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If you plan on visiting Costa Rica for a few weeks or even staying for a while longer, a great way of saving money is buying your own groceries. Fortunately, you can find a wide variety of options in Costa Rica to choose from.
In this article, we will share useful information about food shopping in Costa Rica such as the main grocery stores, tips to save money, and more. Whether you find yourself in San Jose, Guanacaste, or any other part of the country, you will be informed enough to decide where to go to find what you need.
Main grocery stores in Costa Rica
When it comes to grocery shopping in Costa Rica it is important that you know what options you will find. Generally speaking throughout the whole country, you can find:
These are bigger establishments where you can find pretty much everything including fresh produce, meat, basic clothing, and even other services like drugstores, dry cleaning, optics, and more.
These are smaller-scale shops where you can find basic items, with just fewer options to choose from.
Known as Feria del Agricultor, these are retail markets for the exclusive use of small and medium-sized producers from the agricultural, fishing, poultry, small industry, and handicraft production sectors where they sell their products directly to the consumer. Producers from all over the country gather to sell their products at a usually lower cost and with higher quality.
Farmers’ markets take place over the weekend (most open on Saturdays, and some on Sundays depending on location). The schedule also varies but it usually goes from 5am to 2pm. Farmer’s markets are located in strategic places close to the center of most cities. There are about 80 farmers’ markets taking place in Costa Rica.
Main Supermarket Chains
Auto mercado supermarket
This is the fanciest grocery store in Costa Rica where you can find high-quality and even international products that you may not find anywhere else. Prices can be a bit higher than in other grocery stores in Costa Rica but this place does check all the boxes in terms of quality, cleanliness, variety, and gourmet products. They tend to partner with other providers to give their customers the option of accessing a few different services inside their premises such as drugstore, optics, and dry cleaning, among others.
We are sure you might be more than familiar with this provider. Even when they are not as huge in Costa Rica as they are in the US, Walmart has gained a lot of ground on Costa Rican soil. They have stores in 6 out of the 7 provinces and they are the biggest supermarket chain in the country.
Mas x Menos
Mas x Menos is a supermarket that is well-known for its good customer service. It offers fresh produce, meat, and a good variety of products. The prices are fair and they can be found in major cities around the country.
This supermarket is present in 5 out of the 7 provinces in Costa Rica. They also have a fair diversity of products as well as affordable prices, although they are a bit higher than their competitors.
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Pali is known to be the cheapest chain of supermarkets in Costa Rica. In order to lower their prices they have had to compromise other aspects such as the presentation and the variety of products, customer service, and a lower number of workers. Those who rather save money while getting basic products prefer to do their grocery shopping here. Pali is located in all provinces.
Maxi Pali is also another supermarket with very affordable prices, it is very similar to Pali, but a bit bigger and with a little more variety of products. Their customer service is also superior. You can find a drugstore inside this supermarket.
This place is widely known for being big and having a huge variety of products including furniture, clothing, fresh produce, meat, and literally everything you need. They have 14 stores distributed throughout the country and you can find very good prices there.
PriceSmart is very similar to Sam’s Club in the US. It is a big establishment with different options known for selling products in bulk quantities. If you are planning to buy food for several days or for many people, PriceSmart is the place to go. You can also find within the store a tasty and affordable fast-food restaurant. Grocery Prices tend not to be very cheap, but you will be getting a greater amount.
This supermarket has 34 different locations throughout the country, 21 of which are in Guanacaste.
MegaSuper is the only supermarket chain that is located in every province in Costa Rica. They tend to offer good prices, several discounts and a decent variety of products. Overall, this is a good place to go.
Convenience stores or mini markets
The three most popular or commonly found convenience stores in the main cities in Costa Rica are Vindi, AM PM, and Fresh Market. These places are visited mainly by those who need to buy something quickly. Like grabbing a quick snack, breakfast on the go, or a few items for a quick meal. Prices in these types of stores will always be higher than in supermarkets, but if you only need to buy a thing or two, it won’t make a big difference.
Quick and useful facts to keep in mind
- Buying groceries in a small town or in touristic areas will always be more expensive than doing so in a supermarket in a bigger city. If most of your stay will be in a secluded area, make sure you buy your groceries in any of the local supermarkets mentioned above.
- Credit cards are accepted everywhere in Costa Rica, so you don’t need to worry if you don’t have colones handy.
- You can pay with dollars in most places, the only bill that is not usually accepted is the $100. Always be aware of the exchange rate of the day as it might change from one day to the other. Most supermarkets or grocery stores have the exchange rate visible in the cashier area. Know that even if you pay with dollars, the exchange will be in colones, which may work to your advantage if you need colones.
- Some American or international brands can be found in Costa Rica, just keep in mind that the price will be higher as import tax had to be paid to bring the product. We encourage you to try local brands, not only to save money but to try something different that you might end up loving.
- You will have a better shot at finding specialty products such as gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan, etc. at supermarkets versus small convenience stores.
- Most supermarkets have big savings, sales, or promotions on Wednesdays, so take advantage of them if you can wait until the middle of the week to do your grocery shopping.
- Prices and quality of fresh products will tend to be superior at farmers’ markets. You can also find souvenirs and interesting local products there.
If you are traveling with a group of people, a big family, or for extended periods of time, renting a place with an equipped kitchen can save you money. For excellent rental options, we offer several vacation rentals with full kitchens.