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Costa Rica Museums: Popular Tourist Sites

Updated on March 18, 2013
This is the National Museum of Costa Rica, or the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica.  The visitor's entrance is on the opposite side.
This is the National Museum of Costa Rica, or the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica. The visitor's entrance is on the opposite side. | Source

There are almost 40 different museums scattered across Costa Rica. Twenty-three of them are within the capital of the country, San José. You can find museums related to art, historical artifacts, numismatics, insects, ancient Pre-Columbian artifacts, natural history and biology, sports and technology. I have listed below several of the most popular museums and give a brief description of each. Where possible, I have included photographs to give you a sample of what you may see in each of these Costa Rica Museums.

I have included a Google street map that indicates the museum locations in San José, and have brief descriptions accompanying the map. As time progresses, I will add more museums and more photos. If anyone has any photos they would like to donate, please leave me a message!

Popular Costa Rica Museums

  • National Museum of Costa Rica (Museo Nacional de Costa Rica) - exhibits ranging from pre-Columbian to cultural and political artifacts, including the mysterious spheres found in southwest Puntarenas province, cannons, jade and gold pieces, stonework, and more. This site was an army headquarters and important armed conflicts occurred here in 1931 and 1948. Bullet holes are evident on one side of the building. A photo of the front of the building is shown above.
  • Children's Museum and National Gallery (Museo de Niños y Galeria Nacional) - A site of many national cultural events, this building used to be a prison. You can find paintings in the many prison cells and there are children's exhibits about geography, music and science.
  • Jade Museum - This is a popular site with tourists, and with reason because it has many wonderfully worked pieces of pre-Columbian American jade on display. You need to take the elevator to the eleventh floor of the INS building. By the way, pronounce jade, ha-day when in Costa Rica.
  • Gold Museum - (Museo de Oro) This museum is located beneath the pigeon-infested Plaza de Cultura, where the National Theater is located. On the upper floor, there is also a numismatic collection showing the history of the denomination of money used in this country, the colon (which comes from the Spanish name of Christopher Columbus, Cristobal Colon). On the lower level, you will find many different gold artifacts and temporary art exhibits. The tour takes about an hour or so to see everything. You can take photos, but you can't use a flash.

From the Museo Nacional

Pre-Columbian stone sphere on display on the lawn of the Museo Nacional.  The reason for these stone spheres has not been deciphered, it is one of the enigmas of the pre-Columbian people in the southwestern part of the country.
Pre-Columbian stone sphere on display on the lawn of the Museo Nacional. The reason for these stone spheres has not been deciphered, it is one of the enigmas of the pre-Columbian people in the southwestern part of the country. | Source
Decommissioned cannons from the now defunct army of Costa Rica.  They seem to get along fine without one at the moment.  Both Nicaragua and Panama have armies, while Costa Rica just has a police force.
Decommissioned cannons from the now defunct army of Costa Rica. They seem to get along fine without one at the moment. Both Nicaragua and Panama have armies, while Costa Rica just has a police force. | Source

Museo de Niños

The front entrance of the Museo de Niños.
The front entrance of the Museo de Niños. | Source

Photos from the Museo de Oro

Some examples of gold art work found in the Museo de Oro, or Gold Museum in San José.
Some examples of gold art work found in the Museo de Oro, or Gold Museum in San José. | Source
Full-size indigenous warrior depicted with gold ornamentation and spear typical of those found in Costa Rica.  Gold Museum.
Full-size indigenous warrior depicted with gold ornamentation and spear typical of those found in Costa Rica. Gold Museum. | Source

The National Theater (Teatro Nacional)

The National Theater.  If you are visitng the Gold Museum, you should stop by this national treasure which is on the Plaza Cultura.
The National Theater. If you are visitng the Gold Museum, you should stop by this national treasure which is on the Plaza Cultura. | Source

San José and Central Valley Museums

show route and directions
A markerMuseo Nacional, San Jose, Costa Rica -
Museo Nacional, Cuesta de Moras, San Jose, Costa Rica
get directions

The National Museum of Costa Rica - a great place to get an overview of Costa Rica's History.

B markerMuseo de Niños and Galeria Nacional -
Costa Rican Center of Science and Culture, San Jose, Costa Rica
get directions

Also called the Costa Rican Center of Science and Culture.

C markerMuseo de Jade, San Jose, Costa Rica -
Museo de Jade, San Jose, Costa Rica
get directions

Pre-Columbia American Jade exhibit that is the largest of its kind in the INS, Instuto Nacional de Seguros, building.

D markerMuseo de Oro, San Jose, Costa Rica -
Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, Calle 5, San Jose, Costa Rica
get directions

A place to see pre-Columbian artifacts, tempary art exhibits and a history of the Costa Rican colon.

Other Exhibits

Art exhibits come and go in different places across the country. The province where I live, Guanacaste, has art exhibits in the Guanacaste Museum and the Casa de Gobernacion in Liberia. They come and go and show off the works of art of artists from this particular province. If happen to be in Guanacaste enjoying the beaches and the volcanoes, and you wish to see a more permanent exhibit of art from this province, you can go to the Hidden Garden Art Museum, just west of the Liberia International Airport.

Poll

Which of the following are you most likely to visit while in Costa Rica?

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    • Randy M. profile image
      Author

      Randy McLaughlin 4 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      Thanks, Maren!

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Fascinating info. Thanks for sharing this, Randy M.