Navassa Island

Capital NA
Population uninhabited
Time zone UTC -5

Navassa Island is an uninhabited island in the Caribbean that is administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior of the United States of America as a National Wildlife Refuge. The island is also claimed by Haiti. It lies about one-fourth of the way from Haiti to Jamaica.


Map of Navassa Island

Located at 18 deg 25' N, 75 deg 02' W, 160 km south of the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the island has a land area of 5.2 sq km consisting is mostly exposed coral and limestone rock. It is flat to undulating with a unnamed raised plateau on the southwest side. At 77m high this is the highest point. It is ringed by vertical white cliffs that are typically 9 to 15m high and has a 8 km coastline. The island has marine, tropical climate and has enough grassland to support goat herds as well as dense stands of fig-like trees and scattered cactus.


This uninhabited island was claimed by the U.S. in 1857 for its guano, and mining took place between 1865 and 1898. In the 19th and early 20th century guano (a product originating from bird feces on limestone that is used as fertilizer and a basis for explosives) was so important that the US passed the Guano Islands Act allowing any US citizen to claim any island, not previously claimed by another nation, for the US if Guano deposits were to be found there. Navassa island is just one of many islands and islets that entered US possession due to this curious piece of legislation, that is still technically on the books. A 46-meter-tall lighthouse was built in 1917, on the southern side of the island. The Coast Guard ceased operations and maintenance of Navassa Island Light in September 1996. After the lighthouse was shut down administration of Navassa Island transferred from the Coast Guard to the Department of the Interior. 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.

The island is considered an unincorporated territory of the US that is administered from Washington, DC, by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. There has also been a private claim advanced against the island.

Get in

Access to Navassa is hazardous and visitors need permission from the Fish and Wildlife Office before entering the territory.

By plane

There is no airstrip on the island.

By boat

There are no harbors and an offshore anchorage is the only option.

Get around

As there is no human settlement or infrastructure of any kind, you are probably best advised to walk.


There is no economic activity on Navassa Island.


Although the island is uninhabited, transient Haitian fishermen and others have been known to camp on the island.

Stay safe

The laws of the U.S. apply, although whether they can be and are enforced depends on the people that are on the island during your visit.

Stay healthy

Don't drink the water without taking suitable precautions.


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, September 06, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.