Scenery near Kundasang, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

Kundasang, Malaysia – Travel Guide!

Nestled in the shadow of Mount Kinabalu, Kundasang, Malaysia sits almost 1,900 metres above sea level, making it the highest town in the country.

Often shrouded in mist and clouds, Kundasang Valley offers a delicious reprieve from the heat and humidity of Borneo. It’s known as the ‘New Zealand of Malaysia’ thanks to the wet, green landscape and rolling hills.

While the town itself isn’t the most exciting of Malaysian settlements, it provides easy access to Kinabalu National Park and its namesake; the majestic Mount Kinabalu.

Three to four days in Kundasang gives most travellers enough time to explore the national park and make the most of other nearby attractions. But if you plan to climb the mountain, add an extra two days. 


Kundasang, Malaysia – Backpacking Guide

Kundasang Map and Resources

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Best Time to Visit Kundasang, Malaysia

The best time to visit Kundasang is from March to September. The weather is generally dry and warm. It’s the best time to get epic views of Mount Kinabalu or try and scale the massif yourself! 

However, don’t be surprised if you get socked in or experience rain at any time – weather changes quickly in the mountains! 

September to February means an increased chance of rain, misty days and soaking-wet trails. That said, it’s unlikely to rain all day, so you can still get out and make the most of being in such beautiful surroundings!

Photographings scenery on the way to Kundasang
Sometimes you can see for miles but those clouds can roll in fast!

“I visited Kundasang in February. We had a few wet, misty days and while these were pretty miserable at times, we also had days with empty blue skies and stunning views. The slightly lower prices and smaller number of visitors made it worth a few bad weather days!”

Tim Ashdown, Writer at South East Asia Backpacker 

Where to Stay in Kundasang, Malaysia

  • Kundasang – With Mount Kinabalu towering above the town, Kundasang is the most picturesque place to stay. Accommodation quality varies but most options are affordable hotels and guesthouses. 
  • Kinabalu National Park – Just 15 minutes from Kundasang, a stay inside Kinabalu National Park is one to remember. Beautiful lodges with astounding views are set back into the jungle. Keep your eyes peeled for all manner of birds and wildlife! 
  • Ranau – 15km from Kundasang, the slightly more cosmopolitan town of Ranau offers budget-friendly accommodation. There are more shops and restaurants in Ranau but the town lacks the epic mountain view of Kundasang and is harder to get to without your own transport! 

Best Accommodation in Kundasang, Malaysia 

Disclosure: Some links on this page are affiliate links. We always write our articles before checking if affiliate links are available.

Amazing Grace

Simple and budget-friendly, Amazing Grace offers clean, comfortable rooms in Kundasang. Whether you’re looking for a double, twin or family room, Amazing Grace has you covered. Each room comes with a kettle and drink-making facilities. If you want the cheapest room, you’ll be stuck with no view but if you’re willing to pay a little extra, you’ll treat yourself to an epic vista of Mount Kinabalu – it looks amazing first thing in the morning! 

Mount Kinabalu, Kundasang
The epic Mt Kinabalu towering over Amazing Grace!

Ranau Backpackers Hostel

Located in the town of Ranau, Ranau Backpackers Hostel is the best budget accommodation in and around Kundasang. Catering to backpackers of all stripes, Ranau Backpackers Hostel has super affordable dorms and well-priced private rooms. The staff are lovely and there’s a good vibe around the hostel. As with most properties in the area, the WiFi leaves a lot to be desired but who heads into the mountains to watch Netflix anyway?! 

Bayu Senja Lodge 

Bayu Senja Lodge delivers one of the best value-for-money accommodation options in Kundasang. Offering doubles, twins and family rooms, Bayu is an excellent choice for couples or those travelling in a group. There are plenty of eateries nearby but if you’re looking to save money, you can use the kitchen to prepare your own meals. Don’t miss the sunset from the decking area!  

Sutera Sanctuary Lodges At Kinabalu Park

While staying in Kinabalu National Park will cost you more than staying in Kundasang or Ranau, it’s money well spent. You’ll wake up every morning in the thick of one of Sabah’s most magical landscapes with Mount Kinabalu towering overhead and jungle abutting your chalet. 

Whether you’re a couple, friends or part of a larger group, there are lodge options to suit. There are a few places to get food in the park including an excellent breakfast buffet that can be added on to your booking! 

Bear in mind you will need to pay the 50MYR (approx. $10USD) park fee on top of your accommodation. If you’re staying in the park, this covers you for three days, after which you will need to get a new pass. 


Things to Do in Kundasang, Malaysia

1. Climb Mount Kinabalu ⛰️

Although there is no technical rock climbing involved, summiting Malaysia’s highest mountain is no mean feat. It requires two days of hard uphill trekking with an experienced guide and an overnight stay in Panalaban Base Camp (3,272 metres above sea level). You need a serious level of fitness to achieve this climb and should not put yourself, your guide or any other members of your party at risk by attempting it if you’re not confident in your ability. 

Climbing Kinabalu isn’t cheap either. The permit alone costs around 400MYR (approx. $85USD) for non-Malaysians and 100MYR (approx. $21USD) for Malaysians. There is also a guide fee of around 350MYR (approx. $70USD) per climb – guides can take up to five adults in their group – and a park fee of 50MYR (approx. $10USD) per day. You can also upgrade the accommodation to a private room for around 350MYR (approx. $70USD) and porters are sometimes available to carry gear at an additional cost. 

In conclusion, it’s not easy and it’s not cheap but scaling Kinabalu is a magical experience. With only 163 permits issued each day, you’ll share the mountain with fewer people than Everest on a clear weather day! As it rarely gets crowded, you have plenty of time to soak up the majesty of this 4,095-metre peak. 

“Climbing Mt Kinabalu was a truly brilliant experience, and one I will never forget – the achievement is just an incredible feeling. If you do one thing today, add this climb to your bucket list.”

Donna Jackson, Contributor at South East Asia Backpacker 

2. Visit Kinabalu National Park 🌳

Even if you decide against summiting Mount Kinabalu, a visit to Kinabalu National Park is a must if you’re staying in Kundasang. The entrance is a ten-minute drive from town and there is plenty of parking in and outside the park. Entry costs 50MYR (approx. $10USD) per day but also gives you access to Poring Hot Springs (only on the same day), located around 40km away. 

Within the park, you’ll get amazing views of Mount Kinabalu and have the chance to hike along the network of well-marked trails that crisscross the area. While large mammals are almost impossible to spot, there are all manner of birds, insects and amazing plantlife to see. 

Panadus Trail, Kinabalu National Park
One of my favourite trails in Kinabalu National Park!

My favourite trails in Kinabalu National Park include:

  • The Pandanus Trail (connecting to the Kiau View Trail)
  • The Bukit Tupai Trail (connecting to the Bukit Burung Trail)
  • The Silau Silau Trail

While you’re in the national park, it’s also worth visiting the botanical garden. Entry is 5MYR (approx. $1USD). Make sure you time it for the tour. In my experience, the guides’ in-depth botanical knowledge makes the area much more interesting than it otherwise would be! 

Botanical Garden, Kinabalu National Park, Kundasang
The Botanical Gardens guides are exceptional!

3. Poring Hot Springs and Canopy Walk 🛀

Part of Kinabalu National Park but located 40km away, Poring Hot Springs is another must-visit spot while staying in Kundasang. This section of the park is based around a naturally occurring, sulphur-rich hot spring and is named after the Poring Bamboo species.

Hot water from the spring is piped into open-air baths, giving you a wonderful opportunity to soak up that delicious eggy-smelling goodness! While it might not be too pleasant on the nose, sulphur-rich waters have a bunch of positive effects on our bodies, with evidence showing benefits for those suffering from skin conditions as well as hypertension and musculoskeletal disorders! 

Open air baths at Poring Hot Spring, Kinabalu National Park
Take a soak in the sulphur-rich waters of Poring Hot Springs!

As well as open-air baths, Poring Hot Springs has several private bathing rooms, although these were closed for refurbishment when I visited. 

But soaking yourself silly isn’t the only activity on offer. The canopy walk offers visitors a chance to walk along rope bridges through the treetops. Expect amazing views and a chance to see some of Borneo’s more elusive wildlife if you’re lucky – we spotted gibbons on our visit! It takes around half an hour of sweaty walking to reach the canopy walkway. If you plan on using the hot springs, soak after the canopy walk! 

Canopy Walk, Poring Hot Springs, Kinabalu National Park
Unleash your inner Tarzan on the Canopy Walk!

There are some cracking waterfalls too. The most dramatic is Langganan Waterfall. It takes two hours to reach, but the 120-metre falls are well worth the effort. Make sure you arrive early if you plan to get to Langganan Falls to ensure you have enough time to get there and back – if it rains, it can take significantly longer than two hours each way! The park requests that no one attempt the walk after 10:00. 

There’s also a butterfly farm, which is a nice way to spend fifteen minutes, and a Rafflesia research centre – although when I was there, this was just a wooden walkway with some models of the flowers as they had none flowering. Endemic to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, it takes two years for Rafflesia to blossom. The flower only lasts for seven days after blooming, so you have to get lucky to see one in the park! 

Card Payment Only 

As of January 2024, Poring Hot Springs is a cash-free site. Everything is card payment only, including the 50MYR entry fee. Make sure you have a working debit or credit card with you.

4. Spot a Rafflesia 🌸

If no Rafflesias are in blossom at Poring Hot Springs, you don’t have to miss out! Along the road from Kundasang to Poring, enterprising locals have planted hundreds of the plants in their gardens. When one blooms, the signs and notice boards come out to let you know! For a fee of around 30MYR (approx. $6USD), you can see the world’s largest flower! Sure, it’s not the same as stumbling across one in the jungle but it’s much better than not seeing one at all! 

Rafflesia, Kundasang
Endemic to Sabah, the R. kiethii is one of the largest Rafflesia species in the world!

“Being able to see a Rafflesia was really special for me. I’m no botanist but if seeing rare and fascinating examples of life is up your street – which it must be if you’re already in Borneo – don’t miss these marvels of nature!”

Tim Ashdown, Writer at South East Asia Backpacker 

5. Check Out a Cattle Farm 🐄

Kundasang is often referred to online as the ‘New Zealand of Borneo’ thanks to its green rolling hills and rainy climate. This creates excellent cattle-rearing conditions and a local farm has been quick to cash in on the number of tourists in the area. 

Desa Cattle Dairy Farm offers tours, educational visits and the chance to hand-feed calves. 

It’s still a working farm, producing close to a million litres of milk per year. So, if you’re looking for fresh milk, cheese or ice cream, Desa Dairy Farm is for you!  

6. Visit Sably Goat Haven 🐐

Ever wanted to milk a goat?! No, me neither, but you can at Sably Goat Haven… Located in Ranau, just down the road from Kundasang, Sably Goat Haven allows visitors to feed, milk and wash goats. You can even try fresh milk!

But if that’s not for you, head over to their café to sample a range of goat-based products! 

7. Get Cuddly at Rabbit Farms 🐇

If you’ve not had your fill of domesticated animals in Kundasang, consider a visit to one of the nearby rabbit farms. Yep, a farm for rabbits. But not as you know it. These are more like petting zoos with big colonies of rabbits just waiting to be cuddled!

The most popular spot is Ranau Rabbit Farm but there are other options such as Arnab Village, which also houses a bunch of tortoises, and D’mesilau Rabbit Garden which claims to be Malaysia’s highest rabbit garden!  

Yeah, it’s weird but a day cuddling cute fluffy bunnies is good for the soul!

8. Enjoy the View at Sosodikon Hill 🌄

Offering cracking views of Mount Kinabalu and the surrounding area, Sosodikon Hill is a great photo opportunity on a clear day but I wouldn’t bother visiting if it’s cloudy or misty! 

Sosodikon Hill, Kundasang
The views are amazing – on a clear day…

It takes 10 minutes to walk to the viewpoint from the ticket booth and costs just 10MYR. The hill is around 6km from Kundasang and takes about 20 minutes to drive.

“Despite having wonderful clear weather the day before, I stuck to my original itinerary and decided to visit Sosodikon Hill the next day. I got up super early to make it to before the crowds and there was no view… I was raging I didn’t stay in bed! Lesson learnt – if the skies are clear, make the most of them!”

Sheree Hooker, Editor at South East Asia Backpacker

9. Bathe in the Beauty of Sun Flowers 🌻

Right next door to Sosodikon Hill there’s a beautiful sunflower farm which makes for some fantastic photo opportunities. You’ll see plenty of Malaysians heading to the farm to get their next ‘gram-worthy snaps of walking through fields of tall sunflowers with mountains towering in the background! 

10. Take to the Skies 🪂

To get a true bird’s eye view of these epic surroundings, you need to take to the skies. Borneo Paragliding offers 5-7 minute flights for around 200MYR (approx. $40USD)! Be aware, you can only paraglide in good conditions, so your flight may be delayed or cancelled if the weather isn’t on your side. 

11. Explore by ATV ✊

ATV Borneo Adventure Sport offer ATV tours around the Kundasang area. These take you along various quiet tracks and to some of the best views. They usually visit Sosidokon Hill too. They cost around 200MYR (approx. $40USD). 


Food and Drink in Kundasang, Malaysia

Good luck going to Kundasang without someone telling you about or trying to sell you Sinalau Bakas. This smoked wild boar is generally sold by the kilo in roadside stalls or the local market. It’s juicy and tender with a beautiful smoked flavour. The only seasoning is salt but it’s often served with a chilli dip on the side. 

The boar is hunted from the local jungle and prepared fresh wherever it is cooked – if you’re squeamish about where your meat comes from, steel yourself to see blood, organs and body parts. 

The best-smoked boar is undoubtedly from Sinalau Bakas Himbaan Bongol. Located about 40km back towards Kota Kinabalu city from Kundasang, stop here on your way to or from the city for a taste sensation you won’t forget!

In Kundasang itself, Restoran Kelisa produce a range of well-priced, local dishes, including an incredible smoked beef prepared similarly to sinalau bakas!

For a novel meal with a view, head to BW Bus Restaurant. Just a few minutes outside Kundasang, this collection of old buses-turned dining rooms sit atop metal structures giving diners a cracking view of the surrounding hills and valleys. The food is a little pricier than other options in the area but it’s tasty and comes with a unique dining experience!

Bus Resturant, Kundasang
BW Bus Restaurant do a belting ice cream milkshake! 🤤

89 Station, found just outside Kinabalu National Park, is a great spot for brunch before heading into the park or for a bigger meal when you leave. While it doesn’t look like much on the outside – or the inside for that matter – the food is exceptional and the prices are much better than the options inside the park! 


Getting Around Kundasang, Malaysia

There’s not much by way of public transport in Kundasang, and Malaysia’s ride-sharing apps don’t tend to work out here. However, sometimes Grab, or Maxim drivers bring passengers from KK and wait in the area, so it’s worth a try. 

There are some taxis around but hailing them on the street isn’t easy. When not driving, taxi drivers in Kundasang tend to congregate near the roundabout with the small cabbage. There’s a white tent off to the side that appears to be their hangout. You can often hire a taxi for the day, or get their WhatsApp number, so you can call them for a pick-up later in the day if you require a roundtrip. You can also usually find taxis just outside Kinabalu National Park. 

Some public buses and minibuses run through Kundasang in both directions. The hourly Kota Kinabalu bound bus goes straight past Kinabalu National Park, so is a good budget-friendly option for getting to the park. However, it has no set times, so you might be waiting a while! 

The easiest way to get around Kundasang is to drive yourself. The roads are in reasonable condition and driving in Malaysian Borneo is less intimidating than in other parts of Southeast Asia. Car hire starts at around 100MYR per day from Kota Kinabalu and you can rent a cheap motorcycle for around half this. In low season, it’s cheaper if you haggle or rent the vehicle for a longer period. 


How to Get to Kundasang, Malaysia

Buses run from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan and back daily. These all pass through Kundasang. The bus costs around 43MYR (approx. $9USD) one way. If you’re leaving from Kota Kinabalu you can book the bus online through EasyBook but from Sandakan, you need to go to the bus station. You can’t book any bus tickets from Sandakan online. 

As with many parts of Sabah, renting a car and driving yourself is the easiest way to get to Kundasang. 

Driving to Kundasang, Sabah, Borneo
The road to Kundasang is good and the traffic isn’t too dense!

Where to Go Next? 

Kota Kinabalu – Sabah’s capital city is a great jumping-off point for all your northern Borneo adventures. But don’t miss out on a chance to explore the city itself. Rough around the edges but an excellent place to explore for a few days, Southeast Asian cities don’t come much more authentic than KK! Don’t miss a Klias river cruise from the city for a chance to spot Borneo’s famous Proboscis Monkeys!  

Kinabatangan River – After Kundasang, head across to Sandakan and Sepilok before going on a Kinabatangan River cruise, one of Malaysian Borneo’s most popular tourist attractions. You’ll get the chance to see pygmy elephants, orangutans, proboscis monkeys as well as a bunch of other primates, snakes and birds! 

Kudat – The largest population centre to the Tip of Borneo, Kudat leaves a lot to be desired as a tourist destination but it’s a great base for exploring the beaches of Northern Borneo! 


Contributors:

South East Asia Backpacker is a ‘travel diary for everyone’. This article has been written with the help of backpackers and local experts. We would like to thank…

🙏 Louis Williams, Contributor at South East Asia Backpacker 
🙏
Lisa Barham, Writer at South East Asia Backpacker
🙏 Sheree Hooker, Editor at South East Asia Backpacker
🙏
Donna Jackson, Contributor at South East Asia Backpacker

Tim Ashdown | Gear Specialist

After a life-changing motorcycle accident, Tim decided life was too short to stay cooped up in his home county of Norfolk, UK. Since then, he has travelled Southeast Asia, walked the Camino de Santiago and backpacked South America. His first book, From Paralysis to Santiago, chronicles his struggle to recover from the motorcycle accident and will be released later this year.

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