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Costa Rica Activities Overview

Costa Rica offers a varied array of  cultural events and places, with concerts, festivals, exhibits and stage plays performed by trained professionals and art lovers, that will sure be something to remember.

The National Symphony, an internationally recognized orchestra has toured Taiwan, Los Angeles, Spain, Germany and Eastern Europe in recent years, plays Costa Rica's historic National Theater twice monthly.

A handful of visionary coffee barons commissioned the National Theater, a 1,000-seat metal and stone structure designed by Belgian architects and decorated by Italian artists. International stars such as Prima Ballerina Anna Pavlova, of the Bolshoi Ballet, , Andres Segovia and Arthur Rubenstein have performed there, and the theater has become a jewel in Costa Rica's musical and thespian heritage.

The 1,500-seat Melico Salazar Theater, and 13 smaller theaters welcome performances by the National Youth Symphony, a talented group of 612-year-olds who perform during the March-Nov. school year; the National Opera Society and the award-winning National Choir feature on the Melico Salazar and the National Theater also hosts frequent performances by the country's two highly acclaimed dance companies, Compania Nacional de Danza and Taller Nacional de Danza, which alternate between classical and avant-garde programs. Local and international fine artists and photographers exhibit everything from cubist forms and Dadaist photomontages to neoclassic figures in the country's 19 galleries. The artistic community, often working in cooperation with the Culture Ministry, ensures that special engagements complement the many permanent exhibits in metropolitan-area galleries.

Some of the best exhibits and stage performances can be seen at the Centro Nacional de Cultura (CENAC) a corridor complex of theaters, museum and restaurant skirting a brick courtyard and amphitheater in Barrio Amon. Once the National Liquor Factory (FANAL), the Ministry of Culture adopted the property as its headquarters and built the FANAL Theater and the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design.

The Ministry (221-2154, fax 2566722) provides a weekly list of national events and exhibits. Quality theater is dominated by the National Theater Company, which routinely stages high-budget productions, such as "-The Boys in the Band," Peter Weiss' "Marat Sade," and Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest." The company was preparing Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" at press time. Smaller theaters show slapstick comedies, bawdy burlesque and occasional experimental pieces. 

Dinner theater is a genre occasionally adopted by the country's only English speaking theater company, Little Theatre Group, founded in 1949. Performing four plays a year, it welcomes professionals and amateurs. In the countryside, local festivals that include carnival rides, rodeos, concerts and craft shows dominate the cultural scene.

With a rich history of embracing the arts, the Costa Rican government has worked determinedly to realize the dreams of beloved former President Jose "Pepe" Figueres, who defended his agricultural nation's pursuit of the arts with the question, "Why tractors without violins?"

Theaters & Playhouses

The following San Jose playhouses offer everything from bawdy Costa Rican comedy to classic drama. Most performances are in Spanish. 

  • National Theater, (2221-5341), Av. 2, street 3-5.
  • La Aduana Theater, (2257-8305), Av. 3-7, street 25.
  • El Angel Theater, (2222-8258 teaangel@sol.racsa.co.cr)    Cuesta de Moras.
  • Arlequin Theater, (2221-5485), Av. Ctrl., street 13.
  • CENAC, (2257-5524), Av. 3-7, street 11
  • La Comedia Theater, (2255-3255), Av. Ctrl., street 13-15, next to Mas x Menos.
  • Eugene O'Neill Theater, (2253-5527, fax: 2224-1480), C.R.-North American Cultural Center, Av. Ctrl., street 37, Barrio Dent.
  • FANAL Theater, (2257-5524), Av. 3-7, street 11.
  • Giratablas, (tel/fax: 2253-6001), across from Kentucky Fried Chicken, Barrio La California.
  • Jose Joaquin Vargas Calvo Theater (2222-1875), Av. 2, street 5, behind the National Theater.
  • Laurence Olivier Theater, (2222-1034, fax: 2222-9244), Av. 2, street 28.
  • Lucho Barahona, (2223-5972, tea angel@sol.racsa.co.cr), Av. 6-8, street. 11.
  • La Mascara Theater, (2255-4250), Av. 2-4, street. 13.
  • Melico Salazar Theater, (2221-4952), Av.2, street Ctrl.-2. 
  • Teatro 1887, (2222-2974), Av. 3-7, street. 11.
  • Thespis Theater, (2257-3884), Av. 1, street. 21, Nordesa building.
  • Skené Theater, (2283-9700), next to Kentucky Fried Chicken, Los Yoses.


ART Galleries

In the Eye of the Beholder, san  Jose's myriad galleries will immerse you in the culture and creativ ity of this vibrant nation.

  • Alliance Francaise (222-2283, fax: 233 5819 (alcultfr@sol.racsa.co.cr), Av. 7, street 5.
  • Alternativa (232-8500, fax: 232-8294), Pavas, 100 m. south, 500 m. west of the U.S. Embassy.
  • La Casa del Barrio Art Gallery and Cafe (222- 7619), Av. 11, street. 3-3bis. 
  • Jose Joaquin Garcia Monge (221-1329, fax: 223- 4990), Av. 2, street 5. 
  • Enrique Echandi(221-1329, fax: 223- 4990), Av. 2- Ctrl., street 5.
  • Expresiva (tel/fax: 233-0341).
  • Galeria Centro (296-4656, fax: 296-4808,
  • NAMU (256-3412, befrench@sol.racsa.co.cr) www.gcentro.com), 100m. west of Chicote Restauarnt, near L a Sabana.
  • Galeria Nacional de Arte Contemporaneo (257-5524), Av. 3-7, Ca. 11. Sala Julian Marchena, west side of National Library. 
  • Jacob Karpio (228-7862, fax: 255-4524, horbol@sol.racsa.co.cr), Multicentro Fabrica Paco, Escazu. Or, Cuesta de Nunez, 1352, Costado Sur, Registro Civil.
  • 11-12 (tel/fax: 260-5074), Av. 15, Ca. 35, Barrio Aranjuez
  • National Gallery (222-7485, fax: 223-7154), Av. 11, Ca. 4, at Children's Muse um/National Science and Cultural Center.
  • Shakespeare Gallery (222-1034), Av. 2, street 28, at Sala Garbo.
  • Sophia Wanamaker Gallery (225-9433), Costa Rican/North American Cultural Center, Los Yoses.
  • Goethe Institut (2554863, san jose @ sol. racsa.co.cr), across from Kentucky Fried Chicken, Barrio La California.
  • Mexican Cultural Center (2832333, fax: 283-2406, cultamex@sol.racsa.co.cr), Los Yoses.
  • Rainforest Art Gallery (221-9434) El Pueblo Shopping Center, Barrio Turnon.
  • Spanish Cultural Center (257-2919, fax: 257-2923), Av. 13, street 31, Plaza del Farolito, Barrio Escalante.
  • Sintesis (232-8006, colivera@sol.racsa. co.cr), 220 m. north of U.S. Embassy, Pavas.
  • Tierrafue (228-8626), Plaza Colonial, Escazu
  • Valanti (224-0994, fax 234-0938, valanti@sol.racsa.co.cr) Av. 11, street 33-35.

Museums & History

Abangares Mines Ecomuseum: Gold-extraction machines, tunnels, trails, wagons, photos. Phone: 2662-1413, La Sierra, Abangares, Guanacaste, 7 a.m.-4 p.m., closed Mondays, 1,500 colones.

Central Bank Museums: Made of Gold Museum, Coin Museum and temporary art exhibit spaces, more than 1,000 pre-Columbian gold artifacts, indigenous objects. Phone: 2243-4202, www.museodelbancocentral.org, below Plaza de la Cultura, Ca. 5, Av. Ctrl./2, San Jose, 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Mon-Sun. Residents 1,000 colones, tourists $7, kids under 11 free.

Children's Museum: Children's rights, universe, earth, living creatures, interactive exhibits, National Gallery, National Auditorium, youth complex, guided tours. Phone: 2258-4929, www.museocr.com, end Ca. 4, Av. 9, San Jose, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Tues-Fri; 9:30-5 p.m. weekends. Adults 1,100 colones, kids under 18 pay 800 colones.

Contemporary Art and Design Museum: Contemporary Central American art, five exhibit halls. Phone: 2257-9370, www.madc.ac.cr, CENAC, Av. 3/5, Ca. 15/17 San Jose. 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Mon-Sat. Tourists $2, Residents 500 colones, Students with ID 300 colones, Children & Seniors Free on Monday.

Costa Rican Art Museum: Temporary and permanent art exhibits. Phone: 2222-7155, www.musarco.go.cr, east side of La Sabana Park, San Jose, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Tues-Fri; 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat-Sun. Tourists $5, Students with ID $3, Residents 500 colones, Seniors and Children free on Sundays.

Costa Rican Volcanology Museum: History of Irazu Volcano, information on the Earth and Costa Rican volcanoes, legends, trails, farm, garden, restaurant.  Phone: 2530-8023, 8301-3996, www.nochebuena.org, 5km before entrance to Irazu Volcano, Cartago, Adults 2,000 colones, Children 1,000 colones.

Dr. Rafael Angel Calderon Guardia Museum: In former Calderon family historic mansion, exhibits life of former president Rafael Angel Calderon (1940-1944), 1948 civil war documentation, student library, art exhibits, films, theater, dance shows in auditorium, Phone: 255-1218, musecal@rasca.co.cr, CA 25/27, Av. 11, Barrio Escalante, San Jose, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Mon-Sat, free.

Grupo ICE Historical Technology Museum: Exhibits, documents, photos, about history of electricity and telecommunications in Costa Rica, Phone: 2220-6497, www.grupoice.com, 400 m north of ICE, Sabana Norte, San Jose, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Mon-Fri, free.

Historical Farming Museum of Santa Ana: 19th-century farming machinery in 1757 house, with farm, small plantations, traditional sugar mill, coffee-processing plant, Phone: 2282-8434, www.fundazoo.org, 200 m north of Liceo de Santa Ana, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Mon-Fri, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat-Sun, Adults 1,500 colones, Children 3-7 yrs. Old and Seniors with carne de oro, 1,000 colones.

Jade Museum: Pre-Columbian jade, stone and ceramics, Phone 2287-6034, www.ins-cr.com, outside INS building, Av. 7/9, Ca 9/11, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Mon-Fri, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Sat, Tourists $7, Residents 1,000, Children under 12 free.

Jewish Museum of Costa Rica: Photos, documents, films of the Jewish community in Costa Rica and the Holocaust, Phone: 2520-1013, ext. 129, www.geocities.com/museojudiodecostarica, Centro Israelita Sionista de Costa Rica, Rohrmoser, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. by appointment only, free.

Jose Figueres Ferrer Cultural Center: Photos, exhibits on 1948 civil war, cultural activities, art exhibits, Phone: 2447-2178, www.centrojosefigueres.org, San Ramon de Alajuela, north side of church, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Mon-Sat, free.

Juan Santamaria Museum: Highlights battles against U.S. filibuster William Walker in 1856-1857 and life of legendary hero Juan Santamaria, Phone: 2441-4775, mhcjscr@ice.co.cr, Av. 3, Ca Ctrl./2, Alajuela, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Tues-Sun, free.

Liceo de Costa Rica Museum: Photos, art collection, trophy room, alumni objects, books, Phone 2233-6784, Boulevard de Liceo de Costa Rica, Av. 18, San Jose, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Mon-Fri, free.

National Museum: In old Bellavista Fortress, pre-Columbian art, colonial period art and furniture, natural history exhibits, temporary art and photo exhibits, butterfly garden, Phone: 2257-1433, www.museocostarica.go.cr, Ca 17, Av. Ctrl/2, San Jose, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Tues-Sat, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun.  Tourists $4, Students with ID $2, Residents 500 colones, Children under 12 free.

Omar Salazar Regional Museum: Anthropology, archaeology and Guayabo Monument exhibits, temporary art exhibits, Phone: 2558-3733, museoturrialbaucr@gmail.com, UCR Turrialba campus, 8:30 a.m.-noon, 1-4:30 p.m., Mon-Fri, free.

Our Lady of Ujarras Museum: History of Ujarras, religious and indigenous artifacts, books, photo collection, Phone: 2574-7258, basement of Catholic church, Paraiso de Cartago, 2:30-5:30 p.m., Thur-Sat, 9 a.m.-noon and 2:30-5:30 p.m., Sun, 100 colones.

Peace Museum: Created with proceeds from President Oscar Arias’ 1987 Nobel Peace Prize, documents peace successes, explores prospects for peace, Phone: 2223-4664, www.arias.or.cr, Av. 2, Ca. 13, San Jose, 8 a.m. –noon and 1:30-4:30 p.m., Mon-Fri, free.

Popular Culture Museum: Old wattle-and-daub house built in 1885-1887 by the parents of former president Alfredo Gonzalez, furniture, domestic/work tools of the era, Phone: 2260-1619, mcp@una.ac.cr, Santa Lucia, Barva, Heredia, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Mon-Fri (reservations), 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun, Tourists $2, Residents 500 colones, Children 300 colones.

Punta Islita Open-Air Contemporary Art Museum: Temporary exhibits, Phone 2661-4044, museodir@hotelpuntaislita.com, Islita de Bejuco, Nandayure, Guanacaste, tours at 10 a.m., Tues-Sun.

Railroad Museum: Photos, tools, AEG German locomotive, Phone: 8810-0660, museoferroviario@costaricense.cr, former train station, Rio Grande de Atenas, noon-6 p.m., Sat, 7 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun, 500 colones.

San Blas de Nicoya Museum: Religious wood icons in an adobe building, Phone: 2685-5109, next to San Blas Park, Nicoya, Guanacaste, 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Mon-Sat. free.

San Jose de Orosi Religious Art Museum: Colonial religious art, Phone: 2533-3852, Orosi Church, Orosi, 1-5 p.m., Tues-Fri, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat-Sun, Adults 350 colones, Children 200 colones.

Santa Rosa Battle House:  Site of skirmish with U.S. filibuster William Walker, Phone: 2666-5051, Santa Rosa National Park, Guanacaste, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Tourists $10, Tourist children $1, Residents 1,110 colones, Children under 12, 400 colones.

Stamp and Coin Museum of Costa Rica: Stamp collection, history of telegraph, mail, Phone: 2223-6918, www.correos.go.cr, 2nd floor of Central Post Office, Ca 2, Av 1/3, San Jose, 8 a.m.-4:45 p.m., Mon-Fri, Adults 150 colones, Children 100 colones.


Insect Museum: More than 500 insects, Phone: 2207-5318, hlezama@cariari.ucr.ac.cr, basement of University of Costa Rica School of Music, San Pedro, 1-4:45 p.m., Mon-Fri, Tourists 1,000 colones, Residents 500 colones, Children 200 colones.

Instituto Clodomiro Picado, (2229-0344, fax: 2292-0485), across from Dulce Nombre de Coronado soccer field. Mon-Fri, free. Snake research center where antivenin is made to cure snakebites. Ample display of live snakes, poisonous and non. Live demonstrations of venom extraction, Fridays, 23 p.m.

Marine Biology Museum, (2261-0101, fax: 2237-6427), School of Biology of the Universidad National, Heredia, features marine creatures and insects, Mon-Fri, 8 a.m.-noon, 1-4 p.m., donations accepted.

Puntarenas City, Historic Marine Museum: At the old Police building, Puntarenas downtown, open trhu tuesday to sunday, 9:45 am.-12 md. and 1 pm. to 5: 15 pm. Monday: Closed.

La Salle Natural Sciences Museum: More than 65,000 specimens of zoology, paleontology, archaeology, mineralogy, dinosaur display, Phone: 2232-1306, moisobeso@yahoo.com, southwest corner of La Sabana Park, San Jose, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Mon-Sat, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun, Adults 700 colones, Children 500 colones.

Serpentario, (2255-4210, tel/fax: 2233-5520), Av. 1, Ca. 9-11, across from Hotel del Rey, ¢600 nationals and residents, tourists $4, children ¢350. Permanent exhibit of live snakes, including Costa Rica's poisonous species, crested lizards, Jesus Christ lizards, piranas, more.

Spirogyra, (tel/fax: 2222-2937), 50 m. west, 150 m. south of San Francisco de Guadalupe Church. Daily 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Nationals ¢800, foreigners $6, children ¢400. Collection of plants favored by butterflies, hummingbirds, plus winged creatures in all cycles of life.