If you really want to get to the soul of Costa Rica, you need to appreciate the craftsmanship and love the simple things. I’ve always found that this country has layers upon layers of things to teach me, its just a matter of knowing what to look for.
One of the proudest symbols of the country’s tradition and craftsmanship comes from the typical painted ox-carts found in the Central Valley town of Sarchí Sur. The best place to see these works of art made is a store, called Chaverri with a wide selection of hand painted wooden goods ranging from furniture to household items and souvenirs. In the back, the artesian studio is a good place for watching men emblazon fascinating patterns on the oxcarts by hand.
Sarchi is a unique town worth exploring and it is really close to San Jose. You can get there easily from the central bus station or by renting a car and driving around 40 minutes. The village of Sarchi is the wood-carver stronghold of Costa Rica. Countless studios can be found here, along with furniture stores and specialty wood items made from the bountiful products of the tropical forests. The most famous works of art are of course the colorfully decorated oxcarts. If you don’t have need of a full sized one there are miniature ones available too. A good option no matter if you are buying a cart, rocking chair or set of wooden table instruments, the stores, especially the Chaverri Factory have good shipping rates within the country and internationally.
The tradition of the ox-carts is linked to the coffee production and harvest of the early years of the country. Despite modern means of production and transit, the oxcarts are still symbols of prosperity and wealth and that is why the more ornate and detailed they are the better the quality. Some of the leather and wood folding rocking chairs are also great examples of craftsmanship that are put on display in the Chaverri Factory and store as well. Cedar, Laurel and Raintree are the main types of woods used in the production of the finer products made here. The Chaverri family has been in production here for over four generations and the loads of tourist buses and expansive shop will testify to its appeal and renown as a traveler’s attraction.
A short wander in back of the shop will reveal the ongoing process of shaping and painting the woods with the highest level of skill and symmetry that is impressively done by hand and brush. For those on the road there is also a restaurant attached to the wood making compound and store, it is called Las Carretas, which serves a variety of local food all day until 6 pm and has a good lunch buffet. The address of the factory is: Main road, 2 km (1 mile) south of Sarchi, Sarchi, 21202.