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guayabo monument
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Guayabo National Monument

Guayabo National Monument

Quick Facts

  • Location : 12 miles north of Turrialba
  • Area : 536 acres
  • Hours : 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily
  • Telephone : 2290-8202

Guayabo Park centers on an archeological excavation of an ancient indigenous village, portions of which date back more than three thousand years. It is by the far the largest and most important archeological site in Costa Rica.

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In its prime, the village covered nearly 49 acres and was home to between 1,500 to 2,000 people. Scientists date some of the objects found here to twelve hundred years before Christ. The main development occurred between 400 and 1,400 AD when the stone structures on the site were built. Artifacts indicate the indigenous indians were highly skilled at civil engineering, architecture and urban planning. Tombs, better known as "Tumbas de Cajon," have also been uncovered on the site.

Most of the buildings were constructed of wood on stone foundations. The areas between the houses are paved in stone which served as both drainage systems and as streets. Aqueducts, both open and covered, carried water from streams to rectangular storage tanks, and from the storage tanks to wherever it was needed.

Only a portion of the excavation is complete. The mounds or "tells" yet to be examined range in size from 1.5 to 15 feet and 30 to 100 feet in diameter. 

Visitors will see petroglyphs of birds, cats and other animals and ceremonial monoliths carved with the stylized figures of jaguars and alligators. The site has nine sculptures carved in stone, and a wooden container that was dragged from the water of one of the storage tanks.

We do know certain things. We can infer, by studying other cultures in this area, that this ancient tribe was governed by a "cacique," or chief who wielded political and spiritual power over the people of his region. We can infer from the artifacts found here that citizens of the civilization were politically and mechanically advanced enough to divide the labor among them, allowing individuals to specialize in one field or another, using their skills for the good of the community. However, we still can't answer several important questions.  

Weather:

45°F to 75°F
Average Annual Rainfall: 140 inches 

Activities:

Visitors may hike to archaeological points of interest. Camping is possible; check with the ranger station. 

Facilities:

The ranger station has camping facilities, restrooms, showers and trails.

Flora & Fauna:

The area is surrounded by an evergreen forest of trees such as elm, bitter cedar, and manni. Eighty different species of orchids are found here, including bromeliads, monkey-tail, impatients, wild strangler, and Turrialba orchids. Fauna is scarce because of the monument's small area. However, you can still see chiza squirrels, white-nosed coatimundis, keel-billed toucans, caligo owl butterflies, and Montezuma oropendola. 

Getting There:

By bus: The bus leaves Turrialba for Guayabo at 5:15 p.m. You could stay at Albergue la Calzada and visit in the morning. The return bus leaves at 5:30 a.m. On Mondays and Fridays only, a bus leaves Turrialba at 11:10 a.m. You can also go back to Turrialba by walking down hill for 2.5 miles to catch a bus in Santa Teresita de Turrialba. It usually comes around 1:30 p.m. Check the schedule with the ranger.

By car: From San Jose, take Highway 1 south towards Cartago and continue through Cervantes, Turrialba and Santa Teresita.  Follow the signs to the Guayabo Monument. Note:  Visitors might need a 4WD  vehicle for the forty-minute drive to the park off the main road.

Guayabo National Monument in Pictures