This one is easy!
The best place we have found in all of Costa Rica is 8 km South of the Liberia airport entrance. (4km South of the fence at the South end of the Liberia airport.) It is also about 18km South of the town of Liberia (starting counting from the number 1 highway.)
None of the prices for specific items there were more expensive than ANYWHERE else we saw, and most were lower for the exact same thing from the same artisans.
The ‘La Gran Nicoya’ souvenir store, on the LEFT side as you go from the airport to Nicoya
Note: This store is NOT in the town of Nicoya, it is some 60km NW of Nicoya (look on a map, there is the town of Nicoya and the Nicoya peninsula, the store and town are both named for the peninsula.)
The variety is much greater than any other souvenir shop we found, and everything worth buying.
Update 2019: Having searched stores in the San Jose area, my comments in this page still apply.
Note: According to 2 sources, Tamarindo has lots of souvenirs, some ‘made’ in Costa Rica by artisans from Argentina and Mexico – but none from artisans from Costa Rica. So if you want Argentinian souvenirs – some that say ‘Costa Rica’ on them! Go there. If you want authentic Costa Rica souvenirs – go to La Gran Nicoya. (This is like where I live, all the Canadian/Banff/Calgary souvenirs say ‘made in China’, or 30 years ago ‘made in Taiwan’, and if Trump has his way, it will be ‘made in a country close to China but not US’s enemy China’ in a couple years.)
Here’s what I suggest:
Fly into Liberia,
Head South for 8km (8 minutes – your rental car will be in km’s so it is easy to see when you’ve gone 8.) It is a small sign on the left (East) side of the road.
Take a look around, take pictures of things that interest you, and perhaps buy all your souvenirs so you don’t have to waste any more time shopping (This is a guy writing this! 🙂)
Then travel through Costa Rica. If you want, stop into other souvenir shops.
Then on your way back to the Airport, plan to stop and buy your souvenirs if you didn’t get that task out of the way on the first day.
Some things to buy, some things to not buy:
You will see frogs with a stick in their mouth, have the clerk show you how they work. Each size reproduces quite accurately, the croak of a different type of frog. Even within the same size the sound of the croak varies, so choose by color, price or sound – as you see fit!
Things made with Costa Rica wood. You can even buy a wall hanging that is a set of wood samples. Trivets of various sizes and shapes and colors – using different woods, bowls, napkin holders and much more.
Coffee (My wife and I were not impressed with this coffee or the coffee by BRITT, try their samples, and it was interesting, they SHOW you that they do a poor job of picking the beans! But that is a story for a different page – and admittedly, this coffee is a lot cheaper than the really good coffee.)
Chocolate. They have several very good chocolates from Costa Rica. The price is fairly high, but lower than other places for the same chocolate, try their samples.
Jewelry made with palm tree nuts.
Jewelry made with coffee beans.
Jewelry made with local woods. (We like these the best as souvenirs)
Jewelry made with local stones. (Are you seeing a pattern yet?)
Beach towels (very hard to find anywhere else that we went)
Art of many types, for example, colorful images done on feathers.
Butterflies (mounted of course!)
If you are flying in or out of San Jose, it will depend on your itinerary what you should do.But if fitting in a trip to the Libera area … Perhaps when you go to Playa Conchal, plan on buying all your souvenirs at La Gran Nicoya.