If you’re the type of traveler that likes to focus their shopping on authentic stores in the place you’re visiting, the best course of action is to focus on stores that aren’t necessarily marketing their services and products within the cruise industry. While brands and stores that collaborate with cruise ships offer a wide variety of products you are potentially interested in, this blog is focused on Old San Juan Stores that might fly under your radar. The blog will cover a variety of stores, like jewelry, clothing, art, and souvenirs, with a range of spending from low to very high-end.
Looking for a specific type of store in Old San Juan? Jump to the category below.
High End Art and Jewelry in Old San Juan
1) Galería Botello, $$$$$
One of the best ways to commemorate your trip to a new area is through art because it is inherently transcendental. Art not only decorates a home or space, it is pieces that can be passed down from generation to generation. Galería Botello is a beautiful art gallery that showcases internationally-recognized artists as well as Botello’s own works like bronze sculptures, oils, lithographs, and linocuts. Located at 208 Calle del Cristo, it is also a top spot to visit since it neighbors the famous Capilla del Cristo (built in the 1700s), a must-see when visiting Old San Juan.
2) Galería Éxodo, $$$$$
The Gallery is located at 152 Calle del Cristo in a historic, Spanish building built in 1523! It is a perfect spot for a gallery because the space itself is an artwork, with Spanish tiles, furniture, and home décor. If you visit, ask the staff about the building’s unique history. The art pieces the gallery offers are numerous and exquisite, from local to international artists. If you’re an art aficionado, this is a stop you must make, even if for a glance.
3) Coquí el Original®, $$$$-$$$$$
This high jewelry store is a brand from N. Barquet Joyero, a family of experienced jewelers located in Old San Juan since 1965. If you’re a shopper that focuses on high jewelry pieces when traveling (meaning designs crafted in precious metals and gems) then this is the spot for you. The Coquí el Original® Collection is inspired by Puerto Rico’s nature, culture, and beauty. All pieces are crafted from solid 14k gold and solid sterling silver .925. Much like art, high jewelry is a memento from Puerto Rico crafted with quality and attention to detail. The designer store’s main item is the coquí tree frog species endemic to the Caribbean island.
Now, if you only get a chance to walk during the day in Old San Juan, you’ll unfortunately miss these smaller-than-a-penny frogs’ unique sound at night (“ko-kee”). If you have a late-night cruise, make sure to walk through an area full of vegetation so you can hear them sing! While coquíes are located all over the island, they are a little tougher to hear in the metro area.
While the Coquí Design is the most popular item, the brand also has the Sun, Leatherback Sea-Turtle, Puerto Rico Map/Flag, and Salsa Dancers Collections. From bracelets, earrings, pendants, rings, and even Pandora-compatible styles, this store is the most authentic high jewelry spot in Old San Juan.
B) Hand-Made, Painted, Crafted Souvenirs from Puerto Rican Artists
1) Puerto Rican Art and Crafts, $$-$$$$
This art, crafts, and souvenir store boasts the most unique and beautiful items to think about when purchasing a memento from Puerto Rico. The price range varies depending on the piece, since Puerto Rican Arts and Crafts sells a range of items like wooden pieces to big, beautiful paintings by local artists. Not only are most of the items made or designed in Puerto Rico, many pieces are created from long-standing artisanal and art traditions in Puerto Rico.
For example, a great, traditional piece to purchase would be a Vejigante Mask crafted from either coconut shell or papier-maché. This clothing-art tradition stems from the historical mix of Spanish, African, and Taíno heritages. In Spain, people dressed as vejigantes that represented a folkloric demon defeated by Saint James in a battle against the Moors. In Puerto Rico, the tradition became a hybrid of cultures since the Taínos created the element of the mask, and African peoples created the bomba and plena music which resulted in an entire cultural expression unique to the island. Today, masks are still used in the dancing expression of the bomba and plena music and as decorative art pieces.
Puerto Rican arts and crafts also has an incredible selection of wood, ceramic, and glass crafts. Most of these artworks depict natural elements like birds, flowers, el Coquí, El Flamboyán, boats, Old San Juan houses, or religious subjects like the Nativity Scene, the Three Wise Men (Three Kings), or a Cross. Then there’s the selection of incredible art pieces (framed and unframed) from serigraphs, oil, acrylic, prints and photographs. The store has a great repertoire of talented Boricua artists.
The next category of items the shop offers are what they call the “goodies” corner, which is a fun section to look for local coffee, spices, hot sauces, candy, chocolates, and our famous rums! Then there’s home décor and “swag” like pillow cases, bags, T-shirts, jewelry, and stickers.
2) Mundo Taíno, $$-$$$
This store is another amazing place to visit for locally-made arts and crafts with a focus on Taíno-imagery and religious themes. For example, the image above is of miniature replicas of the Dujo Taíno, or seat that was used by the chief, called “Cacique,” and other important members of the Taíno indigenous society. While Mundo Taíno also offers arts and crafts with imagery like the Flamboyán Tree, Three Kings, Nativity Scene, and Old San Juan architecture, it has pieces that are distinctly theirs. The store offers a wide range of hand-woven baby clothes in different colors and styles that are cute and very well made!
They also have a selection of caps that say things like “100×35,” (the island’s approximate size), depict a rooster or machetes. These last two themes are also in tandem with the folkloric figure of “El Jibarito” here in Puerto Rico, symbol of rural area working people mostly during the 50s and 60s. This is another Puerto Rican theme by Mundo Taíno that is unique to their products. Beyond what is mentioned there is also a selection of typical coffees, candies, rums, chocolates, and spices, all sourced from around the island.
C) Clothing from Puerto Rican Brands
1) Costa Azul, $$-$$$
Costa Azul might just be one of the most popular brands in Puerto Rico for (how they describe themselves) “the ocean lifestyle.” Loved by both tourists and locals, Costa Azul started in 1999 by importing high-quality brands for the beach and ocean life. Sixteen years later, the founders (who are sports enthusiasts) created their own local line! The store offers solar-protecting clothing, swimsuits, accessories like eyewear, tumblers, and towels, as well as actual equipment for beach and water sports like fishing and beach tennis. Pay them a visit at 264 Calle San Francisco.
2) Collective Request, $$$
This women’s clothing store focuses on simple and chic styles great for day looks and professional outfits. The shop offers both locally-made and internationally-imported clothing from dresses, tops, skirts, pants, active-wear and even cute and comfy sleep-wear. Located at 159 Calle de la Luna, the space has a delicate, clean, boho-chic ambiance that matches the clothing style as well. Collective Request is the perfect mix between elegant and trendy with a welcomed soft, feminine style.
3) La Casa de las Guayaberas, $$-$$$
If you truly want an authentic piece that is representative of not just Puerto Rico, but fine Latin American clothing for men, you’ll want to visit this shop! Made from linen or cotton and typically white (but made in many different colors as well), “la guayabera” is popular throughout Mexico, Central America, but most known in Cuba and Puerto Rico. The guayabera can be worn for both casual and formal settings depending on the occasion. The guayabera is a symbol of masculine elegance in Latin American culture. Each guayabera is different and has its own singularity because of the embroidery and handwork. The history and origins of the guayabera are generally unknown and contested. Nonetheless, it is a popular clothing style in Puerto Rico and can be an authentic souvenir from the island.
If your intention as a tourist is to shop for items that are unique, locally-owned or made, sentimental, and of good quality and value, this is a small list of shops to visit in Old San Juan. It is important to note that these are shops, brands, and products that, once you are back home, you will not be able to find (the caveat being you can support their online stores!). There is much pride in providing a product and experience singular to Old San Juan and Puerto Rico as a whole, rooted and created in traditions, history, innovations distinctive to “La Isla del Encanto” (the Island of Enchantment).
¡Salud y Éxito!
If you’re visiting Puerto Rico soon, we have some helpful tips for while you’re here.
- What to do at night in Puerto Rico
- Walking tour of the must see spots in Puerto Rico
- Shopping like a local in Puerto Rico