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“Grace Lodge & Laban Rata”
Review of Kinabalu Park

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Kinabalu Park
Ranked #3 of 27 Specialty Lodging in Ranau
Certificate of Excellence
Auckland, New Zealand
Level Contributor
123 reviews
82 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 219 helpful votes
“Grace Lodge & Laban Rata”
Reviewed December 26, 2012

We stayed here for our climb to the summit. It's not cheap, you have to plan and book well in advance but we found it was worth it. The park entrance is RM15 per person for non-Malaysians (not included in the package). We started off with a dorm room in the Grace Lodge Hostel. We were in room 2 which had two sets of bunk beds. We were initially told we weren't sharing but the weather meant that somebody came down from the mountain early and therefore needed accommodation, so they put them in our dorm. Not really a problem.

Grace Lodge has three other dorm rooms to make four in total - I think two are for four people each and the other two are for eight each. There are shared toilets and showers, one set for males and one set for females, with hot water. There's also a spacious sitting room with log fireplace and a small annex with a hot water boiler for tea and coffee. The climbing package includes all meals so the first meal was dinner in the Balsam Restaurant. This was a buffet dinner with soup, oriental and western foods and cake and fruit for sweet. The retail price was RM60.60 but beer was very expensive (I think a small can was RM25).

After going to bed at 8pm, we were up at 6:30am for a 7am breakfast in the Balsam - again a buffet with oriental and western offerings (retail RM45.50). We also picked up our packed lunch for the mountain (included). Then we had to arrange our guide at the park office (1-3pax - RM128, 4-6pax RM150 etc - also not included in the package) - we were allocated Primus - a good man! We left our main backpacks with HQ (RM10 per bag) carrying only what we needed for an overnight stay (and plenty of water). And we had to pay for a minivan trip to the starting point 4km away (RM33 return - also not included in the package).

We started climbing at around 8am - it starts easily and gets harder. It's pretty much climbing all the way and, after 2500 metres or so, altitude takes its toll too. Heavy rain means you're walking against a stream of water all the time. With many rest stops, we eventually walked into Laban Rata by 2pm.

We checked in here to room 2 - a dorm room with three sets of bunk beds. It was going to be full. We had plenty of time to take photographs, have a (cold) shower and prepare a day pack for the assault on the summit. It's not warm at 3300m and poor weather means that nothing dries out either. We had dinner at 5:30pm (buffet but not as grand as the Balsam - included but retail RM60) in the main canteen with some good views and we were in bed by 7pm with the alarm set for 1:30am.

At 1:30am, it's up and dressed in warm layers ready for the climb. There's a small buffet supper included (retail RM30) and then we set off for the summit in driving rain at 2:40am. Unfortunately the park ranger had closed the summit gate because of the weather so we waited in a guides' hut for a hour or so. At 4am, there was a window of opportunity, the park gate opened momentarily and off we went again. It was slow and tiring progress - the rock is slippery in the driving, cold rain and at some points you have to haul yiourself over the rock using rope. This takes its toll and there were many people who dropped out - mainly because of the weather.

The last 200 metres is a sharp incline, scrambling over rocks and boulders to the 4095.2 metre summit. Unfortunately the clouds were in and the views were extremely limited but the sense of achievement was immense. The 6:20am sunrise happened somewhere behind the clouds and, after a few photos, we started our descent with the rain increasing.

We arrived back at Laban Rata by 7:45am for breakfast (included - retail RM45) and we checked out of the dorm and continued our descent in pouring rain. The descent is easier than the ascent except that the rain was considerable and the pathway down was a river! We eventually arrived back at the gate at 1pm and back at HQ by 1:15pm. There's a buffet lunch included at the Balsam (retail RM50.50) - we asked for a packed lunch so that we could catch the 2pm coach to Sepilok (soaking wet). Next day, we could barely walk!!!

Just outside the park there's a cafe with good food at more respectable prices. But unless you think you can do the whole climb in one day, you'll have to use some of the park lodgings. We were pleasantly surprised.

  • Stayed December 2012, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
5 Thank charliechariot
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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76 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
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Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (15)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Japanese first
  • Russian first
  • Any
English first
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Level Contributor
8 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed September 25, 2012

The price a little bit expensive but after looking at the the cleanliness of the room and hostel, i think i'm fine for paying extra. The bed was good like 5 stars hotel, great toiletries (they promote biodegradable and recycle products), the toilet's condition was good, clean and outside of my bedroom. Overall i'm satisfied. I love waking up with the forest smell and sound.

Only the coverage for phone was not so good but who cares, u will find peaceful and harmony spending the night in this park.

Room Tip: rooms with attached bathroom are very expensive. The cheapest room are the twin sharing hostel or do...
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  • Stayed September 2012, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank MdmVC
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Singapore, Singapore
Level Contributor
576 reviews
95 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 405 helpful votes
Reviewed August 27, 2012

We stayed in the Hll Lodge this summer and found the place average at best. The surroundings, the park, the restaurant were great, but the room itself and somewhat the service weren't worthy of the price that I paid. The only reason we stayed here and the only reason I would recommend staying at the Hill Lodges (not sure how the other accommodations were) is if you are climbing Kinabalu mountain.

The accommodation is spread across a vast expanse of the national park with various types of rooms including a few hostels. We opted for the Hill Lodge which if I recollect well was the cheapest acco on a non-sharing basis. The room was of good size but had twin beds that made a lot of sound. The bathroom was in terrible shape with no shower curtain or even a stand to place toiletries in the shower area. The flush didn't work properly and we had to request for help. Since the rooms are far from the reception area it does take a while for somebody to come over and on an couple of occasions I had to call multiple times to get their attention.

The room had a tv connected to FM radio which played wonderful songs (especially the Gold channel). They had provided a wardrobe, tea maker, tea bags etc but apart from that was very basic.

The restaurants served decent fare on the ala carte menu, but the breakfast was passable. I would like to point that a gentlemen by the name of Shah was very helpful at the buffet restaurant on the morning of our climb when there was some confusion with our packed lunch; he offered us packed lunch even though we didn't have vouchers and refused to accept money for the same.

All in all I would stay here again unless it is for a climb and may even explore staying at the hostel because when you stop at Laban Rata/Pendant Hut the acco is anyways shared so no need to pay extra down here.

Room Tip: Explore the option of the hostel, looks good for the price, especially if you are going for the hike...
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  • Stayed July 2012, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank Traveleator
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Gerroa, Australia
Level Contributor
109 reviews
32 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 76 helpful votes
Reviewed July 13, 2012

When we originally booked we were in the dorm style Rock Hostel which is pretty basic. For some reason, the booking was a little fouled up (not the first time on this trip|). But what a great option. It is a little more expensive at the Peak Lodge, but the family had two separate rooms with the kids in bunks. The kids (15 and 12) rated the bunks as quite comfy, there is quite a bit of space in these chalet style rooms. Large kitchen area, clean (western) toilets, coffee tea facilities and a sensational view of the mountain (your right underneath it). The Peak Lodge was about 3 Ks from the Timpohon Gate start to your climb, and it is centrally located to the Visitors Center, Botanical Gardens etc. My suggestion is make an enquiry into the availability of these rooms, its worthwhile to be comfy before you do your climb (and after).

  • Stayed June 2012, traveled with family
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Helpful?
2 Thank Losrobos
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Singapore, Singapore
Level Contributor
66 reviews
49 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 73 helpful votes
Reviewed June 26, 2012

When we were booked into the Garden Lodge by our travel agent, the very name gave us the impression that it was just another budget accommodation on our way to climb Mount Kinabalu , but we were pleasantly surprised. On arrival we were efficently checked in by a knowledgable and friendly member of the staff, who later escorted us to our lodge and gave us a quick tour. We were given maps for the trail and of the resort and were also given a briefing of the climb the next day. It was a duplex with a master bed room on the first floor and a twin bed room on the ground floor. There were two private bathrooms, a single washroom, and a reasonably sized drawing and dining room, along with a kitchenette. There was a huge fruit basket, soft drinks, drinking water and a coffee and tea maker, all inclusive. After relaxing a while, we went to the Liwagu Restaurant for a lovely steamboat dinber. When we returned, it had turned a a little chilly, and room service lit our fireplace for us, which kept us warm for the night. We departed for our climb after a sumptuous breakfast at Balsam Buffet Restaurant. It was an enchanting experience and those not keen on climbing the mountain, can still go there for a quiet getaway and an amazing experience and memories. We will surely return with the whole family in tow.

Room Tip: Each lodge is unique and so it's worth doing some research before you leave
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  • Stayed June 2012, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
2 Thank saber13
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Yangon
Level Contributor
57 reviews
19 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
Reviewed April 22, 2012

We booked a Liwagu Suite but were upgraded to the Nepenthes Lodge, a large two story, 2 bedroom lodge with fireplace and balcony. OK, we knew from the reviews the whole facility was overpriced but we choose to stay there anyway. And yes, the lodge was not well kept up with peeling paint and a leaking roof and shower. And the walls were thin so noisy neighbors were a bit of a problem. But still, the bed was outstanding with crisp white sheets and down comforter, a fantastic rest. The fireplace was great to warm the downstairs. Rooms were spacious, a coffee set up and small fridge provided. And the hiking trails were right out our door. We did not climb the mountain but hiked the park for 2 days. The botanic garden is a must visit and the free guided tour at 12 and 3PM is great.
The hotel has a shuttle service to take you around the facilities as they are far apart. The shuttle comes promptly when called. Breakfast buffet was plentiful and varied. Food over priced at the a la carte restaurant. But there is a local restaurant at the park entrance gate that serves a great variety of decent local food at a reasonable price.
The service staff were great, helpful and friendly once we were in the door. It must be confusing for them with so much mountain climbing traffic not staying at the hotel. But once they confirmed we were booked in they were extremely friendly and helpful.
Be ready for rainy weather. Even though April is part of the dry season this is a rainforest and every afternoon the clouds descended and we had thunderstorms. This created a magical experience for us one afternoon as we hiked and the cloud descended, creating a dream of the forest - the birds and squirrels came around as the sound was dampened, very special. All of the trails were well kept up - some of course very muddy with the rain.
We walked all of the trails around the headquarters and feel truely blessed to have stayed in this beautiful and diverse land.

Room Tip: Liwagu suites are in a larger building with restaurant and the briefing room for mountain climbers s...
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  • Stayed April 2012, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
3 Thank sustrav
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Malaysia
Level Contributor
9 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed April 6, 2012

it was a beautiful experience..rather too peaceful :) we enjoyed the fireplace & truly relaxing before getting to the peak. worth every experience. If only we knew that 1 room can accommodate 4-5 pax,it will be good to bring friends too.

  • Stayed March 2012, traveled as a couple
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    • Sleep Quality
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Helpful?
Thank shasha195
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Kinabalu Park

Property: Kinabalu Park
Address: Jalan Kinabalu | A4 Road, Ranau 89300, Malaysia
Location: Malaysia > Sabah > Ranau
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beverage Selection Restaurant Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 27 Specialty Lodging in Ranau
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Hotel Class:3 star — Kinabalu Park 3*
Number of rooms: 58
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The 750 square Kilometers Kinabalu Park was converted into a National Park in 1964 for it's geographical importance and the abundance of flora and fauna. In December 2006, UNESCO awarded Kinabalu Park as Malaysia's first World Heritage Site for its "outstanding universal values" and its role as one of the most important biological sites in the world. Located 1,585 metres above sea level, Kinabalu Park showcases a complete and interesting ecological system unrivalled anywhere else in the world. It also carries lowland, mountain and alpine vegetation that are not seen anywhere else between the Himalayas and the New Guinea. Kinabalu Park also plays host to the annual Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon event, proclaimed as the "World's Toughest Mountain Race" and attracts top mountain racers from around the world. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Kinabalu Park Ranau, Sabah

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