The Best Bars in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Breeze Beach Club
Breeze Beach Club | © Sutera Harbour Resort
Photo of Michelle Leong
8 February 2018

If you’re bar-hopping, this list will get you to the best places in Kota Kinabalu, by foot. There’s only one bar you might need an Uber for — can you guess which one?

Shamrock Irish Bar

Bar, Pub, Irish, Northern European, Wine, Beer, Pub Grub
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The Shamrock Irish Bar, Kota Kinabalu
The Shamrock Irish Bar, Kota Kinabalu | © Shamrock Irish Bar

Who says you can’t get lucky in KK? At the Shamrock, it’s all about beer, burgers, and St. Patrick’s Day. The old-school, rustic family ambience will make you think you’re back in the UK — except there’s a waterfront deck where you can watch the sun retire under a cloudless sky. Drop by to watch football with your mates, or just chill out with a Heineken and usual pub grub. If you drive, parking spots are aplenty.

Souled Out, Imago

Bar, Restaurant, European, Asian, Malaysian, $$$
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SOULed OUT, Kota Kinabalu
SOULed OUT, Kota Kinabalu | © Souled Out, Imago

If you’ve shopped ’til you dropped but don’t want another coffee at Starbucks, then head on opposite to the outdoor terrace of Imago for some soulful love. The stylish, urban design is the work of renowned interior architect Ed Poole, featuring a diamond-shaped bar (!), extra large ceiling fans, and colorful chairs out on the deck. Try the mojitos, sangrias and martinis — you might go home happier than from shopping.

Breeze Beach Club, Sutera Barbour

Bar, Hotel Restaurant, Restaurant, Malaysian
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Breeze Beach Club
Breeze Beach Club | © Sutera Harbour Resort

When the sun goes down, the light baubles go up, and this place turns into that beach bar scene from Forgetting Sarah Marshall — without the flower garlands. You can relax on rope-hewn hammocks, dance barefoot to the beats of their in-house DJ, watch the fire-eating performer risk his life, and enjoy the extensive buffet selection of charcoal-grilled meats. Ladies drink for free on Fridays.

El Centro

Restaurant, Bar, Mexican
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El Centro, Kota Kinabalu
El Centro, Kota Kinabalu | © El Centro, Kota Kinabalu

If you’re a fan of the Shamrock — meet its blushing bride. Tastefully underlit, this shy establishment is easy to miss if you’re not looking. Located on the busy street of Jalan Haji Saman and squeezed between two other food operations, El Centro cheerfully serves up fajitas and pizzas alongside killer cocktails. If you like good nosh while trying to order a jug (which is also reasonably priced), why not request some homemade nachos, too? Staff here are happy to oblige.

Hard Rock Cafe

Bar, Cafe, Restaurant, North American, American, Vegetarian, $$$
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Hard Rock Cafe Kota Kinabalu, Kota Kinabalu
Hard Rock Cafe Kota Kinabalu, Kota Kinabalu | © Hard Rock Cafe, Kota Kinabalu

After dinner hours, the Hard Rock Cafe becomes more bar than café. With impressive light features, a waterfront view, and rock-n-roll themes on the wall, this place is a funky marrying of American culture and local landscape. Rock it out to the beats of the DJ while downing another shot, or enjoy their Legendary® Burger out on the balcony as you watch the boats pack it in for the evening.


Bar, Cafe, Contemporary, Asian, American, Tea , Coffee, Fast Food, $$$
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Biru Biru, Kota Kinabalu
Biru Biru, Kota Kinabalu | © Biru-Biru

Feeling the blues? Then head on over to Biru-Biru (literally, “blue”) for a quick pick-me-up! Compared to the other establishments on this list, the vibe here leans local and vintage. With up-cycled furniture, a funky marble-slabbed dancefloor, and cocktails with names like Bittersweet Suicide, you might even find your reason for living.

The Loft

Bar, American, Wine, Beer, Fast Food
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The Loft, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen
The Loft, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen | © The Loft

Occupying two floors at the KK Waterfront, this place commands a spectacular view of the sky and sea — but hey, if for some reason you’re not sentimental about KK’s vista, there’s also a large-screen TV behind the bar for you to watch some good ol’ football. The seating area out on the terrace is perfect for large groups, and you get to enjoy the sea breeze that sweeps in during the evenings.

Vino Vino Bistro

Wine Bar, Italian, Contemporary, Wine, Beer, Fast Food
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Vino Vino Bistro, Kota Kinabalu
Vino Vino Bistro, Kota Kinabalu | © Vino VIno Bistro

If you fancy yourself something of a wine connoisseur, this is the only place in town to wine down and relax. Favored by the locals, Vino Vino can be a little pricier than your average pub — but with a private wine cellar, who’s complaining? The establishment is an elegant affair, and if your partner doesn’t care for wine, Vino Vino offers an admirable range of whiskeys, too.

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