Fodor's Expert Review Museo del Jade
San José's starkly modern Jade Museum displays the world's largest collection of the green gemstone. The holdings log in at 5,000-plus pieces, and are, in a word, fabulous. Nearly all the items on display were produced in pre-Columbian times, and most of the jade (pronounced hah-day in Spanish) dates from 300 BC to AD 700. A series of drawings explains how this extremely hard stone was cut using string saws with quartz-and-sand abrasive. Jade was sometimes used in jewelry designs, but it was most often carved into oblong pendants. The museum also has other pre-Columbian artifacts, such as polychrome vases and three-legged metates (small stone tables for grinding corn), as well as a gallery of modern art. Also included on the tour is a startling display of ceramic fertility symbols. A glossy, photo-filled English-language guide to the museum sells for $15; the Spanish version is only $3.