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The museums of Costa Rica offer a variety of permanent and current exhibitions that will impress all kinds of public. Costa Rica has a rich culture that blends the customs of the nation’s indigenous tribes with the strong European influences first established by the Spanish colonists who landed here in the 16th century. The best places to explore country’s fascinating cultural heritage is at one of the many Costa Rican museums.

Museo Nacional de Costa Rica / Costa Rica National Museum

Arguably the most beloved museum in the country, San Jose’s Museo Nacional de Costa Rica is housed in the city’s Bellavista Fortress, a site of great cultural significance to the Costa Rican people. A former military barracks, the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica still bears the scars of the Civil War of 1948, as bullet holes are still visible in much of the structure’s walls.

Inside, visitors can discover a world of cultural exploration, as the museum features numerous displays chronicling the history of the country and its rich pre-Columbian history. Some of the artifacts on display are thousands of years old, making the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica an ideal destination for inquiring minds who want to learn more about Costa Rica’s colorful past.

Museo de Oro Precolombino / Precolumbian Gold Museum

​Before Costa Rica was colonized by the Spanish, it was home to several indigenous tribes, some of which still make their home here. This popular museum, located in San Jose, is the perfect opportunity for visitors to see how the craft of metallurgy evolved over time, as well as see authentic gold pieces discovered in various archeological digs across the country. Some of these relics date back to around 500 AD, and illustrate how currency became increasingly important to the development of Costa Rica’s pre-Columbian cultures.

Museo de Jade Costa Rica / Jade Museum

Although more commonly associated with the ancient cultures of the Far East, jade was mined and refined into precious artifacts by many of Costa Rica’s pre-Columbian tribes. At the Museo de Jade Costa Rica, which is housed in Central America’s tallest building, the National Insurance Building in San Jose, this fascinating museum has an extensive collection of jade relics dating from 500 BCE to 800 AD.

Many of these artifacts are incredibly intricate, a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the artisans who spent their lives mastering the art of carving this hard stone, and provide guests with a unique glimpse into how this precious stone was seen as a status symbol in many of Costa Rica’s tribal and pre-Columbian societies.

Museo de Arte Costarricense / Costa Rican Art Museum

​Costa Rica has a rich tradition in the fine arts, and the best place to discover this enduring legacy is at the Museo de Arte Costarricense in San Jose. This popular museum boasts a permanent collection of more than 3,200 pieces from Costa Rican artists spanning almost two centuries. One of the most intriguing displays at the Museo de Arte Costarricense is the outdoor sculpture garden, where visitors can see works by renowned Costa Rican artists like Jorge Jiménez Deredia, Edgar and Francisco Zuñiga, José Sancho and Max Jiménez.

In addition to its extensive permanent collection, the Museo de Arte Costarricense also has a wide range of temporary collections on display, many of which offer guests the unique opportunity to see how artistic trends first pioneered in Europe have been interpreted by Costa Rican artists over the years, providing a rare glimpse into Costa Rica’s rich cultural heritage.

MCAD / Museum of Contemporary Art and Design

Located in the ancient building of the National Liquors Factory. The museum is a complex built in the XIX century with colonial architecture inspiration. It offers several galleries and its permanent collection gathers different stiles of Central American contemporary art; including paintings, etchings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, and more.

Although it’s tempting to spend your vacation lounging on the beach or exploring the depths of the rainforests, be sure to make time to visit these fascinating museums.

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