So you’re just off the plane and can’t wait to smoke a Cohiba in Costa Rica? Hold your horses there buddy! Read through this Costa Rica cigar buying guide before you start wasting your money. Cigars (puros) in Costa Rica are everywhere, you can pick them up in cigar shops in San Jose, visit cigar clubs in the central valley (for a more exclusive “puro” experience), and pick them up practically in any souvenir shop around Costa Rica. But it’s important to know what to look for and what vendors to avoid.
- Buy them in shops that look clean and look like they take care of their cigar inventory. If boxes have dust on them or you don’t see them inside a well prepared humidified humidor, think twice. Many hotels and bars offer a small cigar collection in Costa Rica, but they are overpriced and usually not properly humidified.
- Look for places that carry a good variety of cigar types and brands. Costa Rican cigars, Cuban cigars, Dominican cigars, Nicaraguan cigars, etc. This is indication that the shop is serious about cigars and that the distributor obviously makes frequent visits, because the shop is selling enough cigars.
- Touch them and make sure they are moist and not cracking or have mildew on them. If you plan on smoking them while on your trip this is helpful, but it is extremely important if you’ll be on tour for 2 weeks and need to fly them back home. You want them to be moist enough to make it back home and get into your humidor to properly season, acclimate, and not contaminate your collection. I have kept some cigars that I have brought back to the states from Costa Rica for over a year. I was careful in selecting them and got them home in a timely fashion. Tip! You can bring up to 100 (non Cuban) cigars back to the states from Costa Rica.
- Try Costa Rican brand cigars, such as Tabacos Exclusivos, Chaman, Vegas, and Faxas (Cuban seed, grown, and rolled in Costa Rica). Even though the first three can be found all over the country in good varieties, I have found the best selection and quality of Tabacos Exclusivos (our personal favorite) in San Jose smoke shops and in a souvenir shop in Tamarindo. I cannot remember the name of the shop in Tamarindo for the life of us, but you’ll know you have arrived because it’s a souvenir shop with a large cabinet style humidor on the right side of the store, up against the wall. They have the best selection of Tabacos Exclusivos we have seen to date. It’s located on the main strip in Tamarindo a few blocks north of the Diria Hotel. When you walk out of the hotel Diria hang a right and make your way down on the same side, its right next to a real estate office. The last Costa Rican cigar brand mentioned, Faxas, can be found in Quepos as soon as you drive into the town over the bridge at the smoke shop on the left hand side. They are rolled right on the premises and Quepos / Manuel Antonio are the only place we have seen them at. Support Costa Rica, buy Costa Rica cigars instead of the Cohibas!
- Lastly, check for an expiration date. Most if not all sealed boxes of cigars in Costa Rica have expiration dates on them!
- STAY AWAY from street vendors. First of all the Cuban cigars they sell are FAKE and secondly they are not being stored in the proper conditions. Some of the street vendors keep these cigars in the same extreme outdoor conditions for weeks before they sell. Granted, these guys are just trying to make a buck, but for boxes starting at $30 and going as high as several $100’s, you want fresh-real cigars. Stay away!
- As mentioned above, stay away from Costa Rica shops that appear to not take care of their cigar inventory. If you see dust on the boxes and or the cigars are not properly contained in a humidor, wait until you hit the next shop. Costa Rica is full of cigar shops and souvenir shops that sell cigars.
- Lastly, being half Cuban, here’s the truth about Cuban cigars. Stay away from the Cubans, unless you want a Montecristo. I know it’s tempting to want and smoke a Cuban cigar in Costa Rica, because we cannot get them “legally” in the states, but with so many other good brands, including the Costa Rican cigars, why would you miss the opportunity.
Here are some photos of the cigars I have come across in my recent travels within Costa Rica.