I'LL TAKE IT

A panoramic view of Plaza Las Americas.

07

Aug
2018

Beyond the beach lies Puerto Rico’s dazzling shopping experience

By Peter Martin 984 0
2018

With stylish malls and charming shopping areas across the island, 
Puerto Rico is the Caribbean’s most sophisticated shopping destination.

It’s not all about the beach even though it’s a major distraction when visiting Puerto Rico. The island’s unique and fun shopping experience will dazzle you as much as its sparkling blue shoreline, lush green rainforest, highlands, and its majestic centuries-old castles and cathedrals.

Puerto Rico, a center of Caribbean trade for at least 500 years, retains the feeling of an exotic tropical bazaar with wonders from across the world brought all within your reach. There’s no better shopping paradise to venture to on your holiday.

With stylish malls and charming shopping areas across the island, Puerto Rico is the Caribbean’s most sophisticated shopping destination. It offers the glamour of New York City’s Fifth Avenue and Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive, as well as an inspired shopping experience in beachfront and tropical urban areas.

In Old San Juan, and at historic downtown squares across the island, chic boutiques rub shoulders with trendy shops, exquisite fine jewelers, and art galleries that are housed in renovated Spanish colonial and Art Deco architectural dreams. Artisans sell plenty of unique trinkets and beautifully fashioned wooden statues, original works of art and handmade ceramics, cigars as well as fashion accessories from stands set up along bayside promenades and on historic plazas. Treasure hunters just might find what they never knew they needed.

Meanwhile, fabulous haute couture and jewelry emporiums – emblazoned with the most famous names in fashion are ensconced in gleaming luxury condominiums that share space with swimsuit and trendy surf shops, local independently owned boutiques, and souvenir stores, along palm-lined ocean-side drives in the swanky and highly popular Condado and Isla Verde beach districts.

  • Kury at Plaza las Americas is recognized as an official Rolex retailer in San Juan.
  • Kury at Plaza las Americas is recognized as an official Rolex retailer in San Juan.
  • Kury at Plaza las Americas is recognized as an official Rolex retailer in San Juan.
  • The north fountain at Plaza Las Americas.

Elsewhere in San Juan, there is an explosion of retail creativity taking place in up and coming urban renaissance zones in downtown Santurce and along Loiza Street by the beach at Ocean Park as well as in the Miramar neighborhood and the Hato Rey financial district. You’ll find street fashion boutiques, dazzling food shops, and beachwear stores among others. There are lots of fun finds here.

The retail scene plays out across the island, with other coastal towns and cities having similar seaside boulevards with stores near historic downtown harbor and tourist districts, all along Puerto Rico’s coastline.

In small towns on the island, local artisans often sell their wares from stands along the waterfront area, known as el malecón, or harbor district. Areas of urban retail renewals are flowering in towns from Aguadilla to Humacao, along the coast and through the central highland. Patron Saint festivals held in towns across the island are showcases for Puerto Rico’s best artisans, as are agricultural fairs, musical festivals and other special events that take place through the year.

Meanwhile, a modern shopping mall is within reach from anywhere in Puerto Rico as a palm-lined beach, so there is always the ability to escape into a nearby world of cool air-conditioned retail wonder, whether it’s just to get a break from the sun or to get out of the gloom of a rainy day.

Island shopping malls offer as spectacular retail experience as malls throughout the rest of the U.S. but are livelier. Many hold live classical and jazz concerts, fashion shows, art exhibits, agricultural fairs, car and boat shows, and other special events. Malls offerings go way beyond just shopping; they are home to gourmet restaurants and popular bars, health and beauty spas, cinemas and an ever-changing array of additional entertainment options. They also often radiate a contemporary, tropical sophistication – a celebration of the island’s natural beauty and its refined culture.

  • Puerto Rico Premium Outlets, which looks like a colorful country offers big bargains on famous clothing and other accessories.
  • The Outlet at Route 66 in Canovanas.

You’ll find long-time favorite names and unique local and international brands still unknown in the U.S. market. Famous stores like Macy’s, Victoria Secret, Sears, Gap, Banana Republic and JC Penny have multiple locales. There are also international fashion boutiques, such as Zara from Spain and Totto from Latin America, among others.

Home-grown island boutiques like Valija Gitana and Hecho a Mano have also established a presence in the malls. The shopping districts collide with island culinary hot-spots. Some of the best chain restaurants in the world – like P.F. Chang’s, The Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, and Macaroni Grill – operate out of island malls, and island tourism districts abound serving flavorful culinary creations by talented chefs from Puerto Rico or who have adopted the island as their new home.

Plaza Las Americas, which turns 50 this year, has been the largest – and most influential – mall not only in Puerto Rico but the whole Caribbean since it opened, and with more than 300 stores, it continues to exert an outsize influence on the retail scene today. Plaza, as it is called, has the broadest array of stores in the region and is also a perfect place to have dinner, check out a live event or movie or run errands, since there is also a post office and office buildings with doctors and healthcare professionals.

The fabulous Mall of San Juan, the newcomer on San Juan’s retail scene, has brought the island’s shopping experience to storied new heights, while also serving as an important hub for local boutiques and talent, and incredible restaurants. It all takes place in a thrilling, luxurious modern design, built on a privileged location just outside San Juan’s International airport. The mall goes out of its way to cater specifically to tourists.

The San Juan metro area also offers the Outlets at Montehiedra, a mix of brand name outlet stores and local offerings housing more than 100 stores ranging from Marshall’s to Guess.

Other major cities in Puerto Rico also have quality shopping malls like Plaza del Caribe in Ponce and the Mayaguez Mall in Mayaguez.

There are two outlet malls, The Outlet at Route 66 in Canovanas and Puerto Rico Premium Outlets in Barceloneta that are shopping destinations in their own right and can be combined with a visit to other area tourist attractions.

You’ll find familiar names like Perry Ellis, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Gap and Guess in the midst of exotic island locales. The Outlet at Route 66, which is situated east of San Juan, offers both discount pricing on brand names and a platform for local shopping experiences, in the shadow of El Yunque, Puerto Rico’s majestic rainforest. This outlet mall is home to Burlington, Urban Planet, Lids, Marianne, Tommy Hilfiger, Novus, Bakers and Caribbean Cinemas just to name a few. But the newest attraction in this outlet mall will be a bowling alley, crazy car ride, arcade games, a tight rope walking platform and go karts. Visiting the rainforest and the mall in a single trip is easy, and there are also beaches nearby at Luquillo and Fajardo, what else can you ask for.

You’ll have to drive through karst country, marked by limestone haystack hills, towards the northwest to get to the outdoor park and walk Premium Outlets, which looks like a colorful country village but house brand name outlet stores like Adidas, American Eagle Outfitters, Forever 21, Lacoste, and Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store offering big bargains on famous clothing and other accessories. After your shopping spree you can hit the nearby underground wonderland of the Camuy River Cave Park and the celestial splendor of the Arecibo Observatory.

The range of shopping in Puerto Rico is so vast that some visitors can simply book their plane tickets purely for one reason: to shop til they drop!