The Kudat peninsula, and Kudat town, is located about 190 kilometers northeast of Kota Kinabalu (kk). The name of the area comes from the local word for a kind of scrub grass ("kudad"), which was the answer given when British sailors asked the locals for the name of the place.
There are a few options available for traveling into the area. If you're coming from KK airport, renting a car and self-driving from KK is a good option for travel. Be advised that there are few self-driving options available for rent once reaching Kudat town. Drive time is 3h except if you are leaving kk in afternoon rush hour 4-7pm or entering KK in early morning rush hour 07-09am. Going N from KK the easiest route is up Jalan Tuaran from Karamunsing - follow signs for Tuaran. Then signs for Kota Belud, Once you go through Tengilan and over the mountain there is a Petronas Petrol station on the left. THIS IS THE LAST PETROL BEFORE KUDAT. At the Kota Belud roundabout - The town is straight on and the bypass 1st left. To avoid Kota Belud take the bypass. At the end of the bypass there is a roundabout with no signs, turn left to kudat and right to Kota Belud.
Your own car means you can make a road trip from the journey, - stop at any village market Tamparuli, Tuaran, or Kota Belud Market. Then nicest way is to drive over the mountain to the Kota Marudi Turning (2h from KK, 1h from Kota Belud). Optional stops at the fruit, flowers and plants stalls on the way across the mountain, stop for food at the shops at the turning and then stop at the bee village, the Gong village or the Bead village or any markets in Matunggung or Sekuati. With your own car you can also stay at any of the many homestays along the road - Please book beforehand.
There is currently an air-conditioned VIP coach that leaves KK for Kudat daily at 9 am from the bus depot across from Dreamtel, and returns from Kudat at 2 pm. Advantage - slightly cheaper than taxi and carries large bags easily. However, it doesn't always go. There is also a non-air conditioned bus that leaves KK at 8 am and from Kudat at 1:30 pm. Each bus takes around 4 hours to reach its destination. The other public transport option is the long distance taxi's - 100m south of Dreamtel opposite the shell station. These are aircon, take 9 or 11 people and go when they are full so the wait is variable, short at beginning or end of the day: Long wait at lunchtime. The cost is rm25 (2014) per seat. if you have large bags and these need to go on a seat then you will have to pay for the seat. They will drop you at any location in Kudat - hotels etc but they finally stop at the terminal next to the Ria Hotel in the middle of town. Any of the public transport options make it difficult to see Kudat on a day trip from KK, so unless you are self-driving or on a tour, plan on staying the night.
There is only one car rental service for self-drive in Kudat town (Melinsung Car Rental, +60 13-898 0997), but you must book your car at least two days in advance, as they tend to be in high demand. Call for rates and to have a car delivered. Otherwise, you can travel around the area by taxi or with a tour agent. Vans and independent taxis are stationed near the bus depot in Kampung Air. Vans can take between 7-8 passengers at RM20.00 - RM25.00 per pax return, while independent taxis take up to 4 passengers and charge RM150.00 - RM240.00 for a return trip to Simpang Mengayau (Tip of Borneo).
At Simpang Mengayau, cars and motorcycles are available for rent from Howard at Tampat Do Aman guesthouse.
There are many things to see and explore in the area, though they are all quite spread out from each other. This makes it easiest to self-drive in this area, but tours or daily rate taxis can also be arranged. If self-driving, take your time and stop at the many deserted beaches along the way.
Be warned the Petrol stations in town close Early (Petron at 6pm Petronas closes at 8pm) AND there is no petrol before Kota Belud - 2H drive (100+ km) - If you plan to leave Kudat early or late then you need to get petrol well in advance. For safety and in case of emergency it is always woth keeping the fuel tank 1/2 full.