This port has a Natural Harbor
The first indigenous settlements were of Arawak and Carib origin. Around the main group were the Añu tribe who built rows of stilt houses all over the northern riviera of the Lake Maracaibo. The first Europeans arrived in 1499.
The city was founded three times: the first time was during the Klein-Venedig period (1528–1546), when the Welser bankers of Augsburg received a concession over Venezuela Province from Charles I. of Spain. In August 1529, the German Ambrosius Ehinger made his first expedition to Lake Maracaibo, which was bitterly opposed by the indigenous Coquivacoa. After winning a series of bloody battles, he founded the settlement on 8 September 1529. Ehinger named the settlement New Nuremberg and the lake after the valiant chieftain Mara of the Coquivacoa, who had died in the fighting. The city was renamed Maracaibo after the Spanish took possession. The lack of activity in the zone made Nikolaus Federmann evacuate the village in 1535 and move its population to Santa Marta near the then capital of Venezuela Province, Santa Ana de Coro.
A second attempt by Captain Alonso Pacheco in 1569 suffered a brief setback when the city had to be evacuated in 1573 due to ferocious attacks by native local tribes. The European settlement returned a short while later, in 1574, however, for which it was re-founded by Captain Pedro Maldonado under Governor Diego de Mazariegos' command and assuming the name of Nueva Zamora de Maracaibo. "Nueva Zamora" comes from Mazariego's place of birth, Zamora, in Spain. Since its definite foundation, the town began to develop as a whole. It is based on the western side of Lake Maracaibo, the dominant feature of the oil-rich Maracaibo Basin. Favored by prevailing winds and a protected harbour, the city is located on the shores of the lake where the narrows, which eventually lead to the Gulf of Venezuela, first become pronounced.