Downtown San José's must-stop shop is Galería Namu, which sells the best indigenous crafts in town. Its inventory brims with colorful creations by the Guaymí, Boruca, Bribri, Chorotega, Huetar, and Maleku peoples—all Costa Rican indigenous groups. Such crafts used to be the exclusive domain of male artisans, but a growing number of works by women are on display here these days. You can also find exquisitely carved ivory-nut tagua figurines and baskets made by the Wounan people from Panama's Darién region and Tuno textiles and Lenca pottery from Honduras. Take note of carved balsa masks, woven cotton blankets, and hand-painted ceramics.
The store looks expensive—and indeed, the sky's the limit in terms of prices—but if your budget is not so flush, say so: the good folks here can help you find something in the $15–$25 range that will make a cherished souvenir. As a bonus you'll get an information sheet describing your work's creator and art style. Namu has a reputation for fair prices for customers, and for fair pay to artists and artisans.
Jul 8, 2009
Our family's visit to Namu was, in some ways, the highlight of our brief time in San Jose. It's as much a museum as an art gallery, and the staff are as interested in telling you about the art works -- particularly the hand-crafted pieces by Costa Rican indigenous groups -- as they are in selling them. Some of the pieces are downright astonishing (the basket work is simply spectacular), and there's plenty in the store to fit any budget. If you're
looking for a memento of Costa Rica, but want more than a souvenir, Galeria Namu is the place to go.