Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island that is a self-governing commonwealth of the United States of America. Located in the Caribbean Sea to the east of the Dominican Republic and west of the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico lies on a key shipping lane to the Panama Canal, the Mona Passage.
Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Puerto Rico in 1493 on his second voyage of discovery, and originally named it San Juan Bautista in honor of Saint John the Baptist. The name of the island's present day capital, San Juan, honors the name Columbus first gave the island. It was then settled by explorer Ponce de Leon, and the island was under Spanish possession for over four centuries. Puerto Rico became United States territory under the Treaty of Paris, which also ended the Spanish–American War.
The U.S. Virgin Islands is an unincorporated organized territory of the United States of America between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Puerto Rico. It was formerly known as the Danish West Indies. Together with the British Virgin Islands, to the northeast, the territory forms the Virgin Islands archipelago. These islands are in an important location along the Anegada Passage - a key shipping lane for the Panama Canal; Saint Thomas has one of the best natural deep water harbours in the Caribbean.
The terrain is mostly hilly to rugged and mountainous with little level land. There are occasional earthquakes. The highest point is Crown Mountain at 474m. During the 17th century, the archipelago was divided into two territorial units, one English and the other Danish.
The British Virgin Islands are a self-governing British overseas territory, situated in the Caribbean just to the east of the US Virgin Islands. The BVIs, as they are called, are a popular travel destination for sailors, fishermen, sun worshippers, and other independent travellers, albeit not for the cost conscious. Boating among the dozens of tiny, mostly uninhabited, islands is a great stop on any tour of the Caribbean islands.
The British Virgin Islands comprise 60+ islands and keys, with more than 43 of them being uninhabited islands. The islands fall into two types: the majority are steep volcanic islands (including the main islands, Tortola and Virgin Gorda), and a small number of relatively flat coral islands (such as Anegada and Sandy Spit). In fact, Anegada is referred to as »the drowned island« because its elevation is so low.
San Juan is the capital of and largest city in Puerto Rico, with a population of about 395,000. It has one of the best harbors in the Caribbean. The city celebrates its fifth century in 2008 or 2021, depending on whether one counts from the founding of the original settlement at Caparra or the act of moving the Caparra settlement to Puerto Rico isle (now Old San Juan).
San Juan is the oldest city under the jurisdiction of the United States. San Juan is in the northeast of the island of Puerto Rico, and features distinctly century-old architecture, such as Spanish military forts built from the 1540s to 1800s, an active harbor, and a very active economic area in the Hato Rey district. It features magnificent beaches, hotels, plazas, historic sites, museums, and so on. San Juan has a land area of about 76 square miles. The city's population is approx. 395,000.
The northern, French side of the island is known as Saint-Martin, and is 54km² (21 square miles) in area. The southern, »Dutch side« of the island is known as Sint Maarten, and is 41km² (16 square miles). The French side, Saint-Martin, consists of the northern two-thirds of the island. It has a more »European« feel than the Dutch side. The native language is French and has the same guiding laws as France.
There are no casinos on the French side. It is less developed than the Dutch side, but contains more of the island's natural wonders. The French side is popularly known for clothing-optional Orient Beach and the adjacent nudist resort. The towns of Marigot and Grand Case provide some of the best gourmet meals anywhere and plenty of interesting shops. Beauty abounds on the island, with bluffs overlooking pretty harbours, sandy-cliffed beaches and tranquil rocky coves.
Anguilla was colonized by English settlers from Saint Kitts in 1650, and administered by Great Britain until the early 19th century, when the island - against the wishes of the inhabitants - was incorporated into a single UK dependency along with Saint Kitts and Nevis. Several attempts at separation failed. In 1971, two years after a revolt, Anguilla was finally allowed to secede; this arrangement was formally recognized in 1980 with Anguilla becoming a separate UK dependency.
Anguilla has few natural resources, and the economy depends heavily on luxury tourism, offshore banking, lobster fishing, and remittances from emigrants. Increased activity in the tourism industry, which has spurred the growth of the construction sector, has contributed to economic growth. The island is made of limestone, providing many caves.