Costa Rica: The cultural side
More bird species have been seen in Costa Rica than in the US and Canada combined. But there’s also a rich cultural heritage in the country, with many world-class museums in the capital, San Jose.
One of the best is the Museum of Pre-Colombian Gold (Museo del Oro Precolombino), in an underground building below the Plaza de la Cultura. Despite its small size, it has an impressive collection of over 1,600 items — ranging from the country’s first coins to a life-size gold warrior — with many exquisitely beautiful creations in between.
The Costa Rican Art Museum (Museo de Arte Costarricense) is free and housed in a former airport terminal building at the entrance to La Sabana Metropolitan Park. It tells the history of the nation’s art from the earliest beginnings of Costa Rica through to the present day, with a good coverage of modern artists. If you want to see more about Costa Rica’s current art scene, visit the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (Museo de Arte y Diseno Contemporaneo), which also covers international art with a special emphasis on Central America.
The National Museum (Museo Nacional de Costa Rica), housed in the 1917 Bellavista Fortress, covers the history of the country through to the present day, with many artifacts including pre-Colombian items. Information is in both Spanish and English and a surprise delight is the butterfly and tropical plant garden attached to the museum.
The Jade Museum (Museo del Jade “Marco Fidel Tristan Castro”) is in fact an archaeological museum which also has the world’s largest collection of pre-Colombian jade. The displays spread over five floors and are well worth seeing. The Children’s Museum (Museo de los Ninos) isn’t just for children. It’s a world-class museum with a vast collection exploring all aspects of modern life. Don’t miss the earthquake simulator — both fun and frightening.
These are just a handful of the many San Jose museums worth seeing and which fully justify a stay of several days in Costa Rica’s capital.
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Three museums outside the capital:
1. The Museum of Popular Culture
Near Heredia, a few miles north of San Jose, this museum has a small but enjoyable collection of items about domestic life in Costa Rica. It also hosts events and classes.
2. Selvatura Butterfly Garden and Insect Museum
The Selvatura Park has an outstanding butterfly garden with over 50 different species, and the remarkable Insect Museum has over a million specimens and is one of the largest of its kind in the world.
3. Orosi Church and Religious Museum
The church was built in 1743 and is the oldest Catholic church still in use in Costa Rica. The museum is small but sheds a fascinating light on the religious history of this town in the beautiful Orosi Valley.
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