The monotonous Atlantic littoral is unbroken by any large inlet or estuary, and thus contrasts in a striking manner with the varied outlines of the Pacific coast, which includes the three bold promontories of Nicoya, Golfo Dulce and Burica, besides the broad sweep of Coronada Bay and several small harbours.
The Gulf of Nicoya, a shallow landlocked inlet, containing a whole archipelago of richly-wooded islets, derives its name from Nicoya, an Indian chief who, with his tribe, was here converted to Christianity in the 16th century.
Its direction changes from south-east to east-south-east opposite to the entrance into the Gulf of Nicoya, where it is cut into two sections by a depression some 20 m.
The more southerly of the two Costa Rican ranges, known as the Cordillera de Talamanca, rises south of the Gulf of Nicoya, and extends midway between the two oceans towards the south-east.
The Tempisque enters the Pacific at the head of the Gulf of Nicoya, and tends to silt up that already shallow inlet (5-10 fathoms) with its alluvial deposits.
The investigations made by Dr Walter Lehmann in Central America (1907-1909), prove that these Mexican elements were extended through Guatemala, Salvador, a small part of Nicaragua (the territory of the Nicaraos) and on several places in the peninsula of Nicoya (Costa Rica) amongst the autochthonous Chorotega or Mangue.
Gil Gonzalez Davila penetrated from the Gulf of Nicoya to the western provinces and sent his lieutenant Cordova to circumnavigate the great lake.
While it lasted Nicaragua was the scene of continual bloodshed, caused partly by its attempts to secede from the confederacy, partly by its wars with Costa Rica for the possession of the disputed territory of Guanacaste between the great lake and the Gulf of Nicoya, partly also by the bitter rivalries of the cities of Leon and Granada, respective headquarters of the Liberal and Conservative parties.