Costa Rica has several museums showcasing a varied assortment of memorabilia both permanent and temporary exhibits, offering visitors the opportunity of acquainting themselves with the culture and artistic trends of the country. A majority of the popular museums in Costa Rica such as the Costa Rica Gold Museum, the Costa Rica National Museum and the Jade Museum are located in San Jose, though the other parts of the country also have interesting and unusual museums. One of the most visited museums in Costa Rica is the Costa Rica Art Museum in La Sabana Metropolitan Park, nestled at what used to be the Control Tower of the old San Jose International Airport.
The Costa Rica National Museum
The Costa Rica National Museum is housed in the erstwhile Buena Vista Fort, which of great significance for its role in the Costa Rican revolution of 1948. Some of the exhibits this museum features a replica of the ambiance of a quintessential colonial home, vestiges of Costa Rica Pre-Columbian history and exhibits of some gold pieces complemented by notes of the spiritual significance for the Costa Rica natives that created them. This popular museum also displays a large collection of stone spheres, a cute butterfly garden (must see for kids) and periodically changing temporary exhibits.
Costa Rica Art Museum
The Costa Rica Art Museum came into being in 1978, and it is located in La Sabana Metroplitan Park, in the same building as that of the former control tower of the earlier San Jose Airport. The exhibits comprise pieces ranging from the XIX century to the current age including sketches, engraved designs, paintings, sculptures, photographs and motion pictures. The museum also features a vast collection of temporary exhibits, a beautiful garden full of sculptures designed by the artist Jorge Jimenez de Heredia and the celebrated Salon Dorado with an eye-catching mural that symbolically chronicles the Costa Rican history from pre-Columbian times to 1940; created in 1940 by Luis Féron Parizot (1901-1998), a French sculptor and goldsmith.
Costa Rica Children’s Museum
The Costa Rica Children’s Museum was created in 1994, in an erstwhile prison building (from 1910 to 1979) when it was lying derelict for several years. This structure today is not only home to the Costa Rica Children’s Museum but also houses the National Auditorium and the National Gallery that utilizes the former prison cell space for showcasing modern art. The Costa Rica Children’s Museum houses several interactive displays that aim, to help children learn while they play. Some of the most popular zones in the museum include the earthquake simulator and the inclined house, where children learn about space, local music, coffee plantations, nature, planet earth and more.
Costa Rica Gold Museum
The Costa Rica Pre-Columbian Gold Museum as referred to as the Costa Rica Gold Museum, comes under the Central Bank and is housed below the Plaza de la Cultura in central San Jose, near the National Theater. The Costa Rica Gold Museum features a stunning collection of 1600 Pre-Columbian gold pieces (500 AD – 1500 AD), a tiny exhibit of ancient Costa Rican currency and temporary exhibits of native art. During the visit to the Costa Rica Gold Museum one can not only admire the exquisite pieces of gold but also learn about the evolution of the metal in Costa Rica, the uses and significance of different gold pieces and their social and cultural relevance.
Museum of Contemporary Art and Design
The Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, Costa Rica, is housed in the building of the old National Liquor Factory, founded in 1856, a few blocks away from the Museum of Forms, Spaces and Sounds. The collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design Costa Rica include Central American modern art displaying a mélange of different techniques. The museum features an auditorium, an exterior exhibition zone and several exhibit galleries, showcasing temporal exhibits and a series of activities centered on them, such as talks, critiques and discussions.
Costa Rica Jade Museum
Nestled in the National Insurance Company building in Central san Jose, Costa Rica’s Jade Museum showcases a variety of centuries-old artifacts, works of art and the planet’s biggest collection of Pre-Columbian jade. The valuable collection has religious and historical importance for the Indian population in Costa Rica. With anthropological and archaeological themes, the picturesque museum also features brilliant examples of native craftsmanship in jade, gold, stone, and ceramics, along with detailed notes of their importance throughout Costa Rican history. With serene, low lit halls and spectacular vistas of the city and mountains, the Jade Museum is the place to stop and think.
La Salle Natural Science Museum
Housed in La Sabana Park at the University of Costa Rica, La Salle Natural Science Museum showcases more than 20,000 natural specimens from all over the globe. Nature lovers can feast their eyes and develop greater insights on the taxidermy collection of animals and the preserved fish and reptile exhibit section. This relatively tiny university museum also contains a huge collection of Central and South American insects, including exotic butterflies.
The insect museum showcases more than a million specimens of insects from around the world. Since it is housed within the university campus and helps one get familiar with the University of Costa Rica and the museum, which turns out into an all in one trip. Visitors can enjoy and explore the different collections of dragonflies, metallic beetles, butterflies, flies and hundreds of insects. With permission visitors can visit the Leonel Oviedo Reserve, a tropical forest of the Biology School.
Turtle Museum in Tortuguero
Many museums outside the capital city of San José offer visitors many things of interest and insights. Every year between August and December is when hordes of turtles make their way into Costa Rica. Visitors wanting to know more about these dramatic creatures and their thousand- plus kilometer journey through the water can find this information at the Turtle Museum in Tortuguero. This biological research station is concerned about Tortuguero and its surroundings and has spent several years with the turtles and the animal and plant world of the Tortuguero Region.
Monteverde Bat Jungle
Visitors can spend time enjoying world class exhibits that will ignite the appreciation for these often misunderstood nocturnal creatures. Several myths about bats are busted here. The Bat Jungle exhibit is the product of 40 years of research carried out throughout the planet by Dr. Richard LaVal a long standing member of the Monteverde community.
Selvatura Insect Museum
The Education Center is Selvatura’s is the latest addition and is a must see for anyone keen on learning more about natural history of the region. Costa Rica, despite its comparatively humble size, is home to almost 5% of the world’s eco diversity. The exhibits within this well equipped educational center aim to enlighten and explain the remarkably diverse microcosms of Costa Rican nature and rare tropical forest ecosystems in that give the country its large variety of flora and fauna.
Juan Santamaria Museum
Named after the brave young lad who gave his life to stop the conquest of Costa Rica in 1856, the Juan Santamaria Museum is devoted to preserving the collective memory of the Costa Rican people. It’s housed in an erswhile prison in Alajuela, a former capitol city of the country.
Abangares Gold Mines Eco-Museum
This Eco-Museum, founded in 1987, sits on the site of the first gold mine in Costa Rica. Equipment used during the gold fever in the turn of the century is featured in the outdoor display section. There’s also a picnic area, view points and walking trails for day trippers.
Cahuita Cocoa Museum
Chocolate, just like the rest of the world never ceases to be popular in Costa Rica, a region that is ‘choc-o-bloc’ with cocoa plantations and especially chocolate tours for visitors. In the meantime, chocolate is getting more in, always more noble sorts enticing friends of sweets. The growing of the base material cocoa has a more than 100-year history in the Caribbean. Those who want to relish the fine taste of Costa Rica’s pure cocoa can bag their share at the Cahuita Cocoa Museum. Here, visitors can learn everything there is to know about cocoa plantations and its processing.
The Communal Museum of the Boruca Indians
Visitors here can feast their eyes on exotic looking masks carved out of wood and vibrantly painted to offer glimpses into the life of the native Boruca Indians, a Costa Rican tribe with a rich culture and tradition behind them. The Communal Museum of the Boruca Indians in the Fila Brunqueña mountains is housed in a tiny ranch that was made into a replica of the original Boruca habitats. The place is replete with drums, exotic and menacing looking masks and bright knitwear to offer a peak into the tales of this tribe found in the southern Pacific region of Costa Rica.
The Museum of Popular Culture
The Museo de Cultura Popular, or The Museum of Popular Culture, is juxtaposed between the town borders of Santa Lucia de Barva and Heredia in Costa Rica. The museum used to be the ershwile home of Costa Rica’s former president, Alfredo Gonzalez Flores. The house was converted into a museum in 1995 as homage to the cultural legacy of Costa Rica. It is managed by the National University Social Sciences Faculty, especially by the History and Sociology Schools. The relatively small museum is in effect not more than a tiny coffee plantation farmhouse with a sprawling porch and a visually captivating garden which was created in 1885 using the barhareque architectural method with raw materials like mud, wood, bamboo and sticks.
On their trip to the museum, tourists will have a great time exploring the spectacular views of an assortment of antiques, and other notable memorabilia of the 19th century. The showcase portfolio here includes various Costa Rican articles related to fashion and popular culture of a specific period. The farmhouse has a range of important household products and tools of the 19th century that depict the everyday lives of natives of the era. Furthermore, the house is adorned with handcrafted furniture celebrated during the era. A visit to this museum will help travelers understand the significance of various customs lifestyles of natives.
There is an exotic garden that surrounds the museum. It is a charming place for walking around and enjoying glimpses of various kinds of indigenous tropical plants. Along with entertainment, the place also doubles up as a great education hub. Travelers are introduced to the facts of daily lives of natives of Costa Rica. At times, festivals and musical events are also organized here to showcase a variety of customs of the older generations in an unusual manner. Adjacent to The Museo de Cultura Popular, there is an open-air restaurant that serves authentic Costa Rican cuisine.
Marine Historical Museum of the City of Puntarenas
The Marine Historical Museum of the City of Puntarenas showcases the incredible biodiversity of the province of Costa Rica. It features the natural resources, culture, tradition and the city’s fascinating wildlife. The museum is tiny yet enchanting and offers a window into the world of the country’s maritime history. It features an assortment of cultural, archaeological, Pre-Columbian memorabilia in addition to a set of ominous looking skeletons to spookily welcome visitors. The collections are marked both in Spanish and English and there are several images, audiotapes and videos to offer a more detailed understanding of the exhibits to guests.
This may not have had top priority on your must see list but a visit to the Criminology Museum of Costa Rica is a quirky adventure like no other. It has a rather gruesome feel to it, but if you’re adventurous and intrepid enough to explore, it is a treasure chest of some of the most fascinating human interest and psychology stories. Criminology Museum is a fantastic place to explore the intriguing history of crimes that took place several centuries ago in Costa Rica. This fascinating museum is housed on 2 1/2 blocks of south Calle 17 in downtown San Jose. An important aspect worth noting for visitors is that Criminology Museum is not appropriate for the weak hearted. There are tons of morbid exhibits, ghoulish items, and curiosity fuelling but grisly and explicit images and videos that also include parts of the human body. Some even might find the collection downright repulsive. This unique one of a kind museum is certainly not for the faint hearted.
The museum details the chronicles of law enforcement and crimes of Costa Rica. Visitors will find a plethora of information related to the major crimes in Costa Rica, articles, documents, videos, graphics, forums, maps, interesting weapons, and lots more. If you are looking for specific information, you are welcome to browse the menus and sections. Though the place isn’t very popular with tourists and locals; for those who are really fascinated by criminology will find the museum an absorbing place. All the Sherlock Holmes fans now know in which direction to head.