Sarchi is an artisan center 35 miles northwest of San Jose where even trash cans and bus stops are decorated with bright, colorful paintings. The most famous product is the painted oxcart. Sarchi was a stopping place for caravans that carried coffee to Puntarenas for shipping; this spurred an industry in cart repair, and eventually cart production took hold. Even into the 1940s, caravans of 700 carts were still making the trek-but when motorized vehicles took over, cart-makers began to produce them as decoration.

Several stores have workshops where you can watch local artisans paint delicate freehand designs. In addition to carts-from miniatures to full size-you can select from an array of salad bowls, wooden fruit, lamps, jewelry, and more. Sarchi-style chairs are famous, created in wood or wood and leather. Factories and shops are around every turn along the 2-mile (3-km) road from South Sarchi to North Sarchi. Two large ones are fabrica de Carretas Joaquin Chaverri and COOPEARSA, a cooperative. plaza de la Artesania has dozens of stores exhibiting arts and crafts. Restaurants abound. Try the one next to the Chaverri store or one at the plaza.

Getting There

by bus: From Alajuela, Grecia, or Naranjo, transfer to a Sarchi bus, most frequent from Alajuela. by car: From the Inter- American, turn off at Grecia or Naranjo intersections.

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