A functional genomics approach has revealed that caveolae/raft-mediated endocytosis is subject to regulation by a large number of kinases. Here we explore the role of some of these kinases in caveolae dynamics. We discover that caveolae operate using principles different from classical membrane trafficking. First, each caveolar coat contains a set number (one 'quantum') of caveolin-1 molecules. Second, caveolae are either stored as in stationary multi-caveolar structures at the plasma membrane, or undergo continuous cycles of fission and fusion with the plasma membrane in a small volume beneath the surface, without disassembling the caveolar coat. Third, a switch mechanism shifts caveolae from this localized cycle to long-range cytoplasmic transport. We have identified six kinases that regulate different steps of the caveolar cycle. Our observations reveal new principles in caveolae trafficking and suggest that the dynamic properties of caveolae and their transport competence are regulated by different kinases operating at several levels.