The Travel Guide to the Peninsula de Nicoya, Costa Rica, with detailed Maps, Hotels and Tourist Information
Nicoya is the major town of the peninsula and the cultural center of the province of Guanacaste. It was Costa Rica's first colonial city and boasts the oldest church in Costa Rica.
The Parroquia San Blas was founded in 1644 and houses today a small museum with ancient religious artifacts. In front of the church is the lovely and well tended central park of Nicoya. With its huge old trees and children's playground it is a favorite place for meeting and relaxing in the middle of the commercial center.
The name of the town is of indian origin. Nicoya was the chief of the Chorotega indians at the time when the Spanish conquistadores arrived in Costa Rica. The indigenous heritage is still palpable in many traditions and tales of the area.
People from all surrounding areas, including the beach villages of Samara and Nosara come to Nicoya on a regular basis to do their shoppings or to deal with their legal and banking needs. The town also hosts the court and the biggest hospital of the Nicoya Peninsula.
Despite its importance, Nicoya is still a small and pleasant town. Only few buildings have more than one floor thus giving view to the verdant hills which surround the town.
A recent study states that the area around the town of Nicoya ranks among the four regions in the world where people have the highest life expectancies. The reasons might be the strong family ties, faith and healthy life style of the residents.
Nicoya offers a selection of good and reasonably priced hotels and serves as a perfect base for exploring the many natural highlights of the area:
The Barra Honda National Park is 22 km east of the town of Nicoya. You can go on a guided tour descending 60 m down an intricate cave replete with stalactites, columns and other intriguing formations.
From the Tempisque Bridge or from Puerto Humo, 25 km from Nicoya, you can make boat tours on the Rio Tempisque passing by crocodiles and colonies of water birds. The area belongs to the Palo Verde National Park, which hosts one of Central Americas largest concentration of aquatic birds.
In Rosario, 6 kms from Puerto Humo you can visit the Tempisque Safari Wildlife Refuge where you can see monkeys, birds, snakes, wildcats and other animals of the tropical dry forest.
In the charming little village of Guaitil you can watch how traditional Chorotega pottery is being crafted. The central plaza of the village is edged by many craft shops and artisan stands selling beautiful pieces with indigenous design motifs. Less known but equally interesting is the neighboring potter village of San Vicente which also sports an Eco-museum for Chorotega art.
The private wildlife reserve of El Viejo Wetlands at the Rio Tempisque across from Palo Verde National Park offers excellent bird watching on boat tours, hiking trails and a canopy tour.
South of Nicoya, in the mountains near the village of Hojancha you can make eco-tours through the forest of the Monte Alto Nature Reserve with its huge array of orchids. On your way to Hojancha you can also stop at Hacienda Matambu and make a coffee tour through the plantations. You will learn about the cultivation and processing of Costa Rican coffee beans.
From Hojancha there is a scenic alternative route Samara. It leads through the hilly Guanacaste countryside to Punta Islita, Carrillo and on to Samara. The road is little traveled and only few people live in this area.