Where to Get English-Language Books
One thing I love about living in Costa Rica is the slower pace of life. It took some getting used to, but once I adapted to the gentle rhythm of the tropics, I realized I had time for all sorts of hobbies – including reading. Now, the challenge is not finding enough time to read, but rather finding enough reading material to fill my time.
Costa Ricans love books – my husband’s family exchanges them like kids trade stickers – so there are plenty of bookstores around the country. From large chain stores such as LibroMax to local mom & pops, you won’t have trouble finding a large selection of bestsellers and classics in Spanish. English-language literature is harder to find, and other languages – German and French are the most prevalent – are even more difficult, but this list will help you identify a few reliable sources.
For English-language magazines, head to the nearest Casa de la Revistas, which stocks a large selection imported from the U.S and the U.K. You'll find all your favorites, from science and news magazines to gossip rags. You can also pick up popular titles at your local Auto Mercado. Keep in mind that issues usually run a week or two behind publication, and prices can be steep: National Geographic is about $7, People magazine costs $10, and GQ men's magazine will set you back nearly $11. To save a bit of money, consider a magazine subscription with international delivery. Another option is to sign up for a mail-forwarding service and schedule delivery to your P.O. box.
LibroMax and Libreria Lehmann, both with locations in the Central Valley, offer a small number of English-language books. For more variety, head to Liberia Internacional, a major chain bookstore that specializes in foreign-language tomes. Their English section is quite extensive, and they have a decent collection of novels in other languages. You’ll pay about double what you would in United States – around $15-20 for a paperback. Look for sales at Libreria Internacional known as PromoLibros; I’ve often found quality English-language books for $2 or $3 apiece.
There’s nothing better than finding a great used bookstore, and the Central Valley is full of them. You’ll find used books in English almost everywhere, even at stores that cater mostly to Costa Ricans; just ask around for the closest “libreria de libros usados.” If you love to treasure hunt, you’ll love Mora Books, a stuffy bookstore located on the west side of the Holiday Inn-San Jose. The store’s inventory is not in pristine condition, but the price is right and the selection is large. My personal favorite – and well worth the trip – is Goodlight Books, located in downtown Alajuela. Over 9,000 books, arranged by genre, line their shelves. Prices are fair, and the friendly owner is more than willing to special order books.
Four years after I moved to Costa Rica, I bought an eReader. Among the most popular are Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and the Sony eReader line, each of which offers its own benefits. Here, owning an eReader means that I don’t have to hunt for bargains and I’m not at the mercy of available inventory – I have access to almost any book I want to read. Even better, many are priced under $10, and there are frequent offers for free novels. If I really wanted to, I could read a book each week for free. The convenience is incredible; gone are the days when I lugged back sacks of books on the bus. Today, I simply connect to an online bookstore and download to my heart’s content. Bookworm sated!