The capital of Alajuela province, Sarchi is renowned for its arts and crafts, in particular its decorative oxcarts recalling the heyday of Costa Rica’s coffee industry. Lying almost 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) above sea level in the Cordillera Central, the whole of Sarchi is devoted to crafts, from woodworking and leather goods to textiles.
The most famous handicrafts are known as carretas, the ornately painted carts that have proved so popular as Costa Rican souvenirs over the years. While you’re here, tear yourself away from browsing the stores to visit the lovely church, with its wooden carvings. The gardens in front feature an oversized, brightly painted oxcart. The drive to Sarchi is part of the appeal of this popular day-trip destination, leading past coffee fields, pineapple farms and landscape dotted with volcanoes, villages and rainforest.