The Nicoya Peninsula otherwise known as Guanacaste, is rich with history; from the archeological digs of the ancient Chorotega Indian culture to the remnants of the Spanish Conquest. Historians suggest that the original Chorotega Indians populated the Nicoya Peninsula for thousands of years. At one point, their population reached around 20,000 in number in two major sites not far from Nicoya. They traded up and down the land connections between North America and South America. Many artifacts (gold, jade, pottery, stone carvings, etc.) from this amazing civilization can still be seen in the local museums and sites.
The earliest record of exploration along the Pacific coast is that of Hernán Ponce de León and Juan de Castañeda who set sail from Panama in 1519 and reached as far north as the Gulf of Nicoya. Subsequent expeditions soon brought the native population of this region under Spanish control. In addition to confiscating any gold they could find, the Spaniards also began a slave trade to other parts of the Americas, principally Panama and Peru, with the indigenous people of the Nicoya Peninsula. The extent to which this trade was practiced greatly reduced the local population. The arrival of the Spaniards in search of gold changed this culture forever.
Thought to be among the oldest towns in Costa Rica is the capital of the Guanacaste Peninsula: Nicoya. Its main attraction is its 500 year old church Iglesia de San Blas, which sits in the center of town in the Parque Central. This church dates back to the 1600’s and is home to a number of colonial religious relics and artifacts. The Banco National de Costa Rica in Nicoya also boasts a fine collection of carved wooden religious figures dating back to the Spanish arrival. The Nosara region is dotted with historical sites as well. One of the huge trees in the area remains a reference point for location information. Local inhabitants will tell you where they live in relationship to the location of the big tree or they will arrange to meet at the big tree at a certain time.
In 1821, Central America (Costa Rica included) declared independence from Spain. Thereafter the Central American republics were established.