Costa Rica is world-renowned for its flavourful coffee beans, organic cacao, and commitment to sustainability, making it a retail treat for shopping enthusiasts. Our San José Shopping Guide will lead you through the highlights, with eclectic markets selling fresh produce, galleries showcasing hand-crafted masks and baskets, and contemporary malls retailing designer clothing that you won’t be able to resist bringing home with you.
This mile-long pedestrian walkway divides San José’s northern and southern neighbourhoods. Home to central banks, Democracy Plaza, Gold and Jade Museums and several government buildings, it’s the beating heart of the Costa Rican capital. The tree-lined shopping boulevard boasts high-street stores and restaurants where you can find souvenirs, clothing and even a good meal. Street entertainers dance to live marimba music and bronze statues and murals line the boulevard with scenes depicting the national identity and vibrancy of Costa Rica.
Feria Verde de Aranjuez
Located close to San José Zoo and Botanical Gardens, the Green Fair market was one of the first organic gourmet markets in the country. It’s open on Saturday mornings and specializes in artisanal cheeses, pastries, goat’s milk products, and handmade pasta. It offers a wonderful atmosphere with live musicians, yoga sessions, and entertainers. You can also pick up traditional souvenirs for family and friends back home!
Mercado Nacional de Artesanias
This is a must-visit market for travelers seeking products handcrafted in Central America. The bustling artisan market, near the Metropolitan Cathedral of San José retails sculptures, ceramic goods, leather items, woodwork, and textiles, all while supporting the livelihood of countrywide creatives. It’s the perfect stop for unique souvenir shopping and you may even be able to source a miniature hand-painted oxcart synonymous with Costa Rica’s Central Valley.
No San José Shopping Guide is complete without this gem. Mercado Central (Central Market) has existed in San José since the late 1800s and it’s still as popular today. This bustling retail bazaar is a crazy labyrinth of narrow alleyways dotted with vendors vying to attract attention with their wares. With delicious food and drink on offer, it’s easy to get distracted, but delve a little deeper and you’ll discover a treasure trove of gems. Seek out hand-crafted Costa Rican coffee makers called chorreadores and source unusual gifts like plantain presses or cheese in a bottle! Don’t leave without procuring some Costa Rican coffee beans from locally sourced fair-trade plantations. Mercado Central can be hectic, therefore, it’s a great idea to hire a guide for a few hours to help you navigate the maze of stalls.
Situated along Santa Ana Highway, 15 minutes from central San José, this modern shopping mall caters to Costa Rica’s affluent society. With a whole host of designers and upscale boutiques such as Michael Kors, Carolina Herrera, Tommy Hilfiger, and Swarovski, you can easily find high-quality goods at competitive prices. In addition, international chain stores such as MAC, Nike and Zara, multiplex cinemas, and a handful of good quality restaurants reside in the complex.
If you wish to purchase authentic Costa Rican artwork, head for Galeria Namu – a fair trade art and gift gallery within a short stroll of Jardin de Paz. All their items are handcrafted by talented local artists and indigenous tribes across Central America. With unusual carved tagua figurines, pre-Columbian pottery, Brunka masks and jewellery in-store, there is much to browse. Don’t leave without seeking out their woven basket collection, decorated with vibrant tribal designs, created by the Wounaan people. For interested parties, the gallery can also arrange for visitors to meet indigenous artisan groups in the local area.
Sibú Chocolate Shop Escazú
Chocaholics will adore a visit to the Sibú Chocolate Shop in Escazú. This gourmet, organic chocolatier isn’t just a shop, it also features a small café, a gift store, and tours of its chocolate production facility along with delicious tastings! The company’s owners support artisan communities of Costa Rica, the quality cacao is procured from farms throughout Central Valley and they even donate a percentage of their chocolate bar sales to the Centre for Tropical Agriculture and Higher Education (CATIE) which supports the growth of cacao and wild, rare species across Costa Rica. As if you needed an excuse to go on a chocolate shopping spree, be sure to stock up on some ‘gifts’ for your ‘friends’ back home.