Where is Belize Located?
The Location And Geography of Belize
Belize is a small country in Central America, south of Mexico and east of Guatemala. Belize has a long coastline on the Caribbean Sea, and is on the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula. The latitude and longitude of Belize is 17° 15′ North and 88° 45′ West and is situated on the narrow isthmus of land that connects North America and South America. To the north of Belize is the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, sharing a border with the Mexican town of Chetumal City. To the west of Belize is the northernmost department (state) of El Peten in Guatemala. The southern tip of Belize shares a border with the Guatemalan department (state) of Izabal. By air, travelers in the United States can reach Belize from Miami, Florida, Houston, Texas, or Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas in about two hours. Flights from Charlotte, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia average about three and a half hours. From a starting point in Central America, it takes a full day to drive from Guatemala City to reach most points in Belize. Passenger boats departing from the city of Puerto Barrios in the Izabal Department (state) in northern Guatemala can reach Belize in approximately 30 minutes. By air, Belize is connected to the cities of Merida and Cancun in Mexico, San Salvador in El Salvador, Flores Pdten (near the famous Mayan ruins of Tikal) in Guatemala, and the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras. Belize has a long coastline stretching for 386 kilometers (240 miles) facing the Caribbean Sea. Just offshore of Belize is the Belize Barrier Reef, the second biggest coral reef in the world, and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Belize has an area of 22,960 square kilometers (8,867 square miles), slightly bigger than either the nation of El Salvador or the state of Massachusetts, or twice as big as Jamaica. With numerous lagoons and lakes, the total land surface of Belize is actually 21,400 square kilometers (8,300 square miles). Belize is shaped approximately like a rectangle, stretching 280 km (170 miles) north to south, but just 100 kilometers (62 miles) from east to west, with a combined frontier measuring 516 kilometers (321 miles). Inside Belize are two major rivers, the Sarstoon River and the Hondo River, which define the northern and southern boundaries. The western border of Belize with Guatemala is an artificial line drawn straight north and south, a legacy of the colonial era when the region was under British administration. The western border with Guatemala is known as the “Adjacency Line”, and is officially administered by the Organization of American States (OAS). Inside Belize, the northern part of the country consists of a combination of flat wetlands merging towards coastal plains, with abundant forests found throughout. The south of Belize forms the lower slopes of the Maya Mountain range. The highest point in Belize is known as Doyle’s Delight, and has an altitude of 1,124 meters (3,688 feet). Abundant coral reefs form much of the coastline of Belize, along with approximately 450 small islands known locally known as “cayes”. Pronounced “keys”, the cayes total about 690 square kilometers (270 square miles) of surface, and abut the Belize Barrier Reef, which measures 320 kilometers (200 miles) from north to south. Three out of four coral atolls located in the Western Hemisphere are found off the waters of Belize. One special unique feature, the Great Blue Hole, is also found off the coast of Belize.
Belize Location On The World Map
Belize Location In Relation To The Caribbean
Belize On The World Map Information
Formerly British Honduras, Belize is located on the eastern coast of Central America. Bordered on the north by Mexico, on the south and west by Guatemala, and on the easy by the Caribbean Sea, Belize’s mainland is about 180 miles long and 68 miles wide. With 22,800 square kilometres of land and a population of 368,310, Belize has the lowest population density in Central America. The country’s population growth rate of 1.87% per year and is the second highest in the region and one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere.
Belize Location In Relation To Central America
Complete Map of Belize
In Northern Belize, you find Corozal and Orange Walk Districts
In Western Belize, you find Cayo District
The Belize District consists of Belize City and the islands of Belize ( Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye)
In Southern Belize you will find Stann Creek ( Placencia, Hopkins, Dangriga) and Toledo Districts
The following are maps of Belize that highlight the top attractions and destinations in the country.
Quick Belize Facts
LOCATION Belize, previously British Honduras, lies on the East coast of Central America and in the heart of the Caribbean Basin. It is bordered by Mexico to the North, Guatemala to the West and South, and the Caribbean Sea to the East. Geographically Belize is located between 15° 52′ 9″ and 18° 29′ 55″ North Latitude, and 87° 28″ and 89° 13′ 67″ West Longitude with an area of 8,866 sq. miles including 266 sq. miles of islands.
The cayes or islands, the offshore atolls, and the barrier reef are the main attractions to Belize. The barrier reef, which is the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, is 185 miles long. The cayes and atolls provide great opportunity for SCUBA diving, snorkeling, fishing, boating, sailing, and kayaking, and also serve as a habitat for both nesting birds and turtles. In the central part of Belize the land is higher. It is between 1,500 and 3,680 feet above sea level in the Mountain Pine Ridge Area and the Maya Mountains. Breathtaking waterfalls, historic Mayan cities and majestic mountains are but a few of the attractions that can be enjoyed in this area.
CLIMATE The climate is subtropical, with a brisk prevailing wind from the Caribbean Sea. The country has an annual mean temperature of 79 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity is nicely tempered by the Sea breezes. The variation in weather further emphasizes the interesting difference in elevation, geology, plant and animal life. Summer high temperatures, are normally around 98 degrees Fahrenheit, and winter lows have rarely gone below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, even at night.
RAINFALL Normally, the rainy season is usually between June and November and the dry season is between February and May. Usually, the weather becomes cooler at the end of October and this lasts up until February. Average humidity is 85 percent. Annual rainfall ranges from 50 inches in the North to 170 inches in the South.
PEOPLE The population of approximately 250,000 people consists of a mixture of Creoles, Garifunas, Mestizos, Mayas, Caucasians, Mennonites, Lebanese, Chinese, and East Indians. Belize has gained a widespread reputation for its friendly people.
LANGUAGE English is the official language of Belize, Spanish is the second language and Creole is the commonly used dialect you will hear spoken throughout the country.
CURRENCY The Belize Dollar (BZ$) has a fixed rate of exchange of BZ$2 to US$1. Most hotels, resorts, restaurants, and tour operators will accept U.S. currency, traveler’s checks, or credit cards.
TIME Time observed year round is GMT-6, which is the same as United States Central Standard Time. Daylight Savings Time is not observed in Belize.
Common Myths About Belize
Belize is an Island
Belize is not an island; however there are over 200 islands or cayes along its coast. Belize is part of the isthmus that connects North and South America and thus it is part of the Central American mainland.
Belize is Located in the Caribbean
Belize is located in Central America but it is also considered part of the Caribbean. In fact, Belize has a long and beautiful coastline on the Caribbean Sea.
Belize is in South America
Many people, the world over, believe that Belize is in South America. In reality, Belize is not in South America. Belize is a small country in Central America, south of Mexico and east of Guatemala.
Belize is part of Honduras
No, Belize is not part of Honduras. In fact, the country doesn’t even share a border with Honduras. However it is important to note that Belize was once called British Honduras and in 1973 it changed its name to Belize.
How many different ways can you spell Belize?
There are many misspellings on Belize. Many travelers have misspelled the country’s name as Belieze, or Beleez, or Balize. So far, we have seen the following misspellings: baliz, balize, beleeze, beleize, beleze, beliese, beliez, belise, bellize.
Where Did The Name Belize Come From?
There are many theories about where the name Belize came from. According to some Belizean historians, the origin is unclear but there is a possibility that it is derived from a Maya word, “belix” which means “muddy water”. Others have suggested that it is derived from a Spanish pronunciation of the name of the Scottish buccaneer Peter Wallace, which was applied to an early settlement along the Belize River and to the river itself. Belize has a sizeable proportion of Africans from the ancient Kingdom of Kongo, who could have brought the name with them, as there is a Belize in Angola as well.
Belize Culture and History
Belize has a very unique history, being the only country in Central America where English is the official language. Approximately 3000 years ago, the original Maya culture began moving into the area now known as Belize, establishing an extensive trading network that would flourish until approximately the year 1200 A.D., building the enormous stone cities of Cahal Pech, Caracol, and Altun Ha. Initially passed over by European conquerors due to a lack of gold and other precious mineral resources, the first European settlement was founded in 1638 by English sailors who survived a shipwreck. Thriving in the mild climate of Belize, more English settlers began arriving in the area, and the country became a base for English privateers and pirates who would sally forth to harvest the rich plunder of Spanish galleons. Although sporadic Spanish settlements attempted to take root in Belize, the country fell under complete British domination in 1798 after a British fleet won a decisive naval battle against the Spanish in the waters off of St. George’s Caye. In 1840, the British government formally seized control of the country, naming it the Colony of British Honduras. Taking advantage of the American Civil War, the British annexed Belize in 1862, making it a crown colony. In the latter half of the 19th century, many Mayan tribes, Mestizos and Mennonite people emigrated to Belize to escape unrest in neighboring Mexico. In 1931, a combination of fallout from the Great Depression in the United States and a devastating hurricane strike that completely demolished the capital of Belize City drastically altered the political landscape in Belize, with British overseers taking the opportunity to vastly increase their control of the colony. This prompted many native Belizeans to begin organizing politically, forcing Britain to recognize that Belize wanted full independence in 1961. Due to a long-standing border dispute with neighboring Guatemala, it took another 12 years before Belize was assured of sovereignty, formally changing their name to Belize from the long-standing colonial name of “British Honduras”. However, it was not until 1981 that Belize became fully independent.
Religion, Language, and Food
Today, most Belizeans are Roman Catholic, but because of the long influence of the British Empire, there are many Protestants and Anglicans found in the country. Due to their unique history, many Maya and Garifuna peoples practice a unique blend of Christianity with traditional spiritual practices. By law, the official language in Belize is English, used nationwide for all government business and in schools. However, the main language spoken by most Belizeans is a Creole variant of English with heavy borrowings from Spanish and Mayan tongues. In the north and west of Belize, many communities speak Spanish, while other population groups continue to speak their native languages of Arabic, German, or Chinese. Many Mayan communities still speak dialects of the original Maya tongue. Belizean cuisine has a strong Caribbean influence, with many spicy Creole staples like rice and beans blending harmoniously with native Maya delicacies like fried paca (jungle rat). Not to be outdone, traditional English favorites like corned beef and beans on toast still have their place, appearing on menus alongside Mexican classics such as tamales, escabeche (onion soup), and empanadas. Small “pancakes” made from fried dough known as “fry jacks” are commonly eaten for breakfast, while lunch might consist of meat pies or rice and beans. Dinner might be sere (fried fish with either coconut or banana) or tamales, polished off with local rum or the national brew, Beliken Beer. While food and drink varies from region to region, tropical staples such as coconut, banana, and spicy hot peppers are popular nationwide, with chicken or pork being the preferred meat of most Belizeans.
The People of Belize
CreoleToday, the Creole population makes up approximately 2/5ths of Belize’s population, forming one of the largest ethnic group in the nation. Completely different than the Creoles of Louisiana or elsewhere, Belizean Creoles are descendants of African slaves imported during the colonial era and Europeans. The highest density of Creoles today center around Belize City in the center of the country, although they also live in the other five districts of the country. Most people in Belize speak Creole, a unique local variant of English, although standard English is the official language. Famous for their love of rice and beans dishes, Creole cooking has become a staple of Belize cuisine throughout the country.
MestizosThe Mestizos, named for a Spanish word meaning “mixed”, are the other dominant population group found in Belize today. Descended from a mix of Spanish and ethnic Mayans who fled southern Mexico about 100 years ago, Mestizos today are predominant in the north of Belize, including Corozal, Orange Walk, and Cayo Districts. Most Mestizos speak Spanish at home, but are able to converse in Belizean Creole/English when interacting with outsiders. The Mestizos peoples added their own unique contribution to Belizean cuisine in the form of tamales, garnaches, escabeches, and panades.
MayaDescended from the ancient Mayan imperialists who once ruled the land now known as Belize, approximately 10% of the country today consider themselves ethnic Maya. Found especially in the northern districts of Orange Walk and Corozal, the Maya today are proud of their rich heritage. A sub-group of Maya, known as the Mopan Maya, emigrated to the country in the 1880s, especially around the area of San Antonio Village in Toledo. In the south of Belize, another sub-group of Maya, known as the Kekchi Maya, emigrated from Guatemala in the 1870s, and today are found in the southern districts of Toledo and Stann Hope Creek in Belize.
GarifunaWith approximately 8% of the population, the Garifuna have a unique history. The Garifanu culture was first developed on the small Caribbean island of St. Vincent, where the descendants of African slaves intermarried with indigenous people. In 1832, the British government forced them to leave en masse, which is when they fled by canoe overseas to the coast of Belize. Every year on November 19, the Garifuna people commemorate their arrival in Belize with the festival of Garifuna Settlement Day. The Garifuna have also added their own imprint on Belizean cuisine, bringing the dishes sere, hudut, and cassava bread with them, now staples nationwide in the country.
Other MinoritiesA variety of other unique minority peoples can be found in Belize, including populations from East Indians, German Mennonites, Lebanese, Chinese, and expats from North America. Belizeans from East India were first introduced to the country during the colonial era, brought from India to work on the sugar plantations. Found today primarily in Toledo District, they added a rich patois of Indian dishes and culture to Belize. Also found in Belize are Arab peoples, predominantly from Lebanon, with others originally from Palestine and Syria. First arriving about 100 years ago to form mercantile enterprises, they remain a distinct feature in both Belize and Cayo Districts. Although relatively few in number, another distinct segment of Belizean society consists of immigrants from China, who first began arriving over a century ago to engage in trade, and today many local businesses in Belize are owned and operated by people of Chinese origin, especially concentrated in and around Belize City. The German Mennonites form a very unique pocket of distinct culture, having first come to Belize about 70 years ago when they fled ongoing unrest in neighboring Mexico. Still speaking their own archaic dialect of German, this religious community is centered around villages in Toledo, Cayo, and Orange Walk Districts. Similar to the Amish, they preserve the old ways of dress and custom, and are today still mostly engaged in farming and traditional crafts like furniture making. The smallest, but fastest growing, distinct community in Belize are the number of expats, mostly retired people from the United States and Canada. Drawn to the warm weather, use of English as the official language, and accommodating immigration laws, they add their own unique contributions to Belizean society. Found mostly in and around Belize City, a growing expat community is also beginning to form in the north of the country near the border with Mexico.
Weather OverviewBelize is typically hot and humid day and night year-round. Temperatures vary by only about 4°C between the coolest part of the year (December to March) and the hottest (May to September). The daily temperature range is around 10°C from the hottest part of the day to the coolest part of the night. In the uplands (Mountain Pine Ridge and the Maya Mountains) you can expect temperatures to fall by about 3°C for every 1000ft rise in altitude, making things noticeably more comfortable. Belize has distinct wet and dry seasons. The wet season runs from mid-May to November in the south and from mid-June to November in the north. November to February is a transitional period, with the year’s coolest temperatures and a limited amount of rain. The true dry season is February to April. There’s quite a large difference in rainfall between the north of the country (around 1500mm or 60in a year) and the south (about 4000mm or 160in). In the north and center of the country there’s a dip in rainfall in August, between peaks in July and September.
Best Time to Travel to BelizeIn Belize the high season for tourists corresponds roughly with the dry season: December to May. The shoulder months – especially December – receive a fair amount of rain, but not enough to scare away the multitudes of travelers who want to spend their holidays in the tropics. Most hotels and resorts are more expensive during this period (high-season rates are quoted throughout this book). The biggest influx of tourists comes between December 15 and January 15, and during the weeks around Easter. Some hotels and resorts, especially top-end accommodations, charge extra-high prices during these peak periods. If you’re using top-end or some midrange accommodations, you’ll certainly save money by avoiding these seasons. The rainy season runs from June to November. The early months, especially May and June, are actually a wonderful time to travel to Belize: you can avoid the tourist bustle and lodging is slightly cheaper. The only downside is that it’s outside the lobster season, so you’ll have to forego at least one local specialty. Rivers start to swell and dirt roads get muddy. Some more remote roads may not be accessible to public transportation. With too much rain, some of the caves such as Actun Tunichil Muknal are dangerous and therefore closed to the public. Southern Belize is especially precarious during the rainy season; this relatively remote region receives two to three times as much rain as the rest of the country.
Belize Weather by MonthThe overall climate of Belize can be described as sub-tropical. The humidity while high, is seldom oppressive and is most noticeable along the coast. The mean annual humidity is 83%, but on many days the humidity disappears with the cooling sea breezes. The Belize coastal area is exposed to southeast tradewinds averaging 10-13 knots, which can attain an uncanny consistency during the month of July. Temperatures in Belize range from 50°F to 95°F with an annual mean of 79°F. November to January are traditionally the coolest months with a 75°F average, and May to September are the warmest, with an average of 81°F. Location is a big factor for temperature as Cayo to the west can be several degrees colder than the coast. During November at night, temperatures can fall to a crisp 46°F in Cayo. In the mountains, the coldest days and nights might are relatively cold, and blankets will definitely be needed at night. However, the mean annual temperatures on in the mountains is a very comfortable 72°F.
When To Go To Belize
Belize Weather By Month
When the cold winter winds blow, dumping snow and ice on North America, the best place to be in January is Belize. With clear skies, and lovely balmy temperatures, you can swim in the warm waters of the Caribbean or simply sun yourself on one of the sugar sand beaches. If you’re looking for something more adventurous, you can explore the tropical rain forests, cruise up jungle rivers to spot birds, or go snorkeling off the biggest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere. Belize is also a great place to ring in the New Year, giving your soul, mind, and body a chance to rejuvenate and start off fresh.
February is one of the best months to visit Belize. With delightfully warm tropical weather and endless sunny skies, February is a great time to escape the snow and cold up north and come relax on a beach or splash in the warm waters of the Caribbean.
Brief History of Belize
Trace any nation’s lineage back in time, and one must rely upon archaeologists and anthropologists to provide the oldest details. In Belize, as in the remainder of what is now known as Central America, the land was first home to the Maya people whose intelligence and creativity remains astonishing to this day. These were skilled astronomers and mathematicians, credited with conceiving the concept of zero, but perhaps the biggest legacies are the vast architectural wonders they left behind, some of which still remain today.
Sophisticated building practices were required to construct the palaces, ball courts, apartments and commercial buildings that kept society thriving during the 1,000 years the Mayas inhabited the region. Even agricultural practices were advanced, but what bound society together was more than the maize and fruit they grew; it was an abiding belief in the spirits, gods, and rituals that held the society together, just as religious practices bind together segments of today’s Belize populace.
Would the Maya people have remained a thriving Central American hub had Spanish conquistadors not made landfall in Central America in the early 1500s? It’s a matter of debate among social scientists, but there is no disagreement about the Spaniard who was the first to make this area his home. Gonzalo Guerrero’s ship went aground, he was taken prisoner by the Mayas and remained in what is now Corozal Town for the rest of his life.
But Guerrero was a benign example of what happened to the Maya people when the continent was overtaken by Spanish invaders. They brought disease, forced strange new religious practices upon the people and instituted practices considered “respectable” by European standards. As a direct result of these changes, the Maya people literally disappeared off the face of the earth, leaving behind a rich legacy of art, architecture and rudimentary science.
It took another 100 years for the next wave of explorers seeking New World domination to appear in Central America. This time around, British expeditions arrived off the coast of what is now Belize, but these motley sailors were composed of adventurers, pirates, and buccaneers who were as interested in raiding Spanish ships as they were in subjugating populaces. Over time, these newcomers settled down, raised families and gained a firm hold in the hemisphere after declaring the region’s forests to be fertile ground for a logging empire.
The forests of Belize were verdant and plentiful. All that was lacking was a labor force capable of felling trees fast enough to supply England. The Brits had a ready-made answer for the conundrum: the importation of slaves from Africa who would be the muscle behind what turned out to be a vast, vibrant logging enterprise. This industry not only provided building materials but dyes made from Logwood materials became a valuable commodity to England’s wool yarn industry and a steady revenue source for colonists.
As is the case in most conquered societies, Brits stayed, intermarried with Africans, Creoles and Spaniards. Wars seemed unceasing in the region and historians make note of more than 150 years of constant strife in the area as the battle for land, dominance and power raged. That no Spanish colonies were ever established in Belize is a tribute to the tenacity of the settlers in concert with British authorities who were happy to collect revenues from logwood and mahogany cutting.
Did a turning point arrive in 1798 when, in a last ditch effort, the Spanish armada attacked the residents of St. George’s Caye? Perhaps. But the invaders were met with such strong resistance by settlers, slaves and British overlords, together this eclectic defense force defeated the Spaniards in a battle that is still celebrated every September 10th.
With the logging industry remaining the center of the region’s commercial viability and Spain no longer a threat, England ultimately gained sovereignty over the area, naming the colony British Honduras and making the new nation part of the British Commonwealth.
A stealthy cessation battle was waged by British Hondurans eager to live in their own independent country. Efforts to become free roiled just beneath the nation’s surface between the years 1920 and 1964. Finally, British Honduras gained the right to be a self-governing democracy.
On June 1, 1973, final actions were taken to break British ties by renaming the country Belize, but it took until September 21st of 1981 to sever the relationship completely. That was the day the last Union Jack flag was taken down and in place, the new flag of Belize was flown at long last. The new nation has struggled to create a unique identity over the past four decades and those efforts are succeeding brilliantly.
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