Ox Carts of Sarchi Costa Rica
The painted ox carts of Sarchi
in Costa Rica are absolutely, stunning.
Just as you will see oxen pulling these beautifully
colored carts, you can also visit a number of factories
while in Sarchi that make impressive miniature replicas.
If you head to the main factory, you can watch these
small versions of the real thing being made from quality
wood and each hand painted.
Also called Las Carretas (the
cart), these hand painted oxen carts are designed with two
the painted ox carts were recognized in 1988 as a symbol of
the handicrafts coming out of Costa Rica.
Most are still today produced in private
mini-factories in Sarchi, which is a quaint, small village
nestled to the north of the province of Alajuela.
The wooden circles for wheels
are painted in small gardens, each created into patterned
These carts were commonly seen in many areas of Costa
Rica until 1840 when suddenly, the importance of coffee
plantations exploded. Now
keep in mind that the Las Carretas were the only source of
transportation for the country during the early years.
In fact, they were originally pulled by people, not
as the need for transporting goods grew, the loads became
too heavy and the people were replaced by ox.
During the colonial era, the
Carretas were most famous for pulling coffee.
The oxen would pull the carts through some rough
terrain and muddy roads that went between Puntarenas and
Central Valley. Then
in 1903, people decided to start enhancing the carts by
decorating the circle wheels.
However, by 1915, to create a distinct look between
families, the entire wheels were painted and decorated.
45 years later, motorized transportation was developed, so
the cart purpose changed to one of tourist.
As you travel through Sarchi, Costa Rica, you will
see these beautifully painted ox carts displayed in gardens,
as well as used for transportation.
Additionally, the Carretas are used in parades and
all the ox carts parades, the one that is best known is
called Escazu. Held
annually on the second Sunday of the month of March, the
sight of all the beautiful color and creativity is truly an
The wheels of the ox cart are
made from Lagarto wood, which is strong.
However, the unique and wonderful sound is what is so
the painted ox carts got their start in the early part of
the 19th century, they are still an important
part of the history for Costa Rica.
As you make your way through the country, you will
see these carts still in use, often driven by old men with
leather, tanned faces.