ANÍBAL ACEVEDO VILÁ was born in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico. In 1982, he obtained a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), graduating magna cum laude. He attended the University of Puerto Rico School of Law, where he also graduated magna cum laude, was elected vice president of the student council, and served as editor-in-chief of the UPR Law Review. He completed a clerkship at the Puerto Rico Supreme Court and then earned a master of law (LLM) degree from Harvard Law School in 1987. From 1987 to 1988, he served as a law clerk for the Federal Court of Appeals, First Circuit Court, in Boston.

Vilá was elected to the Puerto Rico House of Representatives in 1992. He was reelected in 1996, and was elected to be House minority leader in 1997. He was elected resident commissioner of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in 2000 and served in the U.S. House of Representatives until 2005. Vilá was sworn in as governor of Puerto Rico on January 2, 2005. Immediately upon taking office, he presented his vision for Puerto Rico: the Triangle of Success. This was a comprehensive, forward-looking plan of action with immediate steps in the areas of education, crime control and prevention, and economic development. Vilá supported an enhanced form of commonwealth as the status option for the U.S./Puerto Rico relationship. He wrote "En Honor a la Verdad" (In Honor of the Truth), a compilation of speeches on issues regarding Puerto Rico's democracy and self-determination.

Governor Acevedo Vilá and his wife, Luisa Gándara, have two children, Gabriela and Juan Carlos.