The city was first founded by the British in 1827, who leased the island from Spain during the colonial period. Named Port Clarence, it was used as a naval station in the effort to suppress the slave trade. Many newly freed slaves were also settled there, prior to the establishment of Sierra Leone as a colony for freed slaves. While many of them later relocated to Sierra Leone, some of their descendants, called Fernandinos, can still be found in Malabo and the surrounding area, where they constitute a distinct ethnic group, speaking their own Afro-Portuguese pidgin dialect.
When the island reverted to complete Spanish control, Malabo was renamed Santa Isabel. It was chosen to replace the mainland town of Bata as the capital of the country in 1969, and was renamed Malabo in 1973 as part of President Francisco Macías Nguema's campaign to replace European place names with "authentic" African ones.
During his "reign of terror," Macías Nguema led a near-genocide of the country's Bubi minority, which formed the majority on Bioko Island, and brought many of his own tribespeople, the Fang, to Malabo. In the final years of his rule, when Equatorial Guinea was sometimes known as the "Auschwitz of Africa," much of the city's population fled as, indeed, did about one-third of the country's population. Malabo has yet to recover from the scars of that period.
Despite its status as the capital of Equatorial Guinea for several decades, Malabo's street network remains poorly developed. Malabo itself has few paved roads leading into it, and fewer than one hundred paved and developed streets. Many of the street names reflect an African nationalist or anti-colonial theme, with names such as "Independence Avenue" or "Patrice Lumumba Road" being main roads. The few large roads not named for an African nationalist ideal or person are named for cities in Equatorial Guinea or other places or countries in Africa, as well as the road leading to the presidential palace. The palace and grounds consume a substantial part of the eastern side of Malabo, and are off-limits. The heart of the city is the colonial cathedral at Independence Place. Many buildings in the city from the Spanish colonial era are still standing. The south of Malabo is bordered by the Rio Consul. Across this lies the hospital to the southeast. To the west is the recently renovated airport. The coastal northern region of the city is pierced by headlands and bays. The largest headland is the crescent-shaped Tip of African Unity behind the presidential palace. Encompassing the entire eastern side of Malabo Bay, it is almost as long as Malabo is tall. Malabo is part of a wider bay that represents most of the northern coast of Bioko; it stretches from Europe Point in the west (home to the airport), to barren lands in the east. Notable buildings in Malabo include Malabo Cathedral, Malabo Government Building and the Malabo Court Building. The city is served by Malabo International Airport, while ferries sail from its port to Douala and Bata.
Malabo is well served by several international carriers including Iberia, Air France, KLM, Astraeus (charter to Gatwick), Kenya Airways, Aero Contractors, Royal Air Maroc and Lufthansa as well as a few regional airlines offering service to surrounding counties as well as to the mainland (Bata). Travel on these internal carriers should be duly considered, as there is no capability of enforcing airworthiness standards in Equatorial Guinea and air traffic control is marginal at best. Ethiopian Airlines, the airline with the highest number of International destinations within Africa, will launch service to Malabo three times a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays) starting on Tuesday, June 2, 2009. Flights will be operated to/from Malabo to/from Addis Ababa via Douala using Boeing 767 or 757. Delta has announced that they intend to service Malabo weekly starting on Tuesday, June 16, 2009. Service will be from Atlanta via Sal Island, Cape Verde.  Aero Contractors flies to Malabo from Lagos, Nigeria en route Libreville every Tuesday and Saturday. A Boeing 737-400 equipment is currently being used for this route.
Malabo is quite walkable. Taxis are cheap. 500 cfa during the day should get you anywhere within the city.3,000 cfa should get you from the city to the Marathon Oil compound. Be prepared to pay more at night or when the police are out enforcing traffic laws.
Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program, Moka, Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea, . Visitors, including tourists and school children, are welcome to stop in for educational programs. A striking series of 4 backlit posters, designed by BBPP’s Outreach Coordinator Jessica Weinberg and funded by a grant from the International Primate Protection League illustrate the importance of controlling the bushmeat trade. Post cards featuring Bioko Island wildlife, also the work of Jessica Weinberg, are for sale. Research Center staff can arrange for guides to the local attractions (the Cascades of the Ilyadi River and the Pico Biao Crater Lake). Because of its cool climate and central location, Moka is the ideal place from which to explore and study Bioko Island's rich flora and fauna.edit
Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial, Luba Road, . UNGE’s campus surrounds a common grass covered area with a statue of Teodoro Obiang, the current president of Equatorial Guinea. The original buildings on the UNGE campus were built by the Spanish when the Spanish governed the island. The original buildings reflect a Spanish colonial architectural style with frequent use of arches and low sprawling buildings. The classrooms in the older part of the university are arranged in a semi-circle around the lawn. There is a new building on the south side of the university built in a more modern style. The walls are light colored and reflective, reducing the amount of passive solar heat produced in the building. The rooms are large and have large windows, which take advantage of natural lighting. The building is square and glossy. Aula 5 has a long tile-covered table down the center and a desk-height shelf wide enough to hold desktop computers on the two long walls in the room. These shelves hold three Internet-equipped computers. These computers are connected to the campus Internet via Ethernet cords and can connect more reliably than computers using the wireless connection. There are two air conditioning units and four fans in the classroom. A blackboard, white board and outlets to plug in computers and the program’s projector provide a variety of choices for lecture format for professors and guest lecturers. There are three computer labs on campus, including the one used by the study abroad program. Wireless Internet is available intermittently on campus, provided by the university. The air conditioning units in Aula 5 were replaced midway through the quarter. The new units kept the room cool as long as the electricity was on at the school. Although the school has a generator to back up city power, there were times when city power went out and the generator was not turned on. There is a small library at the university.edit
Deme's Favorite Chicken Place, Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Get the fried plantain (sweet is better) and chicken. Top with picante and mayonnaise.edit
Betty's BBQ, aka Casa Teodorita. If you like ribs, come here. A large unmarked gate downtown near the presidential complex leads you to a charming and intimate outdoor seating area, where the Matron (Betty) prepares the best ribs in the actual world. Pretty bare bones in terms of facilities (her 12-year-old assistants will take your money to fetch drinks from local stores). Chill atmosphere, delicious food, all around great haven within Malabo. Ask a local for directions, dinners only.edit
Bantu. Chinese food in downtown Malabo, with no twist. Friendly staff, clean appearances, decent food, free wifi, two TVs playing either weird Chinese music programs or European soccer. A reliable option for all occasions.edit
Candy Irish Pub. "Irish" in decor only, this bar sits across the street from the Cultural Center in the heart of Malabo near the port. Drink imported beers and mix with locals and expats, usually blowing off steam after another pointless workday. The drinks are relatively expensive ($6 for a draft pint) but hey, it's still cheaper than New York. There's an excellent band that plays on Fridays.edit
Bahia Sound. One of the headliner nightclubs in Malabo, Bahia Sound is situated on a prominent peninsula downtown with terrace views of the sea and Punta Europa in the distance. Don't show up before midnight, unless you want to enjoy a quiet beer while reflecting on the decisions that brought you to Malabo in the first place. Things start picking up around midnight, when a sizeable percentage of Malabo's expat population show up and get inebriated. Nice crowd, clean bathrooms.edit
El Barco, aka The Casino, Airport road. It's a casino, shaped like a boat. Swanky ambiance and a grab-bag of all Malabo's social strata condensed into 4-5 gaming tables and a nice little bar. Free drinks while you're playing.edit
Many Equatorial Guinea-based airlines are blocked from operating inside the EU, and thus only a few international airlines operate from Malabo, including, but not limited to, Air France, Lufthansa, Iberia, Kenya Airways, and Danish air transport.