Kundasang is the gateway to Borneo’s Kinabalu National Park, home to one of the highest mountains in Southeast Asia. The 4,095m (14,435ft) climb to the top of Mount Kinabalu takes two days and one night, meaning that when it’s all over, you’ll want a comfortable place in which to recover. Kundasang in Malaysia offers this at a variety of budgets – amazing views and cool weather come standard.
A clutch of retro-feeling, blue-roofed, hardwood cabins form Kundasang’s Kinabalu Pine Resorts. Tidy is the operative word to describe the place, with trimmed hedgerows that boast an almost military precision – a feel that extends to the rooms. Wide, inviting verandas offer views of the mountains, an on-site restaurant offers halal food, and the resort is a 15-minute walk from the Kundasang War Memorial.
The surprisingly modern lobby at Kundasang’s Jabez Resort grants access to welcoming communal areas – both indoor and out – for gathering, eating, cooking and other activities. Accommodation ranges from beds in a simple but pleasant dorm to recently refurbished bungalows that can sleep as many as 10. One downside is that wifi is only available in the lobby area.
This handsome, wood-panelled, whitewashed, two-storey structure has an almost farmhouse-like vibe – entirely appropriate for its rural setting just off Kundasang’s main drag. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, some including as many as three beds – perfect for families. A highlight is the broad, open-air veranda with stunning views over the adjacent valley and the mountains in the distance.
Turn off the main road in Kundasang to arrive at a tiny, bright-pink lobby. The two bungalow-based rooms at Cahaya Lodge Kundasang are simple, but can lay claim to functional kitchenettes and other thoughtful, convenience-minded amenities. There’s no on-site restaurant here, but this is almost made up for by the abundance of space and fantastic views across the surrounding mountains.
Situated virtually next door to the entrance to Kinabalu National Park, just outside Kundasang, is this noble-feeling compound. Freestanding, seemingly Swiss-inspired lodges and villas make up the bulk of the accommodation here, some boasting decadent touches such as a jacuzzi, sauna and fireplace. Guests have access to two restaurants, and the staff have a solid reputation for service and hospitality.
This is perhaps the most sophisticated place to stay in the Kundasang area. Situated – rather dramatically, it must be said – on a rocky, flower-studded hillside overlooking the mountains is this handful of bungalows. There’s an almost Japanese minimalism at work here, with subtle wood panels and lots of uncluttered space. A highlight are the bathrooms that boast deep tubs and clear glass walls, so you never lose sight of the mountains.
A modern-feeling, hyper-tidy hotel located, somewhat bafflingly, on a remote, rugged mountain top, Kundasang’s OYO 89300 Zen Garden Resort takes the form of an ostensibly Tudor-influenced main structure that is home to a handful of rooms. The latter are comfortable and cosy, with lots of wood and occasional textile details in bright red, all offering Instagram-worthy views of the surrounding geography.
If budget and location are considerations, J Residence is your hotel. Situated virtually next door to the entrance to Kinabalu National Park, accommodation here runs the gamut from simple but inviting rooms to three-room villas equipped with a kitchenette and dining room. Located at the edge of a forest, there’s a palpable sense of nature, to which large windows grant effortless access.