Panvel is about 300 years old, developed around trade routes (both land and sea), during the Mughal rule and hence after by the Marathas, the British and the Portuguese. Panvel Municipal Council (PMC) was established in the year 1852, which is the oldest municipal council of Maharashtra. Also civilians celebrated Sesquicentennial anniversary (150th anniversary) of Panvel Municipal Council (PMC)in the year 2002. The city prospered and grew due to the influence of large scale trade by land and sea. This was characterised by the large Wadas (Palace-like homes) that came up during the Peshwai and post-Peshwai period. It is also said that old name of this city was Paneli. There were Historic cannons (During the time of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj) situated on Panvel port.
The recent developments of Panvel are in New Panvel. New Panvel is developed and administered by CIDCO. Though residents of New Panvel elect a representative in the Panvel Municipal Council, the Municipal Council does not control or manage any administrative or development activity in New Panvel.
Panvel is surrounded by some major MIDC managed regions e.g. Patalganga, Taloja, Nagothane, Roha, Khopoli. Some of the Indian Industry majors like Larsen & Toubro Limited, Reliance, Hindustan Organics Chemicals Ltd., ONGC, IPCL are based around Panvel providing mass employment. The JNPT port is also located near Panvel. New SEZs declared by Government are coming around Panvel. Inside the city some smaller entities like Dhootpapeshwar Trust can be found.
The then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Vilasrao Deshmukh, approved Panvel Mega City Project to be implemented by MMRDA with an investment of over INR50,000 crore (US$9.98 billion) by many foreign firms including Gulf Finance House. The city will have three parts viz. Energy City, Information Technology and Telecom City, and Entertainment City. The project is expected to create employment for 7.5 lakh people. The first phase is expected to be complete by 2014 while the entire project will be ready by 2020.
Between Pen and Panvel lies the Karnala fort. At the bottom of the fort there is a bird sanctuary. Karnala is 65 km away from Mumbai, 120 km away from Pune and 13 km away from Panvel. The sanctuary is around 25 m above mean sea level, while the fort itself is 370 m above mean sea level. Maharashtra Government declared this 4.5 km². region as the bird sanctuary in 1968-69. Rich with natural habitats for various kinds of birds, in the sanctuary one can find around 150 species of birds. One can watch for Red-vented Bulbul, Grey Hornbill, Owl, Paradise Fly Catcher. Panvel is also famous for Watermelon.
Two of the eight Ashtavinayak temples of the God Ganesha are close to Panvel, Ballaleshwar Pali and Varadavinayaka at Mahad, near Khopoli, on the Old Mumbai-Pune Highway. It is different from Mahad.
Karjat, Karnala, Elephanta Caves, Haji Malang, Prabalgad, Toy Train famed Matheran, Murud-Janjira, Mahad (Raigadh fort), Ballaleshwar Pali and Mahad – Ganesha: Two of the Ashtavinayak ganapati. Alibag: Sea beach, Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary, Ghadeshwar Dam.