Costa Rica History

The history of Costa Rica is impossible to put on one page so we will give you some of the highlights of Costa Rica’s colorful past. History is the stories of times gone by and many stories that one can find about this wonderful little country will allow you to understand why it is currently being visited by over 2 million people every year. Everyone here is warm and friendly. Not only will you enjoy the beautiful vistas and tropical climate, you will be able to experience the feeling of “old Costa Rica” in many areas of the country where people still live simple lives free from the clutter, chaos and stress of modern city life.

Strong evidence of human occupation in this entire area supports the idea that people have been living here for over 10,000 years. Archeological sites in the Central Highland area and around the Nicoya Peninsula have backed evidence of influence from the Mexican Olmec and Nahuatl Civilizations. In certain areas on the west coast, you will notice perfectly-spherical balls made of stone, some the size of baseballs and others the size of cars! These are believed to date back to the pre-Colombian era. Recently, an ancient city in ruins was found just east of San Jose, with pottery, gold and jade pieces, metalwork and bones littering the entire site.

In September, 1502, on his fourth and final voyage to this area of the world, Christopher Columbus stumbled across this amazing stretch of coast. They landed very close to what is now known as “Puerto Limon”. He and his men were warmly welcomed by the indigenous people living there already. They were adorned in golden bands and beautiful jewelry. Because of what the Spaniards saw, the name, “rich coast” or, “Costa Rica” seemed appropriate. It was only shortly thereafter that Costa Rica history started its period of Spanish rule.

After visiting for a while, Columbus and his team returned to Spain and it was not until about 1560 that Spain sent over people to actually settle in this new land. In 1562, Juan Vásquez de Coronado arrived as governor from Spain. He settled in an area that is now known as “Cartago” and in 1563, named it as the first capital city of Costa Rica. The volcanic soil was rich and crops were grown immediately. The Spanish men that arrived with Coronado were given plots of land to grow crops and to build homes. Many original inhabitants were used as slaves to work the land. Today, nothing exists from the original settlement. In 1723, Volcán Irazú erupted and destroyed everything in its path.

In 1823, all of Central America, including Costa Rica broke away from their Spanish rule and after a few trying years, enjoyed freedom. Much infighting and many civil wars broke out periodically from then until 1948, when the last civil war took place. Now, Costa Rica is enjoying a democracy which was established at the same time that they abolished the army in 1949! They have held 13 presidential elections with the latest being in 2010 when they elected their first woman and current president, Laura Chinchilla. Costa Rica is presently in a race to be the first carbon neutral country in the world.

We encourage you to learn more about the history of Costa Rica and take some time soon to visit this beautiful country.