What’s the weather like? That’s generally the first question folks ask when they’re looking for information about a new place. And yes, Belize has weather too! Let’s find out about it.
The Belize climate is classified as subtropical, which means that - contrary to tropical regions - it does have winter months with slightly cooler average temperatures than during the summer months.
November to January are the coolest months with average temperatures around 24°C (75°F), whilst May to September are the warmest, with average temperatures of 27°C (81°F).
What most people associate with subtropical is rain, and, alas, it rains in Belize as well. But the good news is, it’s often only raining for an hour or so and then it clears up! It’s generally not an all day rainfall, leaving everything soggy for weeks on end.
More good news is that it’s like watering your garden for an hour and then letting the sunshine take over...it keeps everything unbelievably green and vibrant. Of course the total volume and the length of time of the rainfall varies from place to place, depending on the geography of the land. Let’s look at that.
Belize is the only country in Central America without a Pacific Ocean coastline or an Atlantic Ocean exposure. The Caribbean coastline is flat and swampy, with many cays, islands and a coral reef system second only in size to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. Northeast trade winds off the Caribbean affect temperature and humidity as well.
The land rises as you progress inland to a low mountain range of some 3700 feet (1124 m) above sea level. The highest point is Doyle’s Delight, towering a full 13 feet or 4 meters above Victoria Peak, which was previously thought to be the highest point.
The effect of this geography on the climate is, in general terms, that it is hot and humid on the coast and generally more temperate in the hills, particularly on the southwest plateau. There is coastal variation as well and the further south you are, the higher the heat and rainfall will be.
While the dry season is from February to April on the coast, it can extend from January to May in the hills. The southern coast does experience what is locally called the “little dry” in July and August, with a moderation in precipitation.
The annual rainfall in Belize ranges from 1350 mm (approx 50“) in the north and west to over 4500 mm (approx 175“) in the extreme south. I’m sure you’ve already figured out that’s more than three times as much rain in the coastal south as in the hills!
Variation in temperature can be substantial as well, as they range from a low of 50℉ (10℃) to 95℉ (35℃). The median temperature is 79℉ (22℃) on the ocean while it’s a pleasant 72℉ (26℃) in the hills. Some relief is found on the coast from the constant ocean breezes, however.
The greatest extremes are found in the coastal south where it is very hot and wet. Conversely it is substantially dryer and cooler in the hills, particularly on the southwest plateau. It’s recommended to have heavy blankets or heating available for nights on the plateau!
This weather condition is certainly the elephant in the room! Belize experiences hurricanes in the September to December standard North American hurricane season.
They have been known to devastate parts of Belize over the years, even though infrequent. Belize City was destroyed twice and caused the capital to be moved inland to Belmopan. Corozal has been destroyed a couple of times as well.
Belize went through a twenty year period without hurricanes or Category 5 storms, between 1978 and 1998. People were lulled into a false sense of security and believed that storm patterns had changed.
Whether that is true or not, the storms came back with a vengeance, destroying the banana and citrus industry in the south and the infant papaya farms in the north. Tourism also took a substantial hit.
However the tourists and the expats have come back, and the fields have been replanted. All this is a result of the resilient nature of the people and the inescapable draw of the only English speaking land in Central America.
Next we’ll move on to examine and discuss the cost of living in this wonderful little country.