Even if you say you’re not a souvenir person, every person wants to bring back a little something to remember their trip by. Souvenirs are a great way to not only commemorate your vacation, but it helps the local economy, local artisans and it’s fun! I love souvenir shopping when I’m traveling abroad but I always do a little bit of research first to find out what are the iconic souvenirs to buy, where to buy to support local businesses and around how much I should expect to spend.
Unfortunately in Costa Rica, it can be common to see items that don’t have anything to do with the country. Most of the time it is because the store is owned by an immigrant/expat and they make things from their home country or their own specialty product.
An example is like in Tamarindo, you will see many Argentinians who have a little stand or a shop with beautifully crafted hand made items but they’re not 100% Costa Rican. That’s perfectly fine and you can still say you bought it in Costa Rica, but if you are looking for authentic souvenirs that truly represent the country, here is a list of our favorite souvenirs from Costa Rica we always bring for family and friends.
Best Souvenirs from Costa Rica
Chorreador de Café (Coffee brewer)
Costa Rica is well known for its coffee but not many people know the traditional way of brewing it. Before coffee machines and Keurigs, Costa Ricans used this little item to make delicious coffee. They use what they call a “sock” for the filter, a wooden stand and the blue tin pitcher to make coffee.
This is a great souvenir for 2 reasons: it is 100% usable and it’s as Costa Rican as you can get! Yeison and I make coffee this way, we don’t even own a normal coffeemaker anymore. You can find painted and plain ones at any souvenir store or supermarket. The painted ones are very beautiful since they have paintings of toucans, macaws and other iconic Costa Rican symbols.
Depending on which one you get, they are usually around $20, cheaper if you get the non-painted ones at the supermarket. If you’re planning on using it to make coffee, you should buy extra socks. You can also get some painted wooden coffee mugs to go with your new Costa Rican coffee maker. You can also buy the blue tin cups and though they don’t look unique, it’s what all Ticos used to use for their coffee.
This is the easiest gift if you are looking for souvenirs to bring back for family and friends. And it’s cheap!
Here is our tip for buying coffee from Costa Rica: do not limit yourself to the Britt coffee. They have the biggest marketing department and the shiniest presentations (not to mention it costs the most), so it seems like they are the “best” brand.
In reality, if you ask the average Tico, maybe 1 out of 10 Costa Rican buy Britt on a regular basis. We’re not saying it’s not good coffee, just that there are plenty of other brands that are just or even better and cheaper. Britt coffee is around $10-12 a package, others are $5-8.
We recommend Doka, Sunburst, Terrazu by Cafe Rey, 1820 and the one I’m holding in the picture above. But feel free to get a variety of coffee and find out which one you like!
We also encourage coffee lovers to take a tour like the one we did at Doka Estate to learn about the process and because many coffee companies only sell their products as their estate, not in the supermarkets. Also, buy coffee at the supermarkets, not the souvenir stores. It’s cheaper, fresh and they have a bigger selection.
The chonete is an iconic symbol of the people that built Costa Rica. This is the “hat of the farmers” and one of the most representative items in Costa Rica history.
You can find the hat in pretty much all the souvenir stores but if you want the real one, go to a “Agropecuaria” where they sell products such as farming tools, machetes and seeds. They sell the real ones that farmers wear.
Ox Cart/Wheel Figurine
The ox cart, or carreta, is one of the most important tools in Costa Rican history. Back in the 1800’s, ox carts were used to carry coffee and other products and also a means of transportation. Painting the ox cart started in the 20th century as a way to signify the driver’s home.
Since ox carts aren’t needed as they once were, artisans make little figurines of the carts and wheels as decoration and souvenirs.
You can find carts of all sizes and they’re quite beautiful, usually painted red with animals and nature on. It’s a trinket of Costa Rica that you can put on a shelf to remind you of the good times you had!
A Futbol Jersey
Costa Ricans sure love their futbol and if you’re also a fan, then a team jersey is a must on your list. Especially since their goalkeeper is probably the most beloved in the world right now (Keylor Navas).
The one we are wearing are the la sele (team selection) jerseys but they also have the league jerseys like Saprissa, Heredia and Alajuela. You can find them in all the souvenir shops and on game day, you’ll see vendors hanging selling them on the street.
Those are our favorite souvenirs and in Yeison’s opinion, the most representative souvenirs from Costa Rica. However, you’ll find a ton more in the shops that are fun to browse. Some things we really like are shot glasses, sarongs, painted items and towels. You’ll also find lots of animal figurines and statues, painted feathers, stuffed animals, bowls, pots, purses and other knick knacks.
If you like jewelry, you can find artisan shops in most touristic beach towns.
The best places to buy authentic souvenirs from Costa Rica are the local towns such as Sarchi, San Jose and Heredia. In the touristic areas, you will probably see the same kind of items in all the shops so I recommend looking for artisans shops. Most stores will have a “hand made in Costa Rica” sign.
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