San Jose Craft Market, MERDACA ARTESANIA – Costa Rica

Costa Rica Mercada Artesenia craft market in San JoseSan Jose’s craft market, Mercada Artesania has a fantastic assortment of colorful crafts. It is the largest presentation of artisan and craft ware in the country. The market occupies an entire city block connecting Avendida Central and Pan American Highway (Paseo Colon), beside the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica. It is covered with a roof, but otherwise opens to the breeze.

You’ll find a great range of beautiful wooden carvings: Costa Rican animals, masks, pre-Columbian figures, votives and deities. Native Boruca Ritual masks depict grinning, grimacing faces, or tranquil smiling Buddha–like expressions. Boruca is the indigenous group that forms the core of Costa Rica’s Native cultures.

Rustic wooden bowls, boxes and plates are also popular. Often these are decorated with leafy jungle motifs and patterns.

The surface of these creations is often polished to the extreme, with varnishes and oils applied to enhance the natural grain.

It all begins with exotic tropical varieties of wood: Guapinol, Purple Heart, Guanacaste (large coastal trees), and Rose Wood.

Small carved, brightly painted models of Carretas, the Costa Rican farmers’ oxen carts are a good reminder of the country, especially if you have ever toured a coffee plantation.

Clay and ceramic figures are another great souvenir. These also usually depict animals, and pre-Columbian deities.

Other uniquely Costa Rican crafts are created using leather. Handbags and belts are useful keepsakes. A tan leather hand tooled belt with embossed images of Carretas caught my eye, and after a bit of haggling was holding up my jeans.

I found one stall at Mercada Artesania with a completely unique form of leather art. Folding techniques like Japanese Origami were applied to sheets of hide, creating leaves and animal figures, brightly and realistically painted. A jungle frog sitting on a tropical leaf was light and easily packed into my luggage. The artist who created these leather frogs, birds, and snakes was working the booth personally and took the time to sign the back of my piece.

Clothing and textile art are also on the menu. I bought a tee-shirt that was tie-dyed using naturally made pigments in a beautiful jungle pattern, then silk screened with artful typography reading, “Pura Vida”.

Jewelry is another good option for easy-to-carry keepsakes. Jewelry themes usually reflect nature in the tropics. Materials include silver, Ivory Nuts or (Tagua), oyster and other sea shells, as well as tropical hardwoods.

Paintings on feathers are very portable art object. These depict the bird whose feather provides the canvas, and are suitably colorful.

Many visitors to Costa Rica leave the souvenir shopping till the end when they’re near the capital for the flight home. This makes shopping for local specialties easy. A bit of haggling over the price is part of the experience, and is expected. The hard part is deciding what to buy at Mercada Artesania.


For tours to San Jose and the rest of Costa Rica get in touch with this San Jose-based Costa Rica tours operator and ask about the full range of Costa Rica travel packages on offer.


By Andrew Kolasinski

Brought to you by CostaRicaCLOSEUP.com


Filed Under: Featured - TravellingSan JoseTours


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