At an altitude of approximately 584 m (1,916 ft), the city is a minor hill station resort, with a cooler climate than the surrounding lowlands. Area around Sukabumi is also a destination for whitewater rafting. Tea and Rubber production is a major industry in the area. The suburban area surrounding Sukabumi circling the mountain has grown tremendously in population, such that northern Sukabumi Regency, hugging the volcano, and bordering Greater Jakarta, is home to the bulk of the regency's population. The area of the city is 48.42 km2, and the population at the 2010 Census was 300,359; the latest official estimate (as for December 2015) was 318,117. However, some 1.8 million people, as of the 2010 census figures, live in the surrounding metropolitan area. The bulk of the metro area population is unusual in that it forms a narrow southwest ring around Mount Gede. The eastern portion of the ringed population belt continues on to Cianjur Regency.
The area around Sukabumi was already inhabited at least in the 11th century. The first written record found in this area was the Sanghyang Tapak Stone in Cibadak, 20 km west of the city. Written in Kawi script, the stone tells about the prohibition of fishing activity in the nearby river by the authorities of the Sunda Kingdom.
At the end of the 16th century, the area was captured by the Banten Sultanate, after the fall of the Sunda Kingdom. The area however became contested in the 1620s between Banten, the Mataram Sultanate in the east and the Batavia-based Dutch East India Company. After a series of military clashes between them, the area was included in a buffer zone territory between Banten and Mataram, although the area is considered de jure as a part of Mataram.
In 1677, after the Dutch forced Mataram to sign a series of unequal treaties as a consequence of Dutch assistance for quelling the Trunajaya rebellion, Sukabumi came under direct control of Tjiandjoer. By that time, there were only few rural Sundanese settlements existed, one of the largest was Tjikole.
The area around the present-day Sukabumi (or Soekaboemi in Van Ophuijsen Spelling System) began to develop in the 18th century when the Dutch East India Company started to open coffee plantation areas in the western Priangan region of Java. Due to the high demands of coffee in Europe, in the year of 1709 the Dutch governor-general Abraham van Riebeeck started to open coffee plantations around the area of Tjibalagoeng (present-day Bogor), Tjiandjoer, Djogdjogan, Pondok Kopo, and Goenoeng Goeroeh. Coffee plantations in these five areas had then undergone expansion and intensification during the era of Hendrick Zwaardecroon (1718-1725), where the Tjiandjoer regent at that time Wira Tanoe III acquired territorial expansion of his regency as a compensation for more coffee plantations openings.
The growth of Goenoeng Goeroeh coffee plantation led to the establishment of small settlements around its area, one of those was the Tjikole (Cikole) hamlet, named after the nearby Tjikole River. In 1776, regent of Tjiandjoer Wira Tanoe Datar VI established the Tjikole Viceregency which were the indirect predecessor of the present-day Sukabumi Regency. The viceregency consisted of six districts of Djampang Koelon, Djampang Tengah, Goenoeng Parang, Tjiheoelang, Tjimahi, and Tjitjoeroeg. The administrative center was located in Tjikole, due to its very strategic locations for communications between Batavia and Tjiandjoer which were the capital of the Priangan Residency at that time.
After the Dutch East Indies were under the rule of the British in 1811, vast lands in the Tjikole area were bought by Stamford Raffles, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies at that time, via an auction held in Batavia. The name Soekaboemi was first used on 1815, when a Priangan-based plantation owner (known then as Preanger Planter) and surgeon named Andries de Wilde visited Tjikole in 1814. From his consultations with local people, De Wilde wrote a letter to Nicolaus Engelhard, his friend and plantation investor, where De Wilde asked Engelhard to propose a name change of the viceregency from Tjikole to Soekaboemi, to which Raffles agreed.
In Dutch colonial times, Sukabumi was the site of Politieschool, the colonial police academy.
During the Japanese occupation of Indonesia during the Second World War, the Japanese had created a strategic garrison in Ujung Genteng, part of the South Sukabumi Regency. Remains of the harbor and lookout towers at the end of this peninsula are still in place, along with the caves that the Japanese lived and died in towards the end of the war. Ujung Genteng is directly North of Christmas Island and Australia and would have made an excellent point of defense or attack, without official records to substantiate this, it is presumed that they had their sights on Christmas Island and a close link to Australia.
In early 2005, Sukabumi Regency became the first place in Indonesia that polio was reported in ten years, the beginning of a nationwide outbreak of the disease which had been believed to be eradicated in the country.
The city of Sukabumi is divided into seven districts (kecamatan), listed below with their populations at the 2015 estimate:Baros (31,737)
Gunung Puyuh (47,144)
After almost one year of hiatus, the railway transport between Sukabumi and Bogor of 57 kilometres was reactivated, with the new train called 'Pangrango' on November 9, 2013. The train has one executive-class car and three economy-class cars.