If you’re visiting the beautiful Southern Caribbean island of Aruba, be sure to allow a little room in your budget and your suitcase for a souvenir or two. Shopping in Aruba can mean hours browsing sunny flea markets and modern malls or perhaps just a quick visit to a beachside souvenir shack to grab some gifts for family and friends. No matter what excursions you go on, you’ll certainly be charmed by the intriguing arrays of unique things to buy in Aruba. The island’s Dutch heritage and proximity to South America results in an unusual range of offerings to suit all budgets. The following 10 suggestions are just a sample of all the delightful things there are to buy in Aruba.
1. Fine Ceramics
As part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Aruba is an ideal place to purchase fine European ceramics. Particularly prized is Delft Blue pottery, the famous and collectible blue-and-white porcelain produced in Holland since the 16th century. If you’re seeking genuine Delftware, do some research, ask questions and look for the words “Delfts Blauw” painted on the bottom of the item. You’ll also see fine porcelain and china from Spain, England and Germany in high-end stores. Plenty of cheaper Delft-inspired plates, vases, tiles and ornaments can be found throughout Aruba too.
2. Aruba License Plate
As soon as you disembark in Aruba, you’ll start seeing Aruban license plates displayed for sale in every souvenir stand and gift store. The reason? Aruba is one of just a few places in the world requiring vehicle-owners to replace their license plate every year. Each year’s newly issued plate has a unique design and color scheme, which makes past years’ plates quite collectible. Adding to their charm is the always-featured slogan “One Happy Island,” which is sure to put a smile on your face and remind you of your time on Aruba.
3. Aloe Products
Aruba is home to the world’s oldest aloe company, which was founded in 1890. There is a wide range of skin, hair and sun care products, all made with naturally nurturing, healing aloe grown on Aruba and are sold at stores throughout the island. However if you’re interested in seeing how the island-grown aloe gets from the field to the lotion bottle, consider taking a complimentary tour of an aloe museum in Hato. You’ll learn how the aloe plant is such an important part of Aruba’s heritage that it was once known as the “Island of Aloes,” while also stocking up on aloe-infused products that do wonders for sun-exposed skin.
4. Gourmet Chocolates
Gourmet Dutch chocolates are another popular souvenir from Aruba, although many boxes might not make it all the way home. The Dutch have a long history of chocolate-making, and you’ll find delightful samples and gift boxes all over Aruba. Sample as many as you can and discover your own favorite Dutch chocolate brands.
Aruba’s low sales tax means considerable savings on expensive jewelry, and there are many high-end jewelers in Oranjestad and elsewhere offering such luxuries. If diamonds and Colombian emeralds aren’t quite what you have in mind, island jewelers have unique offerings in a variety of price ranges, and handmade items by local artisans are easy to find at market stalls and gift shops.
6. Dutch Cheeses
Another gourmet offering you’ll find in Aruba thanks to its Dutch heritage is cheese, specifically those uniquely made in the Netherlands such as mild Gouda, stinky Limburger and Edam with its signature red wax coating. You can stock up by buying whole wheels of cheese or select gift boxes for cheese-loving friends.
7. Reusable Bag
For a fun, useful, inexpensive and easy-to-pack souvenir, look for the famous reusable bags from Aruba. These washable bags are made from recycled plastic bottles and have colorful designs featuring Aruba landmarks and motifs, including cave paintings, the divi divi tree and an Aruban license plate.
8. Mopa Mopa Art
Mopa mopa art, which includes handcrafted ornaments, boxes, trays, masks and other decorative items, is sold at a handful of specialty galleries in Aruba. As well as being beautiful to look at, mopa mopa art has a very interesting background. For centuries it’s been crafted by artisans of an Amazonian tribe, who create colored resins by boiling the leaf buds of the mopa mopa tree. The resins are then stretched and inlaid into wooden carvings in intricate patterns, with stunning results. These works of art are prized and pricey, but you might consider smaller figurines as a more affordable and suitcase-friendly option.
9. Aruban T-Shirts
Aruba T-shirts designed for tourists with all kinds of tastes are offered in every souvenir store along with higher-end clothing stores. For a stylish, quality shirt made by a local island-based company, keep your eye out for designs emblazoned with whimsical images inspired by Aruba’s culture and landscape. Some feature the national bird of Aruba, the shoco (burrowing owl) wearing sunglasses; others display the island’s famous donkeys, pelicans and marlin.
Satisfy your sweet tooth by buying a package or two of stroopwafels, another Dutch specialty beloved on Aruba. These thin, crispy waffles are layered with a sweet, cinnamon-scented caramel filling, and are perfect alongside a cup of tea or coffee (the Dutch warm their stroopwafels over a steaming cup), crumbled into a bowl of ice cream or eaten just as they are. You can find them in any grocery store, and they’re a great option when you need an inexpensive, lightweight gift.