Kota Kinabalu to Kinabalu Park or Kundasang by Bus

Kota Kinabalu to Kinabalu Park or Kundasang by Bus

(Information as of 2023)

The road from KK city to Kinabalu Park is very windy hence risky for unfamiliar drivers, so take the bus from KK.
There are 2 main options:
Option 1. Take the bus from Kota Kinabalu to Kundasang and stay a night there before going to Kinabalu park
Option 2. Take the bus or private taxi from Kota Kinabalu directly to Kinabalu park.

OPTION 1: Taking a bus from Kota kinabalu city to Kundasang and making Kundasang your base before heading to Kinabalu Park
I did this option and spent a night at Kundasang as a base before heading to Kinabalu Park the next morning because Kundasang was along the way to Sandakan and Kundasang was at a cool temperature. Kundasang center was only 12 minutes drive from the park's entrance.

  1. Take the bus from Kota Kinabalu Inanam Bus Terminal to Kundasang for ~43 MYR. You can book this ticket online in advance via Easy book by selecting Kota kinabalu as the origin and Kundasang as the destination city. Alternatively, you can just book this at the imanam bus terminal on the day itself. There are a few timings available every day for this trip and the two common bus companies doing this trip could be SIDA or Tung Ma. Note that your receipt after a successful booking might show Sandakan as the destination city as that is the last stop of the entire bus route, you may ignore that. TIP: You can sign up and download the Easybook app to get a new user promo discount.

    Address of Inanam Bus Station terminal in Kota Kinabalu: Jalan Undan, 88400 Kota Kinabalu
Image Description
Sida bus seatsSida bus

TIPs You can either print out the receipt of the booking or (Recommended) just install the easybook app to show your digital pass when you board the bus.

The bus drop off point at Kundasang is a random sheltered place right next to the "Giant cabbage roundabout". (location can be found on google maps). You would be picked up at the same place if you are taking the bus again later.

Sida bus

^ This is the bus stop at Kundasang (near Giant cabbage roundabout)

2. You can take the bus, minivan or taxi (recommended)  to get from Kundasang to Kinabalu park. You may either take the bus coming from sandakan to KK direction (it comes every few hours but the timings are not fixed, so I do not recommend this) or find a taxi (recommended due to convenience and only 20MYR one way). Alternatively, you may either ask your hotel/hostel to arrange a driver for a return trip which I found to be quite expensive (was quoted 50 MYR each way).
To find a taxi in Kundasang yourself, we walked to the white tent near another roundabout (known as "Roundabout Monument Kundasang" on google maps) where a group of taxi drivers was waiting and we were quoted 20 MYR one way to kinabalu park without haggling, as we found it to be a fair price. The drive is only less than 15min.

white tent taxi stand

3. To get back to Kundasang from the Kinabalu Park Visitor Center, you may call the same driver via phone (they might not have Whatsapp, so it is best to be able to call or SMS) to pick you up now or you can tell them a pick up time beforehand. You can also ask the visitor center for a private car ride back to Kundasang via a private car and i was quoted 60 MYR.

Within the park, it is possible to walk all the trails on foot. But there are certain viewpoints that you can just drive up to.

4. Take the bus back to Kota Kinabalu city or Sandakan (I highly recommend visiting Sandakan) from Kundasang. You can buy a bus ticket at the Inanam bus terminal prior or online on easybook.com. If you are buying on easybook.com, you MIGHT have to buy a bus ride from Sandakan to KK and let the bus company know (either at the bus terminal or by calling SIDA/Tung Ma) to pick you up at Kundasang. Note that the timings they tell you are only approximate and the bus driver should call you to let you know he is arriving soon. (Mine did call me twice to let me know he was about to arrive) Note: In my experience, it was useful to have a Malaysian phone number (you can get at the airport) so the bus conductor can call to let you know when they are arriving soon.

Reccommended lodging for those without a car or arranged private driver:

If you would like to spend a night in Kundasang instead of doing a day trip from Kota Kinabalu while visiting Kinabalu park, it would be convenient if you stayed near the cabbage roundabout (budget option as food and lodging is much cheaper in kundasang) or right inside Kinabalu park (lodges and restaurants  are much more expensive.) For the budget option of staying near the roundabout in Kundasang city, you will be walking distance from the taxi stands, bus stop and various shops and restaurants. There is no Grab in Kundasang, but I did see a few Maxim (another ride-hailing service) cars.

Total transport costs:
Kinabalu park conservation fee: 50MYR per person
Return Taxi trip: 20MYR x2 = 40 MYR
Bus ride one way from Kota kinabalu: 48 MYR (before new easybook.com user discount promo for user sign up)

OPTION 2: Going from  Kota Kinabalu to Kinabalu Park for a day trip (or to Sandakan)

I did not take a direct bus from KK to Kinabalu park but it is easy and taking the bus is the cheapest which is only 43 MYR each way. Note: If you would like to travel to Sandakan after visiting Kinabalu park,  see post here.

VIA BUS: (cheapest)

  1. Take the bus from inanam terminal for 43 MYR. You can buy this online via Easybook.com by selecting Kota kinabalu as the origin city and Kundasang as the destination city. Then you can call the bus company (usually SIDA or Tung Ma) or visit their booth at Inanam bus terminal to tell them to drop you off at Kinabalu Park instead of Kundasang. See Step 1 of option 1 for more details on booking procedures and tips. When you board this bus, you can just remind the bus conductor when you board the bus that you want to be dropped off at Kinabalu Park.
  2. For the return trip back to Kota Kinabalu city inanam bus terminal, you can also book a bus back to Kota kinabalu by booking a ticket from Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu and then calling the bus company customer service (or tell them in person at the bus terminal) to ask to be picked up from Kinabalu Park. See step 4 of Option 1 for more details. Note that you can choose to buy this ticket at the bus terminal instead of booking online on easybook.com. Before the bus comes to pick you up, the bus conductor is supposed to call you (so it means it's useful to get a malaysian phone number at the airport)

VIA TOUR OR PRIVATE CAR (expensive but convenient)

It costs much more but there are tons of tours that can be found online for a day trip to kinabalu park and you can easily find a taxi driver to drive you to Kinabalu park from KK city.

Getting around Kundasang town without a car

Personally, the highlight of Kundasang is the Kinabalu park. It can be a passing stop on ur way to Sandakan.

  • Kundasang: Generally i wouldnt reccommend  several attractions in Kundasang because some of them felt like animal exploitation or just weren't particularly special. Kinabalu Park and the cool weather is a good reason to spend a night here. Public transportation is currently non-existent. The local market does sell some excellent fruits (including the durian) and vegetables.
  • Getting around Kundasang: Hitch hiking is possible but the locals/tourists might not know abt the hitchhiking sign. Also it is not a good idea to ask for a car to stop on a downward slope as it is dangerous for the cars behind. It is best to support the locals and get a local taxi driver for a full day charter or just request for individual rides. I was quoted 250MYR-300MYR for a full day local charter by 2 hotels but I think it is cheaper if you find a driver at the tent youtself. It is possible walk between some attractions (it will be hilly but the weather is cool and nice), or you can call the driver for pickups. Go to the white tent near another roundabout (see step 2 of option 1 of where this white tent is) near a roundabout and the vegetable market to look for a driver and negotiate a price for the service you want. 25-30MYR one way to sosodikon hill is a reasonable price.

Other tips: (as of 2023)

  • The road from KK to kundasang is mostly very windy mountain roads. Take motion sickness meds if you are prone to motion sickness.
  • Kinabalu Park has tons of birds, rich diversity of insects (if you can spot them), mosses and fungi. There are many resources out there for trails, but  you can spend a day just hiking all the trails and enjoy a meal at the few restaurants open there.
  • Some trails might be closed, do check with the visitor center which trails are open.
  • Many of the local taxi drivers cannot speak english well but Google translate works well. You may get ur hotel or the white tent to ask for a day charter, i was quoted around 250-300MYR by a few hostels.