As early as the 1940's, Kota Kinabalu, then called Jesselton, was nothing more than a few traditional bamboo houses, built on stilts over the shallow water of the tranquil bay.  Restored photos from this era can be seen in the Magellan Club area of the Magellan Sutera at the Sutera Harbour Resort.

At this time, it was also not the capital of Sabah, and only later replaced Sandakan as the state capital.  During the Second World War it was invaded by the Japanese and consequently virually flattened by Allied bombers. Today, a Japenese war memorial can be found towards Luyang, frequently visited by Japanese.  Other traces of the occupation is evidnent in the Japanese style of hot baths found at Pouring Hot Springs.

After the War, Kota Kinabalu was rebuilt into the fairly modern city it is today, renamed and around 1949 become the state capital.  With more and more direct connection to various countries, Kota Kinabalu is rapidly developing.