Official name : Republic of Haiti
Area: 27,750 square kilometers (10,714 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mount La Selle (Chaîne de la Selle) (2,680 meters/ 8,793 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Western
Time zone: 7 A.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 485 kilometers (300 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest; 385 kilometers (240 miles) from south-southeast to north-northwest
Land boundaries: 275 kilometers (170.7 miles) total boundary length; all with the Dominican Republic
Coastline: 1,771 kilometers (1,098 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Haiti is located in the western third of the island of Hispaniola, which is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, the Dominican Republic to the east, and the Caribbean Sea to the south and west.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Haiti claims the uninhabited island of Navassa, presently a U.S. possession, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Hispaniola.
Haiti enjoys a tropical climate, which changes depending on the season and on the area's elevation. The average annual temperature ranges from 22 to 30°C (70 to 86°F), but is generally lower in highland areas. Rainfall increases with elevation; the higher the region, the greater the rainfall. Haiti has two rainy seasons: April through June and October through November. The dry season runs from November to January. Average annual rainfall near Port-au-Prince is 137 centimeters (54 inches).
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
Located on Hispaniola, the second-largest island in the Caribbean, Haiti is composed mainly of mountains and hills. About 80 percent of the country is more than 183 meters (600 feet) above sea level, and half of that land lies at elevations about 257 meters (1,500 feet). On the western shoreline is the Gulf of Gonâve (Golfe de la Gonâve). The long and narrow Tiburon Peninsula (sometimes called the Jacmel Peninsula) is located in the south.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
Seacoast and Undersea Features
Much of the Haitian shoreline with the Caribbean Sea is rimmed by an underwater sedimentary platform that extends around the island of Hispaniola. Waters close to the shoreline tend to be shallow. Coral reefs are common, especially around Vache Island and the Cayemites.
Sea Inlets and Straits
Haiti is located between the Atlantic Ocean in the north and the Caribbean Sea in the south; the Windward Passage and the Jamaica Channel connect the two bodies of water. The Windward Passage is between Haiti and Cuba; the Jamaica Channel lies between Haiti and Jamaica.
Islands and Archipelagos
Haiti includes the islands of Tortuga, Gonâve, Les Cayemites, and Vache. The largest of these islands is Gonâve, located in the Gulf of Gonâve (Golfe de la Gonâve) off Port-au-Prince. Its approximately 207 square kilometers (80 square miles) is made up of rugged terrain; its highest point, Morne la Pierre, rises to more than 762 meters (2,500 feet). Second in size is Tortuga, with an area of 181 square kilometers (70 square miles). It lies in the Atlantic Ocean off Port-de-Paix.
Haiti's coastline is irregular, with a long southern peninsula, the Tiburon, as well as a shorter northern one. The peninsulas surround the large Gulf of Gonâve. At its eastern end the Gulf forms the Bay of Port-au-Prince (Baie de Port-au-Prince).
6 INLAND LAKES
Lake Saumâtre (Etang Saumâtre) is located close to the border with the Dominican Republic. It is a saltwater lake and is the habitat of many exotic species of tropical wildlife. It is the largest lake in the country. Reptiles including crocodiles, lizards, and the rose boa can be found in its waters.
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
Although over a hundred streams flow throughout Haiti, the only large river is the Artibonite, which is 245 kilometers (145 miles) in length. It is shallow but long, and its flow averages ten times that of any of the others. Second in length is the Les Trois Rivières, which spills into the Atlantic at the town of Port-de-Paix.
Forty miles from Port-Au-Prince, the Saut d' Eau waterfalls stand 30.5 meters (100 feet) tall and are considered sacred by the people of Haiti.
There are no deserts in Haiti.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
Cul-de-Sac lowland is a fertile plain that extends from Port-au-Prince to Lake Saumâtre (Etang Saumâtre). Only 20 percent of Haitian land is considered arable (suitable for cultivation). Forest land can be found south of Port-au-Prince, where some pine forests have been preserved. Only 5 percent of Haiti's land is forested.
Rolling hills can be found throughout the country, especially near the mountain ranges that dominate the country's landscape. These hills are not particularly well suited for crop growth.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
Many of the mountain ranges of Haiti are shared with the Dominican Republic, since they are located along the border between the two countries.
There are at least five major systems; these ranges meet one another to form a highland area. The highlands are broken in the south where the Cul-de-Sac lowland extends east from the Gulf of Gonâve at Port-au-Prince to the Dominican border.
In the north, the most extensive of the mountain systems is the Massif du Nord, which slants southeastward from the Atlantic Ocean near Port-de-Paix across the Dominican border. It is rugged and has a complex geology including sedimentary, magmatic, and plutonic rock, with limestone cliffs scarring its slopes. To its west, at the extremity of the island, satellite ranges extend to Môle St.-Nicolas. To the southwest, the Noires Mountains have peaks as high as 610 meters (2,000 feet). This range extends across the country to the Artibonite River. Across the Artibonite is the Chaîne de Mateaux, a mountain range that extends from the Gulf of Gonâve into the Dominican Republic, where it is known as the Sierra de Neiba.
Separated from the northern mountains by the Cul-de-Sac is another system that extends the full length of the long southern peninsula of Haiti to the frontier; in the Dominican Republic, this range is called the Sierra de Bahoruco. In the west, it is the Massif de la Hotte, and in the east it is the Massif de la Selle. The latter range contains several peaks with elevations of over 2,133 meters (7,000 feet), as well as the country's highest peak, Mount La Selle (2,680 meters /8,793 feet).
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
Some caves in Hinche contain drawings that may have come from the island's first inhabitants.
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
South of the Massif du Nord, the Central Plateau extends east from the Noires Mountains to the Dominican Republic border. Its more than 1,351 kilometers (840 miles) of rolling terrain make it the largest of the country's flatlands. The plateau has an average elevation of about 305 meters (1,000 feet) and its relatively thin soils are useful for raising sheep and goats.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
A reservoir known as Lake Péligre (Lac de Péligre) is located in the middle of the country near the Dominican Republic border. A dam constructed on the upper Artibonite River formed this lake.
14 FURTHER READING
Arthur, Charles. Haiti: A Guide to the People, Politics, and Culture . New York: Interlink, 2002.
Graves, Kerry A. Haiti . Mankato, MN: Bridgestone, 2002.
Metz, Helen Chapin. Dominican Republic and Haiti: Country Studies . Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 2001.