With its verdant landscapes and abundant beaches, Costa Rica is more about the natural world than the man-made and material. Nevertheless, souvenirs still have their place within the pocket-sized nation’s Pura Vida culture, acting as dinky tokens of your travels and pleasing keepsakes reminding you of happy memories. From bustling mercados (markets) to boutique giftshops, shopping in Costa Rica allows you to immerse yourself even further into the laid-back daily life of the Ticos, while also supporting local communities. Splashing some Costa Rican Colones on authentic coffee, carefully crafted leatherwork or a bottle of Salsa Lizano sauce, will ensure you recall your trip for years to come.


Shopping Etiquette and Advice

In general, shops in Costa Rica are open from 8am to 12pm, and from 2pm to 4pm on weekdays and Saturday mornings. In San José, you’ll find that many shops don’t close for lunch and are instead open from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday. Larger shopping centres often stay open until 9pm in the evening and in more touristy areas, shops will also open on Sundays. Tipping in Costa Rica is at your discretion, however it is gratefully received and around 10% is a standard amount to tip.


Shopping Destinations:

Shopping in Costa Rica may not be the high-end affair that it is in New York (home to Fifth Avenue) or London (with its myriad department stores), but what it lacks in scale, it makes up for with some charming boutiques and small town souvenirs.

Mercados (markets)

Markets in Costa Rica sell everything from traditional costumes and artisanal pottery to fresh produce and natural remedies. The Mercado Central in San José is a must-visit if you wish to experience one of the country’s best marketplaces. Its multi-hued stalls are set along narrow aisles and sell a variety of meat, fish, grains, vegetables, cheese, clay pottery, shoes and authentic clothing. Among the standard booths, you’ll also find sodas, which are informal restaurants serving delicious Costa Rican staples.

Boutiques & Art Galleries

A number of boutique and artisanal shops are popping up in Costa Rica’s larger cities, including San José and Limón. Selling goods supplied by local designers and artists, these are the places to purchase carefully crafted gifts and artworks, which are a far cry from the sometimes tacky souvenirs aimed at tourists. Clothing, scarves, leather accessories, framed posters, mosaics, jewellery, mirrors, swimwear and decorative pillows are just some of the treasures found in these kind of shops.

Classic Souvenir Shops

As in any tourist destination, you’ll find plenty of classic souvenir shops scattered throughout Costa Rica’s towns and cities. These are the ones to head for if you’re on the hunt for some of the country’s more cliché keepsakes.

Sarchí, Alajuela Province 

One of the most famous towns for shopping in Costa Rica is Sarchí, situated in the Central Valley’s Alajuela Province. It’s best known for the colourful Costa Rican oxcarts which fill the thoroughfares and reproductions of these are sold in scaled-down sizes. These small wooden mementos make great gifts and are a lovely reminder of the country’s rainbow-hued traditional transport.

Guaitíl, Guanacaste

Another pint-sized town renowned for its shopping is Guaitíl in Guanacaste. Famed for its pottery, a number of small ceramics workshops and studios are located along the road facing the town’s central park. The handmade clay wares are often decorated with indigenous motifs and make another excellent authentic token of your trip.


Best Souvenirs

Along with the no doubt countless photos from your trip, souvenirs act as the ideal aide-mémoire. While shopping in Costa Rica keep your eyes peeled for these traditional trinkets and commonplace handicrafts:

  • Coffee: the country is known for its outstanding coffee and purchasing whole beans from a local roaster or estate is a great way to support the coffee trade, as well as enjoy this high-quality brew at home
  • Chorreador: going hand-in-hand with the above offering, a chorreador is a traditional Costa Rican coffeemaker, consisting of a fabric cloth bag draped over a wooden frame, with a tin pitcher for collecting the coffee
  • Beachwear: with more than 800 miles of coastline and a whopping 300 beaches, it comes as no surprise that beachwear is one of the most popular Costa Rican purchases. Sarongs, pareos and printed towels (often featuring vibrant endemic wildlife) are commonplace items
  • Borucan Masks: made by the indigenous Boruca people of southern Costa Rica, these wooden masks are intricately crafted artworks, representative of this ancient native culture
  • Salsa Lizano: the signature sauce of Costa Rica, Salsa Lizano is used in many of the country’s staple dishes and can be found at most supermarkets
  • Chonete: While Panama has the Panama hat, Costa Rica has the chonete. Traditionally worn by farmers, this versatile headgear has become a popular tourist export
  • Chocolate: Costa Rica is a treasure trove for those with a sweet tooth and many coffee estates also produce mouth-watering chocolate (a great accompaniment to the bitter beverage)
  • Cacique: an alcohol-based beverage derived from sugar cane, cacique is Costa Rica’s national liquor and makes a punchy gift for pals back home
  • Pura Vida products: a phrase which sums up the nation’s carefree attitude, it’s no wonder that the Pura Vida motto is found adorning everything from coffee mugs and keyrings, to flip-flops and trinket boxes
  • Wooden Souvenirs: colourful wooden carvings are a ubiquitous handicraft and also fairly luggage-friendly. Made from local trees, these come in the form of coasters, jewellery boxes and sculptures
  • Coconut Bowls: handmade pottery is a great Costa Rican keepsake, but if you’re looking for something more lightweight to squeeze into your luggage, coconut bowls are an authentic and practical alternative
  • Stuffed Animals: Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet, and inhabitants have paid tribute to this by immortalising some of the wackiest and most wonderful wildlife in stuffed animal form. These cute collectibles make great gifts for little ones (don’t worry, no actual animals were harmed in the making of them)
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