Costa Rica Products & Souvenirs
Top Costa Rican Products
When your Costa Rica vacation nears the end, don’t despair! There is always some special piece that you can bring home as a token of the unforgettable time you had. And of course don’t forget to bring something back for your family and friends. This list of top Costa Rican products and souvenirs has something for everyone on your list.
Your taste buds will be overwhelmed by all the flavors found in Costa Rica. Between fruits that you’ve never seen before, fresh veggies and herbs, and the traditional cuisine you find here, there is a lot to miss when you get back home. Luckily there are a few things that are easy to take home with you to share…or not.
Just about everyone who comes to Costa Rica falls in love with the notoriously flavorful coffee. This unofficial national drink of choice is found everywhere and at all times. A clever way to take it home is buying it in bags made out of natural fiber which often have colorful motifs like landscapes, butterflies or hummingbirds. These bags make a perfect gift, especially when you open your suitcase back home and your house becomes infused with the aroma of fresh coffee. Read more about coffee here.
– Salsa Lizano
This rich vegetable sauce reminds some of American and British steak sauces, but few are ever able to say exactly what is it they find so addictive about its tangy, spicy flavor. The trick is, of course, in its secret recipe which the Lizano family has been able to maintain for generations. Since its creation, the sauce has become a staple of Costa Rican homes, with some saying that the typical dish “gallo pinto” can’t be called that, unless it has Salsa Lizano.
Cacao beans are an official ‘superfood’ and a favorite treat of many jungle animals. Found natively in the jungles here, it is no surprise that Costa Rica has some exceptional chocolate. It’s possible to find genuine, hand-crafted, stone-ground chocolate all over the country. This treat is not only incredibly tasty, but thanks to the high cacao bean content it’s actually good for you, too! Try chocolate combined with unexpected flavors like ginger and even chili for something unique and delicious.
Costa Rica, Pura Vida, and Imperial
There are a few symbols and phrases that you will see everywhere throughout your trip. Their meaning and what they represent may even mark your soul in a way that cannot be undone. And, if not, they at least make cool souvenirs.
– Costa Rica: I’ve been there!
From the grocery store and the airport to tour companies and restaurants, you will be hard-pressed to miss the opportunity to buy something with “Costa Rica” on it. Perhaps the most famous shopping area for Costa Rican souvenirs is at the Artisan Market in San José, where you’ll find both commercial and handmade items, as well as items imported from other parts of Central America.
– “Pura Vida” souvenirs
The national slogan literally translating to “pure life” can be found on every sort of product imaginable. From colorful shirts, to tie-dyed pants, from keychains to mousepads and pens, you can’t go wrong buying your friends and family “pura vida” souvenirs.
– Imperial Merchandise
Calling itself “the beer of Costa Rica”, this clear colored lager is found in restaurants, bars, and lounges throughout the country. Its emblem featuring imperial eagles and crowns recalls ancient European coats of arms. It has become iconic and can be found on hoodies, t-shirts, key chains, and much more. Be sure to sample a cold cerveza when you are here and take home a souvenir with the famous eagle on it!
Costa Rica is famous for its colorful culture, which is well represented in the variety of souvenirs found in souvenir shops. If you’re looking for variety, make sure to visit the Central Market in San Jose, where you will also find great prices. You will find hand crafted souvenirs in almost every town and of course in the tourist places; however, try to seek out the places locals shop at as the prices will be better.
These colorful ox-carts originated in the region of Sarchí and have become the international symbol of Costa Rica. In fact, they were declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2008. Often painted in red and featuring bright details in blue, yellow, green, and similar hues, artisans take special delight in creating miniature versions of these which people take home after a visit to the country. In recent years, artisans have begun incorporating the unique design into other wood souvenirs such as chopping boards and hot plates, and even mugs and t-shirts.
– Hammocks and woven goods
Colorful hammocks and hand woven hanging seats are popular in all Costa Rican souvenir markets. They are usually sold for low prices and are made out of all-natural fibers which makes them an eco-friendly present as well. The bright colors make them great conversation starters when they’re hanging back on your terrace back home.
– Bamboo and seed jewelry
Necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and even rings made of bamboo, seeds, and other natural elements are popular and plentiful in artisan markets in Costa Rica. Even if you aren’t a jewelry wearer, you will want to take back some of these inexpensive trinkets back, as they make excellent, unique gifts.
Costa Rica Coffee
Coffee production in Costa Rica goes back to the year 1779 when the first Coffea arabica crops were brought directly from Ethiopia. The struggling government saw potential in the innovative crop and soon they started offering free land to anyone who showed interest in harvesting the plants. By the year 1829 coffee had become one of the most important sources of revenue for the country.
By the mid-nineteenth century, Costa Rican coffee was being exported to England, under a Chilean banner. Upon realizing the origin of the coffee they were consuming, British officials entered direct trade relations with Costa Rica and became their most loyal customer up until WWII.
During the early 20th century, coffee revenue aided in the construction of the first modern railroads and even the National Theater (which now boasts murals featuring the crop and is home to one of the most famous cafés in the country).
Nowadays, thanks to the rich volcanic soil, Costa Rica is well-known for its gourmet coffee beans with the famous Tarrazú considered among the finest beans in the world. Along with bananas, coffee might just be the most famous Costa Rican export.
It’s true that the secret is out on Costa Rica coffee, but what many people don’t know about is how Costa Ricans make it. They use an apparatus called a chorreador or a rustic drip coffeemaker. Much like the coffeemakers we know, it consists of a filter and a way to pour water in.
To make coffee the Tico way, you only need three items: the chorrador, a wood stand which holds the cloth filter where you put the coffee grounds; the bolsa, a small cotton bag held openeby a wire rim and handle that is used as a filter; and a cup or pitcher for coffee placed below. Place coffee in the bag and pour hot water over, where it will seep through the coffee grounds and trickle out of the bag and into the cup.
This process allows for any quantity of coffee to be made and the strength of the brew to be adjusted to taste—from one, strong cup first thing in the morning to a whole pot as family and neighbors stop in for café in the afternoon. It’s rare to enter a Costa Rican household and not find a chorreador in the cupboard or on the counter.
The chorreador has become a popular souvenir item for travelers that would like to take something authentic home with them after visiting Costa Rica. You can now find a wide variety of these unique coffeemakers in stores and supermarkets all over the country, ranging in style from the very basic to the beautifully decorative. It’s something easy to transport that won’t break the bank and can be used at home or just kept as decoration.
Once you try café chorreado, you may never go back to using a coffeemaker!