Once we picked up our rental car in David, at the airport, we headed out toward Boquete. However, our first stop was going to be at the Movistar store I had found in the phone book. Movistar is the cell phone service I have been using in Costa Rica (CR). It will only work as local service in CR. Since Movistar operates in Pamana (and a bunch of other countries), I just needed to get a new SIM card for my iPhone. That would give me a Panama cell phone number and access to local service.
We easily located the shopping center where the Movistar store was located. I got my SIM card switched out and I now had a Panamanian cell phone. While we were there, we toured through some other stores in the shopping center. One was called the DoIt Store - sort of a combination Home Depot and Walmart. We looked at prices and selection and we were very impressed. We even bought a couple of small items we hadn't been able to find in CR. We walked through a large department store. If you didn't know better, you'd think you were walking through a nice Macy's store back in the States. The best part, though, was the grocery store. We thought we'd stop in to get a few bottles of water before heading out.
We walked in and we were both a little stunned. It was a huge, modern, very clean grocery store. As we meandered through the large aisles (I commented that you could drive a small car down the aisles) we marveled at the variety and selection of products, as well as the prices.
[Pictures are not mine - we didn't have our camera with us. They are courtesy of BoqueteGuide.com and others]
So what's the big deal about a grocery store, you might be thinking. Well, one thing we have found to be expensive in Costa Rica is groceries. With the exception of most fruits and vegetables, which are local, inexpensive, and very good, we pay about as much for grocery items here as we did in Maui. I'm not sure why, since CR isn't an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Maybe it's tariffs or duties, who knows. Anyway, food is our 2nd largest monthly expense here.
The other missing component when it comes to groceries in CR is selection. Tina and I don't care about brand names. In fact, we prefer to buy local brands if the quality is equivalent. There are some things, though, that we just can't seem to find in Costa Rican supermarkets or they are expensive. What we found as we walked the aisles of this supermarket in David was a great selection of products, many American brands, and prices that were much less than in CR. Examples:
- Name-brand peanut butter (like Jiff): in CR, about $5.75 -- in David, about $3.00
- The national-brand beer: in CR, about $1.30/bottle -- in David, 43 cents/bottle
- Store bakery cookies (don't have in CR stores) - in David, 15 cents
- Jars of applesauce (cannot find in Costa Rica) - love it!
Since it was lunch time, we bought some sliced-to-order deli meat (smoked turkey), some sliced-to-order cheese (a treat, since the stores we shop at don't have deli counters and the packaged lunch meat is pretty bad), some condiments, and a bag of fresh bakery rolls (about $1), chips and a couple of drinks. We also bought a few other groceries for our stay - along with the water we originally intended to buy. I think we walked our with about 4 bags of groceries for around $20 instead of $50. We were like kids in a candy store!
There is also a Pricesmart in David (same type of store as Costco), which provides the possibility of even more savings on food and other household items.
We went out to the parking lot, made sandwiches, and ate them in the car. It was great to have REAL lunch meat on fresh rolls. Mmmmmmm! It started to rain, so we rolled up the windows and headed for Boquete (about 35-40 minutes away).
It was obvious, just from our stop at this one shopping center, that David affords a greater selection of products, at significantly lower prices, than we can currently find in Costa Rica. It also seemed that the stores stock more American brand and American-style products, to cater to the large North American expat population in the area. It was a very positive introduction to the David/Boquete area.
Posted by Mark