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10 Best Christmas Shopping Spots in Costa Rica



'Tis the season to be jolly in Costa Rica, where Christmas is the most festive time, filled with extravagant light displays and street festivals. Shopping for souvenirs and gifts can be an exciting experience around the holidays, Costa Ricans especially like to celebrate the season by decking out Christmas trees and stocking up on gifts to be exchanged on Christmas eve. Stroll along Avenida Central, an open-air pedestrian shopping destination in San Jose with unusual statues and colorful murals on nearly every corner. Explore one man's modern take on the old-fashioned craft of woodworking with a tour of the workshop at Biesanz Woodwork. Leather purses from J. Lang Atelier are a favorite gift for fashionistas, and finding her store on the outskirts of Escazú makes for a great Christmas-time caper.  Along the Caribbean coast in the seaside village of Puerto Viejo de Limon, stop by LuluBerlu Gallery, which is bursting with artful gifts and original designer bikinis, the beachfront shop Manifesto for unique clothing and accessories, and vintage gifts at the Puerto Viejo Flea Market. Across the way, Luna de Febrero carries an evolving collection of locally made art, wood carved crafts and goods for gifting like the Talamanca cacao.


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Thankfully, Luna de Febrero is open every moon, not just February's, and its selection of souvenirs continues to evolve into Puerto Viejo de Limon's most eclectic selection of locally made, sustainable goods, including original artwork, Caribbean cacao, and Pura Vida emblazoned gear. Local crafters include Monkey Bizness, maker of unique upcycled bags and Garden Botanicals, whose locally made line of lip balms and soaps make favorite souvenirs, stocking stuffers, and gifts to self. They also carry flip flops, hats, and beach gear. Find Luna de Febrero along the main road, across from ATEC and beneath Chili Rojo in the most modern complex, Puerto Viejo Shops.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: This is the best-curated collection of locally made gifts and modern clothing to be found in town.

Sophia's expert tip: Pick up locally made gifts and get best flip flops here.

Read more about Luna de Febrero →


Cafe Britt Coffee Tour
Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica


After a warm introduction and a brief history of coffee in Costa Rica, the tour begins with a stroll through the plantation of coffee, cacao, and many other tropical trees. A charismatic bi-lingual guide explains the growing cycles from the cranberry red fruit to the brown bean. The roastery is a real working factory where Caf� Britt is roasted and packaged; large rooms with twenty foot tall machines are filled with the aroma of beans in various stages. Buy coffee, chocolate, and souvenirs from the Cafe Britt shop after the tour. Duration: 1.5 hours Price:$20 Transportation available from most major hotels in San Jose. Coming from San Jose, follow Route 2 through General Canas Highway in Heredia. Available: 9:30am and 11:00am year round.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: The gift shop is happy to ship bags of Cafe Brit back home for you.

Sophia's expert tip: Check out the larger-than-life Costa Rican folk-lore puppets and orchid garden walk before the tour begins.

Read more about Cafe Britt Coffee Tour →


Manifesto
Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica


In a little bungalow storefront overlooking the Caribbean in Puerto Viejo de Limon, Manifesto is a cozy and magical shop stocked with original handmade clothing and accessories. La Seguna Piel (Second Skin)is Manifesto's locally sewn clothing. The store's collection also includes La Tercera Piel (the Third Skin) a collection of sustainably created home decor, designed with environmental responsibility- and people's happiness with the stuff they use- in mind. Christmas gift ideas and locally made souvenirs include t-shirts with cool graphics, unusual pillows and lamps, and a set of cute cloth dolls that reflect the diversity of Costa Rican's Caribbean coast.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: The unique line of clothes and accessories handmade in Puerto Viejo are high on our gift list.

Sophia's expert tip: Shopping bonus: the attached Dred Nut cafe serves delicious coffee and pastry.

Read more about Manifesto →


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The Tribal Market is a wonderful find for one-of-a-kind artful souvenirs from all over Central America, and the world. The owner/curator collects her inventory from Guatemala, Bali, Mexico, and Costa Rica, and presents it in a cozy and inviting roadside gallery shop that inspires you to adopt an item (or the whole store) and bring its story back to your home. Jewelry, masks, textiles, and hand embroidered bags are available, but that's not all: an attached cafe and a yoga studio, offers cappucinos, kundalini and prenatal yoga classes all week long. Find the Tribal Market in on the roadside between Cocles Beach and Playa Chiquita.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: The tiny Tribal Market is a treasure of a shop full of trinkets from all across Central America.

Sophia's expert tip: Worth the trip far along down the road and well off the beaten path. In addition to the market, there is a charming attached cafe and a yoga studio with daily classes.

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Airport - Sjo

A bustling pedestrian street mall, the city's Central Avenue is the ideal place for finding good deals on discount clothing, electronics, shoes and souvenirs. Small cafes and a few fast food chains help keep your stomach from growling as you browse, while a newer two-story food court on one end of the Avenue can be a good place to rest your feet, people watch, and refuel. Several department stores are located along this shopping strip, including the La Gloria and Universal stores. There are several permanent art installments throughout the Avenida, in addition to the street art that decorates many side streets.

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Avenida Escaz� is Costa Rica's newest and most modern shopping development, considered by some shoppers to be a highlight of a visit to Escaz�, already home to the Multiplaza Mall and many other shops. Avenida Escaz� follows the newish trend with its long outdoor promenade lined with boutiques, fine dining, and trendy cafes- the country's first Starbucks is proudly located on this strip. Other major international name brands have also chosen the Avenida to open up shop, such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Carolina Herrera, and Tiffany & Co., luring the well-heeled to browse, buy, and be seen. There is an IMAX theater here, showing current movies in English.

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Airport - Sjo

Tucked into a small storefront on a side street in downtown San Jose is Galería Namu, where all items in the shop are handmade by talented artists and fairly traded, which means that each purchase directly supports indigenous artists and encourages them to continue creating. Within a cozy space a stone's throw from the Jade Musuem, the gallery offers a wide variety of tribal art collectibles and hand- crafted items such as masks, tagua, (intricately carved vegetable ivory) and pre-Columbian pottery, woven baskets, and paintings. Museum quality goods are available at affordable prices, making Galería Namu an ideal site for souvenir shopping, home decor, and special occasion gifts.

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J. Lang Atelier & Showroom in Escazu is a dream come true for handbag lovers in Costa Rica. Each piece is designed by Jennifer Lang, who draws her inspiration from the natural beauty of her new home. There are a variety of styles to choose from, including popular clutches and her MIO roll bag, with new designs in the works every season. Key elements of J. Lang's purses and accessories are bright colors and textured leather, and many come with a signature gold leaf zipper pull. These designer purses have been bought by celebrities, and they have been featured in fashion magazines such as In Style and Vogue.

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Highly regarded as one of the best woodworking artist galleries in Costa Rica, Biesanz Woodwork is the place to go to pick up a one-of-a-kind souvenir. Barry Biesanz, the artist behind the work, is inspired by the simple Shaker aesthetic, and creates mini-materpieces in the form of bowls, jewelry boxes, humidors, chopsticks, and swords from a variety of hardwoods found throughout Costa Rica. A visit to the gallery in Escaz� may include a personal tour of the woodshop, where the aging and carving process is explained, as well as a walk through the picturesque gardens. Hours: Monday through Friday 8 am to 5 pm Saturday 9 am to 3pm (December to April)

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Luluberlu Art Gallery was created more than a decade ago by a French artist who fell madly in love with the Caribbean and moved here to create colorful mosiacs mirrors and chairs, which were the first items in the gallery. These days, the gallery shop features unique works of several other local Costa Rican artists, including some from Puerto Viejo de Limon, and a clothing shop with racks of handmade skirts and bathing suits, Euro-inspired designs, plus shelves bursting with colorful souvenirs and gifts made by local artisans that may have you calling for back-up credit from coveting too much.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: One-of-a-kind art made by local Costa Ricans fills the shelves here.

Sophia's expert tip: Don't forget to look up; the ceiling is hung with a collection of colorful handmade lampshades. Take a peek into the backyard studio, where you can glimpse into the world of mosiac artwork in progress.

Read more about Luluberlu Art Gallery →


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Meet Sophia LaMonica

On Sophia's first trip to Costa Rica, she came face to face with white-faced monkeys, gasped at the sight of giant purple crabs, and rode horseback through plunging waterfalls. Costa Rica...  More About Sophia

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