The Caribbean conjures up images of dazzling white sand beaches, azure waves and gently swaying emerald palms, but each island has a unique culture and personality all its own. Anguilla is no exception. Encircled by the sparkling blue seas of the Atlantic, this tiny British Overseas Territory is home to 33 of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

The sand on the beach is uncontaminated and incredibly fine, while the crystal clear waters are ideal for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing and deep water fishing. It is no wonder that Anguilla is renowned as a top luxury and family vacation destination.

Located in the eastern Caribbean Sea, Anguilla is the most northerly of the Leeward Islands and the Lesser Antilles. It is situated 12 miles (19 km) north of St Martin and 60 miles (100 km) northwest of Saint Kitts. Anguilla covers 35 square miles (91 sq km) and has a population of approximately 13,254 (2006 estimate). The capital is The Valley.

Anguillans are a warm and welcoming people, well known for their friendly and casual demeanor. They are a tightly knit society and are accustomed to greeting each other with a friendly handshake or a nod. This is also a very safe island, where crime is virtually unknown.

Like other Caribbean islands, Anguilla’s early history was shaped by the arrival of Europeans and African slaves. The plantation economy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was based on cotton, tobacco and eventually sugar. After slavery was abolished in 1834, many of the former planters migrated to other parts of the Caribbean and left their land to the ex-slaves who had worked the land for generations. These lands now make up the majority of the island’s total land area.

Tourism and offshore banking are the main sources of income for Anguilla. The agriculture sector is also important, and fisheries are a significant part of the economy. Offshore banking has grown into a major industry, but has been marred by allegations of money laundering.

The island’s small size contributes to its close-knit society. Most Anguillians know each other, and the majority of the population is able to speak the English language fluently. The island’s geography and its dependency on the ocean result in a strong cultural emphasis on seafood. This has influenced local cuisine and led to celebrations such as Lobster Fest.

Anguillian music is a popular form of expression on the island, with influences from both British and African cultures. Reggae, calypso, soca and country music all have their place on the island. The island is also a hotbed for talent, producing a wide range of professional musicians. One of the most famous is Bankie Banx, who has performed with a host of music superstars. Many restaurants on the island feature live entertainment, including DaVida’s, Elodia’s and Gwen’s Reggae Grill. Anguilla also hosts Moonsplash, an annual music festival.

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