Photos of Navassa Island

Navassa Island's lighthouse with the ruins of the light keeper's quarters in the foreground. Photo courtesy USGS.



The US claimed uninhabited Navassa Island in 1857 for its guano. Mining took place between 1865 and 1898. The lighthouse, built in 1917, was shut down in 1996, and administration of Navassa Island was transferred from the US Coast Guard to the Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs. A 1998 scientific expedition to the island described it as a "unique preserve of Caribbean biodiversity." The following year it became a National Wildlife Refuge, and annual scientific expeditions have continued.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.



Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, 30 nm west of Tiburon Peninsula of Haiti

Geographic coordinates

18 25 N, 75 02 W

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean


total: 5 sq km

land: 5.4 sq km

water: 0 sq km

comparison ranking: total 248

Area - comparative

about nine times the size of the National Mall in Washington, DC

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm


marine, tropical


raised flat to undulating coral and limestone plateau; ringed by vertical white cliffs (9 to 15 m high)


highest point: 200 m NNW of lighthouse 85 m

lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m

Natural resources

guano (mining discontinued in 1898)

Land use

other: 100% (2018 est.)

Natural hazards


Geography - note

strategic location 160 km south of the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; mostly exposed rock with numerous solution holes (limestone sinkholes) but with enough grassland to support goat herds; dense stands of fig trees, scattered cactus

People and Society


total: uninhabited; transient Haitian fishermen and others camp on the island


Environment - current issues

some coral bleaching


marine, tropical

Land use

other: 100% (2018 est.)


Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Navassa Island

etymology: the flat island was named "Navaza" by some of Christopher COLUMBUS' sailors in 1504; the name derives from the Spanish term "nava" meaning "flat land, plain, or field"

Dependency status

unorganized, unincorporated territory of the US; administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior from the Caribbean Islands National Wildlife Refuge in Boqueron, Puerto Rico; in September 1996, the Coast Guard ceased operations and maintenance of the Navassa Island Light, a 46-meter-tall lighthouse on the southern side of the island; Haiti has claimed the island since the 19th century

Legal system

the laws of the US apply where applicable

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none (territory of the US)

Flag description

the flag of the US is used

Military and Security

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of the US