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Geography, climate and population
Belize is located in Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico. It is 274 km long north to south and 109 km wide east to west. The country is divided into six administrative districts: Belize, Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek and Toledo. Its total area is 22 970 km2, that includes 1 540 km2 of lagoons and 690 km2 of approximately 450 small islands (known as “cayes”). In 2012, the cultivated area was estimated at 110 000 ha (78 000 ha temporary crops and 32 000 ha permanent crops) (Table 1).
The coastal areas are lowland plains, with much of the coastline covered with mangrove swamps. The Maya Mountains (300 to 1 000 m in altitude) occupy the south-centre and dominate much of the remainder of the country. They rise steeply to a maximum of 1 120 m at Victoria Peak in the Cockscomb Range, and slope down to the Vaca Plateau in the west. Belize has the second longest coral barrier reef in the world at 220 km running almost the entire length of the coastline.
Belize is a unique case of a very small country with a rich endowment of natural resources of global importance: its large and still relatively intact tropical forests and its almost pristine coral reef. Some 63 percent of the country is classified as forest, with 35.5 percent held by the government under forest reserves and protected areas status with a rich biodiversity.
The climate is subtropical with temperatures ranging from 22ºC to 31ºC in the coast and from 16ºC to 18ºC in the mountains, the coldest months being November and January. Annual precipitation varies from 1 500 mm in the North to 42000 mm in the South. A dry season extends from February to May, followed by a rainy season from June to November that peaks in July. December to February is a transitional period. In November and December agricultural activities are commonly restricted due to high water saturation levels in the soil. Winds from the east and southeast prevail from February to September, while winds from the north and northeast dominate in winter. Annual evaporation in Belize district is 1 750 mm. Belize is within the area of the Caribbean commonly affected by hurricanes, which on average occur once every five years.
The total population was estimated at 332 000 inhabitants in 2013 (56 percent rural). During the period 2003-2013 the annual population growth rate was estimated at 2.6 percent. The population density is about 14 inhabitants/km2 which is one of the lowest population densities in Latin America. Belize has a diverse population: Mestizo, Creole, Garífuna, Caribbean, Maya Kekchi, Maya Mopán, Mennonite, Yucatec, etc.
In 2012, 99 percent of the population had access to improved water sources (98 and 100 percent in urban and rural areas respectively). Sanitation coverage accounted for 91 percent (94 and 88 percent in urban and rural areas respectively).