Every backpacker trekking through Southeast Asia should definitely spend some time in Kota Kinabalu (aka “KK”). This awesome city is surrounded by natural beauty, and is a perfect base for adventurers looking to climb Mount Kinabalu.

There are tons of hostels and places to stay in Kota Kinabalu. This keeps the prices competitive and the quality high, so you don’t have to worry about spending a lot to have a great time.

The majority of hostels are located in the center of KK, so everything is close by. Heads up; don’t be shocked if you’re asked to pay cash at arrival – it’s the norm here.

So, let’s check out the ten best hostels in Kota Kinabalu!

Quick Answer: The Best Hostels in Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu

The Best Hostels in Kota Kinabalu

Best Overall Hostel in Kota Kinabalu – Homy Seafront Hostel

Homy Seafront Hostel best hostels in Kota Kinabalu
Homy Seafront Hostel is our pick for the overall best hostel in Kota Kinabalu
  • $$
  • Free WiFi
  • Free breakfast
  • Dorms & private rooms
  • Free linens, towels & shampoo
  • Shared bathroom

Homy Seafront Hostel is our pick for Best Overall Hostel in Kota Kinabalu because it checks all the boxes for an awesome stay – free WiFi, free breakfast, privacy curtains, etc. You can choose between dorm and private rooms, both at good prices.

Homy Seafront is a relaxed place, and the living room is the perfect spot to mingle and watch the beautiful sunsets over the sea. Kota Kinabalu is home to some of Malaysia’s best beaches, and this is the best place to enjoy them.

Best Party Hostel in Kota Kinabalu – Faloe Hostel

Faloe Hostel is our pick for best party hostel in Kota Kinabalu
  • $$ 
  • Free Wifi
  • Free breakfast
  • Dorms only
  • Free linens & towel 
  • Shared bathrooms
  • Free drinking water

The Faloe Hostel is designed for people to meet each other, which is perfect for travelers who want to hit the town. The super-friendly atmosphere is a given, since dorm rooms are the only option.

Although KK is not known as a party-destination, it does have a lively nightlife scene. The hot-spots include Irish pubs and various clubs scattered around downtown.

Best Cheap Hostel in Kota Kinabalu – H2 Backpackers

H2 Backpackers best hostels in Kota Kinabalu
H2 Backpackers is our pick for best cheap hostel in Kota Kinabalu
  • Free WiFi
  • Free breakfast
  • Dorms & private rooms
  • Free linens
  • Shared bathrooms
  • Washing machine

H2 Backpackers is the ideal spot for visitors traveling on a budget. It has all of the basics of a good stay – lockers near each bed, privacy curtain, reading light, free breakfast, and kitchen. To complete the package, there’s a washing machine for guests to do their much-needed laundry.

The dorms have individual pods so you can enjoy some privacy. There are also some really affordable private rooms available. H2 is centrally located, so you can walk to nearly everything in downtown Kota Kinabalu.

Best Hostel with a Private Room in Kota Kinabalu – Dock In

Dock In best hostels in Kota Kinabalu
  • $$ 
  • Free Wifi
  • Dorms & private rooms
  • Free linens & towels
  • Bike hire
  • Luggage storage

If you’re looking for a hostel in KK with a private room, then you’re in luck! Unlike many other places to stay in town, Dock In has options beyond the basic dorm set-up. Privates do cost a bit more, but the price can be easily split between you and your mates.

Private rooms can be shared by up to 8 people of the same group – perfect if you plan on staying in Kota Kinabalu with a bunch of mates.

Best Hostel for Digital Nomads in Kota Kinabalu – TOOJOU Kota Kinabalu

TOOJOU Kota Kinabalu is our pick for best hostel for digital nomads in Kota Kinabalu
  • $$ 
  • Free Wifi
  • Free breakfast
  • Dorms & private rooms
  • Free linens & towels
  • Cafe & rooftop bar
  • Billiards

TOOJOU is the hostel that caters to digital nomads. Yes, they have free high-speed WiFi, like most places around KK. But they understand the needs of the citizens of the digital world and add some special touches that others don’t.

For the more serious needs of the tech-focused, TOOJOU has OPIS Co-Working Spaces designed to support a productive atmosphere. There are several places where you can access a business printer, and complimentary refreshments to recharge your batteries.

Best Hostel for Solo Travelers in Kota Kinabalu – Seaview Capsule Hostel

Seaview Capsule Hostel is our pick for best hostel for solo travelers in Kota Kinabalu
  • $$ 
  • Free WiFi
  • Free breakfast
  • Shared bathroom 
  • 24-hour reception

If that communal hostel-living isn’t your thing, capsule hostels are the way to go. At Seaview Capsule Hostel, the capsule closes and locks for the ultimate privacy – something you’re not going to get from normal, pod-style dorms.

Inside the capsule, it’s like you’ve jumped into a futuristic space pod with modern technologies. Seaview is well located in KK, and provides stunning common spaces where you can get to know other travelers.

Best Hostel for Couples in Kota Kinabalu – StoryTel

StoryTel best hostels in Kota Kinabalu
StoryTel is our pick for best hostel for couples in Kota Kinabalu
  • $$
  • Free WiFi
  • Private rooms – ensuite
  • Free towels
  • 24-hour reception
  • Luggage storage

StoryTel provides spacious private rooms, ideal for couples visiting Kota Kinabalu. All the bathrooms are ensuite, so no need to worry about walking down the hall to shower.

The hostel is centrally located in KK, so you can enjoy walks to most major attractions in town. Free wifi, adapters and towels are included, perfect if you forgot to bring your own!

Things DO go missing sometimes…

lock iconPsst! Heading to a hostel? Don’t forget to pack a padlock! It’s well worth having one so you can secure your locker and protect your stuff!

More of the Best Hostels in Kota Kinabalu

Skypod Hostel

Skypod Hostel best hostels in Kota Kinabalu
  • $
  • Free Wifi
  • Free breakfast
  • Dorms only 
  • Free linen & towel
  • Free shampoo & shower gel
  • Washing machine
  • Free coffee, tea, & drinking water

Pods are the way to go! Rather than open bunk beds, walls on almost all sides separate you from other sleepers. At Skypod, you can choose a single pod – in the Superior Dorm rooms- or a double pod – in the Deluxe Dorm rooms.

The hostel has great open social spaces, including a loft with plenty of chairs and tables. With free breakfast, hot drinks and the ability to wash your clothes, you can’t go wrong for the price.

Dimple Life Hostel

Dimple Life Hostel best hostel in Kota Kinabalu
  • $
  • Free Wifi
  • Free breakfast
  • Dorms & private rooms
  • Washing machine
  • Access to gym and pool nearby

The Dimple Life Hostel is a quaint little place perfect for staying in KK. It’s in a good location and provides breakfast and laundry facilities. Although the rooms are a bit snug, it’s clean and streamlined.

Lockers are centrally located, so you don’t have to worry about having too much of your stuff in the communal dorm. Private rooms are perfect for couples – just note that all the bathrooms are shared.

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Vibrant Hostel

Vibrant Hostel best hostels in Kota Kinabalu
Duvets are a rare find in hostels!
  • $
  • Free Wifi
  • Free breakfast
  • Dorms & private rooms
  • Shared bathrooms
  • Free linens & towels
  • Luggage storage

Vibrant Hostel is a high-quality place to stay. The beds are super comfy with thick duvets, and there’s more than one place to relax and watch tv. Private rooms come with a double bed, making it another great place for couples.

It’s conveniently located in the Kota Kinabalu Times Square, which puts you right next to major places like the Imago Shopping Mall and the waterfront. 

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What to Pack for your Kota Kinabalu Hostel

Packing for hostels can mean the difference between a great or a terrible trip. There’s nothing worse than realising you’ve left something at home and having to spend your budget to replace it.

Here are some of the items you definitely can’t forget:

best toiletry bag for one bag travel

1. Active Roots Toiletry Bag: The Active Roots Toiletry bag keeps all of your bathroom essential items organized instead of flowing around your backpack. Having everything handy and accessible in one water-resistant bag is a bathroom lifesaver. This toiletry bag also helps from being that embarrassed person walking back to the dorm room, in a towel, to grab forgotten shampoo.

Active Roots Water Bottle

2. Active Roots Water Bottle: Hostels are increasingly meeting backpackers’ demands for potable (drinkable) water. Now is better than ever to start traveling with a reusable water bottle! Aside from cutting down single-use plastic, The Active Roots stainless steel water bottle will also keep your favorite beverage hot or cold all day long and it’s sized perfectly to fit an entire bottle of wine. ‘Nuff said.

Universal Adapter

3. Universal Travel Adapter: Not every country has the same electrical plug style, so carry along a universal travel adapter. You’ll want one that covers varying voltage levels, has protection from power surges, a fried laptop is not fun, and enough ports so you don’t have to spend all day individually charging your devices.

Travel Pillow

4. TRTL Travel Pillow: Long flights and bus rides are quite uncomfortable (most obvious statement of the day). Most travel pillows… Well, you know how they are. TRTL travel pillow is different. I mean, look at it! It’ll cuddle you to sleep every ride and it does a pretty damn good job of supporting your neck so you don’t get that stiffness or legendary popping when you stir.

Luggage Travel Lock

5. Padlock: Keep your stuff safe, guys. Unfortunately not all dorm lockers share the same security standard. You’ll want a lightweight lock that can fit all the various lockers you’ll be clipping it to. Having a padlock that is flexible and can fit a variety of locker styles is the best way to make sure none of your belongings wander away while you are out.

Powerbank

6. Power Bank: Showing up to a new city, after a 14-hour bus ride, with a dead phone and no directions to your hostel is a half-awake, messy nightmare. Putting a good power bank in your pack is the best and easiest way to keep your important electronics charged up for those long travel and sightseeing days.

Final Thoughts

Visiting Kota Kinabalu is a must when traveling through Malaysia. There’s so much to see and do there, and a ton of budget-friendly accommodation to match. It’s also home to some of the best diving in the country.

We think Homy Seafront Hostel has done an awesome job, which is why we named it the best overall hostel in Kota Kinabalu. But, wherever you stay should depend on what suits your travel style and budget. Happy travels!

And don’t forget Travel Insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of Travel Insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads, our favorite travel insurance provider

Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple—just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!

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Do you own or run a kick ass hostel? Want to be featured in this list? Get in touch at [email protected]

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