Belize (formerly British Honduras) is a country located on the north eastern coast of Central America. Belize has a diverse society, comprising many cultures and languages. Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language; Kriol, Spanish and other languages are also spoken. Belize is bordered to the north by Mexico, south and west by Guatemala, and to the east by the Caribbean Sea. Belize’s mainland is about 290 kilometres (180 mi) long and 110 kilometres (68 mi) wide.
With 22,960 square kilometres (8,860 sq mi) of land and a population of only 333,200 people (2010 est.), Belize possesses the lowest population density in Central America. The country's population growth rate of 2.21% (2008 est.), however, is the highest in the region and one of the highest in the western hemisphere. Belize's abundance of terrestrial and marine species, and its diversity of ecosystems give it a key place within the globally significant Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.
Belize is culturally unique among its Central American neighbours; it is the only nation in the region with a British colonial heritage. As a part of the Western Caribbean Zone, however, it also shares a common heritage with the Caribbean portions of other Central American countries. In general, Belize is considered to be a Central American nation with strong ties to both the Caribbean and Latin America. Belize is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and Sistema de la IntegraciónCentroamericana (SICA).
Belize is located on the Caribbean coast of northern Central America. It shares a border on the north with the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, on the west with the Guatemalan department of Petén, and on the south with the Guatemalan department of Izabal. To the east in the Caribbean Sea, the second-longest barrier reef in the world flanks much of the 386 kilometres (240 mi) of predominantly marshy coastline. The area of the country totals 22,960 square kilometres (8,865 sq mi), an area 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 kilometres (8,263 sq mi).
Belize is shaped like a rectangle that extends about 280 kilometres (174 mi) north-south and about 100 kilometres (62 mi) east-west, with a total land boundary length of 516 kilometres (321 mi). The undulating courses of two rivers, the Hondo and the Sarstoon River, define much of the course of the country's northern and southern boundaries. The western border follows no natural features and runs north-south through lowland forest and highland plateau. The north of Belize consists mostly of flat, swampy 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 kilometres (266 sq mi), and form the approximately 320-kilometre (199 mi) long Belize Barrier Reef, the longest in the Western Hemisphere and the second longest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef. Three of merely four coral atolls in the Western Hemisphere are located off the coast of Belize.
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