Historically, the Alupas ruled the earlier Dakshina Kannada region in between the 8th and 14th century CE. Prior to the year 1860, Dakshina Kannada was a part of a district named Kanara, under the Madras Presidency. In 1860, it was split by the British into South Kanara and North Kanara. Kundapur taluk was earlier included in the North Kanara but was later re-included in the South Kanara. In 1956, both were reorganized. Dakshina Kannada was transferred to Mysore state in 1956. Later, it was renamed Karnataka in 1973. On 15th August 1997, for the purpose of better administration, the Karnataka Government split the greater Dakshina Kannada district into Udupi and the present day’s Dakshina Kannada districts. Three taluks of the former district are Udupi, Karkala and Kundapura, formed the new Udupi district. During different periods of time the place was ruled by different rulers likewise the rulers of Vijaya Nagar, Ikkeri Nayakas, Portuguese, Tippu Sultan and finally British in the year 1799.
Bellipadi Chandrahasa Alva, B. S. Baliga, Bantwal Raghuram Bhat, K. Chidananda Gowda, Jacob Crasta, Kadri Gopalnath, B. V. Karanth, K. Ullas Karanth, Nalin Kumar Kateel, Sheila Khambadkone, Krishnananda Saraswati, Budhi Kunderan and Bolwar Mahammad Kun etc are some of the famous personalities of the district who belong to different fields.
Geographically, the district encompasses a geographical area of 4,861 sq. km. It lies at 12°84' N latitude, 75°25' E longitude and 22 m altitude. In the year 2021, there was a total 63.05% forest area of the total geographical area. It is bounded by Udupi district to the North, Chikkamagaluru district to the North-East, Hassan district to the East, Kodagu to the Sout-East, and Kasaragod district in Kerala to the South. The district consists of seashore in the West and Western Ghats in the East. It has lateritic type soil rich with iron and aluminum. The rivers Netravathi, Kumaradhara, Gurupura (Phalguni), Shambhavi, Nandini or Pavanje and Payaswini pass through the district. There are Teak, bamboo and rosewood trees in the hilly areas towards the East. Most of its rainfall occurs in the monsoon season. The actual rainfall in the district was 4036.6 mm in the year of 2021-22.
Administrative wise, the district is divided into 5 sub-districts, 41 towns and 331 villages. Kannada is its official language. Mangalore city is the district headquarters of Dakshina Kannada which is located at a distance of 374 km. from the State Capital. The district of Dakshina Kannada came into existence on 1st November, 1956 in the state of Karnataka.
Demographically, according to 2011 census the district has a total number of 4,25,291 households with a total population of 20,89,649 out of which 10,34,714 are males and 10,54,935 are females. The density of population of the district is 430 persons per sq km. The sex ratio is pegged at 1020 (females per 1000 males) while the child ratio stands at 947 (females per 1000 males). As per 2011 census the percentage of major religions practiced by the people of this region is Hindu at 67.18% and Muslim at 24.02%. According to 2011 census, the percentage of the principal languages of the region is Tulu at 48.57%, Malayalam at 9.97% and Konkani at 9.91%. The population growth rate during the period 2001 to 2011 was 10.11% including 10.26% were males and 9.97% were females. In the year 2020 the number of live births in the district was 32,755 out of which 16,641 were males and 16,114 were females. In the same year the number of deaths in the district was 21,463 out of which 12,691 were males and 8,772 were females.
Economically, agriculture is the back bone of the district. Small scale industries are available there. The district is popular as "The Cradle of Indian banking". Red clay tile (Mangalore Tiles), Cashew processing factories and Beedi industry are available in the district. Fishing is one of the major occupations of the people of the district. Some of the main industries in the district are Mangalore Chemical and Fertilizers Ltd. (MCF), Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd. (KIOCL), The Canara Workshops Limited (manufacturers of Canara Springs) Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL), BASF, TOTAL GAZ, Bharati Shipyard Limited (BSL), etc. It also has a chocolate manufacturing plant at Puttur by CAMPCO. Two IT parks are under construction here. In the year 2019-20 the gross domestic product in the district was Rs. 92,35,930 lakhs at current price and Rs. 69,06,996 lakhs at constant prices in the year 2011-2012. The net domestic product in the district during the period 2019-20 was Rs. 84,05,607 lakh at current price and Rs. 62,30,893 lakh at constant prices in the year 2011-2012. The Per Capita Income or NDDP, At Factor Cost during the period 2019-20 was Rs. 3,71,771 at current price and Rs. 2,75,586 at constant prices in the year 2011-2012.
Education wise, according to 2011 census, the literacy rate is 88.57% including 93.13% are males and 84.13% are females. The total literate population of the district is 16,66,323 consisting 8,64,019 are males and 8,02,304 are females. The district has a number of primary, secondary and higher secondary schools. It also has graduate and post graduate colleges offering courses in Medicine, Engineering, Pharmacy, Nursing, Hotel and Catering, Law and Management are located in this district. National Institute of Technology Karnataka (NITK), Surathkal is one of India's top Engineering colleges. The district also has the College of Fisheries, situated in Yekkur. There is Mangalore University in Konaje which is a public university. Research institutes are also available here such as the Directorate of Cashew Research at Puttur and the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute in Vitla. The name of the engineering colleges are St. Joseph Engineering College, KVG College of Engineering, Mangalore Institute of Technology & Engineering, Canara Engineering College, P A College of Engineering, Srinivas Institute of Technology, Srinivas School of Engineering, Vivekananda College of Engineering & Technology, Shree Devi Institute of Technology, Alvas Institute of Engineering & Technology, Karavali Institute of Technology, etc. The name of the various Medical Colleges in the district is A J Institute of Medical Science, Father Muller Medical College, KS Hegde Medical Academy, Kasturba Medical College, Srinivas Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, Yenepoya Medical College & Research Institute and KVG Medical College.
Several famous political personalities belong to the district. Bantwal Vaikunta Baliga, Shobha Karandlaje, Nalin Kumar Kateel are some the key personalities from political background.
The district has numerous famous historical and religious places to visit. These places are Dharamsthala, Kollur, Kukke Subramanya, Mangalore, Neliyadi Beedu, Netravathi River Barrage, Vintage Car Museum, Maranakatte, Balamuri Ganapati Temple, Mookambika Temple, Kukke Subramanya Temple Bejai Museum, Eemanthi Bai Government Museum, Mangalore Beach and Light House Hill Garden. During 2016, there were 1,193 foreign tourists and 1,32,32,212 domestic tourists who visited above places.