British Honduras, formerly called Balize, or Belize, a British crown colony in Central America; bounded on the N. and N.W. by the Mexican province of Yucatan, N.E. and E. by the Bay of Honduras, an inlet of the Caribbean Sea, and S. and W. by Guatemala. (For map, see Central America.) Pop. (1905) 40,372; area, 7562 sq. m. The frontier of British Honduras, as defined by the conventions of 1859 and 1893 between Great Britain and Guatemala, begins at the mouth of the river Sarstoon or Sarstun, in the Bay of Honduras; ascends that river as far as the rapids of Gracias à Dios; and thence, turning to the right, runs in a straight line to Garbutt's Rapids, on the Belize river. From this point it proceeds due north to the Mexican frontier, where it follows the river Hondo to its mouth in Chetumal Bay.
British Honduras differs little from the rest of the Yucatan peninsula. The approach to the coast is through the islets known as cays, and through coral reefs. It is both difficult and dangerous. For some miles inland the ground is low and swampy, thickly covered with mangroves and tropical jungle. Next succeeds a narrow belt of rich alluvial land, not exceeding a mile in width, beyond which, and parallel to the rivers, are vast tracts of sandy, arid land, called "pine ridges," from the red pines with which they are covered. Farther inland these give place, first, to the less elevated "broken ridges," and then to what are called "cahoon ridges," with a deep rich soil covered with myriads of palm trees. Next come broad savannas, studded with clumps of, trees, through which the streams descending from the mountains wind in every direction. The mountains themselves rise in a succession of ridges parallel to the coast. The first are the Manatee Hills, from 800 to 1000 ft. high; and beyond these are the Cockscomb Mountains, which are about 4000 ft. high.
No less than sixteen streams, large enough to be called rivers, descend from these mountains to the sea, between the Hondo and Sarstoon. The uninhabited country between Garbutt's Rapids and the coast south of Deep river was first explored in 1879, by Henry Fowler, the colonial secretary of British Honduras; it was then found to consist of open and undulating grasslands, affording fine pasturage in the west and of forests full of valuable timber in the east. Its elevation varies from 1200 to 3300 ft. Auriferous quartz and traces of other minerals have been discovered, but not in sufficient quantity to repay the cost of mining. The geology, fauna and flora of British Honduras do not materially differ from those of the neighbouring regions (see Central America).
Although the colony is in the tropics, its climate is subtropical. The highest shade temperature recorded is 98° F., the lowest 50°. Easterly sea-winds prevail during the greater part of the year. The dry season lasts from the middle of February to the middle of May; rain occurs at intervals during the other months, and almost continuously in October, November and December. The annual rainfall averages about 81&FRAC12; in., but rises in some districts to 150 in. or more. Cholera, yellow fever and other tropical diseases occur sporadically, but, on the whole, the country is not unhealthy by comparison with the West Indies or Central American states.