The population of the municipality is 55,673 (2013), its area is 22.72 km². It is south of Haría, east of Tinajo and northeast of Yaiza. Arrecife is a port town on the east coast, served by ferries to the other islands and also Europe and mainland Africa. The LZ1 road connects Arrecife with to the north, the LZ2 road with the southwest, and the LZ3 road serves as the beltway of the city. The tallest building in Lanzarote is the Gran Hotel Arrecife, which is located on the front alongside the harbour.
The earliest records of Arrecife date from the fifteenth century when it was a small fishing settlement. The name, given then as Arrecifes, refers to the black volcanic reefs behind which boats could hide, protected from sudden pirate attacks.
Towards the end of the sixteenth century the settlement began to grow in response to a need for accommodation and warehousing to support growing trade between the old and new worlds. The first church was constructed at this time, consecrated to the first bishop of Arrecife, San Ginés. Growing prosperity increased the attractiveness of the town as a pirate target: in 1571 a notorious pirate named Dogan plundered and almost completely destroyed the little port town.
In 1964 Arrecife became the site of Lanzarote's first sea-water desalination plant, which was still operational in 2010.