The Spanish first laid eyes on the coast of Costa Rica and more specifically, Quepos and Manuel Antonio in 1519, in a ship commanded by Hernán Ponce de León (nephew of Juan, the supposed searcher for a fountain of eternal youth). But the warlike Quepo natives on the shore put on such a display of ferocity that he decided not to land.
It was 44 years later, in 1563, when Spanish conquistadors under Juan Vázquez de Coronado were finally able to establish dominion over this coast — after their first party was nearly annihilated.
By the 1920s, Quepos had become a banana town, and it prospered until the mid-1950s, when natural disasters and labor strife convinced planters to switch to palm oil.
But this coastline’s richest potential lay in tourism, which developed with the establishment of a national park in 1972, a string of first-class hotels in the 1990s and 2000s, and a standout marina in the 2010s.
Read the full history, part of our series on “Costa Rica’s Greatest Places,” in Travel.