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

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The Best Hostels in Kota Kinabalu

Mamutik Island

Homy Seafront Hostel – Best Overall Hostel in Kota Kinabalu

Homy Seafront Hostel best hostels in Kota Kinabalu
Homy Seafront Hostel is our pick for the overall best hostel in Kota Kinabalu

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.

Faloe Hostel – Best Party Hostel in Kota Kinabalu

faloe hostel
Faloe Hostel is our pick for best party hostel in Kota Kinabalu

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.

H2 Backpackers – Best Cheap Hostel in Kota Kinabalu

H2 Backpackers best hostels in Kota Kinabalu
H2 Backpackers is our pick for best cheap hostel in Kota Kinabalu

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.

Is This the Best Backpack EVER???
Aether Backpack

We’ve tested countless backpacks over the years, but there’s one that has always been the best and remains the best buy for adventurers: the broke backpacker-approved Osprey Aether and Ariel series.

Want more deetz on why these packs are so damn perfect? Then read our comprehensive review for the inside scoop!

View on Osprey View on REI

StoryTel – Best Hostel for Couples in Kota Kinabalu

StoryTel best hostels in Kota Kinabalu
StoryTel is our pick for best hostel for couples in Kota Kinabalu

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!

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

Dock In best hostels in Kota Kinabalu

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.

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

TOOJOU Kota Kinabalu is our pick for best hostel for digital nomads in Kota Kinabalu

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.

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

Seaview Capsule Hostel is our pick for best hostel for solo travelers in Kota Kinabalu

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.

Travel with peace of mind. Travel WITH a security belt.
Active Roots Security Belt

Stash your cash safely with this money belt. It will keep your valuables safely concealed, no matter where you go.

It looks exactly like a normal belt except for a SECRET interior pocket perfectly designed to hide a wad of cash, a passport photocopy or anything else you may wish to hide. Never get caught with your pants down again! (Unless you want to…)

Hide Yo’ Money!

More of the Best Hostels in Kota Kinabalu

Skypod Hostel

Skypod Hostel best hostels in Kota Kinabalu

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.

Vibrant Hostel

Vibrant Hostel best hostels in Kota Kinabalu
Duvets are a rare find in hostels!

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. 

Dimple Life Hostel

Dimple Life Hostel best hostel in Kota Kinabalu

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.

What to Pack for your Kota Kinabalu Hostel

Pants, socks, underwear, soap?! Take it from me, packing for a hostel stay is not always quite as straightforward as it seems. Working out what to bring and what to leave at home is an art I have perfected over many years.

Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!
Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!

Ear Plugs

Snoring dorm-mates can ruin your nights rest and seriously damage the hostel experience. This is why I always travel with a pack of decent ear plugs.

Keep your laundry organized and stink free
Keep your laundry organized and stink free

Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

Stay Dry With a Micro Towel
Stay Dry With a Micro Towel

Sea To Summit Micro Towel

Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

Make Some New Buddies…
Make Some New Buddies…

Monopoly Deal

Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!
Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!

Grayl Geopress Water Bottle

Always travel with a water bottle! They save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. The Grayl Geopress acts as a purifier AND temperature regulator. Boom!

Check out my definitive Hostel Packing list for even more top hostel packing tips!

Kota Kinabalu Hostels FAQs

How much do hostels in Kota Kinabalu cost?

Hostels in Kota Kinabalu is actually very cheap, their dorms can start from as low as $5 while the private rooms starts at $16 to $45.

What are the best hostels in Kota Kinabalu for couples?

StoryTel is the ideal accommodation for couples. They provide spacious rooms and with ensuite bathrooms your privacy is top notch.

What is the best hostel in Kota Kinabalu near the airport?

The nearest airport, Kota Kinabalu International Airport, is actually just within the city center. Here is my top hostels within the area:
Homy Seafront Hostel
Faloe Hostel
Vibrant Hostel

Travel Safety Tips for Kota Kinabalu

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

Final Thoughts on the Best Hostels in Kota Kinabalu

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!

Looking for more info on travelling to Kota Kinabalu and Malaysia?