The name Mariveles is said to come from "maraming dilis" which pertains to the abundant anchovies caught on the sea surrounding the municipality. "Maraming dilis" was shortened to "mara-dilis" and eventually Mariveles through the passage of time. Another legend talked about a forbidden love story between a beautiful lass named Maria Velez and a priest from nearby Manila. The two eloped that took them to a lush forest at the tip of a peninsula across the Manila Bay corridor. Authorities from Manila caught up and separated the lovers. Maria Velez carried on to be a monk and the priest was banished to a far flung village in Mexico. Immortalizing this legend, the lush forest was named Mariveles, after the lady monk.
Historical accounts referred to Mariveles as the refilling stop for merchant ships before coming into Manila Bay. The Chinese pirate Li Ma Hong was recorded to have briefly stopped in Camaya (former name of Mariveles) for fresh water and supplies before proceeding to attack Manila. Mariveles also figured in the revolt against Spain with a handful of Katipuneros laying siege on a Spanish camp just as the uprising was declared. During the 2nd World War, the municipality served as the temporary camp for the captured Filipino and American soldiers who defended Corregidor and Bataan. Thus, the gruelling "Death March" to Capaz, Tarlac started in Mariveles, and another point in Bagac.
Mariveles at present is a far cry from the role it played from the pre-Spanish and pre-war days. It now hosts the country's first economic zone, first petrochemical industrial estate and plastic city (a petrochemical down stream industrial zone specializing in polyethylene sheets), a grain handling terminal (ATI-SMC) and an integrated footwear manufacturing plants based in the zone. The town is now a conurbation of different Filipino and foreign cultures as local migrants flock to the municipality for job and livelihood opportunities. Foreign expatriates associated with export manufacturing firms have also established their residence in Mariveles.
Mariveles is located in a cove at the southern most tip of the Bataan peninsula and is about 173 kilometers from Manila through the North Luzon Expressway, Gapan-Olongapo Road and Roman Highway. It can also be reached through jet ferry plying the Mariveles to Manila route that has an approximate travel time of 40 minutes. It has a total land area of 15,390.00 hectares representing 12% of the total land area of Bataan Province. Of this, about 69% consist of the pastureland, 19% of forestland, 6% agricultural lands and the remaining 6% for residential and industrial use. Based on the 1995 census, the total population of Mariveles is 76,626 where 78% reside in the urban areas and 22% in rural areas. Population growth rate per annum is 4.71% or twice that of the province itself. Agricultural resources of the municipality include rice, mangoes, legumes, vegetables and coffee. It also has aquatic resources like round scad, grouper, mussel, and abalone; mineral deposits of granite and basalt and forest products like vines and bamboo. Mariveles takes pride as the host of the very first economic zone in the country, the Bataan Economic Zone, formerly Bataan Export Processing Zone.
Garments and footwear are the major industries in Mariveles located mostly inside the BEZ. With the entry of Petrochem Complex, petrochemical industries are also expected to dominate the area.