The island was first inhabited by the region's native people, the Aztecs, who built a towering temple into its cliff face; upon viewing this temple and its practice of sacrificial offerings, Spanish explorers charting the coastline gave the island the name "Isla del Sacrificios". In 1520, the famed conquistador Hernán Cortés briefly stopped at Sacrifice Island on his way to the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan.
Much later, the legendary English explorer and privateer Sir Francis Drake visited the island at least once in his career, leaving behind his prized twin swords and matched pistols, as well as a chest containing his privateering uniform and armor.
Sometime in the early eighteenth century, the pirate Edward Kenway visited Sacrifice Island. After eliminating a group of hostile treasure seekers, Kenway found Drake's belongings and took them for himself.