Best Shopping Malls and Centers in Costa Rica

10 Best Costa Rica Shopping Malls and Centers

Despite the occasional downpour, Costa Rica's tropical weather makes it an ideal place for outdoor shopping, and pedestrian friendly promenades are favorite shopping destinations for Ticos and tourists.  Avenida Escazu is the newest of the outdoor shopping destinations and no expense is spared when it comes to setting a most festive shopping spirit; live entertainment, DJs, and dance performances are among the enhancements to the shopping experience- stroll the long stretch of this pedestrian-only street lined with high-end boutiques, hip eateries, and an IMAX theater.  In downtown San Jose proper, Avenida Central is a classic Costa Rican shopping destination with all kinds of shops lining the street that stretches for several blocks through the city. Fill up on souvenirs at the old-school Mercado Central; here vendors proffer everything from Costa Rican coffee and fresh produce to cell phone accessories, souvenirs, and clothing. If you're looking to shop in a traditional mall with department stores, a food court, and a movie theater, head to the Muitiplaza Mall, Mall San Pedro, or Plaza Cariari. Instead of big malls, every small town in Costa Rica has a weekly feria (market), or several, which are the best sources for locally made artisanal food and gifts.


Sometimes, the best deals are to be had beneath a tent. Get ready to bargain with vendors at the movable booths erected in front of the city's National Museum. The area around Avenida 2 and Calle 15 has become a sort of unofficial outdoor market where vendors set up temporary stalls carrying all sorts of wares, from clothing to souvenirs, knick-knacks and local products. Make sure to ask the item's origin in case you're concerned about making sure what you want is made in Costa Rica. Be prepared to offer sellers roughly 20% off the asking price as this is acceptable in the outdoor markets, especially if you are paying in cash.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: Browsing the outdoor stalls makes for a refreshing shopping experience.

Sophia's expert tip: If you see something you like, snatch it up since the vendors don't always occupy the same stall each day. Bring cash and have a calculator handy to tally up your discounts.

Read more about Outdoor Market at Museo Nacional →

Though other farmers markets have begun to spring up on different days of the week, the original and biggest is the Ezcazu Central Farmers Market, held each Saturday from 7 am to 1pm just south of the San Miguel Church in the center of Escazu. Farmers come from miles around to set up booths full of fresh food. There is a great selection of exotic fruits such as mamon chinos and carambola (star fruit), an eye-popping variety of vegetables, plus vendors selling fresh fish, artisinal cheese, and handmade crafts. There is usually at least a couple of vendors selling prepared food, too, so try a Costa Rican empanada while you have the chance.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: Find original gifts from a wide variety of vendors without the mall price tags.

Sophia's expert tip: Get there early as plenty of vendors sell out well before closing time.

Read more about Central Farmer's Market Escazú →

Looking for something to take home to commemorate your stay in San Jos�, Costa Rica? Don't forget to visit this three-story shopping complex that offers an extra-large selection of souvenirs, with everything from clothing to jewelry, fabrics and ceramics. Some vendors carry a selection of Guatemalan and Honduran crafts and specialty items at this shopping haven, but it's always best to ask the item's origin, if you care. It's the perfect stop for an afternoon of browsing, but don't expect authenticity at every turn, however unusual finds and good bargains may be had with a bit of sleuthing through the stalls.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: Kitschy knick knacks come in handy sometimes, there is no shortage here.

Sophia's expert tip: What some may deem a tourist trap others may see as a shopper's dream, and both may be true of La Casona. As long as you're not expecting authenticity you probably won't be disappointed.

Read more about La Casona →


This modern center offers shoppers three stories of opportunity with over 110 stores, including name brand and outlet options. Several large department stores anchor the complex, and an expansive food court and theatres provide entertainment options for shoppers. The Plaza Real Cariari is conveniently located about 10 minutes from the Juan Santamaria International Airport and 20 minutes from San Jos�'s downtown, so it's ideally located for last minute souvenir shopping en route to the airport. Credit Cards are accepted everywhere, and though you may not find the best deals in Costa Rica here, you'll probably find fairly everything you need.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: This place feels like a good old-fashioned mall with big outlets and familiar brand stores.

Sophia's expert tip: If you're waiting until just before your flight to shop for souvenirs, this place is well-located between the airport and San Jose. It's also a good place to pick up an outfit to wear out on the town at night.

Read more about Plaza Real Cariari →

Located just a short distance from San Jos� proper in San Pedro, this large shopping mall offers four stories of shopping diversions. A wide variety of boutiques, specialty shops, gift shops, clothing stores and department stores sell everything you'd hope to find in a mall, and then some. Additionally, a large movie theater, gaming arcades and two discos add to the fun of this lively establishment. A food court offers a number of different dining options, from International eats to fast food. This mall is popular with students from the nearby colleges, who flock to the arcades and food court after class.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: The arcades and dance clubs at this mall aren't just for kids.

Sophia's expert tip: Fuel up at the food court before tackling this mega mall.

Read more about Mall San Pedro →

Multiplaza Mall
Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica

Multiplaza Mall is located in Escaz� along the Santa Ana Highway, and it's a expansive, recently renovated mall with a large number of shops catering to a well-heeled set of Costa Ricans and tourists, who will find designer favorite storefronts such as Kenneth Cole, Lacoste, Diesel, and even Oscar de la Renta, plus a surprisingly modern selection of up-and-coming but still upscale shops. Mall lovers can easily spend a leisurely morning perusing the goods of local department stores as well as international chain stores, and if that's not enough, there are two movie theaters, several nice restaurants and a large supermarket also contained within this sprawling complex.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: Two movie theaters and upscale brands make this much more than a mediocre mall.

Sophia's expert tip: Movie theaters at this mall show movies in English.

Read more about Multiplaza Mall →

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.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: This is Costa Rica's coolest place to shop, eat, and stroll.

Sophia's expert tip: If the people watching isn't enough, there is often live entertainment on the weekends, look for a stage set up before sunset.

Read more about Avenida Escazú →

The Mercado Nacional de Artesania is an outlet specifically designed for Costa Rican artisans with a big collection of shops that carry a lion's share of quality products all handcrafted within the country. Visitors to this shopping destination can expect to find an array of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, textiles, leather-work, wood-work, bead-work, jewelry and more, all made in Costa Rica. Imported items are also available in the store, but proceeds support the work of national artists. This place makes the perfect one-stop souvenir shopping experience, and you may even find a miniature handpainted ox-cart that you just can't live without.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: This outlet features Costa Rican artwork- and the artists and artisans themselves.

Sophia's expert tip: This is the place to find original made in Costa Rica souvenirs for the whole family. Meet some of the artists and artisans in person at some storefronts within the Mercado Nacional de Artesania, where handpainted woodwork, jewelry, and ceramics are among the arts and crafts.

Read more about Mercado Nacional de Artesanía →

Mercado Central
Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica

Since 1880, the Central Market has been a staple shopping hub in San Jose, providing for a unique shopping experience in the country's capital city. Prices are relatively reasonable, and the goods are varied, with everything from fresh flowers and produce to clothing and smoke shops. Knick-knacks, souvenirs and t-shirts are also in-stock aplenty. The Mercado Central of San Jose is not just a commercial place but a part of the country's culture and history, people meet at the market to catch up and discuss current affairs, not only to shop. Look for one of the many entrances from the street into this labyrinth-structure, where one can easily spend hours browsing.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: Old school Costa Rican shopping mecca that's fun to get lost browsing in.

Sophia's expert tip: This is a good place to try some authentic Costa Rican food from one of the many old-fashioned stalls inside the market, but don't be tricked into buying some of the banned turtle eggs that still appear behind glass cases here, their sale is illegal and supports a cruel treatment of turtles.

Read more about Mercado Central →

Airport - Sjo

A bustling pedestrian walk street, the city's Avenida Central is the ideal place for strolling, whether you're there to shop or not. 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,refuel and people watch. Several department stores are located along this local favorite shopping strip, including the La Gloria and Universal stores. There are several permanent art installments throughout the Avenida, in addition to the murals that decorate many side streets.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: This wide bustling walk street with boutiques bursting from the edges is a vibrant center of commerce and community.

Sophia's expert tip: Look for the life size statues sprinkled across the Avenida.

Read more about Avenida Central →


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