Supermarkets and convenience stores are the way most people get their supplies in Costa Rica. Most of the stuff you find back in your country probably has an equivalent here, so you probably don't need to be bringing a ton of personal care items in your luggage.
In tourist spots and hotels you can find convenience stores and mini-marts, but they'll usually mark up their prices a good amount: they know you have no idea how much a bottle of water is here, and will happily take advantage of that. Take a bus or a block to a supermarket or a more residential area, and you'll find normal-people prices on all the stuff you need.
Several supermarket chains operate throughout the country. Their prices are pretty standard between chain stores, which means if you stick to the supermarket chain, you can buy at similar prices no matter what part of the country you're in. Most of these chains are listed onGoogle Maps , so search there to find where they're at relative to your current location.
- Wal Mart is sort of like the Wal Mart chain in the US. They have supermarket, pharmacy, clothing and electronics. They're in the metro area in San Jose, Alajuela, Cartago and Heredia.
- Auto Mercado is a finer supermarket chain, which offers regular products but also has more selection in wines, deli, and fine cuts of meat.
- Mas X Menos, and MaxiPali are supermarket chains, owned by Wal Mart. They were purchased but preserved their brand, which was more widespread than the Wal Mart brand at the time. They're all over the country, including remote areas on the coasts. Mas X Menos has a bit more selection of products available, including clothing and electronics. MaxiPali is a "bare essentials" supermarket, carrying only very popular products that are always in high demand.
- Mega Super is a basic supermarket, which is comparable to Mas X Menos. Their prices are similar.
- Jumbo (or Perifericos) are also in the rankings with Mas X Menos and Mega Super. They mostly sell supermarket stuff, at prices slightly lower than Wal Mart.
- Pricesmart is a membership shopping club. They have a lot of imported foods, plus some electronics and home furnishings. If you have a large family, you can save a lot through their bulk packages. If it's just you, it's probably not worth paying the annual membership fee.
Mas X Menos and Wal Mart also offer a limited amount of financial services, at offices called "Servimas" inside supermarkets. At these offices you can make payments on credit cards, pay bills, and wire money via Western Union.
Pulperías, abastecedores and mini-superEdit
These are essentially convenience stores, located in every neighborhood all over the country. They usually have a very basic selection of bagged products, and sometimes produce and meats. Their prices don't follow any specific pattern, and can sometimes be higher than those in supermarkets. Especially in tourist-prone spots, you should beware of marked up prices at these stores.
Some gas stations also have convenience stores, which are no different from gas station convenience stores elsewhere.