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Where to shop in Costa Rica – where to go and what to buy

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Costa Rica has a multitude of shopping opportunities for tourists and locals. There are shopping malls with modern stores and food courts for those who want to shop as if they’re at home. Scattered across the country are boutique stores and little stalls on the side of the roads, but also in the smaller villages hidden from the main road, you’ll discover local stores selling crafts and souvenirs.

Chuck Chastain

My Destination local expert on

Costa Rica

Shopping malls

 

If you’re looking for Nike, Adidas, Tiffany and other big brand names, you will find them in Costa Rica’s larger shopping malls. Modernised and full of cinemas, food courts and shops with national and international names you could easily spend most of the day in one of these malls. One of the most popular malls is Multiplaza, in Escazu and has over 365 shops, and Plaza Real Cariari in Heredia has over 23 food galleries, so once you’ve finished shopping, you can relax over a tasty meal. Terramall is 8km outside of Cartago and hosts a range of high-end and typical souvenir stores where you will find a range of clothing, perfumes and electronics.

 

Markets

 

Costa Rica has markets for food, wooden items and crafts but you will also find markets for tourists selling sunglasses, t-shirts and gifts for you to take home. San Jose’s Central Market is a flea market that sells coffee, souvenirs and many other treasures, and is also where the country’s first ice cream vendor set up. It accommodates both tourists and locals needs and attracts over 20,000 people per day, so prepare yourself for the crowds. Monteverde local farmer’s market was established a few years ago but already hosts over 20 local vendors each Saturday morning. Shoppers are able to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables and roasted coffee, along with little treats to keep you going whilst you shop. If you have other plans for your Saturday, La Fortuna farmer’s market is open on a Friday and sells plenty of traditional foods and is a great way to support the local communities. The difference about shopping at markets in Costa Rica is that most of the produce was probably picked fresh that morning and will be riper and much fresher than what you would eat back home, so it’s worth trying out.

 

Boutiques and hidden treasures

 

Outside the major cities your shopping will be limited to boutique and speciality stores but in these you will find tradition and charm, and are likely to meet the people who’ve created what you are buying. Sarchi, the main town of Alajuela, is the most famous area of handicrafts in Costa Rica where you can shop at over 200 different stores and watch people making ox-carts, now the country’s national symbol. One store, highly recommended by visitors is the Taller Eloy Alfaro, where this family have been crafting ox-carts since 1923 and even the younger generations today are using old methods in their workshop. If you’re a nature lover it might be worth taking a visit to the Hummingbird Gallery, just outside the Monteverde reserve. It holds stunning nature photography and artwork by the local people, with feeders that continuously attract beautiful hummingbirds, providing great photo opportunities for visitors.

 

Tips and added extras

 

Much like other tourist destinations, you will find much of the same items in every town and even every market so make sure you compare prices at different stalls before making a purchase. Be conscious that people will try and scam you for more money and always be aware of pick-pockets. If you want to buy liquor, travelers have recommended waiting until you get to the duty free at the airport so it’s cheaper and you know it’s the real brand.