The first thing you need to do is to get a room at Laban Rata from Sutera Lodges. Book ahead because rooms are incredibly limited. We booked 8 months ahead and only managed to get a non-heated room at RM1,200. Try to get a heated room. You don’t want to end up freezing cold, with altitude sickness and only a light bulb to keep you warm (like us). The heat probably won’t help with the altitude sickness but at least you’ll have your nausea and headaches in a comfortable room.
Plan to stay a day before the hike at the foothill. For this I highly recommend the Kinabalu Pine Resorts. Not only do you get a great view of the peak before the hike, the hotel is only 10 minutes away from Kinabalu Park. Facilities and prices are minimal.
To get to the top you first you need to get to Laban Rata, then go from Laban Rata to the summit. You want to start as early as possible during the first day in order to get to Laban Rata before it gets too cold. Food and water will be provided before the hike by the Sutera folks but feel free to bring more. They will also provide you a guide who doubles as your porter. It will take you a couple of hours of uphill hiking to get to Laban Rata but trust me when I say that this is the easy part of the trail. It’s good practice for the summit trail later on which will be 2km of the the worse uphill hiking of you’ve had in your life.
Bring along a headlamp, a walking stick, many pairs of socks, a warm waterproof jacket, waterproof gloves and waterproof shoes. Heck I even had a water proof zip lock bag for Maxie the iPhone. Realize that it gets cold and wet up there. I hiked up to Laban Rata on a T-shirt and a poncho and was soaking wet and freakin’ cold by the time I got to our room. It was so bad that I couldn’t feel my arms for hours and was shivering even while I was having a hot shower.
Besides the mountain there are plenty of other things to check out around Kota Kinabalu. There are hot springs and various parks around the foothill, not to mention some wonderful seafood around town. I had the best prawns in my life over at KK. If you plan to stay in town I highly recommend the Kinabalu Daya hotel. When I was there the rooms felt like they were recently remodeled even though the lobby looked like pretty old. An interesting thing to do would be to stay a night over at the islands off the coast. Manukan island for example is a tiny 20 minute boat ride away from town and has a cozy hotel.