Macropinocytosis is a regulated form of endocytosis that mediates the non-selective uptake of solute molecules, nutrients and antigens. It is an actin-dependent process initiated from surface membrane ruffles that give rise to large endocytic vacuoles called macropinosomes. Macropinocytosis is important in a range of physiological processes; it is highly active in macrophages and dendritic cells where it is a major pathway for the capture of antigens, it is relevant to cell migration and tumour metastasis and it represents a portal of cell entry exploited by a range of pathogens. The molecular basis for the formation and maturation of macropinosomes has only recently begun to be defined. Here, we review the general characteristics of macropinocytosis, describe some of the regulators of this pathway, which have been identified to date and highlight strategies to explore the relevance of this endocytosis pathway in vivo.