Top 13 Things to Buy in San Juan

Cruises to San Juan open a magical gateway to explore everything the city has to offer including historic cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, lush jungles, and golden beaches. However, this is also a cosmopolitan city with plenty of galleries, boutiques and local crafts, so you can happily stuff your suitcase with memorable souvenirs. To make your search for the perfect souvenirs easier, here is our list of the top 13 things to buy during your visit to San Juan.

1. Mundillo

Mundillo is one of the most sought-after souvenirs for those shopping in San Juan. The term refers to high-quality handmade lace. Traditionally, the lace was used to make tablecloths, handkerchiefs, blankets and the like. Now, you’ll find it used in everything from baby’s clothes to wedding dresses and jewelry designs.

woman making a blue and white mundillo by hand in san juan

2. Pilón

If you love cooking, here’s an item to put on top of your list for things to buy in San Juan. Pilones are Puerto Rican wooden mortar and pestles; these are useful and decorative additions to the kitchen. Locally, they’re most commonly used to mash plantains in Creole restaurants. You can try one for crushing spices and grinding coffee. Or simply get it as a reminder of your cruise to Puerto Rico.

3. Vejigante Masks

A figure from folklore, the vejigante dates back to medieval Spain and is a representation of the fight between good and evil. Now, you’ll find vejigante masks in souvenir shops everywhere, and they have a much more colorful, local twist. They’re generally made from papier-mâché and coconut shells with decorative touches to accentuate individual styles such as beaks, teeth, oversized lips and horns unique to Puerto Rico.

man making vejigante masks by hand in san juan

4. Ceramics

San Juan is filled with artists specializing in ceramics. Whether you’d like cups, plates, vases, bowls or cute dolls, you’ll find just the right colorful piece for your friends and family. For something totally unique to San Juan, the colonial houses of Old San Juan have inspired miniature ceramic replicas in the form of hand-painted wall hangings depicting picturesque streetscapes.

5. Santos

In San Juan, you will find plenty of hand-carved wooden or ceramic figures of saints called santos. The religious figures most commonly represented on these statues are the Three Kings, who play a significant role in Puerto Rican culture. You’ll find both expensive works of art by master artisans and more affordable versions at souvenir shops, either in the form of wall hangings or stand-alone statues.

colorful ceramic figures made in san juan representing the 3 kings

6. Rum

Puerto Rico is certainly one of the best places in the world to buy rum. You can sample the rum of local producers in San Juan and discover tropical flavors like coconut and lime. You’ll probably have a hard time deciding which bottle to take home!

7. Jewelry

Many cruise destinations offer an array of glittering jewels to adorn yourself for the next formal night onboard. San Juan is no exception, with jewelry stores lining the charming streets of Old San Juan. Silver and gold are popular; however, you’ll also find items using natural materials, including sea glass and coconuts. Keep your eye out for locally made pieces with distinctive designs you won’t see on anyone back home.

8. Spices

No doubt you’ll try plenty of exotic flavors during your cruises throughout the Caribbean. San Juan is a fantastic spot to buy some to take home with you to re-create your favorite dishes. Popular spices include cilantro, recao and peppers. You’ll also find jams and sauces made from seasonal limes, mangoes and oranges.

4 glass bottles filled with different spices spilled on a table

9. Güiro

Music is the heart beat of Puerto Rican culture and you’ll discover a diverse range of sounds in San Juan, from reggae to salsa. The güiro is a percussion instrument that often accompanies folk music and is made from a hollowed-out gourd. It comes in a variety of sizes, so you can take home and make your own San Juan-inspired music whenever the mood takes you.

wooden guiro, tambourine, and musical triangle on a table

10. Hammocks

What goes best with tropical breezes, palm trees and lapping waves? Well, you could say a fruity rum punch, but the second-best thing is a hammock! Hammock weaving is somewhat of a tradition and comfortable designs are made by locals across Puerto Rico.

11. Guayaberas

Guayaberas are a common sight in the Caribbean, including in San Juan, and there’s a very good reason for that. The iconic shirts, characterized by front pockets and two vertical stripes of pleating are light and cool to wear. This makes them perfect for the warm temperatures in San Juan and a great option for casual nights onboard.

12. Coffee

Sipping coffee is a beloved pastime in San Juan, regardless of the time of day. San Juan features local producers making unique brews to satisfy your cravings. You can buy a bag or two to reminisce about your vacation during the office coffee breaks.

coffee beans spilled on a table, next to a small cup of coffee

13. Sweets

In Puerto Rico, traditional candies, or dulces típicos, make use of luscious seasonal fruits for a super-sweet flavor burst. Gift shops offer local products made from oranges, pineapples, coconuts, cherries, limes, guavas, papayas and sweet potatoes. Look out for pilones, which are Puerto Rican lollipops the kids will love.

From local works of art to traditional instruments and delectable island flavors, shopping in San Juan never fails to delight shopaholics from all across the globe.