Amazing handcraft store Las Palomas
Amazing handcraft store Las Palomas

During your trip to Costa Rica, you may never feel like leaving. Unfortunately, that time will need to come, but you can take a little bit of this country home with you. No, you cannot take me, Javi the Frog, home with you, but there are plenty of Costa Rica souvenirs available. Costa Rica shopping is a popular pastime. It may seem easier to purchase souvenirs at the airport, but items here often cost twice or thrice the amount of items elsewhere. Plus, you can have a much more exciting adventure by heading out into fun, new cities to find excellent trinkets.

Ox Cart Shop in Sarchi
Ox Cart Shop in Sarchi

1. Sarchi

Sarchi is located about 30 minutes northwest of the San José main airport. As you are driving along, you will know for a fact you have entered Sarchi once you start seeing beautifully-painted, handcrafted oxcarts along the roadways. These carts symbolize more than just fantastic art. They played a crucial role in Sarchi’s history because they were the only way for people to transport the city’s main exports: coffee beans and sugarcane. The reason why oxcarts were popular for transportation was because a century ago, the roads were so rugged that nothing else would really work.

If you would like to learn more about these carts by visiting one of the several factories in the city. These include Fabrica de Carretas Eloy Alfaro and Fabrica de Carretas Joaquin Chaverri. Once you have a newfound appreciation for these intricate crafted pieces, you can buy one to take home. It will make for a superb decoration in your yard or house, and it is sure to get houseguests talking. There is plenty of other great Costa Rica shopping options in Sarchi if you do not necessarily want to bring handcrafted oxcarts home. The city is home to numerous souvenir shops that sell decorated bowls, jewelry and much more. The city is also a great place to buy beautiful wooden furniture, including dressers, chairs and tables.

Ceramics shop in Santa Ana
Ceramics shop in Santa Ana

2. San José

San José is one of my favorite places to shop in all of Costa Rica, and once you pay a visit, it is certain to become your favorite place, too. It is the largest city in the county, so there are definitely plenty of places to check out. There are numerous shops, and if you enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the morning like me, then you need to buy some genuine Costa Rican coffee. You can buy several bags to see which brand you like. Another great souvenir to get is a traditional Costa Rican coffee brewer, also known as a chorreador de café. They are usually pretty affordable, and you can make coffee the old-fashioned way if you ever get tired of your Keurig.

You can buy jewelry for yourself, or for that special lady in your life, at one of the many fine jewelry shops on San Jose. You can find pieces that range in price from a little over $10 to several hundred dollars. You can even find pieces made out of silver or 24K plated gold. Purchasing these items is a great way to support local artists, so you can do a bit of good on your vacation.

If jewelry seems a bit too pricey, then look into the array of handcrafted items you can get, such as pottery and home décor. Again, these are made from local merchants, and you can find everything from Afro-Caribbean crafts to intricately-woven baskets. One popular item for tourists is handcrafted clay art that draws inspiration from the style of native Chorotega Indians. This is an indigenous tribe to the country who also resided in Nicaragua and Honduras. You may even be able to find artwork created by famed Costa Rican, Cecilia Facio Pecas Figueres, also known as Pefi. Spend a time walking through the city to see if anything strikes your fancy.

Tarrazu is one of the best coffee in Costa Rica
Tarrazu is one of the best coffee in Costa Rica

3. Santa Maria de Dota

Many people fly to Costa Rica for the beautiful scenery. My family comes over every once in a while to hang out in the forest to eat flies. However, Costa Rica is also a must-see destination for coffee lovers. Many would say Santa Maria de Dota has the absolute best coffee in the country, but you can be the judge of that. You can spend one of the days during your vacation visiting Coopedota, which is a local collective that has been around since 1865. You have to enjoy a cup of Tarrazú coffee during your visit. There are numerous other outstanding blends to sip, so one thing is certain: you will always feel awake while you are here.

It is for this reason coffee is one of the most popular souvenirs in the region. There are numerous types to try out, so you should buy several bags to take home with you. For the most part, these bags are fairly affordable, and by stocking up, you can enjoy high-quality coffee for some time to come. To see which types of coffee you will most likely enjoy best, you should take some tours of local coffee plantations. Most of these tours end with you getting to try a small amount of the coffee. If it is to your liking, then you should absolutely purchase a bag.

Sarchi Artist
Sarchi Artist

All This and More

Naturally, these are just a few of the cities you can visit on your vacation. You can find Costa Rica souvenirs practically anywhere you visit, and if you have your heart set on getting some coffee, then you definitely want to check out the Central Valley, which is home to areas such as Alajuela, Poás Volcano and Naranjo.

Souvenirs make an excellent addition to any home. They serve as a sort of framework for showing others where you have traveled. The items you accumulate help tell a story. Perhaps you had to go on a crazy adventure to find a certain piece. Maybe you simply walked into a store and had a friendly conversation with a local merchant. Either way, you should have a way to remember your vacation because sadly, you will be unable to take me home -- even though I make a great house guest.