Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia Travel Guide


Once known as Jesselton, Kota Kinabalu is the capital city of the Malaysian state called Sabah. It has a population of about 900,000 people and it is the sixth biggest city in Malaysia. Kota Kinabalu is one of the fastest growing cities in Malaysia, considering its popularity with tourists and its industrial and commercial significance. Kota Kinabalu has a tropical rainforest climate, with relatively high temperatures all year round and two noticeable seasons – the wetter and the drier one.


The mountain Kinabalu is a sacred mountain for the locals and it is recommended to treat it with respect. When tourists visit the mountain they should make as little noise as possible and never take anything from Kinabalu mountain.

Spitting is a common thing on the streets of Kota Kinabalu, so visitors should not be surprised at the fact that locals will spit even in some buildings.

Kota is Malaysian for City, so Kota Kinabalu means Kinabalu City.

Kota Kinabalu is commonly referred to as KK, both by locals and tourists.

History and Culture

The original name of Kota Kinabalu was Api Api, which means Fire Fire. There are a few theories why the settlement was called that, but the most interesting one is the theory that the pirates from the Sulu archipelago kept burning it to the ground, and it got its name after this. The city was destroyed during WWII and it was rebuilt after the war into the city that it is today. Owing to the fact that Kota Kinabalu has been an important trading center for many years, it is no wonder that today, it is a city of many different cultures and traditions joined together.

Things to See and Do

Being one of the most important cities in Malaysia, Kota Kinabalu is packed with many different interesting sites:

The Green Connection – a fantastic aquarium and discovery center, an absolute must see in Kota Kinabalu, with a fascinating range of wildlife from the Sabah region.

Shopping – one of the best places to go shopping in Malaysia, Kota Kinabalu has an abundance of shopping centers where people will have the opportunity to shop till they drop.

The Signal Hill Observatory – visit this site in order to view the center of Kota Kinabalu from above.

Scuba diving and snorkeling – there are numerous diving sites and beautiful coral reefs that are extremely popular with tourists visiting the city.

Nightlife of Kota Kinabalu

Unlike some other places in Malaysia, Kota Kinabalu has a fairly lively nightlife. There is an array of bars, night clubs and places where people can have fun after the night falls. Some of the most popular places include BB Café, BED (Best Entertainment Destination), Don’s Point, Hunter’s Terrace, Blue Note, Shenanigan’s Fun Pub and many more.

Eating and Drinking

There are a lot of different places in Kota Kinabalu where people can eat great food and enjoy a good drink. Apart from many different international restaurants, eating seafood is a must when visiting Kota Kinabalu. Some of the most visited seafood restaurants include New Gaya Seafood Restaurant, Ocean Seafood Restaurant, Portview Seafood Restaurant and many others.

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