Centrally located on the Nicoya Peninsula
in Guanacaste province
, the city of Nicoya is often referred to as the political and cultural capital of the peninsula. The first Spanish colonial city in Costa Rica, Nicoya lies 23 km south of the town of Santa Cruz
and is around a five hour drive away from the capital city of San Jose
, via Liberia
. Located 20 kilometers due south of Highway 21, Nicoya is the commercial cattle center of Guanacaste province.
Not well known as a tourist destination itself, Nicoya is often used as a stopover town while exploring the peninsula’s many beautiful beaches, refuges and national parks in the area. Initially inhabited by Chorotega Indians, Costa Rica’s largest indigenous Indian community, Nicoya gets its name from an eminent Chorotega chief who initially welcomed the Spanish conquistadors when they first arrived here.
Thought to be among the oldest towns in Costa Rica, Nicoya’s main attraction is its 500 year old church Iglesia de San Blas, which sits in the center of town in the Parque Central. This church dates back to the 1600’s and is home to a number of colonial religious relics and artifacts. Another nice place to visit in town is the La Casa de Cultura, which exhibits the work of local artists from around the region. With plenty of services and facilities in town, Nicoya is a nice place to spend the day. You can find a number of banks, supermarkets, open-air markets and stores out here, in addition to plenty of affordable accommodations, restaurants and hotels as well. There is also a hospital in Nicoya as well.
If you do come to Nicoya, do buy some of the traditional pottery that is on sale out here. They are very good and can be purchased from any store in town. A relaxed and laidback place, try and come here in mid July for the Dia de Guanacaste festival, when the town comes alive with parties and music.