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Costa Rica: The New Grand Tour

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This is a guide to notable prehistoric and ecological sites in Costa Rica and the museums and supplemental media you can use to learn more about them.

Hacienda Santa Roca Guanacaste Costa Rica en 1999 Antes del incendio 4.jpg
Irina Matuzava is a contributor to the Human Bridges project.
This article was produced by Human Bridges.
Costa Rica: The New Grand Tour” by Irina Matuzava is licensed by the Observatory under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). For permissions requests beyond the scope of this license, please see Observatory.wiki’s Reuse and Reprint Rights guidance. Published: June 2024. Last edited: July 17, 2024
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Introduction[edit | edit source]

This is a reader guide for major prehistoric sites, ecologically important areas and national parks, and museums in Costa Rica, along with educational materials and supplementary media. A digital map that accompanies and shows these locations is embedded in this article.

This Costa Rica reference guide is part of a larger New Grand Tour to help individuals and humanity gain new broader insights by visiting and learning about an increasingly rich global data set that encompasses our human evolutionary origins, relationships between us and our environment, and the biology behind our behavior.

The Emergence of Costa Rica and Its Inhabitants[edit | edit source]

Nestled in the heart of Central America, the present-day Costa Rican territory is a new phenomenon relative to major continental landmasses. Land between South and North America was entirely absent until the Late Miocene epoch (23.03–5.33 million years ago). Due to a combination of geological processes, such as volcanic activity, tectonic movement, and subsiding sea levels, small islands began to form. The nascent islands harbored unique, isolated ecosystems and set the scene for the broad biodiversity found in Costa Rica today.

As more land breached the sea surface, certain species were able to travel between islands, animals became larger, and species from both American continents began to compete with one another. The final closure of the Isthmus of Panama is estimated to have occurred approximately 3 million years ago, during the Pliocene epoch (5.33–2.58 million years ago), making possible the Great American Interchange of flora and fauna. In addition, isthmus formation had significant consequences for the global climate. Warm equatorial ocean currents had previously flowed around emerging islands; the complete cutoff of currents between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans led directly to an Atlantic cooling cycle and a period of glaciation.

Throughout this most recent glaciation period, a part of the Pleistocene epoch (2.58–0.0117 million years ago) colloquially known as the Ice Age, more of the continental shelf became exposed. Many South American species were driven to extinction by species migrating from the north, and the disappearance of many large-bodied animals on the land bridge coincided with the first human migrations to the region.

The Pleistocene epoch ended around 11,650 years ago; not long after, the area’s early human inhabitants left evidence of their activity. Known cultural material and archaeological evidence suggest the arrival of Homo sapiens groups to have been around 10,000 to 7000 BCE, or up to 12,000 years ago.

The following list describes some noteworthy archaeological sites of past human activity from the Archaic, Formative/Pre-Classic, Classic, and Post-Classic periods of pre-Columbian Costa Rica. Sites are categorized by the date they were settled or established, but the habitation of many settlements spanned across multiple periods.

Archaic Period (8000–1000 BCE)[edit | edit source]

The Archaic Period marks the earliest known human activity in Costa Rica. During the early Archaic, hunter-gatherer groups relied heavily on fishing, hunting game, and foraging local plants. Coastline and riverside resources were vital to the survival of these groups, which is exemplified by sites found at Turrialba valley, near the present-day city of Turrialba.

Over time, groups' lifestyles shifted from nomadic to semi-sedentary. Technological developments, such as the creation of pottery, allowed for improved methods of storage and cooking. Ceramic artistry expanded as well, initiating the many styles of ceramic production that existed throughout Costa Rican history and showcasing some of the artistic expression of Indigenous cultural groups. Social organization also evolved to include more advanced community structures and trade networks, a trajectory that led to more pronounced hierarchies and a heightened relationship between people and their environment. To accommodate growing populations and sedentary lifestyles, Costa Rican Indigenous groups domesticated plants such as maize, beans, and squash.

The Archaic period set the scene for future artistic expression, religious beliefs, and social structures within the area. These aspects of Costa Rican culture still exist to an extent today, but thrived especially throughout periods prior to colonization. Archaeologists and anthropologists have learned more about their beginnings through sites like those near Turrialba. Turrialba valley is home to three archaeological complexes: Finca Guardiria, also known as the Guardiria Archaeological Site, Florencia, and Atirro. Inhabited from 8000 to 5000 BCE, the sites sit on floodplain terraces at the confluence of the Reventazón and Tuís rivers. The course of the Reventazón River, erosion from the river, and agricultural activity exposed archaeological material and made these sites known. Though they cannot be accessed by the public, the city of Turrialba can be visited. The city offers a glimpse into past Costa Rican culture and the connections between local inhabitants, past and present, and the surrounding nature.

A view of Turrialba volcano.

Finca Guardiria[edit | edit source]

Guardiria Archaeological Site/Finca Guardiria is thought to be the first area in Costa Rica occupied by humans and is of utmost importance for investigating Paleoindian migrations. Archaeologist Michael J. Snarskis, who generally revolutionized archaeology in the area, excavated the site in 1975. Findings from the site provided an abundance of insight into the cultural frontier that Costa Rica was for early bands of hunters. Artifacts recovered from the excavation were donated to the National Museum of Costa Rica (Museo Nacional de Costa Rica) and started the museum's collection. The site was also declared part of the Historical Archaeological Heritage of Costa Rica in 2003.

Finca Guardiria is characterized by large chert boulders and one of the most extensive lithic assemblages found among other sites from the Archaic Period, suggesting the site served as an early workshop for stone tool production.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Remnants of a camp, quarry, and workshop
  • Paleoindian points (parallel-sided, waisted, fishtail)
  • Simple-backed and bifacial knives
  • Diagnostic tools, e.g., keeled and spurred scrapers
  • Other lithics, such as burins, drills, and discarded core bases

Sources on Finca Guardiria[edit | edit source]

Cooke, Richard G. (1998). “Human Settlements of Central American and Northernmost South America (14,000–8000 BP).” Quaternary International. Pp. 177–190.

León, Magdalena (2006). “A New Fluted Fishtail Point Find from Costa Rica.” Mammoth Trumpet. Vol. 21, No. 3.

Pearson, Georges A. (2002). “Pan-Continental Paleoindian Expansions and Interactions as Viewed From the Earliest Lithic Industries of Lower Central America.” Thesis (PhD), University of Kansas.

Pearson, Georges A. (2003). “First Report of a Newly Discovered Paleoindian Quarry Site on the Isthmus of Panama.” Latin American Antiquity. Vol. 14, No. 3.

Valerio L., Wilson (2023). “Evidencias paleoindio/arcaicas y su distribución espacial en finca Guardiria, Turrialba.” Cuadernos de Antropología. Vol. 14.

Florence/Florencia-1[edit | edit source]

The Florence/Florencia-1 site is located on land cultivated for sugar cane; it lacks exact radiocarbon dating, but the morphology and style of lithic manufacturing align with dates prior to ceramic production. Lithic materials or stone materials here overlap with those found at the El Bosque and La Cabaña sites, suggesting that groups of people either settled here for prolonged periods of time or frequently returned to the site for raw materials and manufacturing purposes.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Knives, scrapers, preforms, points, and cores
  • Flaked flint/chert materials, jasper, and chalcedony sourced from Guardiria

Sources on Florencia[edit | edit source]

Acuña Coto, Victor J. (1983). “Florencia—1, un sitio precerámico en la Vertiente Atlántica de Costa Rica.” Vínculos. Vol. 9, No. 1–2.

Corrales Ulloa, Francisco (2001). “Los primeros costarricenses.” San José. Museo Nacional de Costa Rica.

Atirro[edit | edit source]

Findings here were similar to those at the Florencia-1 and Guardiria sites. Today, Atirro is a small town within the Cartago province.

Sources on Atirro[edit | edit source]

Frost, R. Jeffrey (2009). “The Ancestors Above, the People Below: Cemeteries, Landscape and Dual Organization in Late Pre-Columbian Costa Rica.” Dissertation (PhD), University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Tronadora Ceramic Phase[edit | edit source]

The Tronadora ceramic phase (2000–300 BCE) and other associated archaeological sites outline the consolidation of agricultural practices, the appearance of ceramics, and the beginning of village lifestyles during this time. Notable sites that produced ceramics during the Tronadora phase and established during the Archaic period are Tronadora Vieja, the Chaparrón complex, and La Montaña. Other complexes studied by researchers who investigated the Tronadora ceramic phase include Vidor, La Pochota, Los Sueños, Burío, Cariblanco, and Curré.

Tronadora Vieja[edit | edit source]

Tronadora Vieja (2000–500 BCE) was a small village in the Tilarán mountain range; the discovery of homes here is the oldest record of a nucleated village in Costa Rica. Researchers from the University of Colorado identified post-molds and four possible houses made of organic materials such as reeds and palms. Cooking stones are a distinctive feature of the site, as they have not been found in other sites from this period. Each household obtained its own lithic raw materials for manufacturing percussion flake tools; there was no evidence of communal facilities or social cohesion within village households.[1]

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Pottery made by coiling and stone burnishing with a high-luster finish
  • Chipped lithic debitage
  • Wood charcoal
  • Rim shards from olla-tecomates (round jars with restricted rims)[2]
  • Chalcedony flake cores
  • Red jasper bifacial points
  • Evidence of maize cultivation: maize kernels, maize phytoliths, and digging tools

Architectural features include:

  • Domestic structures and artifacts
  • Cooking areas
  • Storage pits
Sources on Tronadora Vieja[edit | edit source]

Bradley, John E. (1994). “Tronadora Vieja: An Archaic and Early Formative Site in the Arenal Region.” From Chapter 4 of Sheets, Payson D., and McKee, Brian R. (eds.) (1994), Archaeology, Volcanism, and Remote Sensing in the Arenal Region, Costa Rica. University of Texas Press.

Hoopes, John (1994). “The Tronadora Complex: Early Formative Ceramics in Northwestern Costa Rica.” Latin American Antiquity. Vol. 5, No. 3.

Hoopes, John (1985). “El complejo Tronadora: Cerámica del período Formativo Medio en la Cuenca de Arenal, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.” Vinculos. Vol. 11, pp. 111–118.

Sheets, Payson (2011). “Pilgrimages and Persistent Social Memory in Spite of Volcanic Disasters in the Arenal Area, Costa Rica.” Ancient Mesoamerica. Vol. 22, No. 5.

Chaparrón[edit | edit source]

The Chaparrón ceramic complex has a rock composition similar to that of the Tronadora Vieja complex, and both sites likely used multiple sources for raw materials.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Tecomate vessels (round jars similar to olla-tecomates and named after the Aztec/Nahuatl word for “gourd”)
  • Ceramic objects with painted red zones
  • Ceramic shards
Sources on Chaparrón[edit | edit source]

Conejo-Barboza, Geraldine, Corrales Ulloa, Francisco, et al. (2019). “Geochemical and Mineralogical Relations of Three Ceramic Complexes From the Formative Period (2000–300 BC) in Costa Rica.” Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. Vol. 11.

Horn, Sally P., and Kennedy, Lisa M. (2001). “Pollen Evidence of Maize Cultivation 2700 B.P. at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica.” Biotropica. Vol. 33, No. 1, pp. 191–196.

Paniagua, Eduardo José Reyes (2009). “Relaciones Culturales en Costa Rica y a Nivel Regional durante el Período Formativo: Movilidad más allá de la Región Istmo-Colombiana.” International Journal of South American Archaeology. Vol. 5, pp. 12–26.

La Montaña[edit | edit source]

La Montaña excavations produced a ceramic shard assemblage different from the Tronadora Vieja and Chaparrón collections. The earliest date for ceramics at this site is 2200–1410 BCE, which is the earliest secured date for ceramics in the central Atlantic watershed region. Inhabitants here relied heavily on root and tree crops as their food staples.[3]

Artifacts and findings include:

The Maleku Indigenous Group[edit | edit source]

The Maleku are one of Costa Rica’s original inhabitants, yet they were the last Indigenous group to come into contact with the Spanish. Spanish explorers called them the Guatuso.

Before Spanish colonization, the former Maleku territory spanned 2,500 square miles across the Frío River watershed. Today, the Maleku reside on the Maleku Reserve (Reserva Indígena Maleku) within the town of San Rafael de Guatuso but have struggled to regain lost reservation lands. Due to the government’s failure to properly set reserve territory boundaries, around 85 percent of their supposed granted territory is now inhabited by non-Indigenous peoples. (Read more on this issue on the Cultural Survival website.) Now the smallest tribe in Costa Rica, their population and native language speakers continue to dwindle in number. At an estimated 600 reservation inhabitants, the Maleku are the smallest tribe in present-day Costa Rica. Though most members have retained their Indigenous language despite modern influences, no monolingual speakers remain. More on the Maleku Chibchan language can be found at the Endangered Languages Archive (audio recordings are available to registered users).

Having thrived in the rainforests of Costa Rica, the Maleku have fostered a deep connection with nature and continue to abide by their elders’ wisdom in close-knit communities. Spiritual leaders, the Wak’as, perform ceremonial rituals centered around their ancestors and surrounding nature. The three Maleku subcommunities present today, which are El Sol, Palenque Margarita, and Palenque Tonjibe, share a profound understanding of medicinal plants and embrace traditions in sustainable farming practices and handiwork.[4]

Maleku Village Tours offers tours of the Maleku Reserve, guiding visitors through the people’s extensive knowledge of medicinal plants, spiritual and religious beliefs, and burial rites. Archaeological excavations at Maleku burial grounds have recovered ceramic and jade objects, now housed in the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica.

Sources on the Maleku Indigenous Group[edit | edit source]

TourismInCostaRica.org, “Reserva indígena Maleku Reserve.”

Castillo Vasquez, Roberto (2004). “An Ethnogeography of the Maleku Indigenous Peoples in Northern Costa Rica.” Dissertation (PhD), University of Kansas.

Castillo Vasquez, Roberto (2005). “El territorio histórico Maleku de Costa Rica.” Reflexiones, Vol. 84, No. 1, pp. 71–86. Universidad de Costa Rica.

Additional Media on the Maleku Indigenous Group[edit | edit source]

The documentary “Toro Hami” covers the process of land recovery for the Maleku. Watch the documentary teaser on Vimeo or YouTube.

Talamanca Region Indigenous Groups[edit | edit source]

Indigenous groups of the Talamanca region during the Archaic Period included the Bribrí, the Cabécar, and inhabitants of Talamanca de Tibás.

The Bribrí[edit | edit source]

The Bribrí are one of the largest Indigenous communities in the country with a population estimate of 35,000; their cultural heritage and unique spiritual beliefs are deeply rooted in their connection to nature. The traditional Talamancan home reflects their conception of the universe as a biconical structure: the sky serves as the universal roof of the upright cone, while the inverted underground cone houses other worlds, other beings, and other parallel realities. Traditional Bribrí home construction takes the shape of a cone with cobblestone walls 30 to 50 feet in height and diameter, paying homage to the universal home through their form. Dwellers decorated the conical homes accordingly; for example, moorings were often in the shape of mustached snakes representing the sun’s rays. More on the Talamancan cosmic house and associated symbolism is on the U Sure Guide Association website.

Indigenous village diorama from the Museo Nacional in San José.

Artifacts and findings from Bribrí burial sites include:

While you cannot visit the archaeological excavation sites, you can arrange a trip to the Bribrí Indigenous Reserve through Costa Rica Insider.

The Cabécar[edit | edit source]

The culture and practices of the Cabécar people strongly overlap with that of the Bribrí in terms of linguistic and cultural traits, which includes home construction. Due to these peoples’ similarities and close proximity to one another and geographic proximity on the watersheds of the Talamanca mountain range, early Spanish colonizers treated the two cultures as a single nation. The Cabécar are exceptional agriculturalists with abundant generational knowledge of plants for use as medicine, food, and building/crafting material. The group became more dependent on cultivating cocoa and plantains as cash crops after the arrival of the Spaniards.

Sources on the Bribrí and Cabécar[edit | edit source]

Encyclopedia.com: Boruca, Bribri, and Cabécar

Native-Languages.org: Cabécar Culture

Azofeifa-Navas, Jorge (1991). “Genetic Variation in the Bribri and Cabecar Amerindians from Talamanca, Costa Rica.” Revista de Biologia Tropical. Vol. 39, No. 2, pp. 249–253.

Cháves, Alfredo González, and Vásquez, Fernando González (1989). La Casa Cósmica Talamanqueña y sus Simbolismos. Editorial Universidad Estatal a Distancia.

Díaz, Uri Salas (2019). “Environmental Views Among the Cabécar and the Bribri.” Pp. 81–94. From Costa Rican Traditional Knowledge According to Local Experiences.

Frost, R. Jeffrey (2009). “The Ancestors Above, the People Below: Cemeteries, Landscape and Dual Organization in Late Pre-Columbian Costa Rica.” Dissertation (PhD), University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Gabb, William M. (1875). “On the Indian Tribes and Languages of Costa Rica.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. Vol. 14, No. 95, pp. 483–602.

Rodríguez-Arce, José, and Cerdas, Marco (2019). “Ritual Consumption of Psychoactive Fungi and Plants in Ancestral Costa Rica.” Journal of Psychedelic Studies. Vol. 3, pp. 1–19.

Skinner, Alanson (1920). Notes on the Bribri of Costa Rica. Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation.

Somarriba, Eduardo, and Trujillo Córdova, Luisa (2003). “Plantas útiles en las fincas cacaoteras de indígenas Bribri y Cabécar de Talamanca, Costa Rica.” Agroforesteria en las Américas. Vol. 10, No. 37–38, pp. 36–41.

Stone, Doris (1962). Talamancan Tribes of Costa Rica. Peabody Museum, Harvard University.

Talamanca de Tibás[edit | edit source]

The Talamanca de Tibás archaeological site is notable for the tombs and stone blades found there. During the time of the site’s inhabitation, stone blades made and used in the Americas were undergoing a transition from strictly utilitarian to ornamental purposes. Early Mesoamerican agriculturalists used chert and flint, also associated with the power of lightning, as blade materials. With the transition in the purpose of blades, the type of materials used in blade production also changed. The most valued material in this site’s region became jadeite mined from the Motagua River valley in Guatemala, and jadeite/jade blades traveled far and wide, becoming especially valuable among Costa Rican societies.

Costa Rica was becoming a prominent center of lapidary, the art of working hard, fine stones, and bodily-adorning jewelry at this time. Excavations at Talamanca de Tibás uncovered tombs with ornately carved jadeite pendants, the most noteworthy being the “principal tomb.” Bodies were placed upon three ceremonial metates in this tomb, and the tomb’s burial goods included a ceramic vessel, two quartz mace heads, and two jade pendants. One of these pendants was carved as a Costa Rican-style avian ax god, and the second pendant was carved as an Olmec-style clamshell-shaped pendant, likely from Mexico.

Artifacts and findings include:

Sources on Talamanca de Tibás[edit | edit source]

Hoopes, John W. (2017). “Magical Substances in the Land Between the Seas.” From Golden Kingdoms: Luxury in the Ancient Americas.

Lange, Frederick W. (ed.) (1992). Wealth and Hierarchy in the Intermediate Area: A Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks. P. 141–165. Dumbarton Oaks.

Mora-Marín, David F. (2008). “The Jade-to-Gold Shift in Ancient Costa Rica: A World Systems Perspective.” University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Snarskis, Michael J. (1979). “El Jade de Talamanca de Tibas.” Vinculos. No. 1–2.

Stone, Doris (1962). Talamancan Tribes of Costa Rica. Peabody Museum, Harvard University.

Additional Media on Talamanca de Tibás[edit | edit source]

Listen to a short description and contextualization of the Olmec-style clamshell pendant found at the site from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Soundcloud.

Formative/Preclassic Period (1000 BCE–250 CE)[edit | edit source]

The Formative Period, also called the Preclassic, spanned from 1000 BCE to 250 CE. Three notable major city centers established themselves around the start of this period: the Guayabo National Monument in the Reventazón valley, the Cutris settlement, which contains the Cutris Monument, and Las Mercedes, a settlement inhabited by the Hüetar cultural group. All three of these sites remained active beyond the Formative Period, while other notable sites established during this time varied more in their time of occupation. Throughout the period, Costa Rica was influenced by cultures and Indigenous groups from North and South America, serving as an intermediate area for these groups along with Venezuela, parts of Ecuador, and the Alajuela province of Colombia.

Major City Centers During the Formative Period[edit | edit source]

Guayabo National Monument[edit | edit source]

Monumento Nacional Guayabo - Archeological ruins - Aqueduct

The Guayabo National Monument (1000 BCE–1400 CE) is the largest and arguably the most important archaeological site in Costa Rica. Located on the southern slope of the Turrialba volcano, near the Reventazón valley, the visitable site is but a small portion of the formerly large village that housed 1,500–2,000 people at a time. The American Society of Civil Engineers has also recognized the site as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark due to its advanced stone aqueduct technology that has withstood the test of time.

The original inhabitants based their economy on plant cultivation, fishing, and hunting and are believed to have been led by a single person at any given time. This leader exercised both political and religious power in their multifaceted role as a chief, cacique, and shaman. Occupation here spanned approximately 2,400 years until inhabitants abandoned the city for unknown reasons around 1400 CE. Hypothetical reasons for abandonment include war or disease. Naturalist Anastasio Alfaro was the first to report the site in 1886, and it was later declared a national monument by Carlos Aguilar Piedra, a professor at the University of Costa Rica.[5] Though the archaeological site spans 15 to 20 hectares, excavations have been conducted in only 4. Findings at the site include various instances of civil engineering, architectural construction, and artistic manifestations, all using local stone as the primary material or medium.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Stone aqueduct for diverting water into the settlement for storage and flood prevention
  • Rectangular stone water storage tanks
  • Stone foundations (formerly supporting wooden structures and homes)
  • A larger “Montículo Central” or “central mound” stone foundation
  • Cobble-paved roadways: Cargara and Paloma Roads
  • Elevated stone surfaces, stairways
  • Tombs, also called “Tumbas de cajón” or “drawer graves”
  • Petrographs and stone carvings with natural, zoomorphic, and concentric designs
  • A monolith carved into two animals characteristic of the area: the jaguar and the lizard
  • Lithic tools
  • Ceramics
  • Jade carvings
Museo Nacional de Costa Rica[edit | edit source]

The National Museum of Costa Rica (Museo Nacional de Costa Rica) now houses many of the ceramic, stone, gold, and jade artifacts found early in the excavation process.

Traveling to Guayabo and Associated Tours[edit | edit source]

Guayabo National Monument is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. CST.

CostaRica.com: Provides directions by bus from Turrialba or by car from San José.

SINAC.go.cr: Notes cost of entry to the monument and a description of attractions there.

TwoWeeksinCostaRica.com: Recommendations and directions by bus from San José.

CaminoTravel.com: Book a guided tour of Guayabo and the surrounding park.

The Tico Times: Article on the ruins of Guayabo and a guided tour offered by archaeologist Mauricio Ruiz; contact him at centroturisticoeltucan@gmail.com.

Sources on the Guayabo National Monument[edit | edit source]

Aguilar, Carlos H. (1972). Guayabo de Turrialba: arqueología de un sitio indígena prehispánico. Editorial Costa Rica.

Hartman, Carl Vilhelm (1901). Archaeological Researches in Costa Rica.

Herrera Amighetti, Grace, and Arias Quirós, Ana Cecilia (2016). “Los petrograbados de Guayabo de Turrialba, Costa Rica: Un acercamiento a su significado.” Revista Herencia. Vol. 29, No. 2.

Herrera, Mauricio Murillo (2002). “Análisis crítico de las investigaciones arqueológicas desarrolladas en el Sitio Guayabo (UCR-43), de Turrialba y las repercusiones sociales con relación al manejo de sus recursos culturales.” Thesis (PhD), Universidad de Costa Rica.

Murillo Herrera, Mauricio (2021). “La investigación arqueológica en el Monumento Nacional Guayabo entre los años 1891 y 2000.” Vínculos. Vol. 41, No. 1–2, pp. 1–42.

Troyo Vargas, Elena (2002). Guayabo de Turrialba: una aldea prehispánica compleja. Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural, Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud de Costa Rica, UNESCO.

Additional Media on the Guayabo National Monument[edit | edit source]

Watch a 3D scan of the Guayabo National Monument by the Laboratorio Nacional de Materiales y Modelos Estructurales at the University of Costa Rica on YouTube.

Watch a video from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) on the Guayabo National Monument, in collaboration with the Smithsonian Latino Center and starring Ricardo Vázquez Leiva, an archaeologist at the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica, on YouTube.

Espectro Canal UCR, a national Costa Rican program covering science and technology, covered the pre-Columbian Guayabo Monument and some of its engineered features. Watch on YouTube.

Michael Collins from Wandering Wolf Productions travels the world, focusing on ancient sites and locations. Watch him explore Guayabo on YouTube.

Cutris Monument[edit | edit source]

The Cutris Monument (1000 BCE–1500 CE) was inhabited at the same time as culture developed in sites to the east, such as the Guayabo National Monument. As of this writing, little excavation has occurred at the site, and agricultural practices have dislodged some ancient artifacts. Still, the excavation that did occur has unearthed evidence of stone tool production and four paved roads. These roads lead to other major city centers, e.g., Guayabo and Las Mercedes, suggesting that Cutris was a major cultural center in northern Costa Rica.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Over 70 architectural monuments: mounds, platforms, and bases of smooth river stones
  • Four paved roads leading to other towns/city centers
  • Elaborate ceramic objects
Sources on Cutris[edit | edit source]

The Cutris site is located on private fruit plantation property and cannot be visited, but join Benjamin Williams on his journey to the site on his website, Paths Unwritten.

An archive of Cutris documentation from the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica can be found here.

Salgado González, S., Hoopes, J.W., Aguilar Bonilla, M., and Fernández Esquivel, P. (2021). “Nuevo Corinto: A Chiefly Village in Northeastern Costa Rica.” Journal of Caribbean Archaeology. Vol. 21.

Las Mercedes[edit | edit source]

Las Mercedes (1000 BCE–1500 CE) sits between the Turrialba volcano foothills and the Caribbean lowlands of Guácimo in the Limón province. The site was discovered during railroad construction in the area and is thought to have been a large chiefdom center; archaeologists are relatively sure this spot served as a powerful political influence for the surrounding area. The site is divided into three large complexes: Las Mercedes-1, 2, and 3, of which only Las Mercedes-1 has been extensively studied. Historical excavations of the site date back to 1871, revealing numerous architectural features, stone works of art, and goods associated with graves. In 2009, a University of Albany field school program brought further discoveries and solidified the site’s significance in early Costa Rican culture. At the time of the program, Costa Rica was investigating Las Mercedes’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since then, research on the site has expanded.

Other cultural influences included those of the Iroquois from North America and the Pocora from modern-day Peru. Their influence on the area manifests as funerary areas consisting of stone-lined graves with various artifacts and offerings associated with these graves. Stone-paved roads, known as the Iroquois and Pocora causeways, run from the northwest to the southeast and connect to nearby towns. The road systems were advanced, potentially including suspension bridges for crossing rivers—suspension bridges also raised questions from researchers about the use of local rivers and hydrogeography by Hüetar inhabitants as a natural defense against attacks. Sometimes mentioned as the Güetares or Pacacuacas, the Hüetar are a cultural group prominent throughout Costa Rican history, especially during the existence of chiefdom cities during the 16th century. The group produced sculptures, tables, metates, and many other works made of stone found across a number of archaeological sites in the country. As of the 2020s, Hüetar individuals have dwindled in number but uphold some of their past traditions, such as the preparation of candles, thread, dyes, and other handiwork. Other past traditions, such as religious sacrifices and frequent conflicts, are no longer practiced but were prevalent among former chiefdoms.

A significant village of its time, the Las Mercedes site is rich in artifacts. Some objects excavated from the area are now housed in museums, from the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, U.S.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Platforms or “montículos” of diverse shapes
  • Central platform/mound
  • Plazas (2)
  • Retaining walls (6) and other stone walls (7)
  • Funerary areas (4)
  • Stone sculptures depicting chiefs, warriors, masks, and anthropomorphic forms
  • Miniature stone sculptures and amulets
  • Jaguar grinding stones
Sources on Las Mercedes[edit | edit source]

Lange, Frederick W. (ed.) (1992). Wealth and Hierarchy in the Intermediate Area: A Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks. Dumbarton Oaks.

McGimsey III, Charles R. (1963). “Archaeology of the Diquís Delta, Costa Rica.” Papers of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge. American Antiquity. Vol. 51, p. 122.

Molina, Iván, and Palmer, Steven (1997). History of Costa Rica. Editorial of the University of Costa Rica. P. 15.

Rosenswig, Robert M. (2016). “El Sitio Arqueológico Las Mercedes: Surgimiento de un importante centro sociopolítico en Línea Vieja, vertiente Caribe Central de Costa Rica.” Canto Rodado.

Russo, Ricardo (2013). “A Ceremonial Center Within a University Campus: Las Mercedes Archaeological Site, EARTH University, Costa Rica.” International Mini-Conference: Indigenous Revival and Sacred Sites Conservation. April 5–7, 2012.

Stone, D., and Balser, C. (1957). “Grinding Stones and Mullers of Costa Rica.” Journal de la Société des Américanistes. Vol. 46, pp. 165–179.

Vázquez Leiva, Ricardo, and Chapdelaine, Claude (2008). “Arquitectura, Caminos Empedrados y Cronología del Sitio Las Mercedes-1, Caribe Central de Costa Rica.” Vínculos Vol. 31, pp. 27–77.

Vázquez Leiva, Ricardo (2009) “El Otro Gran Cacicazgo del Caribe Central: Segunda Temporada de Campo en el Sitio Las Mercedes-1, Guacimo de Limon.” Museo Nacional de Costa Rica.

Additional Media on Las Mercedes[edit | edit source]

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and Ricardo Vázquez Leiva, an archaeologist at the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica, examine the Guayabo and Las Mercedes sites. Watch on YouTube.

La Regla[edit | edit source]

La Regla was established and occupied around 500 BCE in a mangrove area by the Nicoya Gulf. Most notably, the site is an early example of ornamental use and processing of jade, practices that persisted over the subsequent periods more strongly in the Costa Rican territory compared to neighboring areas. “Dioses-hacha,” or ax gods, were the most common form of carved jade at this time. La Regla produced jade ax gods for more than 1,000 years. The typical depicted imagery was of human, animal, or anthropomorphic figures crafted from a celt-like polished blade. The carvings were worn as pendants or jewelry by wealthy individuals.

Other sites that contained ax god jade pendants are Mercocha and Severo Ledesma. The manufacturing of jade and jadeite figurines in Costa Rica was largely influenced by the Maya civilization. The Maya occupied the Yucatán Peninsula farther north and used jade figurines to depict maize god worship and ideology. The same theme first appeared in Costa Rica at the Mercocha site at 144 CE.[6]

Artifacts and findings include:

Sources on La Regla[edit | edit source]

Bostrom, Peter A. (2013). “Axe Gods: Costa Rica.” Lithic Casting Lab.

Graham, Mark Miller, Guerrero M., Juan Vicente, Snarskis, Michael J., and Méndez, Zulay Soto. Edited by Jones, Julie. (1998). “Jade in Ancient Costa Rica.” Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mora-Marín, David F. (2016). “The ‘Charlie Chaplin’ Silhouette Figural Theme: A Pan-Middle American Ritual Performer Theme.” Cuadernos de Antropología. Vol. 26, pp. 9–45.

Mora-Marín, David, Reents-Budet, Dorie, and Fields, Virginia (2013). Trading Spaces: The Archaeology of Interaction, Migration, and Exchange. Chacmool Archaeology Association, University of Calgary.

Vista del Cerro[edit | edit source]

Vista del Cerro (500 BCE–500 CE) is a central Costa Rican site found by the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica by accident when excavating an adjacent road near the Arenal volcano. Vista del Cerro and similar sites nearby had sporadic bursts of human occupation. This is characteristic of the Arenal phase (500 BCE–600 CE), during which population density remained relatively low. At this time, the production of ceramics and heavy tools (e.g., manos, metates) increased, and societies became largely egalitarian with uniformity in housing and the type of grave goods used at burial sites.

Artifacts and findings include:

Sources on Vista del Cerro[edit | edit source]

Poveda, Manuel Alejandro Castillo (2017). “Arqueografía del sitio arqueológico Vista al Cerro (A-516 VC) La Fortuna de San Carlos (Centro-Norte de Costa Rica), esbozos de un contexto funerario en la fase Arenal (500 a.C-500 d. C).” Espacio, Tiempo y Forma. Serie I, Prehistoria y Arqueología. No. 10, pp. 95–112.

Travel Near Vista del Cerro[edit | edit source]

Expedia.com: Hotel Vista del Cerro.

Arenal.net: Arenal volcano travel guide.

The Diquís Delta and Palmar Sur Archaeological Excavations[edit | edit source]

The Palmar Sur Archaeological Excavations were a series of excavation initiatives and research projects conducted in the Diquís Delta on four pre-Columbian chiefdom settlements containing stone spheres of the Diquís: Finca 6, Grijalba-2, El Silencio, and Batambal. The sites contain structures indicative of chiefdom societies of the pre-Columbian period, which include artificial mounds, burial sites, and paved areas. More information on the settlements and their locations can be found on the UNESCO website.

The stone spheres, or “Las Bolas,” are distinctive for their nearly perfect spherical shape, showcasing skilled craftsmanship and attention to detail by their makers, along with their quantity and placements. Las Bolas were first studied by Doris Stone in 1943 and by several other researchers afterward, but their exact purpose remains unknown. It is possible they were used to record celestial phenomena, as the Finca 6 stone spheres are arranged in parallel alignments with an east-to-west orientation, possibly related to the course of the sun. Another speculation is that they were used to mark locations of past notable events that had occurred within the communities. Though the stone spheres and their associated settlements offer insight into the complex social, economic, and political systems of pre-Columbian societies, the challenges to the conservation of the stone spheres of the Diquís include past agricultural development and potential urban expansion.

Sources on the Diquís Delta and Palmar Sur Archaeological Excavations[edit | edit source]

McGimsey III, Charles R. (1963). “Archaeology of the Diquís Delta, Costa Rica.” Papers of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge. American Antiquity. Vol. 51, p. 122.

Additional Media on the Diquís Delta and Palmar Sur Archaeological Excavations[edit | edit source]

Watch a guided tour of World Heritage sites Finca 6, Batambal, El Silencio, and Grijalba-2 led by the anthropologist and educator of the National Museum of Costa Rica, Carlos Morales, on YouTube.

Finca 6[edit | edit source]

The stone spheres at the Finca 6 site in situ/in their original locations.

Finca 6 (500 BCE–1400 CE), which translates to “Farm 6” in English, is a former village situated on flat and fertile lands as part of a larger chiefdom that exerted power over the greater delta plain area. The site is split into four sectors; two artificial mounds, or montículos, characterize one of the four sectors. These mounds sit in the village’s central area and span 20 to 30 meters across. These mounds featured stone walls and served as bases for large houses in the settlement. The buildings here varied in size and intricacy of construction, suggesting an emphasis on social rank and their outward depiction. The funerary area served as a burial spot for individuals and their offerings. Rituals were performed in the funerary area, and objects were placed to accompany individuals’ remains as offerings and signify their status. Burial objects include ceramics, stones, resin, animal remains, seeds, and other botanical remains.

Of around 300 artificial stone spheres found, only a dozen remain in their original locations. Finca 6 is one of the few areas accessible to the public where the Diquís spheres can be seen in their original spots. The site contained nearly 30 spheres, likely created by members of the Chiriquí cultural group during the formation of the village. Five spheres are still in their original context, and the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica recovered 20 others. They are located close to the artificial mounds and are arranged in parallel alignments, possibly related to the course of celestial bodies.

Traveling to Finca 6[edit | edit source]

The Finca 6 Site Museum is open to the public Tuesday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. CST.

Diquis.go.cr: Visiting Site Museum Finca 6, hours and location.

Civitatis.com: Book an excursion to Finca 6.

Sources on Finca 6[edit | edit source]

Diquis.go.cr: Finca 6 Archaeological Site description.

Archaeology.org: Photos and description of the Finca 6 stone spheres.

Fernández, Patricia, and Quintanilla, Ifigenia (2003). “Metallurgy, Balls, and Stone Statuary in the Diquís Delta, Costa Rica: Local Production of Power Symbols.” From Quilter, Jeffrey, and Hoopes, John W. (eds.), Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia. Dumbarton Oaks.

Wauchope, Robert, Ekholm, Gordon F., and Willey, Gordon R. (eds.) (1966). Handbook of Middle American Indians, Volume 4: Archaeological Frontiers and External Connections. Ch. 9. “Archaeology of Lower Central America.” University of Texas Press.

Additional Media on Finca 6[edit | edit source]

An overview of the Finca 6 Site Museum by the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica is on YouTube.

An overview of Finca 6 as a World Heritage site, also from the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica, is on YouTube.

More on the stone spheres and the Finca 6 site by Howler TV on YouTube.

Grijalba-2[edit | edit source]

Grijalba-2 (300 BCE–700 CE), of the Hüetar cultural group, is one of four archaeological sites containing Diquís stone spheres. According to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, the site is “unique for its use of limestone and its distinctive characteristics as a subordinate centre,” in contrast to Finca 6, which was most “likely a principal” center. The site measures around 10 hectares and is located on a terrace of the Balsa River, with two circular mounds that would have functioned as the primary residences. Grijalba-2 contains one stone sphere—it sits 100 meters from the architectural center and measures 1.22 meters in diameter.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Artificial mounds, including two circular mounds 1.5 meters tall, 20 meters in diameter, and covered in limestone
  • Limestone walls
  • River stone boulders
  • Terraces with retaining walls
  • One stone sphere
  • Sculpted metates, some with zoomorphic form
  • Ceramics, simple and painted
Sources on Grijalba-2[edit | edit source]

Diquis.go.cr: Grijalba-2 Archaeological Site description.

Additional Media on Grijalba-2[edit | edit source]

Watch a video by the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica on the Grijalba-2 site on YouTube.

El Silencio[edit | edit source]

The El Silencio (500 BCE–1500 CE) site was a residential secondary center; it covers about 20 hectares of a terrace on the Térraba River and contains architectural features and campfires dating from 300 BCE to 1500 CE. In and around river settlements, archaeologists found numerous pottery and stone artifacts, but the most noteworthy element of the site is the massive El Silencio stone sphere. The El Silencio sphere is the largest stone sphere discovered on the Diquís Delta. This sphere measures 2.66 meters in diameter and weighs 24 tons. It was carved from granodiorite from the Quebrada Cansot site and recorded for the first time in 1992. In 2012, archaeologist Francisco Corrales Ulloa of the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica carried out a complete study of the stone. Since then, specialists have been taking measures to conserve and improve the condition of the sphere. Analysis has included analyzing the depth of wounds, humidity, alkalinity, hardness, and porosity of the stone. The Laboratorio Nacional de Materiales y Modelos Estructurales at the University of Costa Rica has also digitized the sculpture.

Sources on El Silencio[edit | edit source]

Diquis.go.cr: El Silencio Archaeological Site description.

The Tico Times: Restoring Costa Rica’s largest pre-Columbian sphere through a partnership between the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica, the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico, and its associated National School of Conservation, Restoration, and Museography.

Additional Media on El Silencio[edit | edit source]

Watch a video on the El Silencio World Heritage site by the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica on YouTube.

El Pedregal[edit | edit source]

El Pedregal (500 BCE–1550 CE) is located in northeast Costa Rica and is part of the Guanacaste Conservation Area designated by UNESCO. It was not a site of habitation but a place designated for artistic expression.

The Guanacaste Archaeological Project, conducted by French, German, and Costa Rican researchers, focused on the Pedregal zone on the slopes of the Orosi volcano. The zone contains more than 500 engraved petroglyphs spanning over 100 hectares of the savanna. The inscribed rocks here are of volcanic origin and vary in size—the most prominent one measures 5.2 by 4.3 meters, but most do not exceed 2 meters in height and 1 meter in length. As Pedregal is the most important rock site in the country and one of the main sites with rock inscriptions in all of Central America, researchers and archaeologists continue to investigate the context of the site within the Guanacaste mountain range as a place of passage and cultural exchange.

The site was likely chosen and valued for its view: Lake Nicaragua, Cerro El Hacha, and the Pacific Ocean are all visible from parts of Pedregal. Despite the breathtaking views, the lack of lithic, ceramic, or other material cultural artifacts suggests that the area was never settled, likely due to unpredictable savanna-like weather conditions. Instead, artists visited the area for brief periods to leave their marks. The rock engravings may have been representative of ritual, magic, or religious beliefs, which differs from ceramic production at the time, which had a primarily utilitarian purpose.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Around 200 rocks with carved geometric and abstract, zoomorphic, and anthropomorphic designs; designs include crosses, spirals, lizards, fish, birds, and humanoid figures adorned with staffs and headdresses; the designs point toward the sky and nearby geographical features.

Sources on Pedregal[edit | edit source]

Denyer, Susan, Murray, William Breen, Viramontes, Carlos, Künne, Martin, et al. (2006). Rock Art of Latin America and the Caribbean. ICOMOS.

Hurtado de Mendoza, Luis, and Guillermo, Alvarado Induni (2021). “Notas sobre los factores naturales y culturales en el desarrollo sociopolítico prehispánico en el extremo noroeste de Guanacaste, Costa Rica.” Revista de Biología Tropical. Vol. 69.

Museos del Banco Central (2023). “Un pasado entre líneas.”

Manzanillo[edit | edit source]

The Manzanillo (500 BCE–1300 CE) site was a part of the Culebra Bay Archaeological Project and was described in a 2013 article by Anayensy Herrera Villalobos and Felipe Solís Del Vecchio. The space was domestic, judging by the assemblage of found artifacts such as discarded food remains and marine resources, e.g., shells and mollusks, which were moved to habitation areas for consumption. People here had also prepared lithic tools made of worked metamorphic materials such as volcanic stones and obsidian fragments. The procurement of raw materials from both local and regional sources implies self-sufficiency within the Manzanillo community and reciprocity between nearby communities. The reciprocal exchange of materials is indicative that the Culebra Bay communities participated in regional trade networks and contributed to their development before Spanish colonization.[7]

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Ceramic fragments
  • Lithic tools
  • Faunal remains
  • Carbonized wood and seeds
  • Marine shells

Sources on Manzanillo[edit | edit source]

Villalobos, Anayensy Herrera, and Del Vecchio, Felipe Solís (2013). “Procesos de trabajo lítico en el sitio Manzanillo durante la Fase Orso de la Bahía de Culebra.” Cuadernos de Antropología.

Traveling to Manzanillo[edit | edit source]

JaredsDetours.com: Manzanillo travel guide, beach directions, and hotels.

GoVisitCostaRica.com: Manzanillo wildlife refuge, hotels, and lodges.

Congo-Bongo.com: Congo Bongo EcoVillage vacation rentals in Manzanillo.

Mercocha and Severo Ledesma[edit | edit source]

Mercocha and Severo Ledesma were two sites established around 300 BCE that extensively produced jade pendants in the Central Valley region of Costa Rica. The craft started mainly due to Maya influence, but trade and manufacturing of jade/jadeite goods became extensive in Costa Rica relative to neighboring territories.

Mercocha[edit | edit source]

Mercocha saw the first appearance of worked jadeite figurines.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Jade pendants and figurines
Sources on Mercocha[edit | edit source]

Patton, Margaret, and Manion, Jessica (2017). “Trading Spaces: The Archaeology of Interaction, Migration, and Exchange.” Chacmool Archaeology Association.

Mora-Marín, David F. (2008). “The Jade-to-Gold Shift in Ancient Costa Rica: A World Systems Perspective.” University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Mora-Marín, David F. (2016). “The ‘Charlie Chaplin’ Silhouette Figural Theme: A Pan-Middle American Theme.” Cuadernos de Antropología. Vol. 26, pp. 9–45.

Severo Ledesma[edit | edit source]

Severo Ledesma is thought to have been a common meeting place between peoples from across the Americas since findings include food remains such as corn originating in South America. The site houses one of the earliest semipermanent settlements in Costa Rica. Larger houses with two distinct sides may represent a gendered division of residential spaces, and a social hierarchy is inferred from differences among tombs. Some burials are rich with funerary offerings, and others are less so.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Anthropomorphic ax god carvings (circa 350 CE)
  • Two rectangular foundations with large cobbles on the exterior, smaller in the interior
  • Tombs with jade pendants
  • Charred honeycomb fragments[8]
Sources on Severo Ledesma[edit | edit source]

Lange, Frederick W. (ed.) (1992). Wealth and Hierarchy in the Intermediate Area: A Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks. Dumbarton Oaks.

Pesa Vieja[edit | edit source]

Pesa Vieja is part of a group of sites strongly influenced by the Curridabat ceramic phase from 300 to 800 CE, which also includes the Tatiscú, Chagüite, Carlos Aguilar Piedra, Agua Caliente, López, and Zapote 2 archaeological sites.[9] Occupants established Pesa Vieja at some time before the Curridabat phase; this site and others south of present-day Cartago are characterized by similar funerary practices, such as placing tombs in clusters of cobblestones arranged in an oval or circular shape.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Large ceramic assemblage (Curridabat ceramic phase): Ceramic jars and objects with zigzag motifs, representations of eyes, humanoid designs, and anthropomorphic figures
  • Oval or circular cobble tombs
  • Funerary remains
  • Lithic objects and fragments, e.g., metates

Sources on Pesa Vieja[edit | edit source]

Lange, Frederick W. (ed.) (1992). Wealth and Hierarchy in the Intermediate Area: A Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks. Dumbarton Oaks.

Núñez Azofeifa, M.C. (2023) “Prácticas funerarias en el sitio La Pesa Vieja (C-423 LPV) y su relación con la organización social en la fase Curridabat (300 dc al 800 dc).” Master’s Thesis, Universidad de Costa Rica.

Snarskis, Michael J., and Guevara, Oscar (1987). “La Pesa Vieja: excavación de rescate en un cementerio de la Fase Curridabat.” Revista de Ciencias Sociales. Vol. 35, pp. 31–42.

Snarskis, Michael J. (2003). “From Jade to Gold in Costa Rica: How, Why, and When.” From Quilter, Jeffrey, and Hoopes, John W. (eds.), Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia. Dumbarton Oaks. Pp. 159–204.

El Hacha and Sites of Psychedelic Plant/Fungi Use[edit | edit source]

El Hacha (3rd century CE) is a site in the Greater Nicoya region notable for the use of psychedelics by its inhabitants. A mushroom-shaped ceramic vessel found in a cemetery at this site was the first found object linked to mind-altering fungi use in the region. The ceramic object likely depicts A. muscaria, or the fly agaric mushroom, that grows in the area. The vessel was unearthed from a burial that possibly belonged to a high-status ritual spiritualist, along with jade effigies, objects with bird imagery, and objects with anthropomorphic motifs. Other sites characterized by psychedelic use include La Montana and Colonia Blanca. A map of Costa Rican sites studied by José Manuel Rodríguez-Arce and Marco Antonio Arce Cerdas for psychoactive plant consumption can be found here.[10]

Artifacts and findings include:

Sources on El Hacha and Sites of Psychedelic Plant/Fungi Use[edit | edit source]

Jones, Ursula (1991). “Metates and Hallucinogens in Costa Rica.” Papers from the Institute of Archaeology. pp. 29–24.

Rodríguez-Arce, José Manuel, and Cerdas, Marco Antonio Arce (2019). “Ritual Consumption of Psychoactive Fungi and Plants in Ancestral Costa Rica.” Journal of Psychedelic Studies. Vol. 3, pp. 1–19.

Barranca[edit | edit source]

Barranca (300 BCE—1550 CE) was a ceramic complex notable for three things, according to a 2023 publication by Mauricio Murillo Herrera and Felipe Sol Castillo: architecture, ritual activity, and trade. Barranca’s architecture includes mounds, stone construction, and other monumental features similar to those in sites like Guayabo de Turrialba. The site served as an important ceremonial site for ritual activities like extensive feasting and was likely extensively involved in trade networks throughout northern Pacific Costa Rica.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Earthen mounds
  • Stone stairways
  • Stone paved roads
  • River stone walls
  • Clay floors
  • Ceramic fragments and shards
  • Decorative techniques: appliques, incisions, and slips
  • Lithic waste, objects, e.g., celts, knives, points, drills, scrapers, and maces

Sources on Barranca[edit | edit source]

Murillo Herrera, Mauricio, and Sol Castillo, Felipe (2023). “Multiscalar Analysis of a Precolumbian Village in Costa Rica: Barranca (A-372 Ba).” University of Pittsburgh Center for Comparative Archaeology.

Pavas[edit | edit source]

Pavas (200 BCE–400 CE) was a Costa Rican Central Valley ceramic complex that strongly influenced ceramics produced in nearby regional settlements, including La Cumbre, Quebrada Cansot, El Molino, and La Fábrica. The people of Pavas and similar settlements in the area lived in rectangular houses of different sizes and with adobe floors. The Pavas ceramic phase produced larger and heavier ceramics than other ceramic phases. Pavas and El Bosque pottery had the first depictions of “bird beak” iconography, or representations of birds with long, prominent beaks, in the Isthmo-Colombian area.[11] The ceramic works were possibly modeled after toucans, vultures, or hummingbirds, though they had no painted designs.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Large ceramic assemblage
  • Bird effigies and “bird beak” iconography
  • Effigies of standing humans
  • Rectangular houses with adobe floors

Sources on Pavas and Pavas Phase Sites[edit | edit source]

Jones, Ursula (1992). “Decorated Metates in Prehispanic Lower Central America.” Dissertation (PhD), University of London.

Skirboll, Esther, and Creamer, Winifred (1984). “Inter-Regional Ties in Costa Rican Prehistory.” Papers Presented at a Symposium at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, April 27, 1983. BAR Publishing.

Snarskis, Michael J. (2003). “From Jade to Gold in Costa Rica: How, Why, and When.” From Quilter, Jeffrey, and Hoopes, John W. (eds.), Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia. Dumbarton Oaks. Pp. 159–204.

Aguas Buenas Ceramic Phase[edit | edit source]

The Aguas Buenas ceramic phase spanned from 300 BCE to 800 CE, during which numerous Costa Rican sites and ceramic complexes produced extensive amounts of ceramics in different styles of pottery.[12] Many of these styles had in common a red/reddish-orange slip color, appliques, incisions, punctations, and bichrome decorations. Sites producing these styles at the time include Cambute, Caracol, Cotoncito, Barriles, El Cholo, Las Brisas, Batambal, Bolas, Ojo de Agua, and others.

Sources on the Aguas Buenas Ceramic Phase[edit | edit source]

Bond, Jeannette C. (2008). “A Ceramic Analysis at Sitio Drago, Bocas del Toro, Panamá.” Dissertation (PhD), California State University.

Brodie, L.J., Palumbo, Scott, and Ulloa, F.C. (2016). “Early Social Complexity at Bolas, Costa Rica: First Year Southern Costa Rica Archaeological Project (Scrap) Results.” Vol. 22, pp. 409–418.

Quilter, Jeffrey, and Hoopes, John W. (eds.) (2003). Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia: A Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks. Dumbarton Oaks.

Wauchope, Robert, Ekholm, Gordon F., and Willey, Gordon R. (1966). Handbook of Middle American Indians, Volume 4: Archaeological Frontiers and External Connections. University of Texas Press.

Classic Period (250–900 CE)[edit | edit source]

The Classic Period in Costa Rica lasted roughly from 250 to 900 CE, during which exchange networks of goods, fine metals, and ideas grew more complex than in the Post-Classic. The period was accompanied by a large increase in the number and intricacy of artistic and architectural works.

Las Huacas, Las Palmares, and Finca Linares were settlements in the Greater Nicoya region whose inhabitants shared a large emphasis on ornamental jade and stone sculptures. Stemming from the influence of earlier sites that adopted the Maya practice of jade-carving, these Classic Period sites continued and built upon the tradition. These and other settlements were founded on land especially fertile for farming. Thus, the cultivation of crops such as cacao, palm, corn, and various fruit grew in frequency and quantity.

Cacao seeds in various stages of fermentation. Sarapiqui, Costa Rica.

Las Huacas[edit | edit source]

Las Huacas (180–525 CE) burial sites have produced a trove of material culture. Excavations and analysis have recovered various types of ceramics, manufactured stone, and jadeite carved into tools and pendants. The cemetery area was used for at least 300 years; the 1,535 pendants, 464 beads, 63 maces, and 17 earrings that were recovered showcase strong influence from the Maya culture through their design, craftsmanship, and engraved motifs.[13]

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Carved tripod metates
  • Greenstone ax god figurines
  • Mace heads
  • Stone pendants, carvings
  • Mirror backs
  • Effigies
  • Beads
  • Jade pendants, carvings
  • Ceramics: early polychrome, zoned bichrome, and linear decorated wares

Sources on Las Huacas[edit | edit source]

Fonseca, Oscar Zamora, and Richardson III, James B. (1978). “South American and Mayan Cultural Contacts at the Las Huacas Site, Costa Rica.” Annals of Carnegie Museum. Vol. 47, No. 12, pp. 281–298.

Fonseca Zamora, Oscar M., and Scaglion, Richard (1978). “Stylistic Analysis of Stone Pendants From Las Huacas Burial Ground, Northwestern Costa Rica.” Annals of the Carnegie Museum. Vol. 47, pp. 281–298.

Las Palmares[edit | edit source]

Las Palmares gravesites contained ornamental jade objects; 19 of the recovered jade objects were found in a single grave near the site.[14] The jade pendants at Las Palmares were of particularly high quality and substantial size.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Carved stone figures
  • Jade/jadeite beads and pendants

Sources on Las Palmares[edit | edit source]

Jones, J. (ed.), with Guerrero M., Juan Vicente, Graham, Mark Miller, Snarskis, Michael J., and Méndez, Zulay Soto (1998). Jade in Ancient Costa Rica. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Finca Linares[edit | edit source]

Finca Linares (300–800 CE) is situated on the Tempisque River in the Guanacaste region; excavations here produced numerous ornamental jade and gold artifacts.

Artifacts and findings include:

Sources on Finca Linares[edit | edit source]

Snarskis, Michael J. (2003). “From Jade to Gold in Costa Rica: How, Why, and When.” From Quilter, Jeffrey, and Hoopes, John W. (eds.), Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia. Dumbarton Oaks. Pp. 159–204.

Villalobos, Anayensy Herrera (1998). “Espacio y objetos funerarios en la distribución de rango social en Finca Linares.” Vínculos. Vol. 22.

Villalobos, Anayensy Herrera, and Del Vecchio, Filipe Solis (2017). “Nuevos Fechamientos Radiométricos en un Sitio con ca Asociación Jade-Oro en el Noroeste de Costa Rica.” Vinculos. Vol. 40, Issues 1–2, pp. 161–170.

Sources on Las Huacas, Las Palmares, Finca Linares, and Jade in Costa Rica[edit | edit source]

Hartman, Carl Vilhelm (1907). Archaeological Researches on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Carnegie Institute. Vol. 3, Issues 1–2.

Herrera, Anayensy, and Del Vecchio, Felipe Solís (2021). “Nuevos fechamientos radiométricos en un sitio con la asociación jade-oro en el noroeste de Costa Rica.” Vínculos. Vol. 40, pp. 161–170.

Jones, J. (ed.), with Guerrero M., Juan Vicente, Graham, Mark Miller, Snarskis, Michael J., and Méndez, Zulay Soto (1998). Jade in Ancient Costa Rica. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Preston‐Werner, Theresa (2008). “Breaking Down Binaries: Gender, Art, and Tools in Ancient Costa Rica.” Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association. Vol. 18, pp. 49–59.

Nuevo Corinto[edit | edit source]

Nuevo Corinto (300–1300 CE) was a pre-Columbian settlement in the Costa Rican Central Valley that later became the modern city of the same name. The Proyecto Arqueológico Nuevo Corinto, or the Nuevo Corinto Archaeological Project, produced a series of polished stone artifacts and carvings from the site. Artifacts found in different stages of preparation, use, and discard indicate the site was used often for manufacturing purposes.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Hachoids: whole hachoids, or objects that resemble a ceremonial stone axe or sculpture, as well as fragments and flakes from hachoid production (Catawiki example 1, example 2)
  • Polishers
  • Pendants: completed pendants and pendant preforms
  • Stone carvings: many zoomorphic and feline figures
  • Jade pendants

Sources on Nuevo Corinto[edit | edit source]

Conejo-Barboza, Geraldine, Chavarría-Sibaja, Andrés, Fernández, Patricia, Acevedo, Benjamín, Herrera-Sancho, Óscar A., and Montero, Mavis L. (2019). “Caracterización mineralógica y mecánica de un colgante de piedra verde, del sitio arqueológico Nuevo Corinto, Costa Rica.” Revista Geológica de América Central. Vol. 61, pp. 79–90.

López-Rojas, María, Cárdenes-Sandí, Guaria, and Salgado-González, Silvia (2024). “Botanical Resources and Pre-Columbian Subsistence in Nuevo Corinto, Costa Rica.” Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. Vol. 53.

Salgado González, Silvia, Hoopes, John W., et al. (2021). “Nuevo Corinto: A Chiefly Village in Northeastern Costa Rica.” Journal of Caribbean Archaeology. Vol. 21.

Sanabria, Silvia (2018). “Indicadores de una organización laboral durante la fase La Unión (700-1100 N.E.) en el sitio arqueológico Nuevo Corinto: un estudio de caso a partir de la evidencia lítica.” Cuadernos de Antropología. Vol. 28.

Additional Media on Nuevo Corinto[edit | edit source]

An interview with a professor at the University of Costa Rica and coordinator of the Nuevo Corinto Archaeological Project, Silvia Salgado González, is on YouTube.

Batambal[edit | edit source]

Batambal (300–800 CE) is the fourth in the series of Diquís Delta pre-Columbian chiefdom settlements and contains four large stone spheres. It is located in the INDER community, which was founded by the Costa Rican national Institute of Rural Development (INDER) to relocate people affected by two hurricanes, Hurricanes Juana and César, in 1988 and 1996. Batambal is currently protected, but future urban development in the area could negatively impact the site.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Stone spheres
  • Lithic tools

Sources on Batambal[edit | edit source]

Lobell, Jarrett A., Banyasz, M.G., et al. (2014). “From the Trenches.” Archaeology. Vol. 67, pp. 9–20.

McGimsey III, Charles R. (1963). “Archaeology of the Diquís Delta, Costa Rica.” Papers of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge. American Antiquity. Vol. 51, p. 122.

Additional Media on Batambal[edit | edit source]

An overview of Batambal from the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica is on YouTube.

A video on Batambal from the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica is on YouTube.

“Memories of My Old Man” and “Batambal,” two short films made by people from Palmar Sur and Cañablancal, are featured on the UNESCO YouTube channel.

Visiting Batambal[edit | edit source]

There is no museum or establishment at the Batambal site, but it is accessible Monday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST.

ThisBackpackersLife.com: Additional site information and travel suggestions. According to this blog, the easiest way to reach the site is by a rental car or car service, as public transportation does not service the immediate location.

Post-Classic Period (900–1515 CE) and Chiriquí Period (800–1500 CE)[edit | edit source]

The Post-Classic Period (900–1515 CE) in Costa Rica is characterized by significantly stronger influences from neighboring Mesoamerican cultures than during the Classic Period and by large advancements in social structures, trade networks, and craftsmanship. Agricultural practices changed in order to support larger populations in sedentary settlements. As a result, population numbers rose in smaller villages. Previously existing chiefdoms grew in social complexity and influence from the ninth century and onward. A few commonalities shared between large cities in ancient Mesoamerica, which includes the Costa Rican territory, were a greater reliance on internal finances and a wider circulation of public goods relative to Eurasian cities at this time.

Notable Costa Rican Indigenous groups of the Post-Classic Period include the Nicoya, Boruca, Diquís, and Chorotega. Many participated in the creation and exchange of goods like jade carvings, gold, ceramic works, cultural crafts, and raw materials. The Maya and Aztec cultures introduced new religious practices to the area, but despite a growing influence from their neighbors, inhabitants of Costa Rica maintained a unique cultural identity until the Spanish arrival in the 16th century.

The Chiriquí Period denotes a time period during which the southern Pacific regions of Costa Rica and Western Panama experienced growth in social complexity, technology, craftsmanship abilities, and production of goods. Though it overlaps with the Post-Classic Period in terms of time and changes in culture, the period is specific to southern Costa Rica.

Rivas[edit | edit source]

Rivas (750–1500 CE) is one of 15 Chiriquí Period archaeological sites[17] within the Buenavista River and Chirripó Pacífico River valley. The Rivas site features residential areas with river cobbles assembled in circular patterns accompanied by rectangular patios and two cemeteries within the site’s burial area. The presence of two cemeteries, as opposed to one, may indicate a distinction in social status between those buried in one or the other.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Architectural features: paths, causeways, plazas, and stairways
  • Lithics: chipped stone tools, manos, metates, an adze, and eight celts
  • Over 600,000 pottery shards
  • Clay figurines and ceramic musical instruments

Sources on Rivas[edit | edit source]

Quilter, Jeffrey (2004). Cobble Circles and Standing Stones: Archaeology at the Rivas Site, Costa Rica. University of Iowa Press.

Quilter, Jeffrey, and Vargas, Aida Blanco (1995). “Monumental Architecture and Social Organization at the Rivas Site, Costa Rica.” Journal of Field Archaeology. Vol. 22, Issue 2, pp. 203–221.

Lomas Entierros and Pozo Azul[edit | edit source]

Two major pre-Columbian regional centers and key players in interregional trade were Lomas Entierros (800–1200 CE) and Pozo Azul (900–1500 CE).

Lomas Entierros[edit | edit source]

Lomas Entierros is located along the Tárcoles River in a remote and forested area. It was built atop a hill named Lomas Carara, a strategic location for overseeing surrounding land and river transit. The site was integral to interregional exchange and warfare, located along routes leading to pottery artisans in the Greater Nicoya region. Despite its past importance, few investigations have been conducted in the area besides the Lomas Entierros Archaeological Project (LEAP) as of this writing. Lomas Entierros features some of the same early monumentality in Costa Rica as other sites such as Guayabo. Monumental features include earthen mounds, cobblestone causeways, an open plaza, and entrances with ramps and staircases.

Sources on Lomas Entierros[edit | edit source]

Chase, Arlen, et al. (2012). “Geospatial Revolution and Remote Sensing LiDAR in Mesoamerican Archaeology.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vol. 109, No. 32, pp. 12,916–12,921.

Núñez Cortés, Yahaira (2020). “Intercambio interregional y configuración arquitectónica en Lomas Entierros, Pacífico Central de Costa Rica.” Vínculos. Vol. 40, No. 1–2, pp. 35–66.

Núñez-Cortés, Yajaira, and Ruiz-Cubillo, Paulo (2022). “Up the Hill and Under the Canopy: Lidar Applications for Assessing Issues of Monumentality and Socioeconomic Status in Lomas Entierros, Costa Rica.” Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. Vol. 45.

Pozo Azul[edit | edit source]

Pozo Azul is located 15 kilometers from the coastlines of the Candelaria and Pirris rivers. The site contains architecture found in other regions further to the south and features that allowed for the passage of goods and people.[18]

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Polychrome ceramics from the Nicoya peninsula
  • Stockade walls for reinforcement
Sources on Pozo Azul[edit | edit source]

Corrales-Ulloa, Francisco (1992). “Investigaciones Arqueológicos en el Pacífico Central de Costa Rica.” Vinculos. Vol. 16, pp. 1–29.

Rojas, Eugenia Ibarra, and González, Silvia Salgado (2009–2010). “Áreas culturales o regiones históricas en la explicación de relaciones sociales de pueblos indígenas de Nicaragua y Costa Rica de los siglos XV y XVI.” Anuario de Estudios Centroamericanos. Vol. 35/36, pp. 37–60.

The Boruca[edit | edit source]

The Boruca people originally inhabited the area of modern Buenos Aires, Costa Rica, with numerous pre-Columbian settlements in the south Pacific Central Valley of Costa Rica. Evidence has shown that habitation in the Central and south Pacific Central Valley started as far back as 1500 BCE; communities shifted to chiefdoms led by religious leaders around 300 BCE. At this time, there was an influx of specialized artisans, stronger territorial divisions, and stronger exchange networks. The culture of the Boruca Indigenous group revolves around faith, craftsmanship, and community. They built dugout canoes, raised animals and crops, and created purple dye from the murex seasnail. After surviving Spanish conquistadors and conflict between other native tribes, today, they reside in the Boruca Indigenous Reserve (Reserva Indigena Boruca).

A photo from the Fiesta de los Diablitos, an ongoing traditional festivity in the Boruca culture.

Sources on the Boruca[edit | edit source]

BorucaCostaRica.org: History and traditions of the Boruca community.

The Tico Times: Article on the Boruca identity.

Stone, Doris (1975). The Boruca of Costa Rica. Kraus Reprint Company (originally published by the University of Texas Press).

Wauchope, Robert, Ekholm, Gordon F., and Willey, Gordon R. (1966). Handbook of Middle American Indians, Volume 4: Archaeological Frontiers and External Connections. University of Texas Press.

Additional Media on the Boruca[edit | edit source]

Documentary short about the Cagrúv Rójc ceremony of the Boruca people of Costa Rica, on YouTube.

Retes[edit | edit source]

Retes (800–1500 CE) was discovered by accident by farm workers at the Irazú volcano; investigations since the site’s discovery have recovered over 175 artifacts. Over a dozen artifacts previously looted from the site have also been recovered and placed in the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Various lithic and organic remains
  • Drums and wooden sticks
  • Cotton fabric
  • Ceremonial grinding stone with engravings and no signs of use
  • Wooden object with anthropomorphic engravings

Sources on Retes[edit | edit source]

The Tico Times: Costa Rica’s Retes Archaeological Site.

Alvarado, Guillermo E., and Soto, Gerardo J. (2008). “Volcanoes in the Pre-Columbian Life, Legend, and Archaeology of Costa Rica (Central America).” Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. Vol. 176, Issue 3, pp. 356–362.

Stone, Doris, and Balser, Carlos (1957). “Grinding Stones and Mullers of Costa Rica.” Journal de la Société des Américanistes. Vol. 46, pp. 165–179.

Vargas, Giselle Chang (2007). “Transformations of Wood in Costa Rican Artisan Traditions.” Anthropology of Work Review. Vol. 28, Issue 2, pp. 13–17.

Guanacaste Ceramic Complexes[edit | edit source]

The Guanacaste Polychrome Ceramic School II (800–1520 CE) and Middle Tempisque Ceramic School (800–1520 CE) were two ceramic complexes in the Greater Nicoya area. In 800 CE, polychrome pottery and serpent/feathered serpent imagery became popular in the area. Ceramic artifacts from the area stand out with their inclusion of red, orange, and black pigments along with white and cream slip layers. Forms included vessels shaped as anthropomorphic or zoomorphic figures and utilitarian wares: bowls, cups, and plates.

Pataky pottery. Museo del Jade. Costa Rica

Sources on Guanacaste Ceramic Complexes[edit | edit source]

Kroezen, Andreia H.T. (2012). “Polychrome Ceramics From the Northern Gran Nicoya Area, Nicaragua.” Thesis (BA), Leiden University.

Ménager, Matthieu, Esquivel, Patricia Fernandez, and Conejo, Paula Sibaja (2021). “The Use of FT-IR Spectroscopy and SEM/EDS Characterization of Slips and Pigments to Determine the Provenances of Archaeological Ceramics: The Case of Guanacaste Ceramics (Costa Rica).” Microchemical Journal. Vol. 162.

Steinbrenner, Larry, Geurds, Alexander, McCafferty, Geoffrey G., and Salgado, Silvia (2021). The Archaeology of Greater Nicoya: Two Decades of Research in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. University Press of Colorado.

Anita Grande/Parasal[edit | edit source]

Anita Grande (also known as Parasal) is another major pre-Columbian city center thought to have had chief authority and political importance. It was located near the east bank of the Jiménez River. Ceramic analysis places monument construction at the site at 950–1250 CE, though evidence suggests occupation started earlier. The site features a mound with over 50 graves, some containing goods such as pottery vessels, incense burners, and lithic tools. The city had three entrances: the northwest entrance gives way to a cobbled pavement, the southeast entrance connects to a road, and the third entrance opens to a ramp and basement.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Ceramic assemblage
  • Stone objects, e.g., stools, carved figures, metates
  • Two gold eagle effigies
  • Sacrificial slab

Sources on Anita Grande/Parasal[edit | edit source]

Snead, James E., Erickson, Clark L., and Darling, J. Andrew (eds.) (2011). Landscapes of Movement: Trails, Paths, and Roads in Anthropological Perspective. Vol. 1. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Skinner, Alanson (1926). “Notes on Las Mercedes, Costa Rica Farm, and Anita Grande.” From S.K. Lothrop (ed.), The Pottery of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Museum of the American Indian. Vol. 2, pp. 451–467.

Vázquez Leiva, Ricardo, Rosenswig, Robert, Brenes, José, Alfaro, Iván, and Ramírez, María (2022). “Derivative Development in the Chiefly Architecture of Línea Vieja: Two Neighboring Complexes of the Anita Grande Archaeological Site, Central Caribbean of Costa Rica.” Cuadernos de Antropología. Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 1–44.

Murcielago[edit | edit source]

Murcielago (1000–1500 CE) is one of the only sites in the Central American isthmus with well-preserved structures associated with refuse pits. The site has five residential sectors, and each sector contains two to three circular home foundations made of river cobblestones.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Ceramic assemblage: 5 percent coarse pottery shards likely used for kitchen purposes, 25 percent fine wares used for table settings
  • Bone remains from food
  • Burnt pebbles suggest the use of smaller and shallower pits as hearths
  • Organic remains: carbonized plant material and pollen
  • Lithic objects: manos, choppers, axes, flakes, and beads

Sources on Murcielago[edit | edit source]

De La Cruz, Ellen Ivonne (1986). “Use of Space and Patterns of Refuse Disposal at the Village Site of Murcielago, Costa Rica.” Dissertation (PhD), the University of Arizona.

El Cristo[edit | edit source]

El Cristo (1100–1300 CE) is a site in the central region of Costa Rica. The cemetery here is the only cemetery from the Post-Classic Period that has been excavated in its entirety. During this general period, cemeteries were often reused and contained the remains of multiple individuals.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • 116 rectangular stone cist tombs
  • Funerary objects: e.g., ceramic ax, copper bell with a crystal quartz slapper, and gold objects

Sources on El Cristo[edit | edit source]

Snarskis, Michael J. (2003). “From Jade to Gold in Costa Rica: How, Why, and When.” From Quilter, Jeffrey, and Hoopes, John W. (eds.), Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia. Dumbarton Oaks. Pp. 159–204.

La Cabaña[edit | edit source]

La Cabaña (1100–1300 CE) is the site of a major city center, featuring two prominent mounds, Mounds I and II, and imported ceramic objects. Mound I was the central mound and probable focus of the community, containing five times the amount of decorated pottery than Mound II. Stairways from the mounds lead to a quadrangular plaza surrounded by a cobble enclosure.

Artifacts and findings include:

  • Ground stone objects
  • Macehead
  • House platforms/foundations

Sources on La Cabaña[edit | edit source]

Snarskis, Michael J., Herra, Carlos Enrique (1980). “La Cabaña: arquitectura mesoamericana en el bosque tropical.” Comision Organizadora del Congreso.

Major Museums of Costa Rica[edit | edit source]

Museo Nacional de Costa Rica (National Museum of Costa Rica)[edit | edit source]

Museo Nacional de Costa Rica.

The Museo Nacional de Costa Rica (National Museum of Costa Rica) originally started with donations from the Guayabo National Monument and holds many treasures from Costa Rican history today, including pre-Columbian ceramics and gold, a selection of Diquís stone spheres, and objects from the Spanish colonial period.

Stone metates in the Museo Nacional.

Archaeological Site Connections:

  • Finca Guardiria
  • Guayabo National Monument
  • The Maleku Indigenous Reserve
  • Retes
  • Stone spheres of the Diquís

Museo del Jade (Museum of Jade)[edit | edit source]

Museo del Jade in San José.
Olmec jade from Costa Rica. Museo del Jade

Museo del Jade contains the world’s largest collection of American jade. Other notables include the stone spheres of the Diquís, gold objects, jade artifacts from the Nicoya region, ceramic vessels, and stone figures.

Archaeological Site Connections:

  • Diquís Delta
  • Stone spheres of the Diquís

Museos del Banco Central (Museums of the Central Bank of Costa Rica)[edit | edit source]

Dioramas at the Museo de Oro Precolombino del Banco Central.
Gold pendant with eagle features at the Museo del Oro Precolombino del Banco Central.

The Museos del Banco Central (Museums of the Central Bank of Costa Rica) is a museum complex with exhibits focusing on visual arts and numismatics, the collection and study of currency, and the history of Costa Rican pre-Columbian Gold (Museo del Oro Precolombino). The Museo del Oro Precolombino takes visitors on a journey through Costa Rican pre-Columbian history through nine thematic units. Unit topics include populating the American continent, metallurgy, daily life in pre-Columbian Costa Rica, and the relationship between people and nature in the region.

Museo de Ciencias Naturales de La Salle[edit | edit source]

The Museo de Ciencias Naturales de La Salle has been recognized as one of the most complete and comprehensive museums of natural history in Latin America. The museum’s collections cover ornithology, entomology, malacology, mammalogy, geology, paleontology, fish and reptiles, and more.

Regional Museums in Costa Rica[edit | edit source]

Museo de Culturas Indígenas Dra. María Eugenia Bozzoli (Rainforest Museum of Indigenous Cultures)[edit | edit source]

Museo de Culturas Indígenas Dra. María Eugenia Bozzoli (Rainforest Museum of Indigenous Cultures), located in the city of Sarapiquí, is the largest museum of Indigenous pre-Hispanic history and forest ecology in Costa Rica. The museum emphasizes the link between man and nature and houses many masks, jicara cups, paints, and other artifacts relating to shamanism. It is named after Dr. María Eugenia Bozzoli, Costa Rica’s first female anthropologist.

El Museo Regional Omar Salazar Obando (Omar Salazar Obando Regional Museum)[edit | edit source]

El Museo Regional Omar Salazar Obando (the Omar Salazar Obando Regional Museum, located in the Cartago Province, preserves and showcases the Indigenous origins of the Turrialba region through archaeological artifacts, including lithics, ceramics, and tools such as scrapers, burins, and knives.

Archaeological Site Connections:

  • Turrialba valley (Finca Guardiria, Florencia, and Atirro)
  • Guayabo National Monument

Museo Nacional de Cacao (Cacao Museum)[edit | edit source]

At the Museo Nacional de Cacao (Cacao Museum), you can tour the “Cacao Trails” park and learn more about the history of cacao cultivation in Costa Rica, a practice that dates back to Indigenous Costa Rican inhabitants. The museum can be found on Hone Creek.

Growing cacao pods in Costa Rica.

Museo Comunitario de Boruca (Indigenous Boruca Community Museum)[edit | edit source]

The Museo Comunitario de Boruca (Indigenous Boruca Community Museum) is a ranch-style museum built to demonstrate and commemorate the ancestral architecture and traditional crafts of the Boruca Indigenous group.

Ecomuseo de la Cerámica Chorotega (Chorotega Ceramic Ecomuseum)[edit | edit source]

The Ecomuseo de la Cerámica Chorotega (Chorotega Ceramic Ecomuseum) strongly focuses on ceramic production by the Chorotega Indigenous community of the San Vicente region. The museum offers a history of local ceramic production, an excursion to areas where clay was/is sourced, and a demonstration of ceramic vessel production. When traveling from Santa Cruz, reach the museum 14 kilometers northwest of the crossing to Santa Barbara.

Museo de San Ramón (San Ramon Regional Museum)[edit | edit source]

The San Ramón Regional Museum, run by the University of San Ramón, aims to strengthen local identity through the conservation, dissemination, and study of San Ramón history and culture. The museum contains some pre-Columbian artifacts found in and around San Ramón.

Museo Histórico Cultural Juan Santamaria[edit | edit source]

The Museo Histórico Cultural Juan Santamaria, located in the city of Alajuela, houses collections of art and ethnography, including 7,000 pre-Columbian objects manufactured from jade, ceramics, stone, and other materials.

San José de Orosi’s Religious Art Museum and Museum of Native Cultures[edit | edit source]

San José de Orosi’s Religious Art Museum and Museum of Native Cultures, located next to the Orosi Church in Paraíso, Cartago, houses paintings, religious objects, and colonial artifacts. The Franciscan monastery itself dates back to 1743.

Sea Turtle Conservancy Museum[edit | edit source]

The Sea Turtle Conservancy Museum provides the opportunity to learn more about the different species of sea turtles that visit the beaches of Tortuguero National Park. The Sea Turtle Conservancy Museum, also located on a Tortuguero park beach, is accessible only by boat and requires an advance trip organized through the museum.

National Parks and Reserves in Costa Rica[edit | edit source]

The collared arcari, a bird in the toucan family native to Mesoamerica and South America.

While Costa Rica encompasses only around “0.1 percent of the world’s landmass, it contains 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity” and is renowned for its rich and diverse ecology. Its range of ecosystems includes coastal marine environments and mangroves, tropical rainforests, dry forests, cloud forests, wetlands, and many more microecosystems. Despite its small size, Costa Rica is a global leader in conservation efforts and practices. The following is a list of national parks, biological reserves, and protected areas located in Costa Rica, almost all of which are open to visitors.

Media on Costa Rica and Its Biodiversity[edit | edit source]

Watch “Untamed: Costa Rica,” a project and documentary series created by wildlife filmmaker Filipe DeAndrade, on National Geographic.

Watch the documentary “Costa Rica - Biodiversity in Its Most Beautiful Form” on YouTube.

Watch the documentary “Wild Costa Rica: Elusive Creatures and Unexplored Jungles” on YouTube.

Humedal Nacional Cariari (Cariari National Wetlands)[edit | edit source]

The Cariari wetlands protect a portion of the mangroves and marine life on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. The area remains one of the last refuges for endangered species like the manatee.

Traveling to Cariari National Wetlands[edit | edit source]

EnterCostaRica.com: Additional information and travel considerations.

Tripadvisor: Cariari Tour offers in Puerta Limon.

Parque Internacional de la Amistad (La Amistad International Park)[edit | edit source]

La Amistad International Park protects forests and wildlife in Panama and Costa Rica, with many trails and views. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of the largest reserves in Central America. The park consists of over 400,000 hectares of intact Talamancan montane forests.

Traveling to La Amistad International Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your trip.

Costa Rica Guide: Additional information, directions, and travel planning services.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Additional Media on La Amistad International Park[edit | edit source]

Watch a wildlife documentary by Travel and Discover on YouTube.

Watch “La Amistad International Park: The Friendship Place” by SLICE on YouTube.

Parque Nacional Barbilla (Barbilla National Park)[edit | edit source]

The Barbilla National Park protects Costa Rica’s tropical lowland rainforests and offers rugged trails for avid hikers.

Traveling to Barbilla National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your trip.

GoVisitCostaRica.com: Additional information and nearby lodging.

Costa Rica Guide: Additional information and travel planning services.

Parque Nacional Barra Honda (Barra Honda National Park)[edit | edit source]

The Barra Honda National Park is best known for its 19 limestone cave formations, which are the only such caverns in Costa Rica.

Traveling to Barra Honda National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your trip.

VisitCostaRica.com: Additional information about the refuge and travel plans.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo (Braulio Carrillo National Park)[edit | edit source]

A view of the canopy in Braulio Carillo National Park.

Braulio Carrillo National Park is one of the largest protected areas and has one of the steepest topographies in Costa Rica.

Traveling to Braulio Carrillo National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your trip.

VisitCostaRica.com: Additional information about the park and travel plans.

Costa Rica Guide: Additional information and travel planning services.

Parque Nacional Cahuita (Cahuita National Park)[edit | edit source]

The plumed basilisk, an inhabitant of the Cahuita National Park.

Cahuita National Park is unique for its shared management between the government and the community level and is best known for its coral reefs. Here, you can explore nearby forests by hiking trails.

Traveling to Cahuita National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your trip.

Costa Rica Guide: Additional information, best times to visit, and travel planning services.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Parque Nacional Carara (Carara National Park)[edit | edit source]

A view of Carara National Park, Costa Rica.

Carara National Park gains its name from the Hüetar Indigenous language and means “river of lizards.” The park is especially biodiverse and is one of the best locations in Costa Rica for birdwatching.

Traveling to Carara National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your trip.

AllTrails: Search the best trails in Carara National Park.

Additional Media on Carara National Park[edit | edit source]

Watch a short clip highlighting the park’s wildlife on YouTube.

Parque Nacional Chirripó (Chirripó National Park)[edit | edit source]

Lagos del Chirripo (Lakes of Chirripó) in Costa Rica.

The Chirripó National Park offers several walking and hiking trails through one of the most rugged and remote parks in Costa Rica. The park spans multiple ecological zones, which visitors can experience by foot or by horse.

Traveling to Chirripó National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your trip.

Costa Rica Guide: Additional information and travel planning services.

Parque Nacional Corcovado (Corcovado National Park)[edit | edit source]

Corcovado National Park is home to 2.5 percent of the world’s biodiversity; the destination is thought to be the backpacking trip of a lifetime. Located within the Isthmian-Pacific moist forests, it is the largest park in the surrounding area, as many of the forested areas have been converted for coffee and palm wine cultivation.

Traveling to Corcovado National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your trip.

Costa Rica Guide: Additional information, directions, and travel planning services.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Additional Media on Corcovado National Park[edit | edit source]

A short nature film from Wild Travels Demystified, “Costa Rica: Corcovado National Park,” is available on YouTube.

Watch the short film “Corcovado: The Most Biodiverse Place on the Planet” on YouTube.

Parque Nacional Diriá (Diriá National Park)[edit | edit source]

Diriá National Park spans over 3,000 acres and is home to numerous mammals, reptiles, and birds, along with many unique and rare plant species, such as strawberry and guanacaste trees.

Traveling to Diriá National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your trip.

VisitCostaRica.com: Directions and additional trip information.

AllTrails: Find the best trails in Diriá National Park.

Parque Nacional Guanacaste (Guanacaste National Park)[edit | edit source]

Guanacaste National Park was created to provide habitats for species with wide ranges, such as jaguars and mountain lions. The park spans several microhabitats and diverse landscapes, and it has much to offer for nature enthusiasts. It is also a major stop for migrating species, including birds and insects. Hiking is the park’s main attraction, though visitors and park officials advise others to not go alone due to the park’s high population of large cats.

Traveling to Guanacaste National Park[edit | edit source]

Costa Rica Guide: Additional information and travel planning services.

EnterCostaRica.com: Additional information, packing list, and nearby destinations.

AllTrails: Information on two popular hiking trails.

Additional Media on Guanacaste National Park[edit | edit source]

Watch a short documentary on the Guanacaste Conservation Area by Travel and Discover on YouTube.

Parque Nacional Isla del Coco (Cocos Island National Park)[edit | edit source]

Cloud forest entrance on Cocos Island.
A man boating in the Bahía Chatham bay on Cocos Island.

Cocos Island, a popular spot for biologists and adventurers alike, lies in the central-eastern Pacific Ocean and was formed by a submarine volcano from the Cocos tectonic plate. Previous attempts to settle onto the island were unsuccessful, and the area has remained relatively untouched. It has since been declared a national park and biological reserve by Costa Rica’s government, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar). The only island in the eastern Pacific with a very moist, tropical climate overall, Cocos Island has many microclimates and ecological niches. Though biodiversity is low, it has relatively high endemism or the proportion of species native to the island.

Traveling to Cocos Island National Park[edit | edit source]

Anywhere Costa Rica: Additional information, photographs, and travel assistance.

EnterCostaRica.com: Additional park and travel information.

VisitCostaRica.com: Directions from San José and trip planning.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Additional Media on Cocos Island National Park[edit | edit source]

A full documentary on Cocos Island, “Cocos Island - The Mysterious Island in the Pacific,” is available on YouTube.

Take a glimpse of underwater footage of Cocos Island sharks on the BBC.

Watch “Cocos Island - Mysterious Wonder of the Pacific Ocean” on YouTube.

Watch an episode of “Mysteries of the Deep” about Cocos Island on Tubi.

Parque Nacional Isla San Lucas (San Lucas Island National Park)[edit | edit source]

The San Lucas Island National Park was once a famous prison island, similar to Alcatraz in the United States. The island was designated as an agricultural penal colony in 1958 and later, in 2002, became a wildlife refuge and national park. The park draws many visitors due to its scenic views and history.

Traveling to San Lucas Island National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your visit.

EnterCostaRica.com: Additional park and travel information.

VisitCostaRica.com: Additional information about the park and planning your trip.

Parque Nacional Juan Castro Blanco (Juan Castro Blanco National Park)[edit | edit source]

Known as the “park of the waters” due to the five rivers originating within its boundaries, the Juan Castro Blanco National Park spans several ecosystem types and is home to a great diversity of flora and fauna.

Traveling to Juan Castro Blanco National Park[edit | edit source]

Costa Rica Guide: Additional information and travel planning services.

VisitCostaRica.com: Additional information about the park and planning your trip.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Parque Nacional La Cangreja (La Cangreja National Park)[edit | edit source]

La Cangreja National Park gains its name from the unique shape of a mountain that is thought to resemble a crab with pincers beside its body. According to Huetar legend, a giant crab sought refuge in the rocks between two mountains during conflict with a chief, becoming a stone formation that resembles a crab with its claws blocking the trail.

Traveling to La Cangreja National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your visit.

Costa Rica Guide: Additional information on wildlife, hiking, and travel planning.

VisitCostaRica.com: Additional information on the park and travel plans.

Parque Nacional Los Quetzales (Los Quetzales National Park)[edit | edit source]

The Los Quetzales National Park harbors a large number of plants and animals that are endemic or native to the region. The variation in canopy height makes it a comfortable home for a diverse group of fauna and a particularly special area for birdwatching.

Los Quetzales National Park is surrounded by a protected forest area, the Los Santos Forest Reserve (Reserva Forestal Los Santos), one of the most biologically diverse spots in Costa Rica.

Traveling to Los Quetzales National Park[edit | edit source]

An aerial view of Parque Nacional Los Quetzales.

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your visit.

VisitCostaRica.com: Additional park information and travel planning.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio (Manuel Antonio National Park)[edit | edit source]

The Manuel Antonio National Park boasts a beautiful beachfront with many available activities and a monkey-filled forest nearby. From wading to walking, the park has something to offer for each visitor.

Traveling to Manuel Antonio National Park[edit | edit source]

Manuel Antonio Park: Official park website for information and tours.

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your visit.

Costa Rica Guide: Additional information on wildlife, hikes, and travel logistics.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Parque Nacional Marino Ballena (Ballena Marine National Park)[edit | edit source]

A beach view at the Parque Marino Las Baulas.

The Ballena Marine National Park is a popular stop for people and marine mammals alike. Two whale migrations occur annually; one is from July to November, and the other is from December to April.

Traveling to Mario Ballena National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your visit.

VisitCostaRica.com: Additional information on the park and travel planning.

Costa Rica Guide: Additional information on wildlife and the best times to visit.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas (Las Baulas Marine National Park)[edit | edit source]

Nestled in Tamarindo Bay, the Las Baulas Marine National Park protects the leatherback turtles and mangrove forests in the local estuary. As one of Costa Rica’s most important nesting grounds for sea turtles, the endangered leatherback turtle comes here every year to nest on the park beach.

Traveling to Las Baulas Marine National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your trip.

GoVisitCostaRica.com: Additional information and lodging near Las Baulas Marine National Park.

Costa Rica Guide: Additional information and history, travel planning services.

VisitCostaRica.com: Additional park information and travel planning.

Parque Nacional Miravalles Jorge Manuel Dengo (Miravalles Jorge Manuel Dengo National Park)[edit | edit source]

The Miravalles Jorge Manuel Dengo National Park and nature reserve was created by the former Costa Rican president Carlos Alvarado Quesada to incorporate the Miravalles volcano into a protected ecological zone and to commemorate World Environment Day on June 5, 2019. The area has great potential for research and offers a few hiking trails.

Traveling to Miravalles Jorge Manuel Dengo National Park[edit | edit source]

VisitCostaRica.com: Additional park information.

Global National Parks: Additional information on the flora and fauna, activities, conservation efforts, and environmental programs of the park.

AllTrails: Features a public hike near the Bijagua waterfall at the park.

Parque Nacional Palo Verde (Palo Verde National Park)[edit | edit source]

The Palo Verde National Park is an especially diverse location in Costa Rica.The Palo Verde wetlands make up 50 percent of the total park area and are home to thousands of aquatic birds—the largest waterfowl population in Central America. The park also protects the local mangroves and many endangered species.

Traveling to Palo Verde National Park[edit | edit source]

Costa Rica Guide: Additional information, best times to visit, and travel planning services.

VisitCostaRica.com: Additional park information and travel assistance.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Parque Nacional Piedras Blancas (Piedras Blancas National Park)[edit | edit source]

The Piedras Blancas National Park protects the Dulce Gulf beaches, bays, and lowland tropical rainforests that harbor a mixture of plants and animals native to both North and South America.

Traveling to Piedras Blancas National Park[edit | edit source]

GoVisitCostaRica.com: Additional information on the park’s history and wildlife, as well as directions.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

AllTrails: Featured trails in the park’s area.

Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja (Rincón de la Vieja National Park)[edit | edit source]

Approximately 15 miles northeast of Liberia, Costa Rica, is the Rincón de la Vieja National Park. The park has numerous streams and two volcanoes, one of which is the Rincón de la Vieja volcano. This volcano has been active since 1960, and the park trails close depending on changes in volcanic activity. At most other times, the trail to the center of the volcano is accessible.

Traveling to Rincón de la Vieja National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page for additional information and to plan your visit.

Costa Rica Guide: Additional information on the park, the best times to visit, geological features, and more.

GoVisitCostaRica.com: Additional park information and nearby lodging.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Parque Nacional Santa Rosa (Santa Rosa National Park)[edit | edit source]

Santa Rosa National Park protects some of Costa Rica's last tropical dry forests. It is the only Protected Wilderness Area with a historical museum that commemorates a battle fought in 1856. The park also contains some of Costa Rica’s most ancient lands.

Traveling to Santa Rosa National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your visit.

Costa Rica Guide: Additional information about the park and activities, as well as travel planning services.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Parque Nacional Tapantí Macizo de la Muerte (Tapantí Macizo de la Muerte National Park)[edit | edit source]

One of the rainiest spots in the country, Tapantí Macizo de la Muerte National Park protects regions of swamps, peat bogs, moorlands, and their animal inhabitants.

Traveling to Tapantí National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your visit.

The Tico Times: A guide to Tapantí National Park.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Parque Nacional Tortuguero (Tortuguero National Park)[edit | edit source]

The Black Wood Turtle (Rhinoclemmys funerea), an inhabitant of Tortuguero.
An aerial view of Tortuguero.

Access to the Tortuguero National Park is only available by boat to ensure complete conservation of turtle nesting areas. The most important nesting area for green turtles in the Western Hemisphere, Tortuguero is one of the main destinations for ecotourism. The Sea Turtle Conservancy Museum is housed on one of Tortuguero’s beaches and is only accessible by boat to conserve nesting sites for turtles. The turtle species that visit these beaches are the green, leatherback, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles. Tortuguero is also home to one of the largest populations of large feline species in Costa Rica, including jaguars and pumas.

Traveling to Tortuguero National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page for more information and to plan your visit.

Costa Rica Guide: Additional information about the park and when to visit.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal (Arenal Volcano National Park)[edit | edit source]

Catch a glimpse of lava flows from Costa Rica’s most active volcano, the Arenal volcano, and enjoy the biological and geologic diversity of the park within the area. The Arenal Volcano National Park closes when volcanic activity is deemed potentially unsafe, and the surrounding trails are safe to access when open.

Traveling to Arenal Volcano National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your trip.

Arenal.net: Additional information and tour options.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Parque Nacional Volcán Irazú (Irazú Volcano National Park)[edit | edit source]

A view of the Irazú volcano crater.
A view of the Irazú volcano crater.

In the Irazú Volcano National Park lies the highest volcano in Costa Rica, Irazú volcano. Its name means “thunder and earthquake mountain,” but visiting the volcano is more breathtaking than ominous, as both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans can be seen from the top on a clear day. Only 30 kilometers from the city of Cartago, the park is easily accessible and worth the trip to its craters.

Traveling to Irazú Volcano National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your trip.

GoVisitCostaRica.com: Additional travel information and nearby lodging.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Parque Nacional Volcán Poás (Poás Volcano National Park)[edit | edit source]

A view of the Poás volcano crater.

Poás volcano has one of the largest craters in the world and is situated within the Central Mountain Range forested area. The hiking and walking trails there, such as the Botos Lagoon trail, provide beautiful views. The park closes when there is volcanic activity, but it is safe to visit when open.

Traveling to Poás Volcano National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page for additional information and to plan your visit.

Costa Rica Guide: Additional park information, the best times to visit, and travel planning services.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Additional Media on Poás Volcano National Park[edit | edit source]

Watch a short video of a Poás volcano visit on YouTube.

Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio (Tenorio Volcano National Park)[edit | edit source]

A view of the Tenorio volcano from afar.

The Tenorio Volcano National Park is notable among Costa Rican parks for its views. Visible through the park is the Tenorio volcano, which has four cones and offers views from the Pacific to the Caribbean plains, the Celeste waterfall, and waters naturally tinted a turquoise hue.

Traveling to Tenorio Volcano National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your visit.

Costa Rica Guide: Additional park information and photographs.

VisitCostaRica.com: Additional park information and trip resources.

Parque Nacional Volcán Turrialba (Turrialba Volcano National Park)[edit | edit source]

Turrialba Volcano National Park is not as developed for tourist activities as other Costa Rican parks, but it offers very beautiful sights and a chance to explore the peak of the Turrialba volcano.

Traveling to Turrialba Volcano National Park[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page for more information and to plan your visit.

GoVisitCostaRica.com: Additional information and nearby lodging.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Refugio de Vida Silvestre Caño Negro (Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge)[edit | edit source]

A view of the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge.
Sloth in Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica

Thousands of migratory birds visit the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge during certain parts of the year. Though the reserve is only accessible by boat, it is worth a visit for its extreme diversity of plants and animals.

Traveling to the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your trip.

EnterCostaRica.com: Learn more about the reserve and travel considerations.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Additional Media on Caño Negro Wildlife Reserve[edit | edit source]

Watch a short video on the reserve’s remote wetlands, “Caño Negro, the Undiscovered Beauty of Costa Rica,” on YouTube.

Watch a short video from the Hotel de Campo Caño Negro with aerial shots and bird footage on YouTube.

Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Barra del Colorado (Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge)[edit | edit source]

The Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge attracts many visitors for both shallow and deep-sea fishing and is a great choice for boat excursions, as many areas of the refuge are inaccessible by foot. As a mosaic of ecosystems such as swamps, rainforests, and coral reefs, the refuge supports a diverse array of animals and mammals, from apex predators to primates. The area experiences heavy rainfall along the ocean coastline and periodically devastating hurricanes that expedite cycles of mangrove regeneration.

Traveling to Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your trip.

GoVisitCostaRica.com: Additional information and nearby lodging.

Costa Rica Guide: Additional information, best times to visit, and travel planning services.

Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Dr. Archie Carr (Dr. Archie Carr Wildlife Refuge)[edit | edit source]

The Dr. Archie Carr Wildlife Refuge was established to provide a protected area for sea turtles threatened by habitat destruction and rapid coastal development. Named after Dr. Archie Carr, the creator of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (now the Sea Turtle Conservancy), the refuge operates to ensure the survival of sea turtles in the Caribbean.

Traveling to the Dr. Archie Carr Wildlife Refuge[edit | edit source]

CostaRicaInfoLink.com: Additional information and directions by bus, boat, and plane.

Reserva Biológica Alberto Manuel Brenes (Alberto Manuel Brenes Biological Reserve)[edit | edit source]

Notable inhabitants of the Alberto Manuel Brenes Reserve include tapirs, jaguars, pumas, and monkeys, as well as numerous species of bats and birds. Read more on Latin America and Caribbean Geographic.

Traveling to Alberto Manuel Brenes Biological Reserve[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your trip.

Reserva Forestal Cordillera Volcánica Central (Central Volcanic Mountain Range Forest Reserve)[edit | edit source]

The Central Volcanic Mountain Range Forest Reserve, rich in natural and cultural history, overlaps with several national parks and is extremely biodiverse in flora and fauna. Learn more on the UNESCO website and at Latin America and Caribbean Geographic.

Traveling to the Central Volcanic Mountain Range Reserve[edit | edit source]

CostaRicaInfoLink.com: Additional information and directions by car.

AllTrails: Information on two popular hiking trails.

Reserva Forestal Grecia (Grecia Forest Reserve)[edit | edit source]

The Grecia Forest Reserve protects the forested buffer zone adjacent to the Poás Volcano National Park.

Traveling to Grecia Forest Reserve[edit | edit source]

SINAC.go.cr: Official national page to learn more and plan your trip.

CostaRicaInfoLink.com: Additional information on the reserve’s history, flora and fauna, and directions.

Tripadvisor: Reviews and recommended experiences.

Where Can I Enroll and Study Costa Rican Prehistory and Ecology?[edit | edit source]

To study Costa Rican prehistory and ecology, you can consider multiple options: Universities in Costa Rica, universities that offer related coursework, study abroad programs, archaeological field schools, and research institutes.

Universities in Costa Rica[edit | edit source]

University of Costa Rica (UCR)

UCR has 42 different research institutes, including the Center of Studies on Latin American Identity and Culture (CIICLA), the Institute of Linguistic Research (INIL), and the Center for Central American Historical Studies (CIHAC).

National University of Costa Rica (UNA)

UNA offers many research opportunities and has a strong life sciences department.

Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC)

EARTH University

Universities with Research on Costa Rican Prehistory[edit | edit source]

University of Calgary

University of Kansas

Study Abroad Programs and Archaeological Field Schools[edit | edit source]

Study abroad programs and archaeological field schools vary from year to year at a given school or university. Several past study abroad programs related to Costa Rican prehistory have been conducted through the following:

Institute for Field Research

Archaeological Institute of America

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Salt Lake Community College

The School for Field Studies

Research Institutes[edit | edit source]

National Museum of Costa Rica, Department of Natural History

Monteverde Institute: A non-profit organization in Monteverde, Costa Rica, established to “guide the increased tourism in a sustainable way to benefit both visitors and the local community.” The institute does so by integrating academic programs, research, and community initiatives with each other.

Organization for Tropical Studies

Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center

Sea Turtle Conservancy

Tirimbina Rainforest

CATIE Solutions for Inclusive Green Development

Southern Nazarene University, Quetzal Education Research Center

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  2. Hoopes, John (1994). “The Tronadora Complex: Early Formative Ceramics in Northwestern Costa Rica.” Latin American Antiquity. Vol. 5, No. 3.

  3. Horn, Sally P., and Kennedy, Lisa M. (2001). “Pollen Evidence of Maize Cultivation 2700 B.P. at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica.” Biotropica. Vol. 33, No. 1, pp. 191–196.
  4. Tico Travel. “Preserving Ancient Traditions: The Maleku People of Costa Rica.”
  5. ILAM. Patrimonio. Monumento Nacional de Guayabo.
  6. Mora-Marín, David, Reents-Budet, Dorie, and Fields, Virginia; edited by Patton, Margaret, and Manion, Jessica (2013). Trading Spaces: The Archaeology of Interaction, Migration, and Exchange. Chacmool Archaeology Association, University of Calgary.
  7. Villalobos, Anayensy Herrera, and Del Vecchio, Felipe Solís (2013). “Procesos de trabajo lítico en el sitio Manzanillo durante la Fase Orso de la Bahía de Culebra.” Cuadernos de Antropología.
  8. Museo Nacional de Costa Rica, https://www.museocostarica.go.cr/gmedia/panal-carbonizado-jpg/.

  9. Núñez Azofeifa, M.C. (2023) “Prácticas funerarias en el sitio La Pesa Vieja (C-423 LPV) y su relación con la organización social en la fase Curridabat (300 dc al 800 dc).” Master’s Thesis, Universidad de Costa Rica.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Rodríguez-Arce, José, and Cerdas, Marco (2019). “Ritual consumption of psychoactive fungi and plants in ancestral Costa Rica.” Journal of Psychedelic Studies. Vol. 3, pp. 1–19.
  11. Snarskis, Michael J. (2003). “From Jade to Gold in Costa Rica: How, Why, and When.” From Quilter, Jeffrey, and Hoopes, John W. (eds.), Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia. Dumbarton Oaks. Pp. 71.
  12. Bond, Jeannette C. (2008). “A Ceramic Analysis at Sitio Drago, Bocas del Toro, Panamá.” Dissertation (PhD), California State University.
  13. Fonseca, Oscar Zamora, and Richardson III, James B. (1978). “South American and Mayan Cultural Contacts at the Las Huacas Site, Costa Rica.” Annals of Carnegie Museum. Vol. 47, No. 12, pp. 281–298.
  14. Jones, J. (ed.), with Guerrero M., Juan Vicente, Graham, Mark Miller, Snarskis, Michael J., and Méndez, Zulay Soto (1998). Jade in Ancient Costa Rica. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  15. Villalobos, Anayensy Herrera, and Del Vecchio, Filipe Solís (2017). “Nuevos Fechamientos Radiométricos en un Sitio con la Asociación Jade-Oro en el Noroeste de Costa Rica.” Vinculos. Vol. 40, Issues 1–2, pp. 161–170.

  16. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, U.S.

  17. Quilter, Jeffrey (2004). Cobble Circles and Standing Stones: Archaeology at the Rivas Site, Costa Rica. University of Iowa Press.
  18. Rojas, Eugenia Ibarra, and González, Silvia Salgado (2009–2010). “Áreas culturales o regiones históricas en la explicación de relaciones sociales de pueblos indígenas de Nicaragua y Costa Rica de los siglos XV y XVI.” Anuario de Estudios Centroamericanos. Vol. 35/36, pp. 37–60.

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