Shop hours are typically 8 a.m.–6 p.m. Monday–Saturday. Many places close at noon for a siesta; a few stay open until late evening.
San José  is replete with arts and crafts, such as reproduction pre-Columbian gold jewelry, hammocks, wood carvings, Panamanian molas, and miniature oxcarts. Mercado de Artesanías Nacionales (Calle 11, Avenidas 4/6, Mon.–Sat.), in Plaza Artigas, teems with colorful stalls. The plaza hosts an open-air art exhibition (Pintura al aire libre) every Saturday (10 a.m.–4 p.m.) March–July. The Mercado Central , on Avenida Central, has a panoply of leather work and other artisans’ stalls.
Specialty handicraft stores concentrate near Parque Morazán  and include Gallery Amir (Calle 5, Avenida 5, tel. 506/2256-9445, www.amirart.com ), which sells top-quality wood carvings and furniture. Centro Comercial El Pueblo (Avenida 0, tel. 506/2221-9434, www.centrocomercialelpueblo.com , 9 a.m.–5 a.m. daily) also has many high-quality art galleries and crafts stores.
My favorite store is Galería Namú (Avenida 7, Calles 5/7, tel. 506/2256-3412, www.galerianamu.com ), where the superb indigenous art and crafts include Boruca masks and weavings and jewelry from Panamá and elsewhere. Chieton Moren (tel. 506/2267-6716, Calle 1, Avenidas 10/12), located behind the Iglesia de la Dolorosa, sells indigenous crafts direct from the artists—and all earnings return fully to the artists (chieton moren means “fair deal”). It’s operated by La Asociación de Productores Flor de Boruca.
Another excellent gallery is Arte Contemporáneo Andrómeda (Avenida 9, Calle 9, tel. 506/2223-3529, 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri., noon–6 p.m. Sat.).
American-owned 7th Street Books (Calle 7 and Avenidas Central/1, tel. 506/2256-8251, marroca [at] racsa [dot] co [dot] cr) has the widest variety of books in English, emphasizing travel and nature, but also offering novels and nonfiction.
Librería Internacional (tel. 800/542-7374, www.libreriainternacional.com ), Costa Rica’s answer to Barnes & Noble, has stores on Avenida Central (tel. 506/2257-2563), in Rohrmoser (tel. 506/2290-3331) and San Pedro (tel. 506/2253-9553), and outside town in Escazú (tel. 506/2201-8320). LibroMax (tel. 800/542-7662, www.libromax.com ) has outlets in Mall San Pedro and Multiplaza (in Escazú); and Librería Universal has an outlet at Avenida Central and Calles Central/1 (tel. 506/2222-2222).
Mora Books (Calle 5, Avenida 5/7, tel. 506/8383-8385, www.morabooks.com , 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Sat.), on the west side of the Holiday Inn, sells used books, plus magazines and maps.
Costa Rica is a prime spot to buy Cuban cigars. (U.S. citizens should note that it is illegal for them to buy Cuban cigars, and even non–U.S. citizens can have them confiscated in transit home via the United States.) Costa Rica’s own selections run the gamut from mediocre to superb, including some brands made of leaves aged with aromatic coffee beans.
Don Benigno Cigars (Commercial Center Plaza Mayor, Pavas, tel. 506/2296-8111, www.benignocigars.com , 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun.) sells its own hand-rolled cigars grown from Cuban seed.
Every souvenir store sells premium packaged coffee. Make sure the package is marked puro, otherwise the coffee may be laced with enough sugar to make even the most ardent sugar lover turn green. You can also buy whole beans—albeit not the finest export quality—roasted before your eyes at the Mercado Central (Avenida Central, Calle 6). Ask for whole beans (granos), or you’ll end up with superfine grounds. One pound of beans costs about $1.
The airport departure lounge has several well-stocked coffee stores.
If you admire the traditional Tico look, check out the Mercado Central  (Avenida 1, Calle 6), where you’ll find embroidered guayabero shirts and blouses and cotton campesino hats. Shoemakers abound, many selling cowboy boots, including dandy two-tones; a bevy of high-quality shoemakers can be found on Avenida 3 between Calles 24 and 26.
The best place for upscale brand-name boutiques is Mall San Pedro (Avenida Central at Rotonda de la Hispanidad, San Pedro, tel. 506/2283-7540).
You can buy hiking gear, from fanny-packs to safari vests, at Mundo Aventura (Avenida 3, Calle 36, tel. 506/2221-6934, www.maventura.com ).
Artisan markets sell attractive ethnic-style earrings and bracelets. Much of what you’ll see on the street is actually gold-washed, not solid gold. Most upscale hotel gift stores sell Colombian emeralds and semiprecious stones, 14-karat-gold earrings and brooches, and fabulous pre-Columbian re-creations: try Esmeraldas y Diseños (tel. 506/2231-4808, www.esmeraldasydisenos.com ) in Sabana Norte.
Galerías Metallo (tel. 506/2225-1570, www.studiometallo.com ), in Barrio Escalante, has both a jewelry academy and showroom.
The Gold Museum Shop (tel. 506/2243-4317, 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. daily), beneath the Plaza de la Cultura, sells quality gold reproductions.