Guayabo National Monument is located northwest of the city of Turrialba, in the District of Santa Teresita in the canton of Turrialba, province of Cartago. Approximately 20 hectares of protected area include the archaeological site, which consists of a set of pre-hispanic architectural structures developed in – river boulders -, same that were built over a period of time that falls somewhere between 1000 BC and 1400 AD; for a prolonged occupation of about 2400 years.
Within its 233 hectares, this wilderness area protects a remnant of pre-montane evergreen rain forest, in a range between 3248 feet (990 meters) altitudinal and 4265 feet (1300 m) above sea level and average temperature reaches 75 Fahrenheit (24 ° C).
Guayabo National Monument holds the designation of Civil Engineering World Heritage, designation awarded by the American Society of Civil Engineers, one of the world’s most prestigious institutions in this area. This designation recognizes the accomplishments and engineering techniques made by the first inhabitants of Guayabo National Monument and that it has endured over time.
Guayabo National Monument is the most important place with archaeological structures preserved in Costa Rica. The first reports of the archaeological site were conducted in 1886 by the naturalist Anastasio Alfaro. In 1964 the Institute of Lands and Colonization acquired part of the Hacienda Guayabo and declared it as a Municipal Park.
Later in the period 1968 – 1973, archaeologist Carlos Aguilar Piedra, a professor at University of Costa Rica, began the first scientific investigations and manages the declaration of National Monument by Law No. 5300 of August 13, 1973, with the main objective of protecting the archaeological site, there discovered, as a representative sample of Costa Rican archaeological heritage. The excavated area, using the scientific method, currently reaches about 4 ha, remaining still to be excavated a total of 16 ha.
Research has revealed that this archaeological site was occupied from 1000 BC to 1400 AD, although the further development of the chiefdom occurred around 800 AD, a period in which the stone structures observed today were obtained.
The economy of this indigenous group was based on agriculture, hunting and fishing. By the discoveries made there, archeologists infer that this city was inhabited by people specialized in different fields, led by a chief or a shaman, who exercised political and religious power over the region. It is not yet known the reason why this place was chosen to be inhabited or why it was abandoned, even before the arrival of the Spaniards.
The Guayabo site belongs to the cultural region called the Intermedia Area, ranging from Alajuela, in Costa Rica to the plains of the Orinoco River in Venezuela and northern Ecuador.
Monticulos (Mounds): circular bases of different sizes, used as a basis for building houses or palenques.
Acueductos (Aqueducts): closed or open channels that were used to carry water from the headwaters to the storage tanks.
Calzadas (Roads): Roads of stone used as transit routes extending in different directions from the excavated area, covering several kilometers in length.
Gradas o escalinatas (Bleachers or steps): Stone structures to climb from the roads to the mounds.
Tanques de Almacenamiento (Storage tanks): Rectangular stone structures to dissipate or store the water brought by aqueducts.
Tumbas (Tombs): rectangular structures built with stone or flagstone, called tombs drawer (Tumbas de cajón).
Flora: The vegetation surrounding the archaeological area is characteristic of a montane rain forest of dense foliage and evergreen. Abundant forest species such as caragra (Cassia sp.), Magnolia (Talauma gloriensis), cantarillo (Conostegia oerstediana), higuerón (Ficus costaricana), quizarrá (Phoebe valerian), white burío (Heliocarpus appendiculatus), covered by large numbers of epiphytes as bromeliads and orchids.
Fauna: Fauna include birds such as toucans (Ramphastos sulphuratus), orioles (Psarocolius montezuma), trogon (Trogon sp.), Woodpeckers (Melanerpes sp.), Squirrel cuckoo (Piaya cayana), yigüirros (Turdus grayi) and chachalacas (Ortalis vetula); mammals like armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus), rabbits (Silvialagus brasiliensis), coyotes (Canis latrans), perezosos (Choloepus hoffmanni and Bradypus griseus), tolomucos (Eira barbara), martillas (Potos blavus), squirrels (Sciurus sp.) and pizotes (Nasua narica). There are also frequent snakes, frogs, lizards and butterflies.
It is offered to visitors a tour by Los Monticulos interpretive trail, the sightseeing place of the archaeological site and finally go, through a path with railings, part of the excavated archaeological site.
Also, it is available Los Cantarillos nature trail, with an area of 10763 square feet (1000 m2), crossing a secondary pre-montane rain forest where you can see examples of fauna and flora.
It is recommended to wear comfortable clothes, closed shoes, coat, umbrella, insect repellent, water, hat, binoculars, sunscreen and walking stick if you want or have difficulty moving.
If you are camping, it is necessary to take all appropriate tools for this purpose as well as entering the protected area preferably before 4:00 pm.
It is important to move only along the paths or areas designated for public use.
It is important to note that in the Guayabo National Monument, the following are not allowed: