Located on the shore between Hadera and Atlit, this ancient port city was established in the third century B.C.E. as a small Phoenician anchorage called Strato's Tower. In the year 90 B.C.E. the Hasmonean king Alexander Yanai annexed the area and, toward the end of that century, King Herod constructed a magnificent, well-planned city on the site. He named it Caesarea in honor of his Roman patron, Augustus Caesar. Building of a breakwater in the port resulted in Caesarea serving as one of the most important maritime centers in the eastern Mediterranean.

In the year 66 C.E., it was in Caesarea, the capital of the country during the Roman period, that the Jews of city raised the standard of revolt against Rome, touching off the Jewish War. Following the fall of Jerusalem, the city was the site of the Roman victory celebration. During the Bar Kochba Revolt, Caesarea served as the supply base for the Roman Army. It was here, after the revolt was quelled, that the Romans executed Rabbi Akiva and his disciples, the Ten Martyrs.

Caesarea became an important center of early Christianity but declined after the Moslem conquest in 639. It came to life again during the Crusader period when King Louis IX of France reconstructed and fortified the city. After being conquered by Mameluke Sultan Baybars in 1265, the city went into a steady decline.