San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, is a shopaholic's dream destination. With unique souvenirs, fine local fashion designers, high-quality jewelry, all your favorite brand names, and even some excellent art, this city has plenty to offer you. And that's not even including the rum! But where to go to get it? Whether you're interested in high-end boutiques or farmer's markets, we've compiled the best places to visit to find the perfect Puerto Rican souvenir to bring home with you. Here's your guide to the ten best places to go shopping when visiting San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Old San Juan
Shopaholics, you're in luck. The best tourist area in Puerto Rico is also home to some of its best shopping. Old San Juan has beautiful historical monuments, fountains, museums, and restaurants. And once you're done with all that, Old San Juan has plenty of shops specializing in jewelry and souvenirs. You'll also find good-quality clothing boutiques like Custo Barcelona, local product Lisa Cappalli, and Clubman, where you can get those cool Guayabera shirts. Guayaberas are loose-fitting, extremely comfortable, usually patterned shirts for men; they're perfect for the tropics. Shops are mainly concentrated on Cristo and Fortaleza Streets, but feel free to walk around and see what you can discover.
Plaza Las Americas
Plaza Las Americas is the Caribbean’s mega-mall, dominating one end of the Hato Rey district of San Juan. Among its 300-plus stores, you can find anything from candles to cars, along with a plethora of restaurants and activities, including a movie theater and bowling. You'll also find a mix of international brands (Coach, Nine West, Macy's, etc.) and local names (Bared for jewelry, Arts and Crafts PR, and more). Plus, the sculptures and open spaces in the mall are quite pleasant.
The Rodeo Drive of Puerto Rico, Condado's Ashford Avenue is lined with boutiques that cater to the more discerning tastes and wallets. Here are a few names and places to look out for: Nono Maldonado: One of the island's premier designers, Nono Maldonado, has made-to-measure and ready-to-wear clothing for men and women. His men’s linen shirts are a signature item. 1054 Ashford Avenue: An ultra-exclusive mini shopping center featuring the most luxurious brands globally, including Cartier, Louis Vuitton, and Ferragamo. Mademoiselle: A pleasant boutique specializing in ready-to-wear European brands, Mademoiselle offers pretty good value for the money. Santurce POP, a marketplace in Condado, is another great spot to visit to peruse wares by local merchants.
El Mercado Urbano
While El Mercado Urbano is also located on Ashford Avenue, the marketplace focuses more on home-grown produce and hand-crafted goods than high-end designers. This outdoor farmer's market is held beneath a large white tent and is popular with tourists and locals alike. We suggest scouring the various displays for some locally-crafted souvenirs, and—while you’re there—be sure to check out the tropical food and drink as well. (We recommend ordering the mojito, of course. When in Puerto Rico, after all.)
Not surprisingly, Avenida Magdalena is also located in Condado—it's truly the place to be for shopping addicts. Shop for fashionable clothing and island designs at Piña Colada Club and Olivia Boutique, where you can find swimsuits, sarongs, and all the ready-to-wear resort fashion that your heart desires. (Dressing up for the vacation is half the fun, in our opinion.) The Pina Colada Club specializes in colorful leisure-attire with cheerful prints, while Olivia Boutique will satisfy even the most discerning fashionista’s appetite for luxury. Visitors can shop brands such as Alexandra Wang, and Isabel Marant, and Norma Kamali.
La Calle Mall
Located on Calle Fortaleza, La Calle Mall specializes in artisanal crafts and hand-made goods. Check out the selection of pre-Colombian pottery and masks, as well as jewelry and paintings. This is the spot to visit if you’re looking for more of an authentic Puerto Rican souvenir—one you can’t purchase anywhere else in the world—as you can find an array of vibrant artwork, intricate crafts, and hand-made jewelry created by local artisans. (Be sure to check out the selection of Puerto Rican coffee, as well.)
The Butterfly People
The Butterfly People shop, located on Calle de La Cruz, is just a few blocks away from La Calle Mall. This shop is famous in San Juan, and for a good reason— this Puerto Rican institution is one of the most unique art galleries in the world. The butterflies are preserved by Resat Revan, who scours the world for gorgeous tropical butterflies, alongside his wife, Cirene—be sure to check out the exotic butterfly garden in the back of the shop and head upstairs to peruse the studio where Resat creates these gorgeous displays. First established in Old San Juan in the 1970s, the shop has since relocated to a Spanish Colonial mansion on Calle De La Cruz. Travelers can peruse butterfly art designs in various colors and sizes.
The Mall of San Juan
The Mall of San Juan is another one-stop destination for various brands, designers, and events. Aside from fast-fashion outposts such as Zara, the mall is stocked with high-end designers, including Louis Vuitton, Tory Burch, Huge Boss, Gucci, and Jimmy Choo. Additionally, the space hosts events, such as drive-in movies and Santa visits during the holiday season. We suggest visiting the Prosecco Bar before making any purchasing decisions, as it is the perfect way to begin your spending spree.
Belz Outlet Mall
With over 400,000 square feet of retail space, this branch of the Belz Outlet chain has the typical collection of name brands for less: Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Guess, and Reebok are among the stores you'll find here. It's not quite in San Juan, but it's a short trip away, in Canovanas. To get here, take Route 3 out of San Juan. You'll be there in less than an hour.
Pay a visit to the oldest cigar factory in the Caribbean. Don Collins was established in 1506, and the present-day building is situated on the site of an ancient Taino festival, known as Sik’ar. This Sik’ar festival was dedicated to rolling and smoking tobacco. It was here that the Spanish settlers first discovered the Puerto Rican tobacco products and brought them back to Spain as cigarros. Today, you can purchase hand-made cigars or locally-grown coffee to bring back home with you.