Kota Kinabalu


Kota Kinabalu, commonly referred to as KK, is the capital of the state of Sabah in Malaysia. Originally known as “Api-Api”, the city was renamed after Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in Southeast Asia. The word “Kota” means “city” in Malay, so “Kota Kinabalu” essentially means “City of Kinabalu”.


Kota Kinabalu is situated on the northwest coast of Borneo, overlooking the South China Sea. It is the main gateway to the rest of Sabah and also serves as the entrance to the Kinabalu Park and the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. It shares its western boundary with the Crocker Range and is surrounded by lush rainforests and tropical islands.


Kota Kinabalu has a rich yet tumultuous history. Originally a small fishing village, the area saw rapid development under the British North Borneo Company. During World War II, the city was heavily bombed, leading to almost complete destruction. Post-war, reconstruction began, and by 1967, it was granted city status and renamed Kota Kinabalu. Today, KK stands as a symbol of resilience and growth, with its diverse population reflecting the rich cultural tapestry of Sabah.

Highlights of Things to Do

  • Mount Kinabalu: A UNESCO World Heritage site, this mountain attracts climbers from all over the world. Even for non-climbers, the Kinabalu Park offers a plethora of nature trails and stunning views.
  • Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park: Comprising five islands, this marine park is a paradise for snorkeling, diving, and beach relaxation.
  • Atkinson Clock Tower: As one of the few structures that survived World War II bombings, this clock tower stands as a testament to KK’s history.
  • Sabah State Museum: This museum provides deep insights into the region’s history, culture, and biodiversity.
  • Tanjung Aru Beach: Renowned for its breathtaking sunsets, it’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists alike.

How to Get In and Out

  • By Air: Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) is one of Malaysia’s busiest airports, connecting the city to domestic destinations and international hubs like Seoul, Hong Kong, and Tokyo.
  • By Sea: The Jesselton Point Waterfront serves as a ferry terminal, with routes to nearby islands and the neighboring state of Labuan.
  • By Road: Kota Kinabalu is well-connected by roads, with buses and taxis being primary modes of inter-city travel. However, there’s no railway network in Sabah.

Kota Kinabalu offers a unique blend of modernity, rich history, and unparalleled natural beauty, making it a must-visit destination in Southeast Asia.