Costa Rica // San José //

Shopping and markets

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San José’s souvenir and crafts shops are well stocked and in general fairly pricey; it’s best to buy from the larger shops run by government-regulated crafts cooperatives, from which more of the money filters down to the artisans. You’ll see an abundance of pre-Columbian gold jewellery copies, Costa Rican liqueurs (Café Rica is the best known), T-shirts with jungle and animal scenes, weirdly realistic wooden snakes, leather rockers from the village of Sarchí, walking sticks, simple leather bracelets, hammocks and a vast array of woodcarvings, from miniature everyday rural scenes to giant, colourfully hand-painted Sarchí ox-carts. Look out too for molas, handmade and appliquéd clothes, mostly shirts, occasionally from the Bahía Drake region of southwestern Costa Rica, but more usually made by the Kuna peoples of Panamá.

A good place to buy any of these handicrafts is at San José’s street craftmarket in the Plaza de la Democracía. Also on sale are regional leather and silver jewellery and a selection of crafts from other Latin American countries, including Ecuadorian sweaters. It’s worth bargaining, although the goods are already a little cheaper than in shops.

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