Belize Main Facts
Located at 17° north of the Equator, on the Yucatán Peninsula, Belize is the only Central American country without a Pacific coastline. Belize’s territory is only 22,966 km² (8,867 sq. mi), but it has 386 km (240 mi) of spectacular coastline running along the Caribbean Sea, where many coral reefs, cays, and islands form the Belize Barrier Reef. This 322 km (200 mi) reef is second only to the Great Barrier Reef, and it’s the longest in the western hemisphere. Belize is bordered by Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the west and south.
There are 102 protected areas in Belize, placing 22.6% of its territory under some form of protection. Around 232,750 hectares (575,138 acres) of Broadleaf Forest; 7,460 hectares (18,434 aces) of Pine Forest and 3,090 hectares (7,635 acres) of Savannah land span through its entire territory.
The Belize Barrier Reef System was designated a World Heritage Site in 1996 and it makes up almost 80% of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. There are approximately 634 known genera of marine organisms.
The southern half of the country is dominated by the Maya Mountains, their associated basins and plateaus, which cover all but the narrow coastal plain. Rising up to 1,124 metres (3,687 ft.), Doyle’s Delight –in the Cockscomb Range– is the highest peak in Belize. The Maya Mountains in western Belize are covered with shallow, highly erodible soils of low fertility. These heavily forested highlands are part of the Mesoamerican Biodiversity Hotspot. The land is undeveloped and very sparsely inhabited.
The northern lowlands and southern coastal plains are crossed by eighteen major rivers and several perennial streams. The largest and most historically important river is the Belize River, which drains more than one-quarter of the country as it winds along the northern edge of the Maya Mountains, across the centre of the country and down to the sea near Belize City. Also known as the Old River, the Belize is navigable up to the Guatemalan border. It served as the main artery of commerce and communication between the interior and the coast until well into the twentieth century.
The flat and swampy Atlantic coastline is dotted with many lagoons. To the west of the northern coastal areas, mangrove swamps faint away, yielding to tropical pine savannahs and hardwood forests.
Belize’s current species list account for:
- 3,408 catalogued vascular plant species, including 58 endemics
- 611 catalogued bird species (following IOC 10.2 species list standards)
- 163 catalogued mammal species
- 141 catalogued reptile species
- 46 catalogued amphibian species
The climate in Belize is tropical, with an average temperature of 29°C (84°F) all year round. There’s a dry and a wet season in Belize. Dry season spans from February to May and has significantly lower rainfall than the rest of the year. Rain –if any at this time of the year– usually falls in mild, short bursts. Wet season starts in June and it lasts until December. This is when parts of the country receive up to 3,800 mm (150 inches) of rain and heavy storms occur, usually in the late afternoons. Hurricanes also strike Belize, mostly during the late Atlantic hurricane season (September to December), and while statistically Belize does not attract many major direct hits, it does get its share of severe tropical weather, with high winds and lots of rain.
Suggested tours for Belize
These tours give you a starting point for what your trip to Belize could entail. They cover routes we’ve found work particularly well and feature some of our favorite places to stay. Treat them as inspiration, as each trip is created uniquely for you.