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6 captivating non-island-related day trips in and around Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu might be famous for its riches of outlying islands all within reach 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 card for Peninsular dwellers from November 1. Follow our SOP updates here prior to embarkation. With Kota Kinabalu, the state’s capital city and tourist mecca, 2.5 hours away by flight, it is as nearly as satisfying as flying overseas for many vacation-deprived Malaysians. Kota Kinabalu’s strategic location, with mountains soaring into the clouds on one end and islands rising from the ocean’s depth at another, the only thing you will ever run out here is not of the activities you can embark upon but time – too little for so much to do.  

As if that isn’t enough of a headache, we are making it worse for you with a list of 6 day trips in and around Kota Kinabalu. It is a nice headache, right? Who knows one of these non-island-hopping day trips might end up being the panacea? 

Here are 6 captivating non-island-related day trips in and around Kota Kinabalu:


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Dalit Beach 

Home to the gorgeous and expansive Shangri-la Rasa Ria resort and very soon Alila Dalit Bay, Dalit Beach offers more than just a long, deserted stretch of fine sands 45 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu, there are the 18-hole championship-standard Dalit Bay Golf & Country Club and Mengkabong River Bridge stretching over an untouched estuary with angling and kayaking a real possibility. Be here before sunrise or sunset and witness how vivid rays of sunlight transform the jagged landscape featuring the towering Mount Kinabalu as the perfect backdrop. Drop by Tuaran for an authentic taste of the famous Tuaran noodles.  


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Murug-Turug waterfalls 

Be transported to prehistoric times when you journey to the Murug-Turug waterfall. Merely an hour away from Kota Kinabalu, the short trek to the waterfall takes you through dense, virgin forest before you are greeted by a breathtaking cascade. Immerse yourself in the emerald pool and be mesmerised by large schools of fish that call the waterfall home. 

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Past Kundasang is a less celebrated hill resort but one equally as enticing thanks to a range of adrenaline-inducing activities one can sign up for – paragliding, trekking and nearby waterfalls. Bring along a camera, better yet, a drone to fully exploit the unending photographic opportunities offered by this town 2.5 hours away from Kota Kinabalu. If tired feet need some nursing, pop by the nearby hot spring.  


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No trip to Kota Kinabalu is complete without a pilgrimage to Kundasang’s various farms, farmer’s markets and lookout points. The 2-hour journey by car takes you through a scenic, meandering route with stunning vistas of Mount Kinabalu and deep gorges. At 2,000m above sea level, the climate here is one of eternal spring. Mount Kinabalu might present a formidable challenge, why not get some practice in with the amiable Maragang Hill? 


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Mahua waterfalls 

Exhibiting a plunge several storeys tall, the Mahua waterfall has become a beacon of Kota Kinabalu’s eco-tourism in recent years. More for admiration than for splashing about thanks to a shallow pool at the bottom of the waterfall, this natural marvel is located 1 hour and 45 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu.  


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90 minutes from Kota Kinabalu is a piece of coastal wetland paradise measuring 130,000 hectares. Home to colonies of proboscis monkeys, estuarine crocodiles, otters, hornbills and other endangered species, the virginal Klias Peninsula is best appreciated from the water as river cruises help you traverse numerous creeks where wildlife converges for your admiration. 


Hero and feature images by EJ Yao on Unsplash

Justin Ng
Digital Content Director, Kuala Lumpur
Often think of myself as a journalist and so I delve deeper into a range of topics. Talk to me about current affairs, watches, travel, drinks, new experiences and more importantly, the business, economics and dynamics behind it.