t enough, we’re making it worse with a list of 6-day excursions in and around Kota Kinabalu. It’s a pretty headache, isn’t it? Who knows that one of those non-island-hopping day trips might end up being the panacea?
6 captivating non-island day trips in and around Kota Kinabalu for 2022:
Home to the beautiful and sprawling resort of Shangri-la Rasa Ria and soon to be Alila Dalit Bay, Dalit Beach offers more than just a long, deserted stretch of fine sand 45 minutes from Kota Kinabalu there is the Dalit championship standard 18 hole Bay Golf & Country Club and the Mengkabong River Bridge spanning an unspoilt estuary with angling and kayaking a real possibility. Be here before sunrise or sunset and see how the vivid sunbeams transform the jagged landscape with the towering Mount Kinabalu as the perfect backdrop. Stop by Tuaran for an authentic taste of the famous Tuaran noodles.
Be transported back to prehistoric times on your journey to Murug-Turug Waterfall. Just an hour from Kota Kinabalu, the short hike to the waterfall takes you through dense, pristine forest before being greeted by a breathtaking waterfall. Dive into the emerald pool and be mesmerized by the large schools of fish that inhabit the waterfall.
Past Kundasang is a less famous but equally attractive hill station thanks to a range of adrenaline-inducing activities one can sign up for – paragliding, trekking and nearby waterfalls. Bring a camera, better yet, a drone to fully exploit the endless photographic possibilities offered by this town 2.5 hours from Kota Kinabalu. If tired feet need healing, head to the nearby hot spring.
No trip to Kota Kinabalu is complete without a pilgrimage to Kundasang’s various farms, farmers’ markets, and viewpoints. The 2-hour drive takes you through a scenic, winding road with stunning views of Mount Kinabalu and the Deep Gorge. At an altitude of 2,000 m, the climate here is that of an eternal spring. Mt Kinabalu could present a formidable challenge, why not practice with the friendly hill of Maragang?
Featuring a multi-story plunge, Mahua Waterfall has become a beacon of Kota Kinabalu ecotourism in recent years. More for admiring than for splashing around thanks to a shallow pool at the bottom of the waterfall, this natural wonder is located 1h45 from Kota Kinabalu.
90 minutes from Kota Kinabalu is a coastal wetland paradise measuring 130,000 hectares. Home to colonies of proboscis monkeys, estuarine crocodiles, otters, hornbills and other endangered species, the pristine Klias Peninsula is best enjoyed from the water, as river cruises help you cross many coves where wildlife converges for your admiration.
Hero and Feature Images by EJ Yao on Unsplash