Here’s an idea: how about visiting Sabah not just for its beaches or to hike to the peak of Mount Kinabalu, but to experience its town instead? In the capital of Sabah, you will find no shortage of places to eat, cultural sites to visit, and things to see. But at the end of the day, you’ll need to rest your weary feet. That’s where we come into play with our favourite picks of luxury hotels in Kota Kinabalu.

In this part of Malaysia, take time to hunt for fresh seafood in the many local restaurants. The seafood haven of Borneo gets its daily catch from the deep sea off the waters of Sabah — you’ll be amazed at the size of the mantis shrimps there in comparison with our puny critters on the peninsula.

After filling up on seafood, it’s time to load up on knowledge and culture. Go visit Sabah’s indigenous people’s cultural villages and immerse yourself in their traditional ways of life. From the longhouses that they live in, to their traditional costumes and hunting gears, every bit of knowledge goes a long way. Of course, a great way to also immerse in the local culture is to drink tuak — but we’ll leave that one to your sense of adventure.

First things first: where to stay the night. Of course, nothing less than five stars will do, which is why these luxury hotels in Kota Kinabalu will do for you.

1
Hyatt Regency Kinabalu

This five-star hotel is located in central Kota Kinabalu and boasts waterfront views overlooking the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and South China Sea. One of the must-try facilities in this hotel is the Avantang Spa, which means “beautiful” in the native dialect. The rejuvenating treatments in the spa is inspired by Malaysia’s natural resources. Our picks are the Traditional Borneo Massage and the Acupressure Scalp & Back Therapy.

Hyatt Regency Kinabalu, Jalan Datuk Salleh Sulong, 88991 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, +6088-221 234.

2
Kota Kinabalu Marriott Hotel

The Kota Kinabalu Marriott Hotel is a vision of modern minimalism. Its rooms are sleek, contemporary, and highlight the visual lightness of wood. Five dining outlets in the hotel are all equally distinctive, from Japanese to surf-and-turf. Be sure to sample their signature cocktail, the Sapi Island Martini on their rooftop bar which overlooks the sea — it’ll be a sight to behold.  

Kota Kinabalu Marriott Hotel, 23A, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, +6088-286 888.

3
Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu

One of the best parts of staying in Kota Kinabalu is that most luxury hotels have a waterfront view. Yet, you won’t have to compromise being away from the town for that view, as the Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu offers both waterfront views while being located in the town centre. This contemporary hotel has interiors inspired by the natural beauty of Borneo islands and is equipped with modern in-room technology, so you can quell your fears about people in Sabah and Sarawak living on trees. The hotel is located fairly near to attractions including the Filipino Market, Sabah State Museum, Kota Kinabalu City Mosque, and more.

Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens, Sinsuran Kompleks, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, +6088-322 222.

4
Nexus Resort & Spa

Unlike the other hotels featured, Nexus Resort & Spa is just a little farther from the city and the Kota Kinabalu International Airport. It’s set in 3,335 acres of natural and landscaped surroundings. Six kilometres of white sandy beaches fringe the resort with a tropical rainforest and the majestic Mount Kinabalu as your backdrop. That alone makes this resort a pretty stunning one to check in to. To top it off, 236 Borneo Villas set on the gardens will seek to entice you to come on over.

Nexus Resort & Spa Karambunai, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah +6088-480 888.

5
Shangri-La Tanjung Aru

Don’t like travelling too long from the airport to your hotel? You’re in luck, because the Shangri-La Tanjung Aru is a mere 10-minutes drive away from the Kota Kinabalu International Airport. Set in 25 acres of private land, you’ll be able to experience the privacy of a beach resort while still being not too far from town. The resort also overlooks the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, which means you’ll be getting a healthy dose of greenery and forest-bathing. There are 492 rooms, four dining outlets, two swimming pools, and a spa that offers Asian-inspired treatments. Yoga enthusiasts will appreciate the open yoga pavilion that has a deck that extends out to the waters.

Shangri-La Tanjung Aru, 20, Jalan Aru, Tanjung Aru, 88100 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, +6088-327 888.

PohNee Chin
Editor, Kuala Lumpur
Poh Nee is the editor and writes about travel and drinks. When she's not living out her holiday dreams via Google Earth and sipping on an Old Fashioned down at the local bars, you can find her snug at home bingeing on Netflix and mystery fiction.