Costa Rica isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you’re thinking of cutting edge fashion, design, and the coolest boutiques. But that’s starting to change. With some of these labels and designers plying their trade, shopping in Costa Rica has never been more fun or rewarding.
When you first arrive in San Jose, Costa Rica and ask about shopping, someone is likely to direct you towards the Mercado Central downtown.
Vendors offer everything from coffee and fresh produce to cell phone accessories, souvenirs, and touristy clothing.
It makes for the perfect one-stop inexpensive souvenir shopping experience. You may even find a miniature hand-painted ox cart or a Pura Vida vanity plate you can’t live without.
You’ll also find plenty of places to go clothes shopping in Costa Rica. The malls host some of the best known fashion brands and plenty of cheaper options across the city. Most beach towns offer a range of great little boutiques, too.
But if you’re a fashion-conscious shopper in search of something more modern and unique, you might wonder where to go.
So here are some suggestions for locally designed clothing and accessories.
Though small, Apartado Creativo in Escazu store packs a punch.
The two-story shop brings together over a dozen brands in beautiful, laid-out spaces. Here the designers can share and exhibit their creations and collections.
From jewellery and handbags to swimsuits and sleepwear, Apartado Creativo celebrates Costa Rican modern design. And you can find quality options at very reasonable prices.
An example is the eco-friendly Sulara active wear and lounge wear collection. Their motto is “Inspired by nature designed in Costa Rica.”
Designed and tested to perform well in the most intense workouts, this gear is also stylish enough for evening mojitos by the ocean.
The t-shirts and yoga tops often feature inspirational messages in either English or Spanish. Sulara is the country’s ideal modern athletic brand – comfortable, contemporary and not only for the yoga mat.
Another example is the John Howard line of men’s beach and surfwear. Key elements of Costa Rica inspire each piece, like its culture, flora, fauna, and microclimates. Think light cotton shirts with a pattern of ocean waves or swim-trunks with rooster motifs.
The jewelry section features different designers at different price points.
There are beautiful charm-like silver necklaces where you can combine and layer pendants like your initial and birth sign. Also, heavy silver pieces alongside inexpensive, but expensive-looking glittery gold and silver leather wrap bracelets.
I can spend hours in this treasure-trove of a store, each time discovering new, interesting designs and accessories.
Cuero, Papel y Tijera
Cuero, Papal y Tijera is a wonderful option for top-quality, Costa Rican designed leather wallets, bags, accessories and shoes.
This is the store for anyone who wants to add a pop of color to their wardrobe with a bright pink handbag or sky-blue backpack.
I love the passport wallets with pen holder and space for credit cards and boarding passes. If you’re traveling, it may as well be in style.
With prices starting under US$100, Cuero, Papel y Tijera products are accessible for fashionistas looking to support local designers. The store is in Sabana Norte, with a cute cafe and some cool guanacaste tables for sale. Many of their leather goods are also in top hotel gift shops like the Mangroove in Papagayo and the Westin Playa Conchal.
Rich Coast Clothing
For urban fashion, the best place to get laid-back street wear has to be Rich Coast Clothing. With unique t-shirts like Rocker Slothy or Slotherine, this casual apparel merges laid-back Tico lifestyle and street-art style designs.
You can pick up baseball hats, hoodies and t-shirts online, but Rich Coast is now finding its way onto shelves in various trendy outfitters around the country.
Amo y Señor
For one my favorite Costa Rican labels, visit the bespoke boutique Amo y Señor in Barrio Escalante.
With over twenty years in the family business creating uniforms and dresses, designer Eric Mora Cole was raised in an environment of fabrics, tailor’s chalk, and spools of thread. He has travelled the world, and it shows in his art-like collections somewhat strung together with a sense of magical prints and whimsy.
Eric only creates one of each item, tailoring the piece to each fortunate client.
He creates both women’s and men’s clothing, with some items accessible to any gender. Impeccably tailored shirt-dresses and unique prints abound.
Visit Eric’s Instagram account for a peek into his unique design and creative spirit.
Starting at around $200-300, Amo y Señor’s designs aren’t cheap, but there is a strong argument for investing in a unique brand of quality clothing.
It will last longer because of better fabric and better construction… and you’ll look gorgeous.
Nuala Lawlor is a sometimes-Canadian diplomat, full-time mom/wife, and wannabe journalist living in San Jose, Costa Rica.