Kerala’s 38,863 km˛ landmass (1.18% of India) is wedged between the Arabian Sea to the west and the Western Ghats — identified as one of the world's twenty-five biodiversity hotspots — to the east. Lying between north latitudes 8°18' and 12°48' and east longitudes 74°52' and 72°22', Kerala is well within the humid equatorial tropics. Kerala’s coast runs for some 580 km, while the state itself varies between 35–120 km in width. Geographically, Kerala can be divided into three climatically distinct regions: the eastern highlands (rugged and cool mountainous terrain), the central midlands (rolling hills), and the western lowlands (coastal plains). Located at the extreme southern tip of the Indian subcontinent, Kerala lies near the centre of the Indian tectonic plate; as such, most of the state (notwithstanding isolated regions) is subject to comparatively little seismic and volcanic activity. Geologically, pre-Cambrian and Pleistocene formations comprise the bulk of Kerala’s terrain.
Kerala's fourteen districts are distributed among Kerala's three historical regions: Malabar (northern Kerala), Kochi (central Kerala), and Travancore (southern Kerala). Malabar includes (from north to south) Kasargod, Kannur (Cannanore), Wayanad (Wynad), Kozhikode (Calicut), Malappuram, and Palakkad (Palghat). Kochi includes Thrissur (Trichur) and Ernakulam (Cochin) districts. Travancore consists of Idukki, Alappuzha (Alleppey), Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, Kollam (Quilon), and Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum).
Agriculture dominates the Keralite economy. Kerala lags behind many other Indian states and territories in terms of per capita GDP (11,819 INR) and economic productivity. However, Kerala's Human Development Index and standard of living statistics are the best in India.Indeed, in select development indices, Kerala rivals many developed countries. This seeming paradox — low GDP and productivity figures juxtaposed with relatively high development figures — is often dubbed the "Kerala Phenomenon" or the "Kerala Model" of development by economists, political scientists, and sociologists. This phenomenon arises mainly from Kerala's unusually strong service sector.
Kerala's economy can be best described as a democratic socialist welfare economy. However, Kerala's emphasis on equitable distribution of resources has resulted in slow economic progress compared to neighboring states (particularly Karnataka). Relatively few major corporations and manufacturing plants are headquartered in Kerala. Remittances from Keralites working abroad, mainly in the Middle East, make up over 20% of State Domestic Product (SDP).