The cell biology of caveolae is a rapidly growing area of biomedical research. Caveolae are known primarily for their ability to transport molecules across endothelial cells, but modern cellular techniques have dramatically extended our view of caveolae. They form a unique endocytic and exocytic compartment at the surface of most cells and are capable of importing molecules and delivering them to specific locations within the cell, exporting molecules to extracellular space, and compartmentalizing a variety of signaling activities. They are not simply an endocytic device with a peculiar membrane shape but constitute an entire membrane system with multiple functions essential for the cell. Specific diseases attack this system: Pathogens have been identified that use it as a means of gaining entrance to the cell. Trying to understand the full range of functions of caveolae challenges our basic instincts about the cell.