Looking for Locally Made in Costa Rica

My recent travel adventure to Costa Rica had me pumped, not just for the opportunity to venture into the jungle, but to visit a destination known for ecotourism.  In the past I’ve set goals for myself to live and travel more sustainably as well as reflect on how I can balance sustainability with my shopping habits, and I anticipated putting these ideas into action in Costa Rica.  Although it was inspiring to see numerous places recycling all kinds of materials including paper, aluminum and plastic, there was one lingering disappointment in the back of my mind.  Scouring the souvenir shops in Monteverde and Tamarindo left me feeling at a loss for something else. 

A few times I found jewelry made from coffee beans, seeds or reclaimed wood, which was comforting, but finding bracelets and necklaces at stores tagged “Made in China” or “Made in India” left me feeling annoyed.  Surely if a destination were known for its sustainable practices, wouldn’t it include locally made products that support the local community?  In Tamarindo, a day out shopping left me wondering if there were any variety in the beach dresses, jewelry and other souvenirs or if each shop was a carbon copy of one another.  My energy dwindled, and not just because of the heat.  I was losing interest on finding only the same products from shop to shop and wished for some variety.

When I travelled to Mexico I loved finding local artists and I became passionate about collaborating with local artisans in Peru, and both of these opportunities left me hoping to discover the same things in Costa Rica.  I wasn’t completely at a loss, however.  Choco Café Don Juan in Monteverde featured necklaces and earrings made of coffee beans and seeds, chocolate and coffee from a nearby chocolate factory and a poster supporting local schools and conservation were signs of ecotourism.  The San Jose airport also offered a glimmer of hope when I stumbled upon a store featuring local artists and their products.  Although I didn’t end up purchasing anything, it’s nice to see at least one store featuring the flavor and local vibe of Costa Rica.  I only wish I could find more stores like this.

Perhaps I was looking in the wrong places and should have consulted for specific shops ahead of time, but I felt that a destination known for ecotourism would have more options.  If there’s one thing I felt Costa Rica was lacking it was a hint of authenticity.  It’s not that I’m disappointed I went to Costa Rica, I just wish the feelings of commercialization and globalization hadn’t been as prevalent.  Costa Rica’s beautiful jungles and cloud forests were wonderfully unique experiences I wish could have been carried into their souvenirs and local shops.  My feelings aren’t just for Costa Rica, it’s for stores everywhere.  The more I work with and purchase from local artists and artisans, one thing remains in the back of my mind: I hope that someday the work of artists won’t be a small shop hidden away in a street corner, it will be the wave of the future.

This post is a part of Weekend Travel Inspiration hosted by Reflections Enroute, The Crowded Planet, Contented Traveller, Albom Adventures, Safari 254, FamiliesGo!, and Malaysian MeandersTravel Photo Thursday hosted by Budget Travelers Sandbox, Budget Travel Talk, Rachel’s Ruminations and Tanama TalesPhoto Friday hosted by Pierced WonderingsWeekend Wanderlust hosted by A Brit and A Southerner, One Modern Couple, Eat Work Travel, A Southern Gypsy and Justin Plus Lauren

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12 Comments

  1. I’m not necessarily anti-globalization but I think when the authenticity of a place is determined, or defined, by its trade relationships with other country then we are losing something. How strange it is to see wooden sculptures being carved in Indonesia destined for shops in South Africa and Chinese and Indian jewelry for sale in Costa Rica? You’re right, what a loss for the local economy.

    • brooklyntvlasich

      I think you’ve made an excellent point. I’m not 100% anti-globalization either, however I hope more of the local community and products are incorporated into tourism. It would make such a difference for the economy and the country.

  2. erinklema

    I think there was a gift shop in the Liberia airport that also sold items created by Costa Rica artisans and artists, but I could be wrong. Other than that, I didn’t notice any hand-crafted items during my recent trip either, but I wasn’t specifically looking for that kind of souvenir. I’d rather drink my coffee than wear it. 😉

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Interesting to note that you’ve found the same thing. I do prefer to drink coffee from Costa Rica too, even though the coffee bean earrings were pretty cool.

  3. Ruth

    I share your opinion about the country. You can find tons of local products in other Central American countries. That is not necessarily true in Costa Rica. I did find a shop selling jewelry made by a local artisan in La Fortuna. I got several pieces and use them till this day.

    • brooklyntvlasich

      That’s great you found a local artisan and still use the jewelry you bought! I hope Costa Rica finds the value of featuring more local artisans.

  4. budgettraveltalk

    I understand what you mean about wanting to see locally made products. It is a pity that there weren’t more available. I’d just like to point out that Nancie’s Travel Photo Thursday has cohosts. They are Jan from Budget Travel Talk Ruth from Tanama Tales Rachel from Rachel’s Ruminations.

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Thank you for bringing that up! I’ll make sure I add the co-hosts to the post.

  5. swapna

    Wonderful! Do share your posts on Practical Mondays too! Would love to see you there 🙂

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Thank you for sharing the new link-up! I’ll sure to check it out.

  6. Grey World Nomads

    I don’t know about souvenirs but I enjoyed to stay in a few Eco-Lodges in Costa Rica which didn’t only label themselves as sustainable but really were “eco”. #TPThursday

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Eco-lodges are one aspect of Costa Rica that I’ve been intrigued to learn more about. I would love to stay in one and hope more travel sites find the value of them.

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