The Best Shopping in Costa Rica

Costa Rica isn’t known as a shopping destination but there are some excellent gift shops and galleries around the country. Don’t miss the Central Market in San Jose or farmers markets in smaller towns. You can think of the fresh fruit you buy as your souvenir of the day.

Entre Av 7 y Calle 11A, San José, Calle 11A, San José, Costa Rica
eÑe was one of Costa Rica’s first so-called cultural boutiques. Its showroom, in a beautiful Barrio Amón building overlooking the Parque España, is a pleasure for the eyes. Even its sign is stunning: an enormous red “Ñ” against the building’s otherwise gray facade. Inside, the works of more than 60 local designers are artfully displayed—brightly colored must-haves that range from pencils and coffee cups to one-of-a-kind apparel, scarves, handsome leather accessories, posters, framed artworks, and more—and all items cleverly conspire to make consumer decisions tough.
avenida 69, calle 213 y calle 215, Limón, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, 70403, Costa Rica
This chic downtown Puerto Viejo art gallery—clear evidence of a Costa Rican design boom—leverages the cultural confluence of Afro-Caribbean, European, and indigenous influences that shaped the town’s history. The decor is rather extravagant, and the inventory, which includes some items fashioned on-site from natural materials, has paintings sharing space with mosaics, handmade jewelry, decorated mirrors, and straw lamp shades that resemble colorful beach hats and the region’s indigenous cone houses. The exclusive swimwear line carried here seems inspired by the gallery’s beachside location as well as by Costa Rica’s sinuous, sensual shores.
Alajuela Province, Sarchi, Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s artisanal oxcarts—with their precise, geometric constructions and eye-popping colors—are a sensation. Yet in the 19th century, they were simply the essential technology for overcoming muddy roads and bringing coffee to market. The town of Sarchí is now a center for the colorful woodworking traditions that resulted in the beautiful carts. Try to hit Sarchí’s artisanal markets and workshops—like Eloy Alfaro’s or the Fábrica de Carretas Joaquín Chaverri—as well as visit its local parks and parish church, with a striking hand-hewn ceiling.
Avenida Central
They say if you really want to know what a country is all about, you should go to its markets. A great example of this maxim can be found at San Jose’s Mercado Central, which sprawls across an entire city block and is a state-designated cultural landmark. Stalls, set along narrow aisles, sell meat and fish, cheese, artisanal crafts, clay pottery, grains, natural remedies, shoes, and traditional costumes. Look for the stalls that locals call sodas: These informal restaurants, truly Tica treasures, serve Costa Rican staples like the best olla de carne (beef and vegetable stew) you ever tasted. This multihued market is a must-visit.
Avenue 9, San José, Costa Rica
Looking for authentic souvenirs of Costa Rica to bring back home? Kúkara Mákara offers a great selection of items, all 100 percent artisanal and officially Costa Rican. Its name—an allusion to children’s nonsense songs—hints at the relaxed, jovial mood inside the shop. The inventory changes constantly, so surprise is the order of the day. Recently we spotted original dolls, key chains, jewelry, satchels, handbags, decorative pillows, and objects made from recycled or repurposed materials. There’s also a small café that serves fresh, healthy fare.
Av 6, Provincia de Alajuela, Atenas, Costa Rica
Every Friday from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m., the Farmers’ Market is in full swing in downtown Atenas. Featuring choice eats and treats from all the surrounding farms, it doesn’t get any more ‘natural’ than the selections here. You’ll be able to find anything from fruits, vegetables, and flowers to meats, crafts and local dairy goods. And the best part is that the prices are fantastic, and it all goes directly back to the hard working folks in the community that you are talking to at the stand when you make your purchase. If you happen to miss this Friday market, don’t worry, there are fresh produce stands dotting the roads throughout this area of Costa Rica, so you can still get your market madness on.
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Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
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