Belize: Weather Overview
Belize, bordering with Mexico and Guatemala on the east coast of Central America, enjoys a sub-tropical climate dominated by variations in rainfall. Hot weather and high humidity can be expected year round. There is a dry season from December till May, and a wet season from June till November. There is also a brief dry season known as the âlittle dryâ that usually occurs in late July or early August. Belize is also affected by hurricanes; from July to October falls the period of greatest risk. Due to the diverse topography of Belize, there are vast regional variations in weather. The country can be split up into three climatic regions: the flat, low-lying north, the hilly south with the Maya Mountains, and the offshore Cayes (keys) off the east coast. Belize is a place of incredible beauty and biodiversity. While the mainland suffers from heavy deforestation, marine areas are less affected by development and much of the coral is considered pristine.
Northern Belize is the driest region of Belize, receiving around 1270 mm of rainfall per year. Temperatures are also slightly higher. Orange Walk, in the north, sees average high temperatures constantly hovering around 30°C. In the lead up to the wet season and throughout it, from March till October, the average high temperature per month stays above 30°C. From November till April it cools off very slightly, seeing average highs of 30°C or lower. January is its âcoolestâ month with an average high of 28°C. Night time lows show greater variation, averaging in the mid-20s during the hot, wet months, and dropping to around 20°C during the dry months. Coastal, northern Belize benefits from the moderating effects of the Caribbean Sea. Belize City is usually about 2°C cooler than inner regions. Belmopan, further south and west, sees similar summer highs to Belize City but its evenings are marginally cooler, possible due to lower humidity levels. Belmopan also receives its wet season earlier than further areas further north; its wettest month is June. Coastal regions are often very windy from February to July, being the recipient of northeast trade winds, and are at risk of hurricanes from July to October.
The lower levels of rainfall and higher temperatures in the north are due to this areaâs topography. The lack of high ground or mountains means rainfall is less likely to form, as humid air can easily pass over the region. Lower elevations always correlate with higher temperatures. Higher humidity levels in areas near the coast are due to the great abundance of water. Obviously, there is the vast Caribbean Sea but away from the coast much of the flat land is dominated by lagoons and swamps.
Southern Belize sees high levels of rainfall and slightly lower temperatures. Punta Gorda, in the far south on the coast, sees about 4500 mm of rainfall per year and average high temperatures around 2°C cooler than in Orange Walk. Higher up in the mountains it is generally much cooler, temperatures dropping with increasing altitude. These mountains, reaching up to 3000 feet in places, trap humid air and result in higher levels of rainfall. The rainy season arrives earlier in the southeast before it travels northwest, and the south is also less likely to experience the âlittle dryâ season. Punta Gordaâs wettest month is July, while Orange Walkâs is September, and Punta Gorda does not see a lull in its rainfall. Again, coastal regions are cooler than low lying inland areas and benefit from a cooling coastal breeze. Polar air fronts are strongest from October to January and create ideal windsurfing and sailing conditions.
The Cayes (Keys) receive low rainfall in comparison to southern regions of mainland Belize, averaging around 1500 mm per year. Temperatures are almost identical to coastal Belize, made almost imperceptibly cooler by their increased exposure to sea winds. This helps to temper the effect of the higher humidity levels of the Cayes.
The best time to visit Belize is between February and May, no matter what kind of holiday you are looking for. This period sees the least rain and the lowest temperatures. Other benefits of this kind of weather are the reduced frequency of storms and a clearer sea. Anyone visiting coastal Belize is sure to want to explore the stunning coral reefs that lie just offshore and clear weather improves visibility and swimming conditions. The wind is at its strongest creating perfect windsurfing conditions and fantastic waves for surfing, but storms have not churned sand and sediment into the water. Gloverâs Reef is considered the only safe surf spot in Belize, as it does not break over shallow coral. Ambergris Caye is the most popular tourist destination in Belize. If you are a dive purist you should head for the Outer Atolls. Due to their relative inaccessibility, these offer the best diving in Belize.
As the climate of Belize is sub-tropical, rainfall, whichever season it occurs in, usually falls in extreme torrential downpours, often in thunderstorms with high winds. While rainfall levels are dramatically reduced during the dry season, occasional storms are an unpredictable certainty and visitors should always go prepared for wet weather. In extreme cases during and usually during August and September, this can turn into hurricane weather. Though Belize is south of the usual path of hurricanes, it is quite close to the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico and the country has been the victim of several horrific cyclones that caused extensive damage.