Costa Rica has an impressive array of museums for a small country of 4.5 million people. The Costa Rica Jade Museum, located in the Insurance Building, has the largest collection of that stone in the world. The Gold Museum contains an impressive display of detailed pre-Columbian gold pieces and the Children's Museum was hollowed out of an old prison.
Most Costa Rica museums can be visited in a few hours and some offer guided tours in English.
Address: Under the Plaza de la Cultura, Avenida Central and Calle 5
Hours: 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. everyday
Admission: ₡5,500 (foreigners); ₡3,500 (students); ₡1,500 (Costa Ricans)
Web site: www.museosdelbancocentral.org
Located next to the celebrated National Theatre, the Gold Museum features a collection of 1,600 intricately worked gold pieces that reflect the world view, social structure and gold-working techniques of the Pre-Columbian peoples of Costa Rica. Included in the admission is entrance to Costa Rica's Numismatic Museum; a walk through Costa Rica's history in currency.
2. The Jade Museum
Address: Bottom floor of the National Insurance Agency (Avenida 7 and Calle 9-11)
Hours: Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Admission: $8 (foreigners); ₡1,000 (Costa Ricans)
Said to be the largest collection of jade in the world, the pieces held by the National Insurance Agency (or the INS) date back to 300 B.C. While large deposits of jade were never found in Costa Rica, the stone was one of the most valuable commodities in pre-Columbian cultures of Mexico and Central America.
Address: On the eastern side of Plaza de la Democracia, Calle 17 between Avenida Central y Segunda
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sundays 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Admission: $8 (foreigners); $4 (students); ₡1,500 (Costa Ricans)
Web site: www.museocostarica.go.cr
After Costa Rica disbanded its army in 1948, the old army barracks were converted into a museum and a symbol of national pride among Costa Ricans. Sitting on the easter edge of the Plaza de la Democracia, this museum houses some of the most important historical artifacts of the country.
Address: Parque La Sabana, at the end of Paseo Colon
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Web site: www.musarco.go.cr
Housed in the old airport terminal, this art museum has more than 6,000 works of paint, sculpture and photographs. It's known as a leader in plastic art and draws inspiration from both national and international artists. The building, which was designed by architect Jose Maria Barrantes Monge in 1937 still has the room in which government officials would welcome foreign diplomats (the Salon Dorado).
5. The Children's Museum
Address: Calle 4, Avenida 9
Hours: Tuesday to Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: 1,100 (adults); ₡800 (children)
Web site: www.museocr.org
Converted from a prison building into a Children’s Museum by former first lady Gloria Bejarano, this 3,800-square-meter museum has dozens of interactive displays directed at children.
Address: Alajuela; Avenida 3, Calle Central and Calle 2; The northern side of the Central Park of Alajuela
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Web site: www.museojuansantamaria.go.cr
Named for the young boy who gave his life to stop the attempted take over of Costa Rica in 1856, the Juan Santamaria Museum is dedicated to preserve to collective memory of the Costa Rican people. It's housed in an old prison in Alajuela, a former capitol city of the country.