Almuñécar was founded by the Phoenicians almost 3000 years ago and has since been occupied by a succession of Mediterranean cultures including, most importantly, the Romans and the Moors.
Attracted by the rich trade in local products, the town was one of the most important ports on Spain's Mediterranean coast. Evidence of the area's importance can be seen in the numerous monuments that still exist, especially the Roman fish factory and aqueduct.
The Romans fortified and developed what they called Sexi Firmum Julium. Great importance was attached to the old Phoenician fishing and salting industry, which they expanded and developed in a thorough way. And today's visitor can see remains of the salazones, or salting pits, in the Majuelo Park just below the castle. Large quantities of fresh water, required for the urban community and salazones, was brought almost 7 km from up the Río Verde by means of a sophisticated system of tunnels, channels and aqueducts. Large sections of the sturdy construction still remain and can be visited.
Under occupation of the Arabs, the town once more rose to a position of importance with a flourishing economy and population. Renamed Al-Munakkab, or Hins-al-Monacar (Fortified Town, or Flanked by Hills), it is clear to see the derivation of the modern name Almuñécar. The hilltop fortifications, originally Roman, were rebuilt and expanded into a formidable castle.
In 755 ad, Abderramán I landed in Almuñécar after fleeing a rebel invasion of his native Damascus. One of the few survivors of the Umayyad dynasty, he was soon accepted by the various warring factions and proclaimed the first emir of an independent state in Córdoba, over which he ruled successfully for more than 30 years. A large bronze statue below the Peñón del Santo commemorates this event.
In 1810, during the War of Independence, Almuñécar was briefly occupied by the French, causing British warships to shell the castle and put it out of action. And more than a century later, Almuñécar was again bombarded from the sea, this time during the Spanish Civil War. In April 1937, Republican forces tried to destroy the sugar factories that were located on Playa San Cristóbal, with very limited success. They hardly touched the factories but they did knock out a number of fishing boats on the beach and made some large holes in La Najarra, today's tourist office.