Ruins of Ujarras circa 1693
Ruins of Ujarras circa 1693

I'm a bit of a history nut, so whenever I have a chance to hop over to see some of my home country's oldest buildings, I grab it! While we don't have anything as famous as Machu Picchu, I believe Costa Rica's ruins are still among the most beautiful in the country. Humans have been living in Costa Rica for 10,000 years (and frogs probably longer), so there's so many years of architecture and structures to explore! There are far too many for me to talk about in one day, so I've tried to narrow down my favorites into a (somewhat) brief list:

Guayabo National Park and Monument

Considered by many Ticos to be Costa Rica's most significant ancient site, the park covers 540 acres of ancient stonework and carefully built mounds. According to experts, the area was occupied between 1000 B.C. and 1400 A.D. Mound size demonstrated hierarchy in the society, with higher ranking individuals having houses atop the largest mounds. Recently, the remains of several roads have been discovered on the site, exuding the advanced nature of this ancient society.

Full front of Cartago's ruins
Full front of Cartago's ruins

Santiago Apostol Parish Ruins

This archeological wonder is located in Cartago, and so if you enjoy urban escapes, this is a great piece of history to explore while you're here! Although its official name is Satiago Apostol Parish Ruins, many locals know it simply as The Ruin, so if you have trouble locating it, this is what you should ask for. Although the current walls of this church were built in the 1870s, several churches have been built on this site, only to be destroyed by natural disasters or battles since the 1500s. If you're lucky, you may uncover something here that dates back to the 16th century!

Ujarras Ruins

The Ujarras Ruins are one of Costa Rica's most haunting - I get tiny froggy chills just thinking about it! Beautiful white and grey stone walls stand like ancient skeletons against a backdrop of endulating jade green hills. Located near the town of Orosi, the Ujarras ruins here are the remains of a church built in the 16th century, and its demise is a result of Costa Rica's sometimes violent earthquakes. Being located very much off of the beaten path, most visitors agree that this place is worth the drive to get to.

Palmar Sur Archeological Site

Including a number of ancient sites along the Diquis delta in southern Costa Rica, the Palmar Sur site may be my favorite! The site was originally uncovered by the United Fruit Company in the 1940s, when they were clearing land to create irrigation systems. As they continued to chop, they found themselves coming across many large stones that had each been carved into perfect spheres. The spheres came in a variety of sizes and weights, yet all are perfect balls. No one has ever been able to discover the true source of these spheres or who made them. Maybe you can uncover who did?

What is your favorite Costa Rican ruin? Did I miss your top ancient spot to visit here?

Guayabo National Monument
Guayabo National Monument

Inside Ruins of Old Church 1693
Inside Ruins of Old Church 1693