To get a glimpse of Costa Rica’s history, the best start-off point is San Jose, the capital city. Most of the museums are located here. Costa Rica’s most important museum, Museo Nacional De Costa Rica is housed in the whitewashed Bellavista Fortress which was built in 1870. This barrack was the scene of fighting during the civil war of 1948 as the bullet holes on the turrets at the corners of this now tranquil building can attest. It was also here that three-time president Jose Figueres Ferrer wielded a hammer and stroked the building’s walls to signal the abolishment of the military. Inside this traditional Spanish-style courtyard building are displays of pre-Columbian artifacts, period dresses, colonial furniture, religious arts and photographs.
The dazzling three-storey Museo del Oro Pre-Columbino is located directly beneath the Plaza de la Cultura. This museum’s prized possession, the pre-Columbian gold jewelry, is the largest collection of its kind in Central America. Many pieces are in the form of frogs and eagles. But the most distinct pieces are the varied shaman figurines which symbolize human ties with animal deities.
Perched on the slopes of Turrialba Volcano is Guayabo National Monument, Costa Rica’s most significant archaeological site. The site houses the ruins of a large community covering 49 acres and with a population of around 20,000. The city was abandoned in 1400 AD. Excavated ruins consist of tiled roads, stone bridges, a house, temple substructures and grave sites. You can see the still working aquifer and viaduct system that provided water for the indigenous people of the village. Be ready to set out on a voyage of historical discovery.