Best Christmas Shopping in Costa Rica, 2013

Several months before Christmas, Natasha at Lulu Berlu Gallery in Puerto Viejo de Limon can be found in her backyard studio, creating mosaic pieces that decorate her shop, and now many homes around the world. A few hours away, Barry at Biesanz Woodworks curates his gallery shop with his coolest pieces; minimalist style humidors and jewelry boxes that make excellent gifts, travel well, and are intended to last a lifetime. Avenida Ezcazu has those luxury brands that some feel Christmas isn't the same without, like Tiffany & Co. and Salvatore Ferragamo, but for the individualist, there's J. Lang Atelier & Showroom; bright colored leather bags and accessories made in Costa Rica by an expat designer inspired by the natural beauty of her new home. Pure Jungle Spa is the perfect place to get gifts for those who love to be pampered; a gift certificate for a decadent chocolate massage makes a delightful stocking stuffer. For surfers and their tribe, there is Coconut Harry's in Nosara, a fun shop to find gifts and gear for all ages, and for good little cowboys and cowgirls, Santa shops at Caballo Loco Boutique in San Jose, where all sorts of sombreros line the shelves of an equestrian's dream shop come true.


For all you cowboys and cowgirls in Costa Rica, Caballo Loco Boutique in San Jose, has everything you need except the horses- and those are just around the way. Started by a Canadian horse lover who discovered a need for equestrian gear in her new home, Caballo Loco is filled to the brim with cowboys hats, chaps, bolo-ties, horse-printed clothing and gifts, plus so much more. In the air-conditioned boutique near Ciudad Colon in the west part of the city, stop by for your fix of all things equestrian, and you'll probably come out looking like a true sabonera (that's Costa Rican for cowgirl).

This one-stop surf shop in Nosara actually has two stops, one for board rentals and lessons, the other a retail outlet for purchasing supplies and surf clothes- both are worthy of the high praise they receive from those who've been there and done that. One is on the main road, the other is near Nosara's main break. A big selection of name brand boards are available for rent for accomplished surfers and amateur wave riders alike, or you can choose to have Coconut Harry's customize a whole surf trip for you before you arrive, including conveniently located accommodations and airport transportation. Individual lessons are perfect for when you arrive in town and aren't sure yet how much time you'll want to spend in the water.

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: there is an attached cafe and a yoga studio, offering kundalini and prenatal classes all week long.

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The Souvenir Museum is a unique experience that lets visitors learn about sustainability while browsing and shopping a colorful, fairly-traded collection- all of which is hand made in Costa Rica. The Souvenir Museum is part of the emrging tourism sector that hopes to effect change through sustainable values and by raising awareness of environmental impact. During a free tour, visitors to the Souvenir Museum hear about the development of communities and the stories of local artists and artisans, and how the shop promotes research and strengthening of the sustainable lifestyle of its suppliers, considering the development of quality products from raw materials through packaging and shipping. Casual and conversational, the tour is family-friendly idea that aims to engage young travelers as well as their parents. Souvenir Museum Hours are 9am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday. Sunday 9am to 5pm (November and December only).

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.

Pure Jungle Spa
Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica

In a thatched bungalow set just back from the main road across from the fray of Rockin' Js Pure Jungle Spa is the original and best spa in Puerto Viejo, a refreshing oasis offering all-natural pampering with lush organic products in an invitingly exotic setting. Pure Jungle Spa is open for walk-ins and by appointment, every day of the week. and it makes the perfect end to a day spent biking and beaching. The spa menu includes an enticing list of facials, massages, and body treatments using all natural, tropical, and locally grown ingredients, like virgin coconut oil, organic cacao, sweet papaya, and fresh lemongrass. The experience is relaxing, therapeutic, and purely luxurious.

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At Galer�a Namu, all items 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 Galer�a Namu an ideal site for souvenir shopping, home decor, and special occasion gifts. Now you can visit the indigenous communities where Boruca masks are created on a guided tour arranged through the gallery.

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.

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)

Luluberlu Art Gallery was created by a French artist who fell in love with the Caribbean, and Puerto Viejo de Limon, and was inspired to create colorful mosiacs mirrors and chairs, which were the first items in the gallery. These days, the gallery features the unique works of several other local Costa Rican artists, including some from Puerto Viejo, and a clothing shop with racks of handmade garments, bathing suits, and Euro-inspired designs curated to please even fussy fashionistas, plus a room bursting full of colorful souvenirs and gifts that may have you calling for back-up credit from coveting too much.


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