Kundasang Travel Guide
Overview of Kundasang
Kundasang is a small town in the district of Ranau, Sabah. It is about 92 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu and about 15 kilometres from Ranau town (Pekan Ranau). At an elevation of almost 1,900 metres, it is the highest settlement in Malaysia.
Kundasang is the closest town to Mount Kinabalu, and it is a famous holiday spot among both locals and tourists alike. Since it is very close to Mount Kinabalu, you can expect cool and refreshing air, as well as a stunning view of the mountain and the surrounding topography. Because of that, you may see huge crowds in Kundasang during the holidays.
Besides that, it is also famous for fresh vegetables and fruits, grown locally by the farmers. You can find these, along with items such as flowers and handicrafts, at roadside stalls in Kundasang.
Where to Go
Most people come to Kundasang for the beautiful view of Mount Kinabalu, as well as the refreshing atmosphere that one can not experience in other Sabah cities, such as Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan. It is also popular amongst nature lovers, as well as those who want to know more about local history.
Kinabalu National Park
Kinabalu Park is one of Malaysia’s first national parks, and it is the country’s first-ever UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main draw for Kinabalu Park is the majestic Mount Kinabalu, where climbers will start their journey from the nearby Timpohon Gate. Besides climbing the mountain, visitors can also visit the Botanical Gardens to learn more about the endemic species of flora, take photos of the surrounding view, go birdwatching, or stay at one of the lodges.
Desa Cattle Dairy Farm
One of the most popular tourist hotspots in Kundasang is the Desa Dairy Farm. It is only several minutes away from the town, and provides an amazing view of Mount Kinabalu early in the morning. Desa Dairy Farm is perfect for families as there are activities suitable for all ages, including feeding calves and goats, learning how they milk the cows, and enjoying the fresh milk and gelato they produce. Operation time is from 8.00am – 5.00pm.
Kundasang War Memorial
For history buffs, there is a war memorial in Kundasang town that you can visit that was established in 1962 by a New Zealander. It was to commemorate the Allied prisoners of war who lost their lives after being forced to march from Sandakan to Ranau in 1945 - also known as the Death March. Here, visitors can learn more about the historical events, as well as enjoy the view of Mount Kinabalu from its balcony. Operation time is from 8.30am – 5.00pm.
Kundasang Markets and Roadside Stalls
On the way to Kundasang you can stop by Pekan Nabalu, a roadside market and viewpoint selling souvenirs as well as local snacks.
In Kundasang town (Pekan Kundasang) itself, you will find the local market and several roadside stalls selling fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, and local handicrafts. Here, bargaining is a common practice, so do not hesitate to ask for a lower price. There is also a weekly market in town every Friday where the locals sell items, such as food and clothing.
Sabah Tea Garden
Located further out from Kundasang is the idyllic Sabah Tea plantation. Visitors can have a taste of the locally grown, organic tea whilst enjoying the highland surroundings trekking Kamunsu Hill, and going on night walks through the plantations.
When is the Best Time to Visit
You can visit Kundasang at any time of the year. However, you might want to avoid travelling during the holidays as many places of attraction will be jam-packed. There’s also a high chance of you getting stuck on the roads due to the high traffic volume coming and going from Kundasang and the nearby Ranau town.
How to Get to Kundasang
By Car / Bus
The best way to go to Kundasang is to self-drive by car. The journey from Kota Kinabalu takes around 1.5 – 2 hours on the winding road up the Crocker Range.
It is also possible to go to Kundasang by bus and share taxis from the Bandaran Berjaya Bus Terminal in the city centre. However, getting around in Kundasang would be difficult as there is no dedicated public transportation to take you between the places of interest. For ride-sharing services, not many drivers are willing to go that far from Kota Kinabalu.
It is also possible to travel to Kundasang from Sandakan by bus or car. The journey will take you around 3 hours.
It is extremely convenient to travel to Sabah as there are plenty of direct flights to Kota Kinabalu International Airport. If you are planning to go to Kundasang as soon as you arrive, you can rent a car from the airport if you want to self-drive or make your way to the Bandaran Berjaya Bus Terminal to hop on a bus or a share taxi.
How to Get Around
Kundasang is a bit lacking in terms of public transportation. There are some taxis and minivans, but not many. Besides that, ride-sharing services are not available in the area. Therefore, it is best if you rent a car from Kota Kinabalu and self-drive around Kundasang.
What to Eat in Kundasang
There are several restaurants and a fast-food outlets in Kundasang that you can go to for a meal. While food selections are mostly limited to Malay, Chinese, and local cuisines, the restaurants should be fine if you are not a fussy eater.
Steamboat and Grill
In the night when it gets cold, locals enjoy a steamboat and grill. There are many places offering buffet steamboat and grill. Amongst them are Paradise Steamboat and Grill, Puteri Nabalu and Kinabalu Pine Resort.
For those who are looking to eat somewhere else other than the local restaurants, there are several different options you can pick. One of them is the BW Bus Restaurant, where you can eat at their bus-turned-restaurant while looking at the fantastic view of Mount Kinabalu.
You could also go to Balsam Buffet Restaurant in Kinabalu Park for their amazing buffet spread. However, it is quite pricey, especially for those on a budget trip.
For dessert lovers, you can try the local gelato and cheese from Desa Dairy Farm.
What to Buy
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Kundasang is famous for the fresh fruits and vegetables sold by local farmers such as pineapple, snake fruit and tarap. Buying produce from them is a great way to support the local community.
Aside from that, you can also buy knick-knacks from Desa Dairy Farm and local handicrafts from one of many roadside stalls you will find at Nabalu Market in Kundasang.
Where to Stay
Since Kundasang is a tourist hotspot, there are several places where you can stay; including resorts, villas, and backpacker hostels. There are also cheap homestays around Kundasang operated by locals. For those who want to live somewhere closer to Mount Kinabalu, Kinabalu Park also have several accommodation options suitable for all budgets.
What to Bring
Kundasang can get quite hot in the afternoon. So, if you are planning to visit the places of attractions around the area, please bring drinking water with you to avoid dehydration.
If you are prone to getting motion sickness, consider bringing motion sickness pills and take them before the journey to and from Kundasang since the winding road can be uncomfortable for some.
What to Wear
Since Malaysians are predominantly Muslims, you should be mindful of what you are wearing and try to dress modestly.
While the average temperature in Kundasang is lower than in many places in Sabah, you can still get by with just wearing a T-shirt or other casual outfits during the day. However, it is always a good idea to bring warm jackets and thick clothes, especially if you are planning to stay overnight since the temperature can drop to freezing.
Things to Note
If you want to get a clear view of Mount Kinabalu, it is best if you drive to Kundasang very early in the morning or have an overnight stay to catch the morning view since the mountain will be covered with clouds later in the afternoon.