In 1841, the bay was used as a base by pirates and caused serious concern to foreign merchant ships trading with China. The pirates were subsequently repulsed by the British Fleet; hence the name. Another theory holds that the bay was named after which was stationed at the bay at one point.
In the 1910s, Repulse Bay was developed into a beach, and the Repulse Bay Hotel was built in 1920. To attract swimmers, a bus route from to Repulse Bay was created, and now stands as one of Hong Kong's oldest bus routes. During the Battle of Hong Kong in World War II, Repulse Bay was an important strategic location.
The beach was extended artificially, and thus the sand closer to the shore is coarser than that further away.
The former Repulse Bay Hotel was refurnished to become a shopping mall in 1982, providing coffee shops, boutique stores and up-market restaurants. The hotel's colonial architecture was retained.
On the eastern end of the beach is a temple to Tin Hau, with prominent statues of two goddesses, Kwun Yum and . Also overlooking Repulse Bay, although from higher up, is the famous "building with a hole".
The Repulse Bay area is one of the most expensive housing areas in Hong Kong, due to the nice surroundings. The prices are matched only by the mid-levels at Victoria Peak. In 2006, some property prices reached HK$20,000 per square feet.
Stanley Ho owns both 1 Repulse Bay Road and 4 Repulse Bay Road.
Repulse Bay is served by Repulse Bay Road, which connects Wong Nai Chung Gap Road and Tai Tam Road. It is very convenient for people to travel to Repulse Bay as there many from Central, such as no. 6, 6A, 6X, 260; or the no. 40 . Transportation either takes you express through the Aberdeen Tunnel, or along the slightly longer scenic route.
Beach-goers may also opt to drive there. The beach provides some parking space, and the nearby Repulse Bay Hotel also has parking facilities.
Author Eileen Chang's novel, Love in a Fallen City is set at the Repulse Bay Hotel.