Belize is located on the Caribbean coast of northern Central America at 17°15′ north of the equator and 88°45′ west of the Prime Meridian on the Yucatán Peninsula. It shares a border on the north with the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, on the west with the Guatemalan department of El Petén, and on the south with the Guatemalan department of Izabal. It is about two hours by air from Miami, or Dallas-Fort Worth. It is an easy two day drive through Mexico from the Texas border. The land border with Mexico is at Chetumal City.
To the east of Belize is the Caribbean Sea; the second-longest barrier reef in the world flanks much of the 386 kilometers (240 mi) of predominantly marshy coastline.
The area of the country totals 22,960 square kilometers (8,860 sq. mi), an area twice the size of Jamaica, and slightly larger than El Salvador or Massachusetts. The abundance of lagoons along the coasts and in the northern interior reduces the actual land area to 21,400 square kilometers (8,300 sq. mi). Being a small country, it is no wonder most people need to ask: Where Is Belize?
The land area of the country extends about 280 kilometers (170 mi) north-south and about 100 kilometers (62 mi) east-west, with a total land boundary length of 516 kilometers (321 mi). The undulating courses of two rivers, the Hondo and the Sarstoon, define much of the course of the country’s northern and southern boundaries. The western border follows no natural features and runs a north-south imaginary line through lowland forest and highland plateau.
The north of Belize consists mostly of flat, wetlands and coastal plains, in places heavily forested. The flora is highly diverse considering the small geographical area. The south contains the low mountain range of the Maya Mountains.
The highest point in Belize is Doyle’s Delight at 1,124 m (3,688 ft.). The Caribbean coast is lined with a coral reef and some 450 islets and islands known locally as cayes (pronounced “keys”). They total about 690 square kilometers (270 sq. mi), and form the approximately 320-kilometre (200 mi) long Belize Barrier Reef, the largest in the Western Hemisphere and second only in the world after the Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Three of only four coral atolls in the Western Hemisphere are located off the coast of Belize. One of the natural wonders of the world, the Great Blue Hole is located here.
The People Of Belize
Many writers have tried to capture the essence of Belize, what it is and who are the people of Belize. Bruce Barcott, author of The Last Flight Of The Scarlet Macaw (ISBN-10: 1400062934), attempted to say it in a nutshell:
“Belize goes unnoticed by the rest of the world, and over the years the country has parlayed its obscurity into an attractive asset. For those shipwrecked on the shoals of life, Belize offers a new beginning.
“The country teems with adventurous refugees who’ve set up shop in the middle of the Central American jungle. British innkeepers, Mennonite farmers, Chinese shopkeepers, Lebanese entrepreneurs, American missionaries, Canadian aid workers, and Dutch scientists live peacefully alongside the nation’s longer-established residents, the Garifuna artists, Maya cacao growers, Mestizo plantation managers, and Creole politicians who make up the majority of the country’s population. Belize draws the eccentric, the madcap, and the downright mad.”