Fun facts about Guanacaste, Costa Rica:
1. The name “Guanacaste” derives from the indigenous word “quahnacaztlan” for the Guanacaste Tree, indigenous to tropical areas of the Americas. Also known as the “Elephant Ear Tree” (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) for the shape of its dark brown seed pods, it was named the national tree of Costa Rica in August, 1959. Guanacaste trees provide excellent shade under the burning tropical sun with their wide umbrella branches.
2. Guanacaste’s name actually dates back to a real tree from the middle of the 17th century, which grew in the intersection between the roads that take you to Nicoya and Bagaces in Costa Rica, and Rivas in Nicaragua. Today, the park across from the Catholic Church of Liberia occupies the spot where the historical tree stood.
3. The first humans came to what is now Costa Rica thousands of years before Europeans arrived in the Americas. A tribe known as the Chorotegas migrated south from Mexico to Guanacaste in about 900 AD. They lived along the coast and Nicoya Peninsula. Archaeological findings show that a different people – probably who spoke a Chibchan language – lived in the interior of Guanacaste from about 10,000 BC.
4. Most of the population in Guanacaste descends from a mix of indigenous peoples and Spaniards, with a significant African influence from a large number of slaves during the Spanish colonial period.
5. During colonial times, Guanacaste was not part of Costa Rica. Inhabitants of the territory chose to annex to Costa Rica rather than Nicaragua on July 25, 1824 – still celebrated as the nationwide holiday of Guanacaste Day.
6. Guanacaste’s climate is unique in the country. Known as the “sunny side of Costa Rica”, Guanacaste receives little rain and consistent heat from November to May, resulting in its ubiquitous tropical dry forest. The region typically records less than 130 days of rainfall annually. If you are escaping northern winter, this is the time to come to Guanacaste.
7. It may be hard to imagine, but Guanacaste was once heavily forested. Its precious hardwoods were cut down to satisfy great demands for export. The result left rolling savannah grasslands and contributes greatly to the region’s sparse rainfall.
8. The largest and most active volcano in Guanacaste is Rincón de la Vieja. At 6,286 feet (1,916 meters) high and 15 kilometers (9 miles) wide, the approximately 9,000-year-old caldera is called the “Colossus of Guanacaste”. The giant bridges the Continental Divide and holds at least nine contiguous craters. Its last big eruption was in 1998. Rincón de la Vieja means “Corner of the Old Woman” after an indigenous legend about a girl whose lover was thrown into the crater by her father; she became a recluse living on the mountain, and was credited with powers of healing.
9. Historically, the main source of income in Guanacaste was cattle ranching of Brahman cattle and related breeds. For the past two decades, tourism has become the top economic activity.
10. Guanacaste’s famous cowboys are called “Sabaneros”, which literally translated, means “Savannah Dweller” for the grasslands found here.
Discover Guanacaste’s history
Take the archaeology tour at Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin to learn how indigenous peoples lived near the massive Rincon de la Vieja Volcano in Guanacaste. More than 14 archaeological sites – mostly cemeteries, petroglyphs and tomb markers – have been found around Hacienda Guachipelin, dating from about 300 to 800 AD.
Hotel Hacienda Guachipelín is an ideal place at Rincón de la Vieja Volcano to experience authentic Guanacaste culture and enjoy an active vacation. The ecotourism hotel has the best Costa Rica adventure tours.
Article by Shannon Farley