Southern Costa Rica offers an array of options to its visitors, from high-thrills outdoor adventures to five-star restaurants with stunning jungle-to-sea landscapes.
But if you travel this far south looking for grandiose shopping malls or well-lit fashion districts, then you might have booked the wrong trip–or you might want to double back to San Jose or Escazu, where all that big-city stuff can be found. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t purchase some pretty cool gifts in the boutique beach towns dotting the coastline near our vacation rentals.
One of the best places to begin your shopping spree is right along the beach road in Dominical, where vendors arrive early each morning to set up, rain or shine, under the coastal trees. Here you can purchase customized towels, sarongs, jewelry, shirts, shorts, belts, hats, handbags, and all types of ocean-centric trinkets and gifts. The sarongs and towels, in particular, are bursting with color and flair. They can be seen whipping through the wind and sparkling in the sunshine all along the beach. Buy a couple at once and the price is sure to drop quickly.
If you’re in the market for local jewelry, beach vendors offer pre-made gifts as well as personalized items. If you see a jewelry combination you’d like to have made, you can usually pay the vendor a small portion of the total price and then return in a few hours or days to pick up the final product. They really do create some excellent, unique stuff using leather, hemp, bamboo, shells, rocks, sea glass, tree leaves and just about anything else you can imagine.
There are also some great gift shops along the town road that leads up to the beach in Dominical. These shops offer some amazing artwork and woodwork–with an emphasis on local painters and craftsmen–as well as a quality selection of dresses and beachwear. Of all these options, the best of the bunch is probably Souvenir Deep Forest, a quaint shop located next to Mama Toucan’s grocery store. Souvenir Deep Forest specializes in cocobolo wood-carved items, and their high-quality Costa Rican merchandise simply can’t be found in most other nearby shops. If you’re in the market for a coveted Boruca Indian mask, which are extremely popular and look incredible on any wall, or other indigenous art from the Huetar or Quitirrisi tribes, this is a perfect place to start.
Outside of Dominical, in the town of Uvita (about 15 minutes south), are similar local-centric gift shops, both near the beach as well as along the Pan-American Highway. Heading east from Dominical toward San Isidro, there are a handful of family-run spots that offer hammocks, bookshelves, tables and other furniture items. The most prominent roadside shop can be found near the entrance to Nauyaca Waterfall, a few kilometers before Platanillo. It’s recommended to bring U.S. dollars or Costa Rica colones when shopping at local vendors as most do not accept credit cards. Possessing smaller bills also allows you to negotiate from a better position when shopping for multiple items at once. The most important things to remember are to have fun, engage with the local vendors and to stay hydrated. Down here, in the tropical heat, you really don’t want to shop ’til you drop.