Visiting new countries is an incredible experience. Not only do you get to see new places and experience new things, you also have the chance to learn about the style and culture of those who inhabit the area. San José, Costa Rica’s capital, is no exception. Sitting in the Central Valley region, the city is well known for its Spanish colonial buildings, coffee and the volcanoes which sit to the north of the region. However, it’s Costa Rica’s tropical weather which makes it the perfect place for shopping.Whether you’re basking in the sunshine while perusing the promenades or hiding in a mall whilst a sudden downpour occurs, one of the best ways to get out and truly experience a new place is by shopping. You’ll be able to sample local produce, discover the area and see people off-guard, going about their day. There isn’t much on offer in the San José shopping district that is strictly Costa Rican, so serious shoppers may be disappointed. However, the goods on offer in the city have been influenced by imported clothes and crafts from Guatemala, Ecuador and Panama.
As with any country, when you’re new to the area it can be difficult to know where to go to find what you need. So we’ve rounded up the best shops by category to help you choose where to head on your shopping trip.
Selling everything from handcrafted jewellery to Guatemalan sarongs and elaborate woodwork, this market is one you wouldn’t want to miss if you’re looking for something different.
Feria Verde de Aranjuez
The farmers’ market for foodies. Every Saturday, Feria Verde de Aranjuez is the meeting place for farmers and artists alike to gather and sell their goods. Artisanal chocolate, organic produce, leather crafts and jewellery line the booths along the north end of Barrio Aranjuez.
Arts and Crafts
Offering a variety of pieces crafted by local designers, this shop sells clothing, jewellery, handbags, art and frames.
Selling jewellery and clothing as well as other odds and ends, if you’re looking to pick up interesting art created by local artists, this is your shop.
Nestled in the hills of Bello Horizonte in Escazú, this workshop run by celebrated artist Barry Biesanz can be tricky to find, but it’s definitely worth the hunt. Hosting one of the finest wood-crafting studios in the country, the workshop is filled with unique pieces which take their inspiration from pre-Columbian techniques by letting the natural formation and lines of the wood choose what the size and shape of the bowl will be.
Sin Domicilio Fijo
Housed in a 150-year-old shophouse, this art and design shop situated in downtown Escazú is full of unique handicrafts. Their products range from kitchen adornments to dainty footwear and make ideal gifts for friends, family or yourself!
Guaymi dolls, Bribri canoes, Chorotega ceramics and finely woven Wounaan baskets are just some of the products available at this fair-trade gallery. Galeria Namu brings together a range of diverse artwork and cultural objects from a multitude of regional ethnicities to create a truly unique product offering.
Prices here are higher than in other shops, but the products on offer are of exceptional quality. Sustainable design is of great importance in Kiosco SJO. Costa Rican artisans produce the handmade leather bags, photographs, stuffed animals and contemporary home decor which line the store’s shelves.
Cerámical Artistica Salitral
Combine a pottery workshop with a ceramic store and you have Cerámical Artistica Salitra. This longstanding store offers everything from private pottery lessons to masks and candle holders.
This used bookstore is a jumble of dog-eared paperbacks in a variety of languages. English and Spanish are the most popular, followed by German and French. The shelves are jammed packed, meaning it’s the best place in the area to stock up on reading material.
If you’re looking for a selection of books written in the English language, look no further; Libreria Lehmann has an abundance of books, maps and guidebooks available.
Selling furnishings, jewellery, fashion and art, the Satis Factory has a diverse product offering. Each item has been created by a local artist and the stock never sticks around for long. Plus, if it isn’t snapped up beforehand, the inventory of the store rotates every three months.
Showcasing seasonal collections which vary from flirty and flowy to sultry and sleek, the Oxo Fashion boutique has been thriving since 1999. It has two locations within the greater San José area, with one situated in San Pedro and the other in Escazú.
Earthy tones combined with tailoring that results in ‘professional pieces with flare’ make this store perfect for those who prefer classic sophistication in their wardrobe. Collections are released throughout the year and as a result, there’s always a new piece to discover.
Cuero Papel & Tijera
A combination of shop and cafe, Cuero Papel & Tijera carries an abundance of locally-made, one-of-a-kind jewellery pieces and leather bags, meaning this shop is both tasteful and timeless.
If you’re looking for something large and stylish that has it all, then the Multiplaza is the mall for you. Housing an abundance of shops, restaurants and entertainment, this is a shopping trip within itself.
Mall San Pedro
A food court, a cinema, an arcade and an abundance of retailers make up Mall San Pedro. Our recommendation? Wear comfortable shoes – the mall is four-stories high so there’ll be plenty of walking involved.
You can’t leave Costa Rica without buying coffee! Allegedly, coffee is the best shopping deal in all of Costa Rica. One pound typically sells for around $4-$7, and is as local a product as you’ll find, making it a great gift for yourself, or a loved one. There are a few names in the Costa Rican coffee business, but Café Britt is the largest export business. You can find their blends in gift shops around the country or at both international airports. Just be sure to look out for the labelling to ensure you pick up the right batch.
Grano = Grain
Molido = Ground varieties
Grano Entero = Whole bean
Puro = Pure – choose this if you don’t want your coffee mixed with huge amounts of sugar.
Have you lived in San Jose? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!