Embryonic and adult hematopoiesis are both finely regulated by a number of signaling mechanisms. In the mammalian embryo, short-term and long-term hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) arise from a subset of endothelial cells which constitute the hemogenic endothelium. These HSC expand and give rise to all the lineages of blood cells in the fetal liver, first, and in the bone marrow from the end of the gestation and throughout the adult life. The retinoic acid (RA) signaling system, acting through the family of nuclear retinoic acid receptors (RARs and RXRs), is involved in multiple steps of the hematopoietic development, and also in the regulation of the differentiation of some myeloid lineages in adults. In humans, the importance of this RA-mediated control is dramatically illustrated by the pathogeny of acute promyelocytic leukemia, a disease produced by a chromosomal rearrangement fusing the RARa gene with other genes. The aberrant fusion protein is able to bind to RARα target gene promoters to actively suppress gene transcription. Lack of function of RARα leads to a failure in the differentiation of promyelocytic progenitors. In this review we have collected the available information about all the phases of the hematopoietic process in which RA signaling is involved, being essential for steps such as the emergence of HSC from the hemogenic endothelium, or modulating processes such as the adult granulopoiesis. A better knowledge of the RA-mediated signaling mechanisms can contribute to the knowledge of the origin of many pathologies of the hematopoietic system and can provide new clinical avenues for their treatment.