Travel Notes: DIY Mt. Kinabalu Trek and Water Rafting (Itinerary, Expenses & Tips)

Mt. Kinabalu

Mt. Kinabalu is the highest peak of the island of Borneo, the tallest mountain in Malaysia and 10th tallest in South East Asia. It is a dream climb for many mountaineers not only because it is Malaysia’s first ever UNESCO World Heritage Site but because its summit is truly a site to behold!

Mt. Kinabalu
Near the summit of Mt. Kinabalu

We went to Kota Kinabalu in late 2012 with a main purpose of summitting Mt. Kinabalu. It was a feat I am truly proud of because despite the fact that we lacked in formal preparation and training, we successfully reached the summit of Low’s Peak at 4095.2 meters above sea level.

Mt. Kinabalu
Proud at the summit!

Fifteen months after that milestone, I keep on getting inquiries on how we arranged the trek, what was our itinerary, how much did I spend, where did we stay, etcetera and etcetera. So here it is! I know this post came a bit late. Nevertheless, I hope you find this one helpful in organizing your own Kota Kinabalu Adventure.


Day 1: Arrival in Kota Kinabalu

1600H – 1800H: Manila to Kota Kinabalu Flight
1800H – 1830H: Assembly at Kota Kinabalu Airport / Arrange transfer to hotel
1830H – 1900H: Kota Kinabalu Airport to Sensi Backpacker’s Hotel in Gaya
1900H – 1930H: Check-in / Fix-up
1930H onwards: Dinner / Socials / Free time / Prepare stuff

Day 2: Trek to Laban Rata

0500H – 0630H: Wake-up call / Breakfast / Proceed to Terminal Bas Bandaraya (Utara)
0630H – 0800H: Bus Terminal to Mt. Kinabalu Park Headquarter
0800H – 0930H: Arrival in Mt. Kinabalu Park Headquarter / Registration / Arrange transportation and guide / Pick-up packed lunch
0930H – 1000H: Mt. Kinabalu Park Headquarter to Timpohon Gate
1000H – 1800H: Trek to Laban Rata Guesthouse
1800H – 1900H: Check-in / Buffet Dinner
1900H onwards: Fix-up / Lights off

Mt. Kinabalu
Laban Rata Guesthouse

Day 3: Summit Assault + Back to Kota Kinabalu

0200H – 0245H: Wake-up call / supper
0245H – 0545H: Summit Assault
0545H – 0730H: Free time on the summit
0730H – 0930H: Trek down to Laban Rata Guesthouse
0930H – 1200H: Breakfast / Rest / Check-out
1200H – 1630H: Trek down from Laban Rata Guesthouse to Timpohon Gate
1630H – 1700H: Rest / Assembly at Timpohon Gate / Proceed to Mt. Kinabalu Park Headquarter
1700H – 1800H: Rest / Fix-up / Pick-up packed meal at the restaurant
1800H – 1930H: Mt. Kinabalu Park Headquarter to Kota Kinabalu
1930H – 2000H: Back in Sensi Backpacker Hotel / Quick Rest / Fix up
2000H onwards: Dinner / Lights off

Waiting for sunrise at Low’s Peak

Day 4: White Water Rafting in Padas River

0500H – 0600H: Wake-up call / Breakfast
0600H – 0740H: Transfer from Hotel to Beaufort Railway Station
0740H – 0800H: Arrival and assembly at Beaufort Railway Station / Train boarding
0800H – 1000H: Beaufort to Pangi Station (stopover at Halogilat and Rayoh Stations)
1000H – 1030H: Preparation / Assembly / Briefing
1030H – 1230H: White Water Rafting at Padas River
1230H – 1400H: Wash-up / Fix-up / Lunch
1400H – 1600H: Train travel from Rayoh to Halogilat and Halogilat to Beaufort
1600H – 1800H: Beaufort to Sensi Backpacker’s Hotel Gaya
1888H – 1900H: Fix-up / Rest
1900H onwards: Dinner / Socials / Lights off

Day 5: Half-Day Kota Kinabalu City Tour + Return Flight

0600H – 0700H: Wake-up call / Breakfast / Check-out
0700H – 1200H: Half day Kota Kinabalu City Tour (State Mosque / State Museum / Chocolate Factory / Pasalubong shopping at sea front)
1200H – 1215H: Proceed to Kota Kinabalu Airport
1215H – 1330H: Lunch / Check-in
1330H – 1530H: Flight from Kota Kinabalu to Clark
1530H – 1730H: Clark to Manila

Mt. Kinabalu
The Donkey Ears’ Peak of Mt. Kinabalu at 4054 meters above sea level with the Tunku Abdul Rahman peak on the right at 3948 MASL

Expenses (Excluding Airfare)

P7,450 – Laban Rata Overnight Package on Non-Heated Dormitory (555 MYR)
P1,620 – Travel Tax (Manila Airport)
P550 – Terminal Fee (Manila Airport)
P67 – Shared taxi from KK Airport to Gaya (5 MYR)
P268 – Shared taxi from Gaya to Mt. Kinabalu Park Headquarter (20 MYR)
P201 – Mt. Kinabalu Park Entrance Fee (15 MYR)
P111 – Shared transpo from Mt. Kinabalu Park Headquarter to Timpohon Gate (8.25 MYR)
P579 – Shared Mountain Guide Fee (43.25 MYR)
P230 – Shared transpo from Mesilau to Mt. Kinabalu Park Headquarter (17.125 MYR)
P669 – Shared taxi from Mt. Kinabalu Park Headquarter to city (50 MYR)
P2667 – White Water Rafting Package (200 MYR)
P502 – Accommodation 1st Night (37.5 MYR)
P803 – Accommodation 3rd to 4th Night (60 MYR)
P298 – Shared city tour + airport transfer (22.22 MYR)
P400 – Philtranco Bus: Clark to Manila
P1000 – Budget for food
P17,425 for Kinabalu Trek + White Water Rafting in Padas River

*Add your personal expenses on souvenirs, airline tickets, etc.

Kota Kinabalu
White water rafting at Padas River


  • Laban Rata of Sutera Harbour is the only accommodation in Mt. Kinabalu, booking can be done with them directly through their website. Minimum of two nights are required to book online.
  • As of 2013, they allow overnight package but booking should be done only through email ([email protected].my), our overnight package was on non-heated dormitory room for 555MYR per person. Rate and inclusion are:
    • 1 night stay at mountain hut (Non Heated dormitory)
    • 5 meals arrangement
    • Climbing permit
    • Climbing insurance
      *Entrance fee, guide, porter and transportation fee should be paid in Mt. Kinabalu Park Headquarter
  • Payment (thru credit card) for the package is required to confirm the booking
  • Reserve at least three months in advance, there is a limit in number of climbers in Mt. Kinabalu
  • White water rafting and haf-day city tour packages were arrange with our hotel (Sensi Backpackers Hostel)
  • No visa for Filipinos visiting Malaysia
  • Mt. Kinabalu can be trekked any time of the year. October to February is wet season and March to September is dry, but in the mountain and rainforest of Mt. Kinabalu, there’s hardly a distinction of the season
  • When trekking Mt. Kinabalu, leave your unnecessary stuff in the hotel in the city
  • You will be trekking in the rainforest so waterproof your bags and gadgets and bring rain coats
  • Commonly used power outlets in Kota Kinabalu is the British Type – 3 flat prongs, power is 230V 50Hz
  • Go with a group to share costs in transportation and guide


  1. Da Da

    Thank you for sharing your your Kinabu travel.It helps a lot on our plan this coming april. We stil have 1 problem on how to secure our slot to climb Mt. Kinabalu since there is a limit w/ the number of hikers allowed. Is there any email or contact numbers from Mt. Kinabalu Park Headquarter?Tia.

  2. Bela

    Hi Kuya, suggestion po on bring cash in KK? Is it best to bring USD or I can bring peso and exchange it in KK?

  3. Hello. I am thinking if I will include rafting in our itinerary since we already experienced it in CDO. Are there difference on rafting in Padas river and CDO?

  4. enji

    Hi po! Ive been battling on which trek to push through this year, whether Mt. Kinabalu or Poon Hill Trek? Great to see that you’ve tried both so I can ask you to help me decide, which is which, and as to which would be more rewarding overall experience. 🙂 Also, which placed would have better sidetrips after the trek? Thanks in advance and happy travels!

  5. Belle Harris

    Hi, Kuya Angel! You’re itinerary helps a lot in planning our Mt. Kinabalu Climb this May 2015. We’re done with the step 1 which is booking of round trip tickets. Since we have three months left to prepare, we need to arrange an overnight package in Laban Rata Guesthouse asap. I tried to email [email protected] but it kept saying that the address I entered couldn’t be found. I’m just asking if there are other ways to contact Sutera Harbour and be able to book the overnight package in a reasonable price just like you had in your trip. We’re really on a tight budget. We’re graduating college studs and have been dreaming for this trip ever since we fueled up the wanderlust nerves in our travel system. Hoping for your reply po. Thank you =))))

    1. Lakwatsero

      Hi Belle. Try emailing these addresses: [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected].

      1. Belle Harris

        Waaaah! Thank you so much! =)))

  6. mai

    thank you very much for sharing this to us!!! 😀

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