I already described this place in my restaurant tip, but wanted to make a point about their good price and availability. Everything is possible here, from buying a guided tour, a shuttle fare, the jeep-boat-jeep ride to Fortuna, a hotel room, a phone call, a meal, arts & crafts, coffee, cigars, exchanging currency.
The only thing that make you want to scratch out your eyes is the bureaucraty it takes to pay. Wether you are buying 100$ worth of guided tours or a 2$ bag of coffee, you have to first see a clerc who will thoroughly fill a receipt, answering phone calls and chating with other clercs at the same time. You can then take this receipt to the lady hidden in the cash box who will as thoroughly stamp your receipt and collect your paiement. You finally can go back to the first clerc and get your stuff.
What to buy: For the most part, this is where we found the best price for all those small gifts you want to take home: wood sculpture, wood jewelry, t-shirt, coffee... I bought bags of coffee, grounded or not, for 2$ each and wood bracelets for my brothers for 2$. A good price, and a real good price if you compare with touristic gift shops.
What to pay: Much less than anywhere else
There is a big shop in the center of Santa Elena where you will find all kind of souvenirs. Buy you souvenirs here as it is cheaper than in the rest of the country. You can also enter the shop through the supermarket.
Actualy, we saw this poster in many shops. Two I can remember are the SkyWalk / SkyTrek shop in Santa Elena, just beside the bus stop and Chunches Library .
What to buy: I fell in love with the Monteverde poster. It makes an amazing souvenir and a beautiful and colorful art piece for my living-room. Plus, it helps the Cloud Forest school. All proceeds from the sale of the poster go to support the Cloud Forest School (Centro de Education Creativa) in Monteverde, an environmentally focused, bilingual school situated on 106 acres of pristine and protected land. It was founded in 1991 by local parents hoping to provide a new and unique opportunity for their children.
Wildlife artist Charley Harper captures the excitement, color and vibrant life of the Monteverde Cloud Forest in this unique poster. Charlie and his wife Edie had the opportunity to visit Costa Rica and now share with you the magic of the world's most ecologically diverse and fragile forest. If you have been to Monteverde, you can appreciate the beauty represented here; if you have never been, we hope this poster encourages you to visit.
What to pay: 20$ including a tube for travel
Possible to mail order poster or note cards with email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
There is one supermarket in Santa Elena and it is interesting to look around. There is a regular grocery market, an ice cream counter, and a more touristy souvenir shop attached. To go in the grocery market, you have to check your backpack at the ice cream counter.
What to buy: Good things to buy here are 1. Lizano salsa and tabasco sauce. 2. Coffee to take home 3. Licor de Cafe. 4. Ice cream. I love to bring home foods as gifts, and all of these things are inexpensive too. Unfortunately, the ice cream doesn't travel ... you'll have to enjoy it while you are there!
You will probably have already tried the Lizano salsa as it is found as a condiment in many restaurants. It is not very spicy but it is flavorful. It is good on rice and beans, eggs, and even as a salad dressing. You may not have tried the Lizano tabasco. If you like really spicy sauces, you have to try it! It is excellent and nothing like american tabasco sauce. It is good on eggs, tacos, and anything else you want to spice up.
The coffee, you will already know by this point, is excellent wherever you go in Costa Rica.
Licor de cafe is coffee flavored liqueur. It is nice to sip on .... however, you can also buy that at the Juan Santamaria airport before you leave if you want. If you have a yearning for some other type of beverage you are used to, there is a variety of imported liquors here also.
The local ice cream is wonderfully creamy. Try some!
What to pay: Salsa: $2 - $4
Tabasco: 50 cents
Coffee: Maybe $5
Licor de cafe: Not sure
Ice cream: Maybe 50 cents for 1 scoop