Birdwatching at Kinabalu Park HQ – Part 2: General information

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Kinabalu Park HQ birdwatching

Birdwatching at Kinabalu Park HQ is a great way to see many Bornean endemic species. Thankfully, access to Kinabalu Park HQ is relatively straightforward, thanks to good transport infrastructure and ample public facilities. Additionally, there are plenty of accommodation options nearby. Part 2 of this article series aims to provide general information for birdwatchers coming to Kinabalu Park HQ, such as how to go, entrance fees, accommodation options, etc.

For for birdwatching specific information when visiting Kinabalu Park HQ, head over to part 1 of this article series at the following link:

Birdwatching at Kinabalu Park HQ – Part 1: Birdwatching info

Birdwatching at Kinabalu Park HQ – Part 2: General information.

When to go to birdwatching at Kinabalu Park?

Birdwatching at Kinabalu Park HQ can be done year round. However, the months of November to January may bring about more rainfall.

The Northern Winter season (September to March) will bring opportunities to see winter visitors, such as migrant thrushes and flycatchers.

How to get to Kinabalu Park HQ?

Getting to Kota Kinabalu 

Kota Kinabalu International Airport is a major gateway to Borneo, with multiple flights a day from Kuala Lumpur and other major cities in the country. The airport is also served with direct flights from Singapore, China, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines. The airport is likely where most birdwatchers will start their journey to Kinabalu Park HQ.

Getting from the airport to the city:

  • E-hailing / ride-share services.
  • Fixed rate taxis (RM 30 – up to 4 person per car).
  • Airport bus to/from the city centre. This service runs daily from 0730 to 2015, at 30 to 45 minute intervals.  Fare is RM 5.

Moving around the city is easy using either e-hailing, ride-share, taxis or rental vehicles.

Depending on your arrival time to the city, it’s best to stay overnight at Kota Kinabalu rather than heading straight to the Park. The drive up is better and more scenic in the early morning. Additionally, it’s easier to get public transport in the morning.

Getting to Kinabalu Park HQ using rentals or taxis

From the city (or airport), your options to Kinabalu Park HQ include:

Rented vehicle 

Possibly the easiest and most practical way to go birdwatching at Kinabalu Park HQ. Car rental companies are easily located at the Airport or City. The road to the park is well signposted (or you can use a navigational app). Drive time takes approximately 2 hours. Mount Kinabalu is often visible early in the morning; therefore, you can stop along the way to admire the view.

Mount Kinabalu Shuttle Transfer 

More luxurious and convenient option, with pickup service from your hotel. The journey cost RM 150 one way, and 350 return. These shuttles are booked online in advance, thus they don’t wait around until full. For more information, head over to the Mount Kinabalu Shuttle Transfer page at

Long-distance taxi charters

Possible, but would be an expensive option. However, if you’re travelling in a small group (up to 4), this may be a more feasible solution.

Getting to Kinabalu Park HQ using public transport

Unlike many birding places in Malaysia, public transport is a feasible option to go birdwatching at Kinabalu Park HQ. 


  • Minivans depart from Merdeka Square, starting from 7 am.
  • Merdeka Square is right in the city centre, near some popular hotels/tourist areas. Thus, it’s more convenient than the express buses.
  • Look for vans bound for Ranau (Or simply ask any driver how to go to Kinabalu park. They’ll point you to the right van) .
  • The driver will wait until the van is full before departing. 
  • Fare is about RM 20. 
  • Mention to the driver to drop you at the Kinabalu Park entrance.
  • Be aware that there’s no fixed schedule to the departures. 
  • Avoid taking the minivan in the afternoon if possible, as the frequency is much reduced

Express Bus

  • Express bus departs from Inanam Bus Terminal (outskirts of Kota Kinabalu)
  • Look for buses to Sandakan
  • Departs at 8 am, 10 am, 2 pm
  • Mention to the driver to drop you at the Kinabalu Park entrance

For the return journey: 

  • Wait for the minivan or express bus in front of the restaurant opposite the park entrance.
  • Usually, you’ll pay after boarding the vehicle.
  • If you take the express bus back, they’ll drop you off at Inanam, rather than the city centre.

TIP: if using public transport from Kota Kinabalu, sit on the left side if possible. The view of Mount Kinabalu in the morning is breathtaking!

I used the minivan / express bus combo for my trip in 2019. The minivan service is decent, and the driver was courteous. The express bus back to Kota Kinabalu was more comfortable; however, stopping at Inanam was inconvenient. From Inanam, I used e-hailing to go to the airport.

Finally, keep in mind that if you take public transport to Kinabalu Park HQ, your accommodation options will be more limited. Refer to the accommodation at Kinabalu Park HQ segment below.

From Sandakan / Tawau?

If you’re coming from these towns via express bus, you can simply ask the bus driver to drop you off at the park entrance. Look for buses bound for Kota Kinabalu. Expect to pay the full fare. 

For self-drivers, the best way is to use a navigation app to reach the park. 

Either way, the journey time will be long (6+ hours from Sandakan).

Daytrip or Multi-day visit?

Birdwatching at Kinabalu Park HQ can easily be done as a daytrip. Indeed, many local birders do this. I did it myself during my recent visit in 2023. Just make sure to wake up really early, in order to arrive at the Park early enough. Of course, this is only feasible if you use a rental vehicle (or join an organised tour from Kota Kinabalu).

Nevertheless, I strongly recommend spending more than one day here (at least 2 days). This will allow you more time to experience the park’s biodiversity, and maximise your chances of seeing rarities.

Kinabalu park HQ trail
A multi-day visit is the best way to experience the beauty of Kinabalu Park. Take your time exploring jungle trails like this; undoubtedly it’ll be worth the effort!

Accommodation at Kinabalu Park HQ?

There are many accommodation options available for visitors to the park. Most of these can be booked via the usual websites (Agoda,, etc.).

Within the Park:

There are several accommodation options located within the park. These range from basic dormitories to luxurious lodges and suites. All accommodations within the park are run by Sutera Sanctuary Lodges. These are relatively pricey compared to hotels outside; therefore, they are mainly used by Mount Kinabalu climbers.

Check out the Sutera Sanctuary Lodges website for more information.

Just outside the Park:

There are several accommodation options located within 1 km of the park entrance (within walking distance). These include:

  • J Residence Nabalu – 450 metres from park entrance. Quite affordable. I enjoyed my stay here in 2019, and walked to the park entrance each morning. Recommended for those coming using public transport.
  • The Box Hotel – 900 m from park entrance.
  • OYO Home 90430 Mountain Resthouse – 450 m from park entrance. Basic option for budget travellers
  • Broadbill Lodge – 800 m from park entrance.
  • D’Villa Rina Ria Lodge – next to Broadbill Lodge, 800 m  from park entrance.
Further from the Park:

These hotels are more suitable for those using rental vehicles. It’s possible to take a taxi or shuttle service to the park everyday. (Note: Taxis may be tricky to find; however, some hotels may arrange transport for you). 

The following hotels are between 1.5 – 3 km of park entrance:

  • Flypod Kinabalu Mountain Lodge (2 km  away)
  • Ayana Holiday Resort (1.5 km away)
  • OYO 90616 George Adventure Base (3 km away)

More options are available at Kundasang, 6 km away:

  • Strawberry Garden Kundasang
  • Blue Mountain Lodge Kundasang
  • Skyville Zen Resort, Kundasang

Opening times and entrance fees?

Kinabalu Park HQ is open from 6 am to 5 pm. Take note that unless you are staying within the park, with a tour group or have a guide, you are not allowed to be in the park after sunset.

Entrance fees:


  • RM 10 (adults)
  • RM 5 (kids below 18)
  • free for senior citizens and children below 12

Foreign nationals: 

  • RM 50 (adults) 
  • RM 25 (below 18)

The fee is valid for 1 day, and includes entrance to Poring Hot Springs.

Public Facilities at KPHQ

Kinabalu Park HQ map
Detailed map of Kinabalu Park HQ. Notice the spider at the upper right corner!

The park HQ has decent public facilities including:

  • Parking – available at the entrance area, and next to the Kinabalu Hall.
  • Public toilets – located at the entrance, near the Kinabalu hall, and at Timpohon Gate.
  • Prayer rooms for Muslims are available near the reception office.
  • Mount Kinabalu viewpoint, located near the entrance area. This viewpoint offers breathtaking views of the mountain, especially on a clear day.
  • Botanical Garden – located along the Silau-Silau trail. A garden showcasing the dazzling array of local flora. Entrance fee of RM 4 (locals) or RM 5 (foreign nationals) applies.
  • Restaurants – Liwagu Restaurant at the main Visitor Centre, and a small cafe & gift shop  next to the Kinabalu hall. 
  • Restoran Tahubang –  a popular restaurant just outside the main entrance. Opens 7 am  to 8 pm. Wait for the bus back to Kota Kinabalu outside this restaurant. 
  • Kinabalu Conservation Centre – located near the entrance area. A small gallery showcasing the geology and biodiversity of Kinabalu Park. Entrance fee of RM 2 applies.
  • Dewan Kinabalu (Kinabalu Hall) – a multipurpose hall

Climbing Mount Kinabalu?

Typically, most birdwatchers coming to Kinabalu Park won’t go past Timpohon Gate. However, those of a more adventurous disposition might be tempted to climb to the peak. There are several bird species typically absent from the HQ area, but easily spotted during the summit climb. These birds are:

  • Island Thrush – the Bornean subspecies of this wide ranging bird is only found on the highest peaks in Sabah. 
  • Friendly Bush-Warbler – only found on the highest peaks in Sabah, including Mount Kinabalu. Thus, it’s a Sabah endemic species.
  • Mountain Black-eye – this Bornean endemic bird is very common higher up, but only occasionally seen around Timpohon Gate. Alternatively, an easier place to see this bird is at Gunung Alab Substation.

For those wanting to tackle the challenge of climbing Mount Kinabalu, please note that a guide is compulsory and advance booking is required. Head over to the Climbing Kinabalu page at the Sabah Parks website for more information.

Peaks of mount Kinabalu
The granitic peaks of Mount Kinabalu await those seeking more adventure.

More information:

  1. Kinabalu Park page at the Sabah Parks website
  2. has plenty of detailed information on climbing the mountain, as well as information on how to book a climbing package.


Birdwatching at Kinabalu Park HQ is a great place to see many Bornean endemic species. Moreover, access to this biodiversity hotspot is easy, thanks to good transport infrastructure and excellent public facilities. Undoubtedly, birdwatching at Kinabalu Park HQ is something not to be missed!

2 Comments on “Birdwatching at Kinabalu Park HQ – Part 2: General information”

  1. I’m getting a lot of help from these posts planning my trip to Sabah! Thanks a lot!
    One thing though; Kinabalu park hp says their opening hour is from 8am, not 6.
    Does this mean that I should sleep inside the park (i.e. Sutera Lodge) to get an early morning birding?
    Or are there any ways I can get into the park before 8am?
    Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Hogun! Thanks for reading the article and visiting the website!
      Regarding the opening times for Kinabalu Park HQ – I’ve visited the place 3 times (twice in 2023), and on all of these trips I entered the park around 6 am. Simply drive or walk to the entrance gate, and there’ll be someone there to give you the entrance ticket.
      Hope this helps! And enjoy your trip to Sabah!

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