San Jose, Costa Rica is a great place to visit, and a wonderful place to live, however in the world of cigars, it has it's darker side.
San Jose is kind of like the Mos Eisley of the world for cigar smoker... As Obi-Wan put it, it is a "wretched hive of scum and villainy."
You are certainly think... "How can this guy say something so strong about San Jose, Costa Rica... this is his adopted home... how bad can it really be?"
Well, yes- my words are extreme, but only because I recommend that you hunt, shop, and buy with EXTREME caution.
My research show that there are no less that 40 cigar producers in the country. However, if you look in the yellow pages, you will only find one. I understand that the yellow pages is not a great guide, and it is a bit of a mafia in itself, but use that example as a metaphor for the situation in Costa Rica.
As many tourist locations outside the US, there is a huge market for fake Cuban cigars, however due to Costa Rica's popularity combined with it's proximity to Nicaragua (to provide rollers and tobacco), the number of fake cigars out there is enormous.
Nearly everyone know the street is full of fakes, but that is not where it ends. Many hotels, restaurants, and even tobacco stores are tainted- mainly unknowingly, others foolishly.
That being said, there are a number of places where you can find real Cuban cigars. La Mata De Tobacco (Multi-Plaza), Don Benigno Cigars (kiosk in Plaza Mayor), La Casa Del Habano (San Pedro near the mall), to name a few.
There are good and bad fakes, and you my find a fake cigar that you enjoy, but truth be told, it is not right, proper, or healthy (who knows how the tobacco was cured).
I am writing this because it is very important to me that cigar smokers get access to great cigars, and purchasing fake cigars in San Jose, Costa Rica is bad for tourism, but is worse for the cigar smoker who gets them.
Proceed with caution when cigar hunting in San Jose, Costa Rica. There are plenty of opportunities to find the "real deal" so do not be foolish. Enjoying a great cigar is a wonderful experience, and following my advice can make that wonderful experience a reality while on a trip in San Jose.