"Friday is a very special day that I will always remember," Cruz said at the late-morning ceremony in front of the El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.
"Every time I look at that star I will see the names of all the people that have helped me make many of my dreams a reality."
Cruz went on to thank Pedro Almodovar, who directed her in "Live Flesh" and "All About My Mother," which won an Academy Award for best foreign film, and Woody Allen, who directed her in her Oscar-winning role in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."
Cruz also thanked her parents, brother Eduardo and sister Monica, along with her husband Javier Bardem, who attended the ceremony, and son Leonardo "for making me happy every day."
The ceremony came seven weeks before the May 20 release of her latest film, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," where she portrays the daughter of the notorious pirate Blackbeard and the love interest of Capt. Jack Sparrow, played by Johnny Depp.
Its director, Rob Marshall, said "Penelope Cruz getting her star (Friday) is so deserved because there is no one like her and I'm always in awe of that."
Marshall recalled his attempt to cast the role of Carla, the mistress of Italian filmmaker Guido Contini in the 2009 romantic musical "Nine," loosely based on "8 1/2" by Federico Fellini.
Hewas looking for an actress who was sexy and beautiful, but also "a brilliant dramatic actress, a heartbreaking actress" who also could sing and dance. "It was impossible to find," Marshall said. "We only found one person and we found that one person in Penelope Cruz because she can do everything."
Cruz received an Academy Award nomination for her performance.
A similar dilemma existed for ""Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," in the search for the first female pirate who "could go toe-to-toe with the genius of Johnny Depp," Marshall said.
"There was only one choice," Marshall said.
Cruz also brings "such joy, such humor, such heart and love to everything she does and such truth and honesty," Marshall said.
Depp called Cruz "a magnificent and magical woman," an "inconceivably phenomenal mommy" and "as loyal and true a friend as anyone could dream of."
Born April 28, 1974, near Madrid, Spain, Cruz was signed by an agent when she was 15 years old and made her acting debut in Spanish television when she was 16.
Cruz made her feature film debut in 1992 in "Jamon, jamon," playing a young woman who finds herself pregnant by a man her mother does not approve of, so her mother hires an underwear model (Bardem) to seduce her.
Cruz starred in her first English-language film "The Hi-Lo Country" in 1998.
She received the first of her three Academy Award nominations for her role in the 2006 film "Volver."
Cruz's other memorable films include "Vanilla Sky," "Blow," "All the Pretty Horses," "Open Your Eyes," "Twice Upon a Yesterday," "Captain Corelli's Mandolin," "Gothika," "Head in the Clouds," "Sahara," "Elegy" and "Broken Embraces."