The sub-district was originally populated sparsely by native Dusuns, but of late there has been a drastic increase in the population of Filipino and Indonesian immigrants, many of whom have been naturalised (both legally and illegally) and remain in squatter colonies not only in Menggatal but in many other parts of Sabah.
Menggatal town proper consists of several rows of shophouses. Of these, most are modern concrete ones but there are three remaining blocks of wooden shophouses that date back to the pre-World War II era. The occupants of Menggatal's shophouses are mainly ethnic Chinese. In the centre of the town near the current bus terminal stands the former Paramount Cinema, now housing several shops.
The town is linked to Kota Kinabalu city centre by Jalan Tuaran (Tuaran Road), which is the main road out north from the city. The nearest other suburb is Inanam.