In pre-Hispanic times it was inhabited by the Bruncas and Diquis who were characterized by their great development of the art of stone spheres, leaving it as a legacy to the current inhabitants.
At the beginning of the 19th century, people from Chirica, who were later joined, between 1912 and 1915, by a few Costa Ricans, formed the hamlet of El Pozo, (today Puerto Cortés), where they dedicated themselves to growing rice and raising livestock.
In 1910 colonization begins, with which the city begins to form. In 1955 the town acquires the category of villa. In 1957 it was given the title of city due to its rapid growth.
In the territorial division, for administrative purposes, Law No. 20 of October 18, 1915, the river port of El Pozo, appears as a neighborhood of the fourth district of the canton of Osa, port that was the main and almost only communication route, At that time To reach the region from the port of Puntarenas, it was done through boats that entered from the sea through the mouth of the Térraba River.
In March 1915, under the administration of Mr. Alfredo González Flores, two schools were built, one in the El Pozo farmhouse, which is currently called the Nieborowsky School; and another in Palmar de los Indios (today Palmar Norte), with the name of Castañeda School, which in the fifties, was baptized with the name of Eduardo Garnier. The Technical Professional Agricultural College of Osa, began its teaching activities in 1962, in the government of Mr. Mario Echandi Jiménez.
In the decade of the thirties of the last century, the Municipality of Osa, in response to the request made by the Progressive League to change the name of the district and the town of El Pozo, sent a request to the Executive Power; who through agreement No. 121 of September 14, 1934, approved that in the future the Cortés district and the town Puerto Cortés be called. The origin of the name is attributed to the president of that time, León Cortés Castro (1936-1940).
By law No. 185 of July 29, 1940, the canton of Osa, third in the province of Puntarenas, was divided into two administrative units; a canton with head in the population of Buenos Aires, with five districts, and a second canton, fifth of the province, with head in Puerto Cortés and six districts; then in law No. 227 of August 13 of the same year, it was arranged that the fifth canton would bear the name of Osa Canton. In the executive decree No. 26 on administrative territorial division, of June 28, 1957, Puerto Cortés was granted the category of town; then on September 13 of the same year, in the first administration of Mr. José Figueres Ferrer, Law No. 2155 was decreed, which gave the town the title of city. Puerto Cortés as a district was created on July 29, 1940 by means of Law 185.2
In 1996 the city was flooded due to the effects of Hurricane Cesar, for which its relocation was seriously considered, given the continuous problems with the flow of the Térraba River. In 2000, part of its population and some public institutions were moved to higher places (three kilometers north of its first location), thus establishing what will be its new economic center, near the coastal highway (Route 34).
In 2010 the city begins to have growth again in the area of services in the new economic center; known as Nueva Cortés,3 an area less exposed to flooding. Previously, in 2008, the Tomás Casas Hospital was transferred to land with more favorable physical conditions.4
Starting in 1938, the Costa Rican Banana Company, which had abandoned its plantations on the Caribbean coast, began its banana cultivation program in the Southeast Pacific, installing administrative offices on the south bank of the Térraba River, a place that was called La Administración. .
Subsequently, the Company established its operations center in a place called Palmar Sur, building a landing field, dispensary and housing for its workers, adjacent to the land of the farms that it dedicated to banana production. In the place known as Palmar de los Indios, then Palmar de Castañeda and finally Palmar Norte, the civilian population gradually settled; that in the administration of Don León Cortés Castro built his quadrant.
The boom in banana cultivation began in the early 1940s, when the transnational United Fruit Company established itself in the canton of Osa, promoting its economic and social development in the region. United Fruit had certain fiscal benefits that allowed it to carry out a very profitable activity in Puerto Cortés and Puerto Jiménez; Later, they established plantations around Palmar and developed transportation infrastructure (railroad and port) in Golfito, employing labor from Panama and the area. With this productive activity, immigration increased and the area became momentarily prosperous.5
In 1984, as a result of the drop in international fruit prices, United Fruit withdrew from the area, leaving several thousand workers unemployed, a situation that worsened with the prohibition of gold mining. As a consequence, much of the economic activities came to a halt. Also left behind were a depressed economy of dependency and a local culture familiar with organization and conflict management.6
The beginning of the century becomes complicated for the city, due to the fact that in 1996 the city suffered the worst flood in its history, with which it was established that the center of the city would be moved three kilometers north of its place of origin. This urban nucleus was informally called Nueva Cortés, although the official toponymy of "Puerto Cortés" was maintained for the district. Currently, in this area there is already the Canton Hospital and the municipal building, two of the most important public infrastructures. For the future, it is expected that the city will experience population growth in this new area that is close to the Costanera highway.
In the 21st century, the city has experienced greater urban development in its upper neighborhoods where it is not flooded, in towns such as La Laguna, Canada and Puente Hamaca. Balzar is ceasing to be a suburb and has begun to become a neighborhood. The city itself has begun to absorb other small towns that are close to it; among them, the town of La Fuente (only 500 meters from the city), and other hamlets such as Targual and La Tigra. In 2010, Puerto Cortés suffered a great flood due to Storm Tomas.
In 2012, the new facilities of the Liceo Pacífico Sur were inaugurated, which has 6 pavilions with 6 classrooms each, two directorates, two new computer labs, a dining room, and a workshop, a new gymnasium and more pavilions. so that more students can be taught. 789