How to best enjoy Kinabalu Park and Poring

One of the most popular day trips from Kota Kinabalu for foreigners and locals alike is the Kinabalu Park and Poring Hot Springs tour. This is not surprising since Kinabalu National Park is Malaysia’s first World Heritage site, and Mount Kinabalu is possibly the most famous attraction in the whole of Sabah. However, the long journey and crowds can make this trip less than enjoyable than it should be.

Mt Kinabalu from Nabalu

Mt Kinabalu from Nabalu

Below are a few tips on how to make the best of this tour.

1. Avoid holidays and weekends.

Since everyone, including locals and Bruneians head for the hills every public holiday, this is the worst time to visit. While the Park Headquarters is large enough to absorb the crowds, the canopy walk and the hot springs at Poring can be a nightmare. If you want to visit Poring for the hot springs, it is best not to come at this time as the limited tubs mean that most likely you won’t be able to soak in them. There will also be a crowd lining up for the canopy walk.

2. Stay overnight.

Staying overnight in Kundasang or at the Park itself is very much recommended than a day trip. Not only will you not spend most of the day just travelling on the road, the hot springs are practically deserted early in the morning and you can have the whole place to yourself. A fantastic view of Mount Kinabalu can also usually be seen early in the morning as the mist has not covered the mountain yet.

3. Go on a private tour or join tours that have a limit on participants.

There is nothing worse than going to Kinabalu Park on a 44-seater coach. The bus is slower than a van, and the large number of tourists mean that you won’t be able to listen to the tour guide in the Kinabalu Park Botanical Garden. (See below)

4. Get a knowledgeable tour guide.

Unless you join one of the guided tours by the Park at the appointed time, walking by yourself in the botanical garden is meaningless. The signboards display the scientific and common name of the plants, but you would need a guide to bring the explanations to life. The botanical garden in Kinabalu Park is differnet in that it is not about looking at beautiful flowers, but rather about the medicinal and practical uses of the rare plants found in Kinabalu Park.

5. Enjoy the jungle.

Most people climb uphill for 20 minutes just to walk across the canopy walk and then complain about how tiring it is. The canopy walk is fun, but the walk there can be interesting as well, especially if you have never been in a tropical jungle. Look out for the forest dragon or the cicada mounds or the termite nests. You might even see a giant forest ant or a pill millipede. Again, make sure you have a guide who actually takes the time to explain the jungle to you, and not just accompany you up.

6. Explore other parts of the national park.

Besides the hot springs at Poring, there are also waterfalls, a tropical garden, and an orchid garden. At the Park Headquarters, there are dozens of trails for you to explore. Unfortunately, you probably won’t have time to do so unless you stay overnight.

7. Have an open mind.

Know why you joined this tour. Learn to appreciate the biodiversity of Kinabalu Park. Don’t join the tour because it is famous or because everyone else is going. Not everyone enjoys the same things. Reasons why you should join this tour are jungle-trekking in tropical forest, canopy walk, nice scenery, close-up view of the mountain (not always), fresh air, chance to see rare plants.


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