Museo del Oro Precolombino

Museo de Oro Precolombino Álvaro Vargas Echeverría - Nuevo Museo de Oro Precolombino

Useful Information

Location: Bajos de la Plaza de la Cultura, Calle 5 San José Centro, San José CR 10104.
(9.933524, -84.076800)
Open: All year daily 9:15-17.
Classification: SubterraneaUnderground Museums MineGold Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography: Priscilla Molina Muñoz (2017): Piezas Extraordinarias del Museo del Oro Precolombino del BCCR Fundación Museos Banco Central de Costa Rica. pp. 9–11.
Address: Museo del Oro Precolombino, Bajos de la Plaza de la Cultura, Avenida Central, Calle 5 San José Centro, San José CR 10104, Tel: +506-2243-4202. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


15-SEP-1985 museum opened to the public.
2018 museum closed for renovation.
2019 museum reopened and renamed Nuevo Museo de Oro Precolombino.


Museo del Oro Precolombino (Pre-Columbian Gold Museum) is a part of the Museos del Banco Central. It is located underground, below the Plaza de la Cultura in San José, the capital and largest city of Costa Rica. The Banco Central (Central Bank) is the state owned bank which is responsible for the national currency, the Costa Rican colón. It seems the bank also operates museums called Museos del Banco Central (Museums of the Central Bank). This is not really rare, many banks have collections which are related to valuables. In this case its gold and coins, and the museum is underground, making it an efficient vault.

The museum has an archaeological collection of 3,567 Pre-Columbian artifacts. 1,586 are made of gold, a material which was not abundant, but also not rare, it could rather easily be found in rivers. And it had numerous quite practical properties, it was rather soft and easy to form, it did not react with air, water or sweat, so it did not rust or otherwise decompose. And another thing was the golden colour, it resembled the sunlight. As a result many religious and political symbols were made of gold. And we all know the Spanish came to America for the gold, they transported it to Europe and melted it to make coins. In other words the cultural value of pre-columbian gold artifacts is enormous because most were destroyed. The museum also has 1,922 ceramic pieces, 46 stone objects, 4 jade, and 9 glass or bead objects.

The museum is named after Álvaro Vargas Echeverría, who was a high ranking manager at thw bank. He signed the 5 Colones banknotes of 1973 because he was the bank's manager, but he was not president of the bank. For some reason they do not publish why they named the museum after him, but we guess he actually decided to create the museum and signed for the necessary funds. If that was the reason why he was gone so soon, it was too short-sighted. The museum is obviously a sight of international fame and any tourist to Costa Rica will visit this museum, and it is definitely good publicity for the Banco Central.

The value of the artifacts is probably the reason why they are owned and protected by a bank. And the reason why the museum is built underground is definitely not the lack of other real estate. It is mainly because of the high security an underground structure provides for the extremely valuable exhibits. There is another museum of the same category in the underground structure, also owned by the Banco Central, the Museo Numismático (Numismatic Museum). Okay, for coins security is also a good thing. And it shows coins, banknotes and unofficial items such as coffee tokens. The exhibition explains the history of minting in Costa Rica and shows the first coin which was minted in Costa Rica in 1825, the Media Escudo.