Nicoya is the main city in the Nicoya Peninsula of the Guanacaste province. It vibrates with energy that likely flows from its long history of culture, traditions, memories, dances, music, art, and spirituality. The Nicoya peninsula is also known as one of the world’s exclusive 7 Blue Zones.
The city is a hub for the Nicoya Peninsula, full of commerce and activities. Travelers to and from vacation destinations all along the Pacific Coast pass by Nicoya. They are staying at coastal resorts and vacation homes up and down the coast from Playa Hermosa to Malpaís. Located at the center of the Nicoya Peninsula, the city is like the beating heart of the peninsula.
The area was originally inhabited by native tribes, chiefly the Chorotega Indians. The legendary Chief Nicoya (Nicoa) was a highly respected and adored Chief. His tribe was large and included people who today are Costa Rican and Nicaraguan. He had a great reign and is well remembered. Besides the city, both the peninsula on the Northern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica and its gulf are named in remembrance of Chief Nicoya (Golfo de Nicoya).
It was the largest indigenous chiefdom encountered by the Spanish when they first entered northwestern Costa Rica in 1523. The Spanish colonists recognized the Chorotega tribe as prosperous with its strong sea and agricultural economy that continues today. While Nicoya was once famous for its exportation of sea pearls, today’s “pearls” are the region’s natural ecotourism sites.
Did you know that Nicoya is one of the 7 world-recognized Blue Zones? “Blue Zones” are geographic areas where people live to at least 90 and often to over 100 years of age. They have low rates of chronic disease and the people tend to live longer than anywhere else in the world. Nicoyans attribute their longevity to natural earth foods like maize and tortillas, and to their overall healthy lifestyle.
One of Nicoya city’s principal attractions is its landmark colonial church: The Parrish of San Blas. It is the oldest church in Costa Rica, dating back 500 years. It represents the first intra-cultural actions between the Chorotega tribe and the (Catholic) Spanish conquerors. Another cultural site founded by Spanish Conquistadors is the ruins of Ujarras in the Orosi Valley.
Like the local people, this historic monument is amazingly well preserved. It continues to exhibit its original crafted stone floors, arches and tall wood doors. In spite of the years and earthquake-necessitated repairs, the Spanish colonial influences are still exhibited in its architecture and furniture.
Besides being an active church, it houses a collection of historic antiques and mementos, many with religious and cultural significance. Original statues, handcrafted furniture, altar, and several of the old church bells have been conserved. This is the youngest of the bells –1837!
The Colonial San Blas Parrish sits at the head of Nicoya Central Park. Like other Costa Rican central parks (Alajuela to Zarcero), Nicoya Central Park is a perfect place to rest and watch. It is buzzing with shoppers, students, children playing, retired folks as well as tourists passing through.
At one time the Guanacaste region was an independent republic. Guanacastecos (as the people of Guanacaste are known) are proud of their independent history and free-willed referendum for annexation. Nicoya is the center of the Guanacaste Province’s celebration of its annexation to the country of Costa Rica in 1824. The addition of Guanacaste significantly increased the national population and territory. The annexed territory included three major cities: Nicoya, Santa Cruz, and Liberia. Guanacaste Day is a national holiday celebrated across the country, not only in Guanacaste. If you are in Guanacaste the last week of July, be sure to take in the festivities.
In addition to the historic church and artistic displays, Nicoya offers a pleasant environment for a leisurely excursion. In between your stunning beach, awesome surf and other exciting ecotourism adventures, Nicoya offers a lively change of pace. While the outdoor markets and exhibits offer an enticing flair of local flavor, the western-style stores and conveniences are also readily available.
Grocery stores, hotels, café-style eateries and restaurants, and cash are all accessible during a tropical adventure in this town. Looking to have a typical Guancaste breakfast or lunch with the famous Nicoya tortillas and Costa Rican drip coffee? Visit La Tortillería de Nicoya diagonally across from San Blas Parish church.
Visit Nicoya as you come or go from the vacation paradise beach towns of Nosara, Ostional, Coco, Hermosa and Tamarindo. It is also close to the Los Llanos de Cortes waterfall near Bagaces. Nicoya city is the intersection of history, traditions, commerce, and activities. Try to discover what makes Nicoya one of the world’s 7 Blue Zones.
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