Coloane was known in Cantonese as Gau Ou Saan (九澳山, lit. "Nine-inlet Mountain", transcribed in Portuguese as Ká-Hó) and Yim Zou Waan (鹽灶灣, lit. "Salt-stove Bay"). The Portuguese name "Coloane" is derived from the Cantonese pronunciation of Gwo Lou Waan (過路環, lit. "Passing-road Ring").
Coloane has an area of 8.07 km2 (3 sq mi)}, is 4 km (2 mi) long and is 5.6 km (3 mi) from the Macau Peninsula. It is connected to Taipa by a 2.2 kilometres (1.4 mi) causeway, the Estrada do Istmo, however land reclamation has physically connected the two islands and a new town called Cotai has been built between Taipa and Coloane, which is home to the Cotai Strip and many other casinos under development.
The narrowest part of Coloane is 300 metres (980 ft). The highest points in Macau are eastern and central Coloane, with the highest point being the 171 metres (561 ft) Alto de Coloane (Chin.: 疊石塘山, Port.: Alto de Coloane ). The northern shore of the island is 4.5 metres (15 ft) deep, and is the site of the Macau Deepwater Port. The eastern Hac Sa Beach (Chin.: 黑沙海灘, Port.: Baía de Hác Sá) and the southern Cheoc Van Bay (Chin.: 竹灣, Port.: Baía de Cheoc Van) are popular swimming beaches. At Baía de Hác Sá there is a Portuguese restaurant called "Fernando", famous amongst locals in Macau and tourists from Hong Kong.
From the Song Dynasty onwards and until the Portuguese arrival in 1864, Coloane was a sea salt farm for China. After their arrival, the Portuguese made Macau an important trading port, but Coloane remained largely deserted, and was used as a base by pirates until 1910. The island became more populated after the Estrada do Istmo was finished in 1969.
Chapel of St. Francis Xavier (聖方濟各聖堂), of the Freguesia de São Francisco Xavier (聖方濟各堂區). The chapel, built in 1928, is located on the southern coast of the island and stands near a monument commemorating a victory over pirates in 1910. The chapel used to contain some of the most sacred Christianrelics in Asia, including the remains of 26 foreign and JapaneseCatholic priests who were crucified in Nagasaki in 1597, as well as those of some of the Japanese Christians who were killed during the Shimabara Rebellion in 1637. Among them was a bone from the arm of St. Francis Xavier, who died in 1552 on Shangchuan Island, 50 miles (80 km) from Macau, before it was transferred to Saint Joseph's Seminary and the Sacred Art Museum .