As a tourist visiting my homeland, Costa Rica, you will likely find yourself in San Jose for at least a day, but probably a couple of days. San Jose is a big city in Costa Rica, and it is also a hub for travel. One of the country's main airports is in San Jose, so many people find themselves passing through this wonderful city. As a big city, San Jose can seem a bit overwhelming - there is so much to do and to see that you might not know where to start; especially if the city is just kind of a layover in your travel plans. Whether planned or not, your stay in San Jose can be rich with amazing, educational experiences. One activity that is perfect for singles, families, groups, and any other traveler, is a trip to one of the city's many museums.

Visiting the museum is a perfect activity for a day trip. I know, I know - when you're in Costa Rica you want to be outside as much as possible, soaking in the beauty of the country. I definitely can't argue with you there, but I can say that one day inside won't spoil your trip. Whether it is sunny or raining, spending the day at the museum can be a really great experience. Here are a few of my favorite San Jose museums:

Side view of Art Museum with beautiful flowers
Side view of Art Museum with beautiful flowers

1. Art Museum

The first thing that you should know about the San Jose Art Museum is that even its location has a history: the Art Museum used to be the main airport terminal in Costa Rica! It is located in La Sabana Park, where it was founded in 1977. Today, the museum has an impressive collection of permanent exhibits, and it also boosts some fascinating temporary exhibits. You can contact the museum before your visit to see which temporary exhibits are going on during your stay. At the museum, you can see works by many celebrated local artists, from woodworks, to paintings, to prints. There are also often concerts that are available to guests for free in the Golden Hall. The over 6,000 works in the museum will take a few hours to go through, and includes works from artists like Max Jimenez and Jose Sancho. If you are traveling with children, their admittance is free every day. Adults can enter the museum for free on Sundays but will have to pay a fee on Tuesdays - Saturdays (the museum is closed on Mondays).

Cloudy Children Museum in San Jose
Cloudy Children Museum in San Jose

2. Children's Museum

The Children's Museum in San Jose has deep roots in the history, and the future, of Costa Rica. While the museum's contents are amazing, what is even more profound is that the country solidified their stance against having a military by turning a military prison into this landmark. No longer would the land of my country represent military, but instead it will represent and support the future: the children. Today, the museum, which is the first of its kind in Central America, sits where the prison used to be in San Jose, and exists to educate children on a range of topics, including ecology and astronomy. The exhibits are interactive, and span a series of over 30 rooms, as well as some outdoor features. The museum is open seven days a week, and you'll want to plan to spend several hours there so that you and your family can experience everything it has to offer.

Gold & Jade exhibition inside one of the rooms at Jade Museum
Gold & Jade exhibition inside one of the rooms at Jade Museum

3. Jade Museum

The Jade Museum has been around since the late 1970s, and though it has changed floors, it remains inside the National Institute of Insurance building in San Jose. This archaeology focused museum is home to one of the largest collections you will ever see of this beautiful ornamental stone. The displays, scattered across the five rooms in the museum, are accompanied by writings in both Spanish and English, so it is friendly to many types of tourists. The museum itself is small, but the content inside of it are largely fascinating, so you'll want to take the time to read all of the writings so that you get a better idea of the historical significance of materials like jade - and you can figure out why they made an entire museum dedicated to it! At the museum, you'll see artifacts that were used by native people, and some date back to 500 B. C. While exploring the museum, keep your eye out for the display that demonstrates how jade was used to create what we would today call a "grill" for your teeth!

Costa Rica first gold coin, Gold Museum
Costa Rica first gold coin, Gold Museum

4. Gold Museum

The Gold Museum is a great place to visit; who doesn't love gold? Their collection is massive, and the location in the Plaza de la Cultura is great. This museum is a great place to learn about the history of my country, and the history of my country's people and civilizations. There are coins in the museum, like the "Medio Escudo" which was the country's first coin, but there are also other artifacts that are a marvel - and some of them date back to more than 1,500 years ago! When you tour this museum, you'll learn all about the currency of Costa Rica, but you'll also be able to view jewelry and figurines, including religious symbols and animals. Be sure to set aside most of the day to explore all the history that this museum has to offer.

Beautiful National Museum in San Jose
Beautiful National Museum in San Jose

5. National Museum

The final museum on my list is the National Museum. This museum has an interesting history as well; when you visit, be sure to ask about the museum itself and not just its contents! Though located today near the Legislative Assembly, since the 1950's, the museum was first opened in the 1880's in the Universidad de Santo Tomas building with a focus on science. Today's location is a former military barracks; another relic of a time when my country was at war. That history is never forgotten though, and while we continue to turn these former places of violence into educational centers for our residents and for tourists, you can still see reminders of the past at this location in the form of bullet holes on the walls. The museum has continued its mission of investigating and preserving the heritage of Costa Rica, both in nature and in culture. You will have a lot of fun if you spend a few hours here learning about ancient cultures and viewing centuries old artifacts. You can take a break in the museum's courtyard and enjoy some breathtaking views of the country that you are learning all about.