Shopping in Costa Rica for souvenirs can be as gratifying as it can be confusing. While there is an excellent variety of products you can take home to remember your vacations, depending on where you go, they will look all the same.
So! Let’s talk a bit about the choices you have, depending on where you are, and some of the most common things that you will be able to find anywhere and those that are unique and are worth buying when you see them.
We will go through some of the main shopping places in Costa Rica, and we will give you some ideas to help keep our rainforests, wildlife, and sustainability by shopping in the right places and the right things.
But first, let’s clear things up.
- Forget about shopping for souvenirs at the airport. They will be super expensive, and you will find so many more options if you go through a store while traveling.
- There are no rules when talking about prices and souvenirs in Costa Rica.
While you may think that souvenirs in the markets are more affordable and the places where you stop on tour are more expensive, there are no rules.
- Precious tropical woods are precisely that. In general, when you find hardwood souvenirs they come from a rainforest, unless the irregular shapes and cuts speak loudly that they are beach picked pieces (Or similar).
- The Central American souvenirs market is flooded with souvenirs “made in China.” Same toucan magnet you find in San José, same you will find in the Panama Canal, and same you will find in Antigua, Guatemala…. Except for the name of the country, of course.
- Thousands of families in Costa Rica depend on the souvenirs you buy. The more authentic, the better. Check for “hand-made” and “made in Costa Rica.” Nowadays a lot of the artisans’ articles come with a small note with a bit of history about their creators and their art.
- Coffee: Yes, it is cheaper in supermarkets. But! It is not the best coffee in Costa Rica. Quality varies dramatically. Remember that what is left in the local market is the coffee that was rejected from the export quality filters.
- Food. If it is sealed and has the Health Ministry stick note somewhere, you can take it out. If not like that, forget it!
- Markets are not cheaper than the usual touristic spots, although this can change from one booth to the next. But they are much more fun! You can find a lot of markets in Costa Rica!
In the main cities and big towns, there are central markets, in them, you can find the best and most exotic fruits and fresh vegetables, but also t-shirts, pottery, herbs, fish and meats and the best “Casado” and “tortillas” in all Costa Rica.
You will hardly see a foreigner selling, and even in the cities the people who work in the markets always seem so genuine and happy! This, of course, happens anywhere in the world!
In big towns and during the weekends there are farmers fairs worth visiting.
And they will give you samples and laugh with you at the astonishment when you savor their fruits.
- Freebies: While shopping in Costa Rica you will find some stores can include in your visit the experience of painting or taste recently brewed export quality coffee. And when you visit a store and see, for example, chocolate coated coffee beans – or macadamia nuts – on little bowls they are treats!
- You will find souvenir stores in mostly all lodges, hotels and even restaurants throughout Costa Rica. Their products might be with their brand, of course. The more remote the lodge, most likely the higher prices will be.
- Remember you will have to carry the weight of your souvenirs in your luggage throughout the trip. If you are driving or part of a bus group that won’t be a problem. However, if you are an independent traveler that uses shuttles and public buses, this might be a problem.
Recognized places for shopping in Costa Rica:
- San José
While shopping in Costa Rica in San Jose you may be able to find some of the best (If not the best- high-quality products), either in leather, woods, clothing, recycled product, or thoroughly original art crafts made by hand.
In San Jose, you may go to the following for different products.
Malls: For clothing, supermarkets, shoes, or electronic supplies. Remember that we have high import taxes for nonessential products.
Art Galleries: You may find a vast array of art options downtown San Jose and in El Pueblo, a known night clubs center in the outskirts of the city.
Leather: Either going to Moravia, the most renowned leather factories of San Jose is in this small picturesque town. Or in Heredia, outside the capital, look for Del Río if you like expensive well treated soft leather. They provide shuttles from some hotels.
Jewelry: You may discover fabulous typical jewelry in San Jose with Precolumbian wax formed gold figures.
Sarchi, about an hour from San Jose towards the West, has always been an artisans town.
Their tradition goes back in time to the period when coffee was exported through the Pacific port of Puntarenas and taken in ox carts.
Sarchi area is an active coffee plantations region, that is actually in route for some other regions to pass on their way to the port. The people of Sarchi started to paint their carts, and soon enough, they had their ox cart factories and a tradition for working the wood and decorating it.
Tamarindo Beach and town
The busiest beach town of Costa Rica. Beautiful and with great surfing waves, a diverse sort of accommodations and activities and close to the Liberia International Airport, in Tamarindo you find from international travelers that lie their crafts on the sidewalks to sophisticated art galleries. If you are in the area of Guanacaste, even if you are not staying there, our recco is to visit Tamarindo and enjoy some fantastic shopping.
If you are driving in the Central Pacific region, it is a good idea to stop in Jacó and check the multiple options for any taste. You will be able to find from Chinese souvenirs to genuine Costa Rican crafts. Not recommended past sunset.
Manuel Antonio and Quepos
In Quepos, you may find some true original stores and art galleries, although the best souvenirs shopping is close to the National Park in Manuel Antonio beach.
In the Caribbean: Tortuguero and the South Caribbean
In the region of the Caribbean, you may discover some of the best arts and crafts made with coconut, great musical instruments, and some genuinely ecological souvenirs. Both areas are ports for travelers from all over the world that decided to stay in Costa Rica. Therefore you may also find some great art and crafts, original and sustainable.
7, La Fortuna and Monteverde
Two of the most popular touristic towns in Costa Rica, hubs of visited destinations and places where you find from banks and supermarkets to authentic Costa Rican works.
Some of the most usual souvenirs in Costa Rica are:
- Wood crats and arts
- Pottery and ceramics
- Plants and Orchids seedlings
- Vanilla seeds buds
- Chocolate coated fruits, nuts and coffee beans
- Art: sculptures and paintings