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the fp is shopping-nightlife

Costa Rica Shopping and nightlife

Shopping in Costa Rica

You won’t be coming to Costa Rica just for the shopping but good gifts and souvenirs can certainly be found. Special purchases include wood and leather rocking chairs (which dismantle for export), as well as a range of local crafts available in major cities and towns. Local markets are also well worth visiting. Prices are slightly higher than in other Latin American countries. Best buys are wooden items, carved masks, ceramics, gold pre-Columbian replica jewellery and leather handicrafts.

In San José you’ll find the standard shopping malls which house decent quality clothes at cheaper prices than the US – nothing special, but it will usually be cheaper. Head to the Central Market for stalls where individuals sell handcrafted wooden furniture, as well as more mundane goods for sale.

Most villages will have some shop where you can buy local souvenirs and look out for coffee shops – this indicates an area which produces coffee, and tourists can buy coffee beans for much cheaper than in the city. In Pacific coast towns you’ll find plenty of handcrafted jewellery from the hippy ex-pats who have taken residence there and now spend their days sitting on the pavement with wires and beads. Monteverde Cloud Forest has an impressive range of gift-shop produce – look out for the blown glass in the shape of hummingbirds and quetzals.

Shopping Note

If tempted to buy any pre-Columbian artefacts – jewellery, ceramics, stoneware – please be aware that it is an offense and also damages the culture of Costa Rica. Buying goods that are made of animal bones, skin or fur isn't a good idea either – at best, customs will confiscate it. If you must, make sure that the item comes with a CITES certificate which verifies that it can be sold internationally.

Shopping hours

Mon-Sat 0900-1800. There may be variations between areas.

Nightlife in Costa Rica

For the typical bars-and-clubs atmosphere, San José especially has lots of nightclubs, and most other cities have some venues for this, with varying degrees of respectability. San José also has the most venues for folk music and dance, as well as theatres and cinemas. Travellers should however be vigilant at night time and use licensed taxis to get around rather than walking.

Coastal towns are a different matter – they have their bars and restaurants along the beach, and this is where you can expect the nightlife to take place. The Caribbean side of the country tends to be a rather more chilled out and less developed in party terms, and although poverty and crime has tended to be more of a problem in this region, the increased police presence in towns such as Puerto Viejo has decreased the number of incidents. In many of the coastal towns, the vibe is low key (except for particular times of year such as Spring Break) and more relaxed than in the cities.

High class hotels tend to have their own bars, but beware of prices being forced through the roof for the American tourist market.