I heard there is a six month waiting list to trek Kota Kinabalu mountain top. But many wouldn’t believe that you can enjoy the sites and climb of the mountain without sacrificing 2 days of hiking to reach the summit. This town has a lot more to offer than just the infamous Mountain – the tallest peak in South East Asia at XX meters. We spent 4 days 3 nights there, but our itinerary could have been easily achieved in 3 days 2 nights.
Day 1-2: Airport to Kota Kinabalu National Park
We arrived late Thursday evening, picked up the rental car and had dinner in the city. In the morning we woke up early to drive to the entrance of the National Park ~ 2 hour drive. Along the way the road hugs the coastline and for a brief moment, I had a reminiscent feeling of driving down venice beach. Palm trees line the highway and stretching across as far as the eye can see are blue skies with clouds configured patterns almost too perfect to believe. As we break away from the ocean and head toward higher ground, we drive into the misty clouds until we see the peak of Mt. Kinabalu. There is no question this is the mountain we were looking for – it’s distinctly taller and stands out from the surrounding terrain. The peak is not covered in vegetation like all the other mountains and the white rock sticks out like a sore thumb.
There are a number of short hikes around the park and we stop there for lunch. Most of the hikes are inside the forrest or along the river bed. In the afternoon we retreat to our mountain lodge made of wood. The cool breeze rolls through the canyon and it’s mesmerizing to watch it flow. There is no internet here, no cell service, and the hot water doesn’t turn on until 4pm. It’s a great down to unwind and relax after hours of hiking.
Day 3-4: Snorkeling and Island Hopping
Snorkeling is ideal in this area and you can even snorkel off the shore – we took a tour with Diverse Borneo. The group was less than 6 people and split between divers and snorkelers. They took us to locations where there were no other tourist around. While you could snorkel from the shores of any of the islands, I found having the boat was helpful to take us to deeper waters … and we found nemo!