The five islands within the park – Pulau Gaya, Manukan, Mamutik, Sulug and Sapi – are ringed by powdery white shores and crystal clear waters teeming with marine life.
Strap on your snorkel to explore coral reefs and swim with fishes, hop on a kayak or go parasailing and take in incredible views of the islands from the skies.
There’s also the thrill of the Coral Flyer, Borneo’s longest zipline, which lets you glide 250 metres island-to-island from Pulau Gaya across the turquoise waters to Pulau Sapi.
Scale the peaks
Get a glimpse into Kota Kinabalu’s fascinating history with the KK Heritage Walk, an enlightening two-and-a-half hour guided tour that explores the city’s most iconic landmarks.
Walk through Gaya Street, lined with shophouses constructed in the 1900s, and visit century-old heritage buildings such as the Atkinson Clock Tower and British North Borneo War Memorial.
The tour also includes insights into post-war structures such as the Malaysia Monument and Jesselton Hotel, which has hosted famed guests such as boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
Chill out on Kokol Hill
Less than an hour’s drive from the city, Kokol Hill is the perfect highland destination for travellers looking for rustic beauty and cool, fresh air.
Sitting 800 metres above sea level, these lush, rolling green hills are dotted with quaint villages and a handful of lodges that offer jaw-dropping panoramic vistas of the city and its surroundings.
Enjoy a sip of hot tea while taking in the views from Kokol Haven Resort, head to Kokol Elf for Instaworthy shots of the stunning scenery or camp under the stars at N G Kokol Camping Site.
Revel in culture
Tucked away in Kiansom, a forested area less than 25 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu, Mari Mari Cultural Village offers insight into the traditional way of life of five indigenous communities – the Dusun, Rungus, Lundayeh, Bajau and Murut.
Get acquainted with age-old hand-tapping tattoos and the stories behind the motifs, and discover how blowpipes and rice wine are made.
Don’t skip out on sampling some indigenous food either, as the tour includes a section on traditional dishes and cooking methods.
Spend time exploring the different types of ethnic dwellings in the village and stay for all-engrossing cultural performances.
Scale the peaks
Kota Kinabalu is the starting point for avid climbers keen on conquering Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Borneo.
This majestic mountain, with its distinctive jagged peaks rising 4,095 meters above sea level, sits in the picturesque rural district of Ranau, a two-hour drive from the city.
Known as Aki Nabalu or “revered place of the dead” by the indigenous Kadazandusun people, the mountain, known to be shrouded in mystery and folklore, is also an epicentre of biodiversity.
Climbers on their way to the peaks can marvel at the hundreds of species of birds and mammals, as well as over 6,000 species of plants, including the elusive Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower.
The two to three-day climb, guided by local mountain rangers, starts at the foothills of Kinabalu Park, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The last leg of the climb starts at 2am, and after a three-hour hike to the summit, climbers can catch the most spectacular sunrise over Sabah from the top of the world.
Admire the sunset
Sunsets in Sabah are spellbinding and in Kota Kinabalu, the place to catch this spectacular sight is Tanjung Aru Beach, just a 10-minute drive from the city centre.
The 2-kilometre stretch of beach, named after the casuarina trees that line its shores, faces the open waters of the South China Sea.
This chill-out spot is where locals take evening strolls, surf the waves, go paddleboarding or just lay out a mat and sip on fresh coconut juice from nearby stalls.
If you’re feeling indulgent, you can head down the road to the swanky Sunset Bar at Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort to watch the sun slip into the horizon, with a tipple in hand.
According to airasia.com