Generally speaking, you can buy fruits and vegetables and sometimes even fish and meat at the open air farmers’ markets, (called ferias) for less than you can in the stores. And you can pick what you like and buy as little as one lime or one potato, something not always possible in the supermarkets, where packaging has become more and more the norm.
I did not get any responses about someone else’s experience receiving or giving a random act of kindness (actually it is something not that rare in Costa Rica, so perhaps not worth mentioning), but I did get some suggestions about ferias in the Central Valley.
A couple of readers confirmed my experience at the Sunday feria in Santa Ana, finding the produce expensive and not that fresh and the clientele mainly expat.
Arturo highly recommends the feria in San Rafael Oreamuno in Cartago for high quality vegetables and good prices. It is open between 6 a.m. and noon on Saturdays.
Richard told me about the longest feria, to my knowledge. It is in Alajuela on Calle Ancho. It is open from about 5 p.m. on Friday until late afternoon on Sunday. The parking lot, which is on the east side, can accommodate many cars. You can shop there in any weather since it is located in a permanent covered structure.
Of course, the feria and flea market is a permanent fixture on Avenida 10 in the city. However, not much has been done to make it attractive and a must try for shoppers.
According to Alexis, the feria in Hatillo 2 (there seem to be several Hatillos) is special. It is open on Sunday mornings until noon and is located north of the Circunvalación at the southern-most bend and extends from the freeway almost half a kilometer. A street light makes for easy access. The market is managed by the Municipality of San José and all of the vendors must be registered members of the same agro-producers association. They wear bright green shirts with their emblem to show their affiliation and, says Alexis, can answer most questions about their products or when a vegetable or fruit will be in season. Among the kiosks is an occasional tiny cafe where you can enjoy a rest and a café or freshly made empanada or pupusa in the middle of your shopping.
At the southern-most section of the market street, close to the circunvalación entrance, is a small shopping center. Among the businesses there, surrounding a central parking area, is a Mas x Menos.
Even more handy and what intrigues me, is the big Ropa Americana store at the far end. I was buying both my clothing and furniture from Goodwill and consignment stores when Barbra Streisand first introduced “Second Hand Rose,” a great comfort to me at the time.
Alexis says this has to be the best-kept second-hand clothing-store in the city. It is clean and orderly. Every article of clothing is color-coded according to price and a big wall poster tells you what price different colors represent. One of the many helpful salespeople will tell you what 2 for 1 special is going on at the moment. There are no accessories like purses and such, but they do have a large home section, for drapes, sheets, table-runners, etc. You can express your whole life style for a few colons.
Actually, I have always found more than just fresh produce and fruits to be the big draw at the ferias. There is always a new stand with a creative entrepreneur selling something new like cheese or homemade jam, or some health food, and there is the ambiance of a happy, peaceful crowd of people choosing from a bountiful supply of food and sustenance for their home or restaurant. It is nice to be a part of that throng, and a great way to start the day. In this case it is the good vibes that are contagious.