Updated: Oct 27, 2020
While planning for my next trip to the Malaysian Borneo, I did some research on the Internet for new and interesting places to visit or things to do in Sabah, and Poring Hot Springs was among the list of attractions "recommended". It's unbelievable!
I last visited Poring Hot Springs Recreation Area in September 2008, after a 2-day hike on Mount Kinabalu. My impression of the little park was just so-so. And everywhere we went in the park, there were signboards that showed the entry fees and other fees for this and that. It is hard to believe that people are still recommending that touristy spot as a "must-visit". My recent research showed that not much has changed after all these years.
By the way, let's call "Poring Hot Springs" simply as "Poring Park" in this post since hot springs is just one of the activities in there — but it no doubt is the main reason to visit this place.
In my opinion, Poring Hot Springs is best visited after descending from Mount Kinabalu. Other than that, it is not worth the trip just to get there and back from Kota Kinabalu, especially for non-Malaysian travellers.
Read on for why I made this comment.
Hike to the peak of Southeast Asia:
Poring Hot Springs Park is approximately 135Km from Kota Kinabalu, which is 3 hours' drive away. Express bus from Kota Kinabalu will cost about RM16.00 per person and shared cab is between RM160 to RM300 per cab. They will depart only after all the seats are filled.
From Kinabalu Park HQ to Poring Park is about 40Km, so it is quite near if you are coming down from a hike on Mount Kinabalu. A cab from outside the park entrance to Poring Park will not cost much if shared.
And the above is just one-way. Getting back from Poring Hot Springs to Kota Kinabalu may have a little trouble finding people to share cabs — if you are not in a group of 3 or 4. The better option will be to wait for the express bus from Ranau to Kota Kinabalu.
Poring Park charges the following admission fee (or conservation fee):
For Malaysian Adult: RM3.00 Below 18 years: RM1.00
For Non-Malaysian Adult: RM15.00
Below 18 years: RM10.00
The admission is valid for one day only and allows entry to both Kinabalu Park HQ and Poring Park on the same day. Overnight stayers in Poring Park will have 3 days.
The large gaps in the fees are already indicating something — avoid weekends! You will not enjoy soaking in the sulphuric pools with hundreds of people crowding with you, especially after paying 5 times more than the locals!
Go on weekdays (some facilities may be closed on Mondays) and you will find the park to be really quiet.
Almost all websites claimed that the public thermal pools are "free" but that is what the admission fee is for. The public area is sheltered and houses bathtubs with different sizes for groups of 2 or more people. It is not a very big area which is why it gets overcrowded on weekends.
If the public pools are crowded or if you need some privacy, you can opt for the indoor bathtubs.
Standard bathtub (10 in total): RM15.00 per hour
Deluxe bathtub (5 in total): RM20.00 per hour
These are pretty limited and especially so on weekends. Go on weekdays and you can even do pool-hopping from hot to cool, cool to hot in the public bathtubs — no need to pay more.
The Canopy Walkway in Poring Park is about 175m in length (divided into 4 segments) and suspended 40m above ground. That is more than 10 floors high and is not suitable for those with height phobia.
For Malaysian Adult: RM3.00 Below 18 years: RM1.50
For Non-Malaysian Adult: RM5.00
Below 18 years: RM2.50
The canopy walkway is about 830 metres from Poring Park. You will probably see floras and some animals along the paths to/from the canopy walk. And if you are lucky, you will see a Rafflesia flower, the world's largest flower, when in bloom.
I have been to a number of canopy walks in some countries, including Singapore, and the thrill is really just the walkways that are suspended high above ground. Being 40m high, you won't be able to see anything on the ground except tree canopies. So, if you have done a canopy walk before, you can really give this a miss.
If you are there just for the canopy walk and not the hot springs, the fees add up to RM20.00 excluding camera fee and 2-way transportation costs.
Camera Fee (for Canopy Walk)
Malaysia is about the only country — among those that I visited — that charges camera fees for taking photos or videos in national parks. And the fee is by number of units.
Camera: RM5.00 per unit Video: RM30.00 per unit
Seriously, which traveller don't carry a camera?
If you bring a camera and a mobile phone with camera, it will be considered as two units. You will need to assure them that you will not be taking photos with the mobile phone and make sure you really don't use it. And keep the receipt properly. No one knows whether the park staff will conduct spot checks on visitors holding both a camera and a phone.
If a Rafflesia flower is in bloom in the area, then paying the fee is worth it. Otherwise, you will be taking photos of the canopy walkway and the trees.
Most of the attractions in Poring Park, such as Butterfly Farm, Tropical Garden and Orchid Conservation Centre, will require entry fees as follows.
For Malaysian (Adult/Child) - Butterfly Farm: RM3.00 / RM1.00
- Tropical Garden: RM3.00 / RM1.00
- Orchid Centre: RM5.00 / RM3.00
For Non-Malaysian (Adult/Child)
- Butterfly Farm: RM4.00 / RM2.00
- Tropical Garden: RM3.00 / RM1.00
- Orchid Centre: RM10.00 / RM5.00
You can visit any of them if you have not been to one before.
Trails, Waterfalls & Bat Cave
The walking trails to Kipungit Waterfall and Langanan Waterfall are the only activities that are free — well, it would not be free if the waterfalls are impressive. At least, they offer some recreations other than soaking in the hot springs.
Kipungit Waterfall is just 340m from the park. It is a small waterfall and is a favourite picnic and swimming site among the locals. Being easily accessible, it is usually crowded on weekends and public holidays.
The Bat Cave is shown on the map as a place to explore. However, unless you are really interested in bats and will be carrying a high-powered torchlight to check out the bats in a stinky cave, you will probably want to skip it. And if you do enter, beware of droppings on the ground and from the bats hanging above — bats and bat droppings are known to carry diseases.
Langanan Waterfall is another 3Km from Kipungit Waterfall where you can take a hike there and back in 3-4 hours. However, if you are planning to hike up Mount Kinabalu before going to Poring Park, you probably will not be too keen with this waterfall after the 2-day hike. Anyway, Langanan Waterfall is taller than Kipungit Waterfall with steams of water flowing down a steep hill slope. It is just mediocre.
Managed as a resort, Poring Hot Spring & Nature Reserve offers a range of accommodations from dormitories to rooms to whole units. Of course, the prices are higher.
There are cheaper alternatives outside Poring Park, but most of them are not available on online booking platforms. The guesthouses cater mostly to locals. You can arrive at the shop houses opposite Poring Park and find lodging.
If you really need to reserve in advance, Kinabalu Poring Vacation Lodge is about the only one available for online booking. It is a lot cheaper than the resort and located about 800m away in Kampung Poring. It has dormitories, rooms and also whole units for booking.
The restaurant in Poring Park serves meals in buffet style. For more varieties and cheaper options, try the food just outside Poring Park.
Is Poring Hot Springs worth visiting? Yes for the locals. How do you find it as a traveller?
As mentioned earlier, I find it best to be visited after completing a 2-day hike on Mount Kinabalu where the therapeutic pools can help to soothe muscle aches. And probably a couple of days' stay around the area (somewhere cheap) to just rest and do nothing. A deliberate trip from Kota Kinabalu is not worth both the travelling time and money for foreign travellers.