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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. Local markets are also well worth visiting. Prices are slightly higher than in other Latin American countries. Best buys are leather rocking chairs (which can be dismantled for export), 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. Head to the Central Market for stalls packed with 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 a coffee-producing area where 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 selection of blown glass in the shape of hummingbirds and quetzals in gift shops too.

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 plenty of options and most other cities also have some nightlife venues 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 be vigilant at night time and use licensed taxis to get around rather than walking.

Coastal towns are a different matter – they have bars and restaurants along the beach which facilitates lively nightlife in the same areas. High-class hotels tend to have their own bars, but beware of high prices. The Caribbean side of the country tends to be more chilled out and less developed in party terms.

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