We’ve mentioned in the past about how it can be difficult to find certain items in Costa Rica. Up until this point, this has been fine. With just the two of us, we’ve made it work with what is available locally or if we really needed something, we’ve had friends or family visiting from the United States bring it. Having a baby, however, has presented a whole new set of challenges. Although we don’t want a house cluttered with baby stuff and are trying to be as minimalist as possible, the fact is that babies need certain things and you can’t do much to get around it. Here are our tips for buying baby items in Costa Rica.
Where You Live Matters
One thing to keep in mind is that where you live in Costa Rica makes all the difference with how easy it is to find baby things. Around San Jose, there are thousands of stores and even a handful that specialize in baby items. In other areas of the country, you’ll find stores of course, but they might be far from home and probably won’t have exactly what you’re looking for. Where we live in the Southern Zone, for example, the nearest store that sells baby stuff is 45 minutes away. We could probably find a lot of what we need there, but many of the items won’t be what we want. Maxi Pali (a Walmart-owned big box store found all around the country) has the basics like diapers, tubs, formula, some clothing, etc. but the selection is slim and quality often not great. The same is true for smaller stores in our area. In Quepos and San Isidro del General, we were able to find smaller places with a couple of Pack n’ Plays and car seats, but weren’t happy with the quality.
Buying Second Hand
Another big factor for us was money. Not only did the stores around us not have what we were looking for, but they were still fairly pricey. We weren’t going to pay an outrageous amount for something of subpar quality so we needed another plan. At this point, it was early on in our pregnancy and we knew we still had plenty of time to gather what we needed. We weren’t ruling out going to San Jose to shop around, but thought we would see how we did buying second hand first.
For several months, we scoured Craigslist. We ended up scoring big with a set of practically new cloth diapers (Costa Rica’s Bebe Confortable brand) that we bought from a woman who decided cloth diapering wasn’t for her. We also found a barely used Pack n’ Play that we bought from a couple that was moving back to the US. Both of these items were located near San Jose (this is very common as many expat families live in the Central Valley), about four hours from us, but we were able to get them delivered through the bus. The Encomiendra system, where you can ship things on the local buses, is a very easy and inexpensive way to get things in Costa Rica. It cost less than $6 for the seller to send the heavy Pack n’ Play all the way from San Jose to Quepos. So just because an item is a bit far away, don’t rule it out. Both sellers that we dealt with were happy to get the item to the bus station if it meant getting rid of it for a decent price.
There definitely aren’t as many used baby items for sale online in Costa Rica as in the US but you can still find stuff. In addition to Craigslist, people often post in the Costa Rica Facebook expat groups, especially Families with Children in the Central Valley. You can also find used strollers, bath tubs, toys, clothing, etc. in the Ropa Americanas and other used clothing stores found throughout the country.
We were really hoping to find a used crib but weren’t able to. Interestingly, several were posted online over the six or so months we were looking, but they were expensive. The problem was that many of the cribs had been custom made with really nice wood or purchased at the pricey Bebemundo in San Jose for upwards of $600. A used price of $400 might have been a good deal relative to that but it was a lot more than we wanted to spend.
After doing some research, we found that Price Smart in San Jose, a big box membership store ($30/year) similar to Costco, sold cribs for a much more reasonable price of around $250. Although as we’ve mentioned San Jose is a bit far for us, the trip ended up being worth it. Price Smart also sells disposable diapers, which are very expensive in Costa Rica, for a reasonable price in bulk. So we stocked up on those for the first month or so before we start using cloth ones, and also got some wipes and cloth-diaper-safe laundry detergent while we were there.
Price Smart has six locations in the San Jose area, including Escazu, Alajuela, and Heredia. Keep in mind that they don’t carry everything at the clubs, especially larger items like furniture. You have to order things like that online, then they import it and you can pick it up a few weeks later. This is what we did for the crib. Here’s a link to their website.
If you live near the Panama border, it might be worth a trip there to pick up some things as well. The “malls” near the Paso Canoas border carry quite a bit of baby items. They are located in the duty free zone so you don’t need to worry about checking out of Costa Rica and into Panama to visit them.
These sprawling stores carry everything from groceries to electronics and household items, all for a fraction of the price of things in Costa Rica. For baby stuff, we had the best luck at City Mall, the building farthest to the left from the border checkpoint coming from Costa Rica. Although the baby department wasn’t huge, they did have a decent selection of car seats, strollers, clothing, sheets, baby bottles, nursing gear, and toys. We ended up buying a Graco car seat there for $100, about the going rate on Amazon. This was a much better price than anything we could find in Costa Rica for a well-designed car seat that we were comfortable with.
Baby Specialty Stores
The San Jose area also has some baby specialty stores if you’re having trouble finding something. These stores usually have everything that you need but are higher end so more expensive. One larger store that we recently visited is Bebemundo (Baby World). We weren’t sure what to expect going into our visit there. Part of me was picturing a sprawling warehouse full of aisles like at Babies R Us and another part thought it might be some tiny store that didn’t carry much at all. Bebemundo was right in between. It did have all the essentials, from name brand car seats, cribs, changing tables, and high chairs to humidifiers, breast pumps, and a whole aisle of baby bottles. So if there’s something that you desperately need and can’t find anywhere else, they probably carry it. But keep in mind that because this is a very high end store, prices are high end as well. As an example, we saw a manual breast pump for $100 that costs only $30 on Amazon.
We visited the Bebemundo near La Sabana Park. They have two other locations in the San Jose area. You can find more information on their Facebook page.
Other baby specialty stores can be found at the Multiplaza in Escazu. We haven’t been to these yet ourselves, but they’ve been recommended to us. Siman, a department store at the Multiplaza, is also supposed to be a good place to look.
One of our recent big victories has been figuring out an easy way to get packages from Amazon. In the US, we absolutely loved Amazon. There was nothing like being able to find almost anything we wanted and have it at our door in two days with just a few clicks. Although it does take a little longer to receive shipments in Costa Rica, Amazon has been wonderful for helping us get ready for baby. We were able to create an online registry so that family and friends who wanted to send us a little something could easily do so without us having to deal with customs.
The way it works is Amazon takes care of customs and local delivery once the package arrives in Costa Rica. They estimate import duties in advance when something is purchased. This means that if you’re receiving a gift, you don’t have to pay the duty yourself, which is great. If the duties end up being less than the amount estimated, Amazon refunds the difference to the buyer.
There are probably other ways to do it, but the easiest way we’ve found to receive packages from Amazon is through our P.O. Box, called an Apartado in Costa Rica. We simply put our Costa Rica shipping address into Amazon and can search for items eligible for international shipping. Whoever is buying the item still has to pay shipping costs, of course, but it is nice to have this option when things are difficult to find or very expensive in Costa Rica. Some of the things we registered for on Amazon that we had a hard time finding here or were too expensive were good quality crib sheets, towels, and wash clothes, swaddle blankets, a mattress cover, natural baby soaps and lotions, a baby carrier, and bilingual children’s books. We did have a hard time getting the soaps and lotions, however, and needed to file some additional paperwork to prove their contents before they could be delivered. But we did finally get everything we needed with a little extra time.
We hope that this post gives you some insight into what it’s like to get a nursery ready in Costa Rica. There is already so much to learn when you’re having a baby, you shouldn’t have to stress about where to find the gear you need. Like most other things in Costa Rica, many items are more expensive and can be tough be find, but if you focus on the essentials, you shouldn’t have a problem.
Do you have a tip for buying baby gear in Costa Rica or a favorite store that we missed? Share it in the comments below.
Are you planning to start a family in Costa Rica? Check out these posts:
- Having a Baby in Costa Rica – Part 1: Our experience with prenatal care in Costa Rica.
- Having a Baby in Costa Rica – Part 2 (coming soon): What it was like delivering a baby at a small private hospital in Costa Rica.
I visited CR for the first time with the idea of checking out the place as a possible winter/retirement spot. I have to say, I was so disappointed in the shopping (clothes/household goods). I described it as Dollar Store quality with Department store pricing. Ugg.
Hi Laura, Yeah, unfortunately the shopping isn’t the best in most small towns, but there are some good stores around San Jose if you know where to look. The Multiplaza in Escazu has a lot of great stores and a huge mall recently opened up called City Mall that is supposed to be the largest in Central America.
We are staying at a vrbo in playa flamingo. R u familiar with the area. Have a 8 month old and a two and a half year old going with. Is there a place that sells disposable diapers and also how about water floaters.
Hi Janeen, You can find disposable diapers in any major grocery store. Keep in mind though that they’re pretty expensive unless you buy in bulk in San Jose so you might want to bring a decent supply. Water floaters are usually pretty easy to find in medium sized grocery stores in touristy towns- there’s one on the way if you’re coming from Liberia in the town of Huacas that you could check out (look for it on the right). If you’re flying into Liberia, you could also do some shopping there before heading to Flamingo (they will definitely have the water floaters). There’s a strip mall with lots of stores at the main intersection near the highway (Route 1) and also tons of stores in downtown Liberia.
Hello, Do you know where to get a mattress for a toddler bed? Its actually the same size a crib mattress, so a crib mattress would due as well. I only need the mattress. So far, locally, I have found only sets where I cannot buy just the mattress.
Hi Hooma, We got ours (a foam one) at Don Colchon in the Cariari Mall near San Jose. They had one that was already made so that was easiest. Not sure if they always have them in stock like that though, ours seemed to be from someone who never picked up so maybe call first. Jiron, the mattress store all around CR, can make foam ones custom too. You can order regular ones with springs through Pricesmart online but I remember them being pretty expensive. Not sure where you live but we have seen springs one randomly in stores around San Isidro de El General too (Juanca on Highway 1). Hope that helps. Good luck finding one!
Thank you SO much for this post! Very helpful! Regarding Amazon, did they ship to the town you live in our just to SJO?
They shipped to our PO Box in Quepos. We didn’t have any problems with most of the packages. The exception was things that were shipped DHL. DHL doesn’t ship to PO Boxes and wouldn’t deliver to our house because we are in a very rural area. We ended up having to pick up the packages at a distribution center in a nearby city. Most of the stuff was shipped iParcel, though, which went direct to the post office. Very easy!
Do you guys have any idea if I can find Lego sets near Manuel Antonio? We are here for a month and my 5 year old is almost done with both sets I brought. Thanks!
Hi Heidi, You could try the toy store on the second floor of the “mall” across from the bus station (where Subway is). It’s small but has a lot of brand names, though it is expensive. If you ever get up to San Isidro de El General, that’s probably your best option. There’s a store there called Toys that has a ton and Sam’s Kids on Highway 2 has a lot too.
Hello! I totally appreciate this post! Thank you. We are going to be visiting my in-laws in the Golfito area in December 2018. We have been traveling to CR for years, but this is the first time with a baby. I am searching for a Pack and Play for him to sleep in. He will be 13 months when we arrive. I have one in my Amazon cart right now, but the cost of shipping more than doubles my actual order. Yikes! Any suggestions of stores in San Jose that I could purchase from online for delivery in the Golfito area?
If all else fails, I may ask my sister-in-law to make a trip to Canoas and pick one out. I am concerned about sturdiness and quality but I would imagine it is possible to get brand names there. Right?
What would you do?
Hi Megan, Paso Canoas doesn’t always have name brands. We would probably just pick one up in San Jose before heading to Golfito. Shipping would be kind of a nightmare because it’s a big item. I don’t think any store in San Jose would deliver that far either. Good luck!
My parents just bought a condo in Guanacaste, Carrillo, Sardinal, Playas del Coco.
Gosh – that’s a mouth full 🙂 I’m planning to go there for xmas with 1 and a 5 year old. We would like to order a crib, mattress and a diaper pail from Amazon, but i’m confused how to go about it through Apartado in Costa Rica that you mentioned.
my parents have a guy that renovated their condo and said he could pick up and put together the crib. Im not really sure how to go about this situation.
does ordering something from san jose and shipping it to my parents condo make more sense?
Hi Nina, We wouldn’t try to get anything big like a crib into the country through Amazon. You could buy one locally in San Jose or Liberia instead. PriceSmart in San Jose usually has good options in stock for a good price (not much selection but a lot cheaper than the baby stores in SJ for the quality), if your parents have a membership there. If you’re okay with renting gear, there’s a couple up in that area that does that. Here’s a link to their website.
Hi Jenn and Matt,
Really appreciating your articles and so excited to see others loving that amazing country! This will be our first time in CR with a baby and we’d love some expert advice. We have six weeks to spend somewhere with our 1-yr-old in March and would love your recommendations on beach towns where we might find a reasonably priced rental, some surf (definitely keen on Pacific side), possibly still some quiet water where we can take the little one, and maaaaybe access to a gym (hubby has to do a lot of PT). Is Quepos the only spot that hits those marks? My coastal knowledge is fairly limited, so we are grateful for ideas!
Hi Tani, Sorry for the delay in getting back to you – we have been very busy since the holidays. My guess is you already have a place picked out for your 6 weeks in March but let us know if not and we can help with some recommendations.
Hi Jenn and Matt,
I just have a couple questions about cloth diapering in CR. We use cloth diapers now, but we live in Canada! We were in CR a couple years ago and I remember being hot even in cotton t-shirts! My concern is that baby might be too hot and uncomfortable in the cloth. Has that been an issue for you? We will be down there for 3 months and I’d rather not buy disposables if I don’t have to…
Hi Jackie, We have used cloth for both kids and never had a problem with the heat. Just dress them in light clothing. Our baby is in onesies all the time. The diapers don’t seem to bother him at all. So you should be fine to continue with cloth.
Hi Jen – I came across your site while trying to research for a place to rent baby gear for our upcoming trip in November. Do you have any recommendations on a place where we can rent pack n play and possibly a highchair? We will be staying in Puntarenas Province 60111, Costa Rica near Malpais. TIA
Hi HM, The only place we know of where you can rent baby gear is Tamarindo. According to the company’s website, they can get the gear to Santa Teresa/Mal País so maybe that would work. Good luck!
Hi Jenn and Matt,
We are currently staying in Cahuita for a few days, but realizing we need a baby backpack/carrier for our hikes here. Do you by any chance know of a store where we can purchase one/rent one here?
Hi Liam, We would try looking on Facebook Marketplace. We actually just saw someone posting about a baby carrier for sale in Cahuita yesterday. It was in the group called Pura Vida Mamas. They may have posted it in Marketplace as well. Good luck!
Hi there! Do you have a baby boy gift recommendation for someone living in Costa Rica? They are traveling to the US for a brief business trip, but while they are here I would like to give them something. It would need to be able to fit in their luggage. Thank you so much for sharing this information! Super helpful!
Hi Lin, They would probably appreciate something really practical that’s hard to find in Costa Rica. You can’t go wrong with quality clothes or a nice toy for later. If they live near the beach, swim diapers are great and you can’t really find them here. Hope that helps!