A vacation to the beautiful white sand beaches, the mountains, and the lively city of San Juan isn’t complete without purchasing some mementos. Shopping for souvenirs is one of the top things to do on the island to unearth trinkets and gifts representative of your time in Puerto Rico.
You’ll come across unique, hand-crafted items that celebrate the rich culture of Puerto Rico, its culinary delights, rum, and many other products such as t-shirts and jewelry. Old San Juan in particular is a fantastic place to shop, browse boutiques, and embrace the history and vibrant atmosphere of the city.
Here are 11 of the best Puerto Rico souvenirs to track down.
Cuisine is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in a destination’s culture, and Puerto Rico is full of flavor. Purchasing spices is a great way to bring a bit of the island home to your kitchen, where you can use them in your own cooking long after you return.
The island’s culinary specialties include recao, a combination of cilantro, lime, peppers, garlic, and other seasonings that can be found while shopping in Old San Juan.
One of the most popular places to purchase recao and other Puerto Rican herb combinations is Spicy Caribbee, a shop located in the heart of the old section of San Juan, where you can also enjoy a tasting of the local spices, hot and spicy sauces, condiments, teas, and jams.
Find your favorite as you browse the selection of items; the Herbed Sea Salt and Lime, Orange, Pepper blends are popular items, as are the Fuego Hot Sauce and Banana Ketchup. All or any of these make some of the best souvenirs from Puerto Rico.
For more than 500 years, cigar rolling and Puerto Rican tobacco has been a strong tradition, respected around the world. Introduced to Europe by the Spanish, cigarillos have been enjoyed since the 16th century, with Puerto Rico hailed for its supreme production due to the hot and humid climate with abundant sunshine, ideal for growing high-quality tobacco.
For cigar lovers, the island is a top place to purchase and enjoy the “sacred herb” or “Queen’s herb”, as it was once called by the French. Puerto Rico was once the biggest exporter of tobacco, and learning about the history and production of cigars can be a fun part of the buying process when on vacation.
There are several shops where you can find authentic cigars and tobacco in San Juan, but a visit to the oldest surviving cigar factory in the Caribbean is a must. Don Collins dates back to the early 1500s and is located in the heart of Old San Juan and offers guests tours, shopping, and a lounge experience.
Purchase hand-made cigars that source 13 different varieties of locally-grown tobacco from farmers around the island. Known for the premium native “Hoja Prieta”, Don Collins offers a chance to indulge in the flavorful tobacco with its notoriously specific aroma and taste.
The Caribbean is known for its top-class rum production and Puerto Rico is no exception. While exploring the island, tasting different varieties of Caribbean rum and touring a factory to learn about production will help you narrow down the types you might want to buy, to bring some island flavor home.
One of the best-known producers is Don Q, located in Old San Juan, where you can explore the history of rum-making on the island before tasting varieties at the bar. Learn about the sugar cane, aging process, and blending that occurs to create it, while touring the facility.
The family-run distillery has been making rum for more than 150 years, offering light, dark, and flavored versions of the popular liquor. Sample Citrus Lime, Coconut, Gold, and Don Q Cristal before choosing your favorite to take home.
Make sure to try a specialty cocktail or two, as well, during your visit to the museum; the Dulcinea is a mix of Don Q Cristal rum with orange, pineapple, coconut cream, and grenadine.
Read: Delicious Caribbean Cocktails to Taste
Embrace the arts and culture scene in Puerto Rico and find some amazing hand-crafted souvenirs.
As you wander around Old San Juan, you’ll encounter a variety of shops selling artisan-crafted ceramics such as cups, vases, wall-hangings, bowls, figurines, plaques, and plates.
Purchasing locally made art helps to support the community and ceramics are the perfect souvenir or gift from this vibrant island. Unearth pieces from a wide array of both decorative ceramics and more useful everyday items like coffee mugs.
From low-fire to high-fire ceramics and red-and-white clay with beautifully painted designs, you’ll be sure to find a piece to bring home.
Shops like Patchouli and Mi Pequeño have a good selection of ceramic items to choose from, or head to Calle Fortaleza where you can browse a whole host of boutiques including Puerto Rico Arts & Crafts, a marketplace with more than 100 vendors.
Read: Best Things to Do in San Juan
If you’d like to purchase an item tied to Puerto Rican cuisine, consider the famous pilon, a wooden mortar and pestle that is used for various dishes. Mofongo, the dish it’s typically used to make, can be found on menus throughout the island.
Mofongo is made with plantains that are traditionally mashed with a pilon, along with spices. Historically, the tool was made from hollowed-out tree trunks and was also used to grind coffee. Now, they are mostly made out of wood from the Guayacan tree and come in a variety of sizes.
Shop for your own pilones at many of the shops in San Juan, including a gallery of hand-crafted items in the shopping mall, Plaza Las Americas. Another great place to purchase handmade pilones is at the shop Mundo Taino in Old San Juan.
Read: The Ultimate Guide to Caribbean Cuisine
Meaning “little world”, Mundillo is a craft that is very popular on the island of Puerto Rico, brought over from Spain and featuring decorative bobbin lace woven into beautiful designs.
Created using wooden bobbins and a cylinder-shaped pillow, the lace creates a knit-like pattern used as borders for tablecloths, shirt collars, wedding dresses, bedspreads, and much more.
It’s been around for more than two centuries, and the hub for this specialized lace-making is in the village of Moca on the western coast of Puerto Rico. Here, there’s a museum dedicated to Mundillo, workshops teaching the craft, and an annual festival that takes place to celebrate it.
Baby clothing is one of the most popular Mundillo products and comes in the form of dresses, booties, blankets, and bonnets. You’ll find Mundillo pieces at markets or festivals selling artisan goods, as well as shops or kiosks within the Plaza Las Americas mall.
Hammocks are one of the most popular items in Puerto Rico and also a respected craft. Handed down from the Taino, the island’s native people, hammock, or “hamaca” weaving even inspires a festival every summer. It’s believed that the Taino even invented the hammock.
Finding them is fairly easy on the island, with both canvas and handmade woven versions available to purchase.
Crafted from cotton and cord, usually in an assortment of vivid colors, hammocks make a fantastic souvenir to use while visiting Puerto Rico, as well as for years to come at home. Purchase a smaller hammock for one person, or a bigger size that can hold two.
Although the northern coastal town of San Sebastian is the best-known for producing hammocks, they can be found in several shops located in San Juan. La Calle mall is a great spot to search for handmade hammocks and other artisan goods.
When you get home, putting your hammock up between trees in your backyard or on your patio will be a happy reminder of your time in Puerto Rican paradise.
These masks are used during Carnival in July and date back to the 13th century, representing a folkloric character in festivals. They are said to represent evil in the battle between good and evil and play an important role in Puerto Rican arts and culture.
The craft of making vejigantes masks is tied to Spanish and African culture and has long been passed down through generations. In the village of Loiza, coconut shells or gourds and African design inspiration are used in making the masks, and in Ponce, they are predominantly crafted from papier-mache.
They can be purchased as decorative wall-hangings in a variety of colors, found in artisan and souvenir shops in San Juan such as El Gapon on Calle del Cristo and Máscaras de Puerto Rico, and in La Calle mall in Old San Juan.
With music being such an integral part of Puerto Rico’s culture, an instrument can be an ideal souvenir.
Some popular instruments that can be fun to try out are the “pandereta”, a percussion instrument that resembles a tambourine and serves as the main instrument in a genre of traditional music in the southern region of the island called “plena”.
The highest quality panderetas are handmade by local artisans and can be found in Mi Pequeno, a shop in San Juan.
The Guiro is another percussion instrument used in Bomba or Plena musical styles and was historically carved by the Taino out of a gourd. The singer in a group plays it with a stick that is rubbed up and down the ridges to make its distinct sound. You can find your own Guiro in shops throughout San Juan; it makes for a fun souvenir to learn how to play.
Coffee is a big part of everyday life and the social culture of Puerto Rico. During your vacation, enjoy a “cafecito” in San Juan’s outdoor cafés.
Bring some of that flavor home and celebrate the island’s rich and aromatic coffee beans. Stop in Cuatro Sombras, a coffee shop in Old San Juan, known for making delicious specialty coffees.
Or head to Don Ruiz, where you can visit a museum, roastery, and shop all in one. This family-run gourmet roastery dates back to the 1800s and has been in business for four generations.
The museum showcases equipment used to produce coffee throughout the years, and the tasting room is where you can experience 100% Arabica coffee beans harvested in the Yauco mountains. Purchase some of these high-quality coffee beans to enjoy at home for an excellent souvenir.
Another culinary-focused souvenir, pique is the popular Puerto Rican hot sauce. It’s made by mixing chili peppers, seasonings, and herbs, left in vinegar to infuse their flavor.
It’s often made using different ingredients, so there are many different versions of pique, as you’ll find when eating in restaurants and enjoying street food. It’s considered a national staple that accompanies a wide array of dishes and can be found in almost every home.
The traditional chili pepper is the aji caballero, typically soaked with anything from lime juice to rum, cilantro, sugar, onion, and peppercorn, depending on your preference.
If you’re interested in purchasing some pique to use at home, visit any of the fresh markets in San Juan such as Mercado Agrícola Natural Viejo San Juan on the San Juan Museum grounds, or the popular Spicy Caribbee shop.
From handmade ornaments and wood carvings to musical instruments and spicy sauces, there are many amazing Puerto Rico souvenirs to discover while enjoying your Caribbean getaway. A luxury cruise is a fantastic way to experience the exciting shopping scene in Puerto Rico. Browse our cruises to and from San Juan today.