15 Souvenirs From Costa Rica to Bring Home With You

Costa Rica is quickly becoming one of the hottest travel destinations worldwide. It’s easy to see why: stunning beaches flanking not one but two oceans, excellent quality of life, and that Pura Vida attitude makes the small Central American nation truly irresistible to thousands from all over.

If you have the chance to experience this stunning country for yourself, you’re probably curious to know about what to buy in Costa Rica to bring some physical memories back home with you.

I was wondering, too — and then I went to find out and tell the tale! In this guide, I’ll tell you about the best souvenirs from Costa Rica that are sure to delight friends, family, and loved ones while also serving as unique mementos of your trip.

1. Beachwear

Costa Rica sarongs waving in the breeze

Okay, this one is perhaps not the most surprising out of all the various souvenirs from Costa Rica we’re gonna be taking a look at today.

Being located at the heart of the tropics, with a lively Caribbean coast and an incredibly popular Pacific seaside to boot, it’s no wonder there are beachwear stores galore in even the tiniest towns.

My personal record stands at spotting eight of them in a village of 1,000 people, by the way!

Of course, you’ll find all sorts of Western-style beachwear here just like you’d expect. But if you really want something that screams “I just got back from Costa Rica”, I suggest going with something with a more traditional flair.

Enter the sarong. “But the word sarong is Indonesian!” I hear you say. True! However, Costa Rica’s rich history has seen it interacting with a wealth of foreign cultures throughout its lifetime, which has given rise to traditional clothing and practices that are sometimes surprising, to say the least.

Costa Rica sarongs, and the closely related pareos, are incredibly colorful and stunning to look at, with unique patterns that combine influences from Spanish, local native, and Pacific Islander cultures.

2. Coffee

Cup of coffee with Costa Rica flag

Think of the world’s most desirable destinations for coffee lovers. You might dream up visions of Italy, Turkey, or Portugal.

While it’s true that places like these have made their name in their unique preparation of coffee, none of them actually grow their own coffee beans locally! Instead, they import it all, by and large from places such as Costa Rica.

This makes the humble Central American country a top contender for those that seek out the best Java in the world wherever they go. Costa Rican coffee tends to be of exceptionally high-quality compared even to neighboring countries with similarly large plantation industries.

A fan favorite is the TarrazĂş brand, which dominates the growing and harvesting of coffee beans in the country so much that it’s a challenge to not find a bag of their produce sitting around somewhere in even the smallest convenience stores.

3. Borucan Masks

woman in Borucan mask

Like many others on this list, the Borucan masks of Costa Rica are intimately connected to the country’s colonial and native history.

The Boruca are one of the most ancient native peoples that lived in Costa Rica for centuries before Columbus’ arrival.

When the Spanish came, the Borucans donned deliberately outlandish-looking masks full of color and animal motifs resembling jaguars, birds of prey, and other fearless predators. Some also chose designs patterned after the spirits of nature from the Borucan traditional religion.

These masks were actually so effective in scaring off the Catholic conquistadors that today, the Borucans have turned the beginning of the new year into a festival commemorating their defiance and the preservation of their culture.

While finding genuine Borucan masks for sale to the public is a rare thing, many native artists in the Caribbean region make miniature-scale replicas that serve as excellent trinkets and gifts from Costa Rica.

There are also upsized variations on the same designs that are too large to be worn during the real ceremonies but make for great wall art to put on display back home. Just make sure to be there around December 30 for the best and most genuine deals!

4. Leatherwork

A line of stalls selling souvenirs and other gifts at the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua
Editorial credit: Wei Seah / Shutterstock.com

Costa Rica is chock-full of talented artisans working in leather, and this is self-evident almost anywhere you go. In the capital of San JosĂ©, you’ll mainly find a lot of Latin and Spanish-inspired work, with occasional native themes popping up around the holidays.

Elsewhere, such as in the small seaside towns of LĂ­mon, you might spot totally unique patterns and designs, ranging from practical items such as boots and purses to purely decorative pieces of art.

5. Salsa Lizano

Salsa Lizano is the national sauce of Costa Rica
Editorial credit: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

If there is one particular ingredient you’ll find in nearly any of the many Costa Rican staple dishes popular throughout the country, it’s this.

I don’t think I can recall any occasion where I ate out in Costa Rica and a bottle of Salsa Lizano was not already propped up at the table before I sat down. Never was it out of sight, even at casual dinners with local friends.

The taste of Salsa Lizano is fairly unique, but the most common comparison I’ve heard is to English sauce. It’s used as a dressing on everything from salads to meats, including the super-popular casado.

6. Chonete

Handsome male ranch hand in Costa Rica

When shopping for some fascinating leather items to take home with you from Costa Rica, you will likely have come across cowboy-style boots, belts, and surprisingly heavy vests, too.

This is all part of the traditional farming gear that Costa Rican rancheros used to wear. Many still do, and it’s not so unusual to see one walking about in full “kit”.

While the leather plays an important role, there is one item that no self-respecting Costa Rican loyal to the tradition would omit, and it’s the Chonete hat.

Similar to a cowboy hat, though with a softer brim and better ventilation, this is the most original Costa Rican fashion symbol if there is one. While distinct, it’s still versatile enough to allow for plenty of unique styling opportunities, making for one of the coolest and most useful gifts from Costa Rica!

7. An authentic Costa Rican coffee maker

Costa Rican Coffee using chorreador

I already mentioned the quality and value of real Costa Rican coffee, but it’s not just the brew that’s special here. Costa Ricans also prepare their coffee in a fairly unique way, using a coffee maker called a chorreador.

Looking like a fabric sleeve draped over a wooden frame that sits on top of a small pot, it’s really a very simple design.

To use, fill up the bolsita (little bag) with fresh coffee grounds, following up with boiling water. Soon, your coffee will begin dripping through the fabric and into the pot. And it will do so slowly. Very. Slowly.

The upside is that a chorreador leaves you with an incredibly pure brew that tastes stronger than what you’d get out of an electric coffee maker.

Because of the inherent simplicity, a chorreador is not just one of the most commonplace souvenirs from Costa Rica, but it is also equally as easy to make yourself with a little bit of practice!

8. Chocolate

Costa Rican artisanal dark chocolate samples for tasting
Editorial credit: expatpostcards / Shutterstock.com

Moving on from everyone’s favorite morning shot to everyone’s favorite evening dessert, Costa Rica is a real treasure trove for those with a sweet tooth.

The reason? Chocolate is everywhere, from the airport gift shop to the little convenience stores and mini-markets littering the streets.

Homegrown Costa Rican chocolates tend to be very dark, yet infused with a sweet, fruity taste that’s fairly uncommon in most European traditions, but feels totally natural once you try it.

Try Britt (they also make fine Costa Rican coffee) for a huge variety of flavors at some of the most wallet-friendly prices you’ll find.

9. Pura Vida Merchandise

beautiful colorful flip flops with Pura Vida sign

So ubiquitous it might as well be Costa Rica’s national motto, Pura Vida is more than just a way of saying “Thank you”, “You’re welcome”, “How do you do?” and “I’m doing great!” all in one.

It’s a whole life philosophy, best summed up as a carefree, laidback attitude coupled with a certain joie de vivre that even the French could learn something from.

It’s no wonder, then, that Costa Rica is full of Pura Vida-themed gifts and trinkets. From clothing to jewelry, sketchbooks, even coffee mugs, and other items adorned with the phrase, there’s a lot to choose from.

10. Jewelry

Necklace crafts handmade in Costa Rica

Speaking of which, authentic jewelry should be near the top of your list of what to buy in Costa Rica to bring back and impress your friends and family with!

Nearly every Costa Rican town has at least one or a few local artisans offering stunning pieces in traditional designs, ranging from rings and bracelets to necklaces, traditional tribal talismans, and more!

Apart from being incredibly colorful and unique, Costa Rican jewelry also gives you the chance to invest in and support a rare and thankfully still thriving community of local craftspeople and artists.

11. Coconut Bowls

Coconut bowls stacked

Especially if you visit the seaside, there’s almost no sight as constant and omnipresent on Costa Rican roads, trails, and beaches as the coconut.

With a little bit of craftiness and luck, a hollowed-out coconut can easily be repurposed into a unique-looking and practical bowl.

It also makes for a convenient conversation starter, so you can make sure everyone knows about the adventures you had in Costa Rica!

If you’re handy enough, you can try making a coconut bowl yourself; don’t worry, there’s more than enough of them to go around.

But any visit to the country’s beaches will also be sure to put you in touch with some of the local tradespeople who collect coconuts and fashion them into bowls and other vessels themselves, often with really colorful, handpainted results!

12. Bamboo products

Green yellow bamboo trees in tropical forest of San José Province Costa Rica

Much like coffee, one incredibly important and popular product you might not have known was grown all over Costa Rica is bamboo. It’s used in countless applications, but perhaps some of the most unique ones are in bamboo furniture, accessories, and clothing.

Yes, clothing. In fact, one of the most unique items to bring back from your Costa Rican trip is the traditional bamboo shirt, which is actually comfier and longer-lasting than it may sound!

13. Clay

Traditional Costa Rica Volcanic Mud Mask Ingredients

Most of Costa Rica is covered in rainforest, which makes for an incredibly humid climate full of stunning flora and fauna. In addition to that, there is plenty of volcanic activity in this part of the globe, too!

It also provides the soil with a rather unique consistency, especially near fresh springs or rivers. Some collect this soil, especially during the rainy season when it turns rather muddy, and process it into a kind of clay that’s one of the best-kept secrets among skincare aficionados.

Full of minerals and antioxidants, this is one product you won’t want to miss while you’re spending time in the tropics!

Pure Costa Rican clay may be a bit of a tricky find, but there are boutiques and various stores that specialize in it. One brand to watch out for is VIDA – I’ll let you guess where the name comes from.

14. Pottery

Assortment of Traditional Costa Rica Porcelain Pottery and Crafts sold as Colorful Tourist Souvenirs

Speaking of clay, Costa Rica is also home to excellent traditional pottery which you can not just purchase, but actually observe being made by hand at the artist’s colony of Guaitil.

The particular style practiced here is known as Chorotega, and it goes back to the traditions of the Native tribe of the same name.

15. Wood carvings and artwork

world's largest painted oxcart on display in SarchĂ­'s central park
Editorial credit: Cara Koch / Shutterstock.com

Apart from the Boruca masks, Costa Rica is home to dozens of other kinds of wooden crafts and artwork. Many of these are made using woods from local tree species, and they’ll often display motifs evoking the magic of the rainforest, from the unique fauna to classic scenes of daily life in the jungle.

Take a look around in Sarchi for one of the most famous examples of this art in Costa Rica. Known primarily for their elaborately-painted and exquisitely-crafted traditional oxcarts, Sarchi is also home to lots of artisans offering more luggage-friendly works.

Which of these souvenirs would you bring home from Costa Rica? If I missed something, share it in the comment box below!

Leave a Comment