There are many reasons to travel to Costa Rica, but one of the best reasons is to meet and interact with Costa Ricans, often called ticos. Ticos are super laid-back (unless they are driving or watching soccer), welcoming, and generous. Whether reuniting with a host family from many years back, spending time with a driver or tour guide, or want to spoil the maids and waiters at the resort, or volunteering, we are often asked about the best gifts to take to Costa Rica to give to ticos. You can hear all about all types of gift giving in this episode of Tico-ish (with Ryan from Costa Rica Outsider), or read about our current favorite gifts to take to Costa Rica! (This post contains affiliate links).
Gifts for causal travelers
Lotions and perfumes. Perfumes and scented lotions are very popular in Costa Rica, as well as hand sanitizers. When we visit our friends in Costa Rica, I will often take along various popular scents from Bath and Body Works or Victoria’s Secret and give them to the women who cook us amazing meals when we stop by their house. They LOVE them!
Chocolate bars. Several years ago when I was living in Costa Rica, I was in a dance troupe, and one of our fellow members spent some time in the U.S. When he returned, he brought to rehearsal all kinds of little Mars candy bars to share. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized that American candy bars aren’t very common in Costa Rica. Now, I take them for all of the kids when we visit, and us parents get several moments of quiet to chat before the sugar high kicks in!
Coffee mugs. Almost everyone who visits Costa Rica VERY soon realizes that coffee is a big deal. The ritual associated with the preparation and drinking of coffee is unique to the country, and ticos love to share the experience with visitors. I often take along a Starbucks coffee mug from Denver or Colorado, to represent where we live. It’s a useful gift and a great conversation piece for long after you have left! These mugs are sold at most stand-alone Starbucks locations, but sometimes you have to ask the barista for the, as they keep them in back.
Gifts for service projects
If you are heading to Costa Rica for a missions or service trip, you might be interacting with lower income ticos. You may or may not feel comfortable giving more extravagant gifts to those living in poverty. There are still several special and important gifts that you can give that are useful for lower income ticos.
Socks. For some odd reason, socks are very expensive in Costa Rica- more expensive than in the U.S. (A painful realization for me after my suitcase got stolen out of a rental car and I was left with only the clothes on my back.) I will often take packs of nice athletic socks for the people I am serving. Socks are great because they are useful, and pretty much one-size fits all (not always as easy to take along shirts or pants if you don’t know the sizes of the people you will work with.)
Notebooks. Paper is expensive in Costa Rica, especially school notebooks. Many students pick coffee or bag groceries in the summer in order to be able to afford their notebooks for school. Because paper is a luxury, it is always fun to take along composition notebooks (the covers hold up well in the humidity), colored pens, crayons and stickers for the kids to create with, and for the older teens to use at school. Cartoon character covers are especially popular!
And that’s it. Do you have any creative ideas for gifts to take to ticos?