The largest island of Venezuela’s coast, Margarita is a duty-free port and a popular holiday destination for South Americans, with some 50 Caribbean beaches on the island, and many resorts and hotels to serve visitors. The island’s long written history begins with a visit by Columbus in 1498. The coastal waters proved to be rich with pearls, which at one point accounted for a third of the total annual tribute to the Spanish crown from the New World. Small wonder, then, that the place attracted the attention of pirates. Remnants of the resulting fortifications remain, along with other, later fortresses built during the revolutionary war. These, along with four churches and the beaches, vie with large shopping malls for popularity, since many Venezuelans flock to the island to purchase goods at duty-free prices.