If there's one thing San Juan has a lot of, it's souvenir shops, but there's a good reason for it: Souvenir shopping in Puerto Rico goes far beyond a tropical t-shirt and a shot glass with a logo on it. You can find expertly crafted products here that are unique to the island, ranging from cheap miniature figurines of saints to huge, elaborate papier-mâché folkloric Vejigante masks. These stores are good bets for quality, authentic products.
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The name of the store means "House of the Little Houses," and here you'll find a variety of arts and crafts, folkloric vejigante masks, wall hangings, and accessories. One of the unique things about this store is its stock of handmade hammocks. Also, this one of the few stores which has a clean restroom available for public use.
- Located at 250 Cristo Street in Old San Juan
- Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily
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At this small but well-stocked shop, owner Gustavo Lerner is always here and ready to help you pick out your favorite vejigante mask from his impressive collection adorning the walls. He also carries santos, which are wooden figurines of saints and one of Puerto Rico's most popular and well-loved handicraft products. Among the other products in the store are guayabera shirts (loose-fitting shirts for men that are well suited to the warm climate), panama hats, hand-rolled cigars, and old photographs.
- Located at 154 Cristo Street in Old San Juan
- Hours: 10 a.m.-6p.m. daily
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True to its name, Máscaras de Puerto Rico specializes in vejigante masks. These unique-to-the-island wall-hangings range from small, cheap, crudely made miniatures to fantastic, vivid creations filled with teeth, horns, and grimaces. There are two broad styles: an oval-shaped mask made out of a gourd or coconut shells, and the demon-mask that are made out of papier-mâché.
- Located in "La Calle" Mall at 105 Fortaleza Street in Old San Juan
- Hours: 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. daily
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Wall-hangings seem to be a popular trend on the island, and this little store carries a range of handmade reproductions of the buildings and architecture of Puerto Rico. The ceramic miniatures are produced with beautiful detail and vivid colors that truly represent the originals and make for a charming souvenir.
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- Located at 107 Calle Cristo Street in Old San Juan
- Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday.
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A tiny store tucked away at the end of Cristo Street, Mi Rincón is the place to go for more artistic souvenirs that are different from the rest of the pack. Owner Cuca del Rincon displays her work here (digitally treated photographs of Old San Juan landmarks), along with hand-painted Christmas ornaments and other decorative art.
- Located at 251 Cristo Street in Old San Juan
- Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily
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Olé's products are not all Puerto Rican, but they deserve mention because of their quality. The store carries an assortment of photographs, ornaments (from Peru), santos handmade puppets, and a smattering of other little gift items. But what sets it apart are the handmade Panama Hats that you can buy here. These range in price from around $40 to over $1,000, but even the low-end ones are well-made. Best of all, you can choose your colored ribbon to go around the base of the hat, and get it custom-fitted while you wait.
- Located at 105 Fortaleza Street in Old San Juan
- Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
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Patchouli only features Puerto Rican artists. Among the nicer souvenirs in their store is a lovely collection of ceramic vases and candleholders depicting clusters of Old San Juan buildings. In addition, the store carries Puerto Rican music, ethnic clothing, stuffed toys and a make-it-yourself line of jewelry. A very cute item here is the wood-carved mini back massager in the shape or a turtle.
- Located at 152 Cristo Street in Old San Juan
- Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily
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Overshadowed by more famous coffee-growing destinations, Puerto Rico makes a mean bean, and it's been doing so for centuries. Cafe Yaucono was started in 1896, and its Yaucono Select is its best product. It's rich, bold, and aromatic and an all-around great cup of coffee.