Kota Kinabalu is the current capital of the East Malaysian state of Sabah, and was originally known as Jesselton. It is located in the North-West of the island of Borneo, on the shores of the South China Sea. KK, as it is known locally, is a thriving city which is currently booming, to a large extent due to the investment by the Malaysian government in the region. It is the international gateway to Sabah, with flights arriving from various international ports in Asia, as well as domestic flights from various parts of Malaysa.


The city itself is relatively new as the original town was destroyed by the British as they fled from the Japanese during World War II. This was to prevent Jesselton from falling into the hands of the Japanese. After the war, the Colonial government elected to move the capital of North Borneo to Jesselton from Sandakan which had also been razed during the war. Large areas of the waterfront to the immediate South-West of the centre of the city have recently been reclaimed and have been developed as resort and hotel areas, as well as a commercial area including a marina (Sutera Harbour). KK is a good place to base yourself for trips to various places in and around Sabah. Local tourist attractions include

  • Atkinson Clock Tower – Built by Mary Edith Atkinson in 1905 in memory of her son Francis George Atkinson. It was formerly used as a navigation aid for ships until it was overshadowed by taller buildings. It is one of only three pre-World War II buildings to survive the war.
  • Ethno Botanic Garden
  • Gaya Street Sunday Market – A gathering of local hawkers selling a wide range of items from traditional ethnic cultural souvenirs to pets and flowers. Worth a visit while in Kota Kinabalu.
  • Karamunsing Complex – The equivalent of Lowyat Plaza in Kuala Lumpur as it has more computer shops per capita than anywhere else in Sabah.
  • Kota Kinabalu City Bird Sanctuary – Located in Likas.
  • Monsopiad Cultural Village (Kampung Monsopiad) – Situated in Penampang.
  • Kinabalu National Park – Kota Kinabalu is the gateway to one of the most popular national park in Malaysia. The park is a two hour drive away from the city. Mount Kinabalu has the highest peak in South East Asia. Beautiful Sceneries. A must visit for any keen tourists visiting Sabah.
  • North Borneo Railway
  • Sabah Museum
  • State Mosque
  • Signal Hill Observatory
  • Menkabong Stilt Villages
  • Tun Mustapha Tower (formerly Sabah Foundation Building or Bangunan Yayasan Sabah) – About a 10-minute drive from Kota Kinabalu, this 30-storey glass building is supported by high-tensile steel rods, one of only four buildings in the world that is built with this method.
  • Tanjung Aru Beach – Tanjung Aru has long stretches of sandy beaches. The most visited beaches are Beach 1, Beach 2 and Beach 3. Food and drink stalls, Prince Phillip Botanical Park, night entertainment clubs, recreational clubs such as Tanjung Aru Golf Course and KK Yacht Club and the 5-star Shangri-la’s Tanjung Aru Resort can be found here. A popular family getaway place during the weekends.
  • Tunku Abdul Rahman Park – A National Park consisting of the beautiful islands of Sapi, Mamutik, Manukan, Sulug and Gaya. About 15 to 30 minutes boat ride away from KK jetty. A popular spot for snorkeling.
  • Rafflesia Forest Reserve – Located near Tambunan, the Reserve is an hour ride away from Kota Kinabalu. The world’s largest flower species, the rafflesia, can be found here.
  • Crocker Range National Park – Located just about 140 kilometres away from the city, near Keningau. A nice place for jungle trekking and camping.
  • Sutera Harbour Resort and Golf Club
  • Karambunai – A half an hour drive north of the city. It has a world-class beach and golf resort.

Photo copyright to Sabah Tourism – Pein