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About Kota Kinabalu
Kota Kinabalu (known as KK) is a melting pot of influences and cultures. You'll find vibrant markets, serene mosques and high-end restaurants happily coexisting in this bustling Malaysian city. Its vast swathes of rainforest, beautiful beaches and coral reefs make it a haven for nature-lovers too. Rugged Mount Kinabalu rises from the mist in the nearby Kinabalu National Park, and there are various routes for hikers to explore in the lush landscape.
You'll find plenty of hostels in Kota Kinabalu with sleek modern amenities, from traditional dorms with fresh free linen and reading lights to futuristic pod-style rooms. There are options with female-only dorms and en-suite facilities too. Some Kota Kinabalu hostels even have restaurants serving Chinese hawker-style cuisine. Check out hostels outside the city, a short stroll from Kinabalu Park, if you're planning a trek. Look for a Kota Kinabalu hostel with an outdoor terrace where you can see tropical birds and the glow of fireflies when night falls.
Kota Kinabalu has a variety of areas to explore. Parts of the waterfront still have a traditional feel, with fishermen working on the shore and bustling markets selling food and handicrafts. The centre is a gleaming zone with shopping centres, restaurants and bold contemporary architecture, as the city was almost entirely rebuilt after the second world war. On Kota Kinabalu's west coast islands, you'll find sandy beaches where you can spot monitor lizards, go snorkelling in the clear waters or just relax in the sun.
The city is bursting with cultural venues like galleries and museums, as well as incredible modern buildings like the enormous City Mosque. Deep in the rainforest just 30 minutes from the city is Mari Mari Cultural Village; this museum-style attraction preserves indigenous Bornean culture with interactive tours where tribal descendants show you the traditional ways of cooking and hunting. After sunset, the Night Market is packed with stalls where you can feast on authentic Malaysian street food.
Kota Kinabalu International Airport is very close to the centre (7km away), so transfers are easy. There are frequent shuttles and public buses into Kota Kinabalu for most of the day, every 45 minutes to an hour. The journey takes between 25 and 40 minutes. If you'd prefer to head in right away, there are taxis available as well. Lots of the city's attractions can be reached on foot, but you can also opt for a minibus or a taxi.