We continue where we left of with our list of free things to do in Kota Kinabalu.
7. Kota Kinabalu Esplanade
Part of a big picture that is being drawn, the Kota Kinabalu Esplanade is the linking together of various waterfront elements that’ll eventually form the longest waterfront walkway in South East Asia. Or so said the press release.
Why go there: It’s a nice long walk with interesting street scenes and people watching along the way. Start at Anjung Senja in front of Wawasan Plaza with a collection of restaurants serving Malay cuisine, chicken satay and the like. A nice view out towards the islands are dotted with moored fishing boats, and a few landscape features along the promenade are popular with skateboarders.
It then links to the new’ish Oceanus Waterfront Mall where the esplanade opens up wide and runs into the KK Waterfront. As lively as the KK Waterfront is at night, as quiet it is during the day. The KK Waterfront neighbours the Filippino market, which also comes to life during evening with the buzz of hawker seafood stalls.
Next along the esplanade is KK’s mass-produced handicraft market, followed by the Central Market and the car park on its far side. It too becomes a big, outdoor food court in the evenings. The next strip of the esplanade is an open, almost artsy space (pictured above) with funky paving and nice decorations, and fronts one of KK’s iconic roundabout sculptures – the big Marlin.
About 100m further the esplanade is cut off by development works that will hopefully soon connect it with Suria Sabah Shopping Mall, which will lead along the water’s edge and eventually to Jesselton Point jetty.
How to get there: A short walk from anywhere in the city.
8. Tanjung Aru Beach
Tanjung Aru Beach is the most accessible beach in Kota Kinabalu city, for now. A planned hotel has already seen most of the facilities demolished, and the remaining hawkers have to leave before the end of April 2016. How the beach in front and around this proposed “development site” will be affect, remains to be seen.
Why go there: During the day and especially at low tide, it can be a very beautiful, long strip of beach. Waterborne trash washing ashore and the annoying storm water drain outlets nearby often work together to sour this perception. Tanjung Aru Beach is divided into 1st, 2nd & 3rd beach. 1st Beach is now partly earmarked for hotel development, Prince Philip Park fronts 2nd, and general picnic areas can be found along 3rd beach.
Tanjung Aru beach with its view of the nearby islands is a very popular place from where to watch the sunset, drawing heaps of tourists for about 45 minutes every evening, and now only the dull hum of dimly lit hawker stalls after that.
How to get there: Take the purple 16C bus from in front of Marina Court Condos for a 15 minute bus ride to Tanjung Aru 1st beach. The rougly 6km journey should cost less than RM3 by bus and RM15 by taxi from the city centre. Buses stop running soon after sunset.
9. Perdana Park
On the way to Tanjung Aru Beach you will pass Perdana Park.
Why go there: Perdana Park is one of Kota Kinabalu’s nicer parks. A large, artificial lake is encircled by an undulating jogging track finished with soothing landscaping, and a few shops and restaurants. The family friendly park has a large, interesting children’s play area, plenty of trees and open spaces. One of the park’s popular attractions is a 7pm nightly water fountain show synchronised to music and coloured lights.
How to get there: The purple 16C bus from in front of Marina Court will pass Perdana Park for less than RM3, and a taxi from the city centre should cost less than RM15.
10. Double 6 Memorial / Grace Park
Just a little outside the city, near Sembulan and across the road from the entrance to Sutera Harbour Resort, lies Grace Park.
Why go there: Grace Park was developed around the Double 6 Memorial, a historical site dedicated to remembering a great tragedy that took place at that location in Sabah’s early history after independence from Britain. It’s a beautiful green lung, with a short running track, manicured gardens and a large grass verge. Grace Park’s biggest attraction is the food court, which features a variety of food and drink vendors catering to a lunch and dinner crowd.
How to get there: Purple Bus 15A or 15B departs from in front of Marina Court Condos for less than RM2. A taxi from the city centre for the 3.5km journey should cost less than RM12.
11. State Mosque
The State Mosque is one of Kota Kinabalu’s instantly recognisable landmarks with its grand dome and striking gold inlays.
Why go there: Learn more about Islamic traditions and the fine Islamic architecture of the Sabah Sate Mosque, built in 1974 not far from the Sabah Museum. It can accommodate up to 5,000 worshippers. All visitors are welcome, but a dress-code applies and it’s best to avoid visiting on Fridays, which is the main day of prayer for Muslims.
How to get there: Red Bus 19, 20 & 17 and Purple Bus 16B & 16C all pass the mosque for less than RM2, or a taxi from the city centre should cost less than RM12.
12. Gaya Street Sunday Market
It is almost mandatory for Gaya Street to appear on any list of things to do in Kota Kinabalu and is a perfect fit on this free activity list as well.
Why go there: On a Sunday morning the Gaya Street Market is the hub of activity in the city as locals gather to peddle their wares. Truly unique items are in short supply, but the buzz of a busy market – and the snacks & drinks (not free) – make it worth a visit. On any other day of the week Gaya Street is still significant as a historic landmark dotted with history. Originally called Bond Street, its been KK’s business hub for over a century and still features family-owned businesses passed down through the generations.
How to get there: From anywhere in the city it’s a short walk. Gaya Street stretches from the KK municipal building (DBKK) past Jesselton Hotel towards the Sabah Tourism Building and further.
13. Night Markets
If you’re looking for a free activity in Kota Kinabalu during the evening, simply find a night market.
Why go there: The night markets are packed with similar items to the Gaya street market. The interesting snack food and drinks saves the day again, and if you missed the Sunday Gaya Street market, the night markets will show you what you missed.
Spend a few pennies on a fresh coconut, some Durian if you dare or nibble on a variety of local snacks. And if you really need a cheap pair of sunglasses, knock-off perfume or tacky costume jewelry, then you’ll find that too.
How to get there: Kampong Air next to the Sabah High Court, Sinsuran behind Le Meridian Hotel and the Segama Complex between the post office and the Hyatt all have vibrant night markets and, if you’re in the city, you’ll be a short walk from at least one of these.
14. Tanjung Lipat Jogging Track
It’s probably Sabah’s longest, thinnest park.
Why go there: The Tanjung Lipat Jogging Track is a waterfront beautification project that starts next to the old harbour area and runs all along Likas Bay right up to the bridge leading to the Tun Mustapha Building. The soft-paved cycle and jogging path is fringed with a grassy verge and weaves in between Casuarina trees lining the sometimes-sandy-sometimes-rocky shores of Likas Bay.
Interesting landscaping breaks up the path’s monotony and there’s well-utilised picnic areas and playgrounds along the way. Although there’s a lack of shops, car-boot hawkers in strategic places make sure that there’s always something to drink and snack on.
How to get there: Blue Bus 1A-D, 7B, 6C and a multi-coloured City Bus all depart from Bandaran Berjaya and will run all along this path for around RM2. A taxi to the nearest point of the track should cost no more than RM12 from the city.
15. City Mosque (Floating Mosque)
When you mention Kota Kinabalu Mosque, most of the uninformed will probably picture the majestic City Mosque, perhaps better known as the Floating Mosque due it being perched in the middle of an artificial lake, which makes it a desirable photography subject.
Why go there: The very photogenic City Mosque reflects gloriously in the water during the day, but absolutely stunningly so at dusk or dawn. The City Mosque is a fine example of contemporary Islamic architecture and can accommodate up to 12,000 worshippers at a time. Visit for a beautiful photo opportunity, and go inside to gain more insight.
The City Mosque is open to visitors daily except Fridays, it’s free of charge and has a dress code.
How to get there: Blue Bus 1A-D, 7B, 6C depart from Bandaran Berjaya and will pass the mosque for around RM2. A taxi from the city centre should cost around RM15.
That’s a wrap for our list of free things to do in Kota Kinabalu. Leave a comment below if you have any other good suggestions for more free things to do that visitors to the city might enjoy.