Six Facts on Haiti’s Geography

Six Fact on Haiti’s Geography

  • Haiti is the third largest Caribbean country after Cuba and the Dominican Republic. It occupies the western third of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. With a total area of 27,750 sq km, it is comparable in size to the 7th smallest state in the United States – Massachusetts – with an area of 27,336 sq km.1,2
  • Haiti is the most mountainous country of the Caribbean, as it is reflected in Haiti’s name, which derives from the indigenous Arawak place name Ayti (“Mountainous Land”).1,3 About two-thirds of the country is mountainous. It is made up primarily of two rugged mountain chains extending from the Dominican border westward to form northern and southern peninsulas around an ocean gulf (Golfe de la Gonave). Five mountain ranges cover 75 percent of Haiti’s land surface. The highest peak, Morne de la Selle, rises to an elevation of 2,680 meters (8,790 ft) on the southern peninsula, which is equivalent to 5 One World Trade Centers stacked on top of each other.3,4
  • Amidst the rugged terrain, there are four major flatlands: the northern plain between the Atlantic Ocean and the Massif du Nord; the Artibonite Plain to the north of Chaine de Mateaux; the Cul-de-Sac between the Chaine de Mateaux and the Massif de la Selle; and the Central Plateau to the east of the Montagnes Noires.3 The later three plains account for more than half of the cultivated area and agricultural production volume in Haiti.5
  • The Artibonite River is the island’s longest river, approximately 175 miles (280 km) long. As the country’s largest drainage system, it starts in the western Dominican Republic in the Cordillera Central and continues through for most of its length through central Haiti, where it then empties into the Golfe de la Gonâve.1,6 It is navigable upstream for about 100 miles (160 km) by small craft.7
  • Included in Haiti’s total territory are numerous smaller islands. The most notable islands are: Île de la Gonâve, which has an area of 743 km2 and was once a pirate base; Tortuga, which has an area of 180 km2 and was a major center of Caribbean piracy during the 17th century; Île à Vache, which has a total area of 52 km2; Les Cayemites, which is a pair of islands with a combined area of 45 km2; La Navasse, which has been the subject of an ongoing territorial dispute with the United States, with an area of 5.2 km2.8
  • Located in the middle of the hurricane belt, Haiti has a generally hot and humid tropical climate and is subjected to severe storms from June to October.6,8 Haiti is also subjected to periodic seismic activity due to its location on an active plate boundary zone between the North American Plate and the northeast corner of the Caribbean Plate.9 Major earthquakes are rare in this part of the world in part because the Caribbean is a minor plate. However, due to the relative rareness of major earthquakes in the area coupled with lax building standards and high population density, Haitians are often devastated when earthquakes do strike.10









  1. Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2020). Haiti. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from
  2. Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2020). Massachusetts. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from
  3. Global Security. (2020). Geography and Climate. Retrieved January 8, 2021, from,percent%20of%20Haiti’s%20land%20surface.
  4. (2020). One World Trade Center. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from One_World_Trade_Center
  5. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network. (2018). Haiti: Staple Food Market Fundamentals. Retrieved January 9, 2021, from
  6. Federal Research Division Library of Congress. (1989). Dominican Republic and Haiti: Country studies. Retrieved January 09, 2021, from
  7. Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2020). Artibonite River. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from
  8. (2020). Geography of Haiti. Retrieved January 09, 2021, from
  9. Jason D. Chaytor. (2018). The Northeast Caribbean – Plate Tectonics in Action. Retrieved 09, 2021, from
  10. Andrea Thompson. (2010). Haiti Earthquake Science: What Caused the Disaster. Retrieved January 09, 2021, from

By Jennifer Shu Ping Chen

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