What we’ve discovered so far
Shopping in Costa Rica can be done easily or can become a reason for an adventure. Our office is in the Playa del Coco/Hermosa area, the top tourist area in Costa Rica and the home of a large Ex-Pat population. This area is close to Liberia, the second largest with the combined population of the areas of less than 100,000 people.
Even though the area has a much smaller population that the San Jose area, it boasts a robust commercial presence. For instance, along the road to and from the airport, you have big box stores such as Walmart, PriceSmart, and the Do It Center (Home Depot). These stores allow for great availability of many consumer goods.
Walmart and Do It Center (Home Depot) are not as extensive as their larger versions in the United States. Nonetheless, you can usually find most of what you need there. The Walmart has a large food section with good prices. The Do It Center has indoor and outdoor furniture sections in addition to the hardware and home goods sections. The local PriceSmart is only two-thirds the size of its North America counterpart, but is a welcome sight when you are looking for goods that come from there, especially if you want some of them in large quantities.
As for your shopping experience, there are many other stores which offer many useful goods. One of the best in our area is Paqueno Mundo (Little World). This store is an unusual assortment and can be somewhat described as a Costa Rican IKEA. A good portion of the store is dedicated to flat pack, assembly furniture. Another section features a wide variety of consumer goods. A third section is filled with food items. These goods tend to be sold at a lower cost than at any other local store. So, if you like what is at Paqueno Mundo, it pays to stock up on it.
In Liberia, there are two department stores: Universal and Ekono, in which you can find a good assortment of things. There is also a big box grocery store, Maxi Pali, (also owned by Walmart) in which you can buy many discounted local grocery items along with some sundry goods such a clothing and small appliances.
Supermarkets have increased in number like breeding rabbits. In Playa del Coco, there are seven full supermarkets in town. Honestly, I still do not know how they all stay in business. The most popular is Auto Mercado which is nicknamed, “The Gringo Market,” which is fully air-conditioned, well-organized, amazingly clean and as modern as any newer grocery market in North America. Across the street is Super Luperon, also called the “Super Loop,” which is a staple of the local population. Its prices are cheaper than the Auto Mercado, but is open air (as are most of the supermarkets) and can be hot inside. There is also the Super Compro, the Mega Market, China World, etc. There is no shortage of markets by which to get many goods.
There are many specialty shops by which you can acquire computers, electrical supplies, fashion, flowers, tourist goods, etc. In addition, there are numerous nurseries from which you can obtain many of the gorgeous local trees and plants for your home.
Once you start getting around, you will find all kinds of local merchants selling just about anything you can imagine. If you are unsure if something is available or where to find it, you need only post on a local Facebook page and someone will assist you quickly.
The more you start exploring, the more fun you will have finding all kinds of goods at decent prices.