San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Malls Cater to Tourists

Judging by the growing number of commercial centers appearing here, shopping is becoming a new sport in the Central Pacific. Feeding the boom in consumerism is an array of new commercial centers popping up all along the coast.

Not only has Jacó, the heart of the region’s construction boom, seen its main street lined with shops and commercial plazas in recent years, but also places like Herradura, Manuel Antonio and even the small beach community of Hatillo are becoming homes to a growing number of commercial centers to slake the region’s thirst for shopping.

In Jacó, commercial centers are filling up with franchises such as Quiznos, KFC and, the town’s latest addition for coffee addicts, Bagelmen’s. Also, along with the new commercial plazas in downtown Jacó and north of town, more options for nightlife are springing up, including the jumping Jungle Bar, Plankton and Nacho Daddy’s.

But it’s just north of Jacó that you’ll find the region’s new commercial giant. Just off the highway in Herradura is the Plaza Herradura, featuring a half-dozen restaurants, a bank, pharmacy, clothing stores, video stores and a 1,700-square-meter AutoMercado supermarket.

“Tourists and locals alike are finding facilities and a series of commodities they didn’t find before in the region. They all have air conditioning, to give consumers comfort and tranquility; they include expansive parking areas and good security. It’s giving the region’s growth another shade, because the development here has generally been disordered,” said Javier Bouza, AutoMercado marketing manager.

The supermarket, which opened last September, caters to Costa Rican and foreign tourists, as well as area residents seeking nontraditional products, Bouza said.

Business spikes during holidays and vacations, he added.

“The surprise has been that the behavior of the consumer is different, above all because of the nearby Marina Los Sueños,” Bouza said. “Customers come from (the marina) in search of different products, like from our Auto Deli, with healthy prepared food, high-end liquors and imported products from United States and Europe.”

AutoMercado Herradura could be expanded within the next three years, he added.

Nearby, the Los Sueños Resort and Marina (, 637-8886) now has a Marina Village, a quaint shopping center including a car rental agency, flower shop, bank, law office, pharmacy and general store, salon and spa, clothing store, art gallery, cigar club, Internet café and DVD rental store, and a number of restaurants.

About an hour’s drive south, a few low-key commercial centers have found their places between Quepos and Manuel Antonio, among them the ManuelAntonioCommercialCenter, which includes banking alternatives, a law office and a rental car agency.

Even farther south, though still in the planning stages, according to Aguirre Mayor Oscar Monge, plans are being laid to build a multimillion-dollar international mall in the tiny beach community of Hatillo.

“Once that highway (from Quepos to Dominical) is finished, the whole world will have access (to the area),”Monge said.

Monge’s municipality is also processing permits for a marina project in Quepos that is set to open next year and will likely include a commercial center (see separate story).


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