San Juan Wins Best Caribbean Destination for Shopping!

Dominican Republic, Aruba, Haiti and Willemstad also winners

Rum or seashell trinkets, custom jewelry or resort wear, the Caribbean offers ample retail opportunity for any shopper in paradise. We asked USA TODAY 10Best readers to vote for their favorite Caribbean shopping destinations from a pool of 20 nominees. After a month of voting, the results are in!

  • Martinique

    Martinique’s downtown Fort-de-France has a big city vibe where shopping ranges from local crafts to fine French imports. Particularly iconic of the French island’s shopping scene, madras linens and clothing represent traditional Creole culture. Don’t miss Le Grand Marche for spices, candies, fresh produce, Creole dolls, wooden bowls and straw hats. Rue Victor Hugo stores are stocked with the trendiest Parisian fashions, perfumes, crystal and porcelain. Rum connoisseurs look for the island’s fine rhum agricole, considered among the best in the world.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Nassau
    Bahamas

    Downtown Nassau and the shopping centers across the harbor at Atlantis resort on Paradise Island are largely about buying duty-free jewelry, perfume, designer fashions and accessories. Also downtown, the Bay Street Straw Market holds a collection of vendors selling inexpensive baskets, jewelry, T-shirts and other souvenirs. For truly authentic Bahamian handicrafts, however, visit the Doongalik Studio and next-door Craft Cottage east of downtown to buy original fine art and handmade straw products, jewelry and masks.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • St. Martin/St. Maarten

    On this dual nationality island, you get twice the cultural influence in shopping centers Philipsburg and Marigot. The capital of the Dutch side, Philipsburg, as a cruise ship port, holds a small but varied selection of shops selling luxury goods duty free and local buys, including the island’s signature guavaberry rum, a Christmas time tipple. Charming Marigot feels like you are shopping in a French village, complete with chic fashions. For fine art, look for impressionist paintings by French-Caribbean artist Sir Roland Richardson.
    Photo courtesy of St. Maarten Tourist Bureau

  • Barbados

    Although capital Bridgetown is the island’s commercial center, there is good shopping to be found all around the island of Barbados. Quite often vendors will do pop-up crafty sales at major attractions, where you will find baskets, masks and jewelry. The island is known for its pottery made in the Chalky Mount region and as the birthplace of rum. Look for Mount Gay and small-batch estate rums. On the resort-lined Gold Coast, Holetown shopping includes a new swank shopping center and charming chattel house shops selling local art to Cuban cigars.
    Photo courtesy of Loozrboy / Flickr

  • St. Kitts

    Downtown Basseterre has an interesting, compact shopping and dining scene. Pelican Shopping Mall and shops at the cruise ship port sell duty-free china, jewelry and crystal. Look for the Spencer Cameron Gallery for island scenes of St. Kitts and sister island Nevis. Island Hopper is a popular store with a wide variety of clothing and island buys. Drive around the island to find more locally colorful gifts such as fabrics, scarves and clothing at Caribelle Batik and art at Kate Design.
    Photo courtesy of Roger W / Flickr

  • Willemstad
    Curacao

    Perhaps the Caribbean’s most photogenic shopping district, downtown Willemstad, capital of Curacao, showcases 17th century Dutch dollhouse architecture on the waterfront. Shop for local goodies at the crafts markets and floating farmer’s market on the Punda side of the waterway. You will also find elegant jewelry, Asian linens, high-tech electronic equipment, wooden shoes, porcelain windmills, Levis jeans, Haitian sculptures, Dutch cheese and the island’s signature Curacao liqueur, orange flavored but as blue as the sky. Across the bay via floating bridge, Otrobanda evolves into its own modern shopping scene.
    Photo courtesy of Curacao Tourist Board

  • Haiti

    Although a bit off the well-worn Caribbean shopping path, Haiti boasts perhaps one of the islands’ most vibrant and well-respected arts scenes. Besides the bright outsider style paintings the country is famous for, its artists produce collectible pottery, beautiful wood carvings and iron sculptures made from oil drums. In more recent years, iron sculpturing has become something of a cottage industry as artisans create colorfully painted household items such as napkin holders and holiday ornaments.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Aruba

    With its share of duty-free shops and a lovely selection of gift shops in downtown Oranjestad, Aruba rates high on shoppers’ radar. Thanks to its Dutch affiliation, you can find a variety of imports such as Dutch-girl dolls and Delftsblauw (Delft blue) porcelain pitchers, tea sets, music boxes, wooden shoe ornaments, windmills, vases and candlesticks, plus big fat wheels of Gouda and balls of Edam cheese, European linens and fine leather goods. Furthermore, malls around the island present alternatives to the downtown cruise port scene.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Dominican Republic

    The Dominican Republic’s capital city Santo Domingo is the place to find craft markets along with a plethora of modern shopping options and chain stores. For gifts and souvenirs that represent the country’s Latin culture and signature agricultural products, shop for paintings, ceramics, coffee, rum and fine cigars manufactured right in the Dominican Republic, usually from Cuban tobacco seeds. Santo Domingo is also known for its inexpensive semi-precious stones, particularly amber. You will find boutiques carrying colorful Latin and America fashions throughout the country, especially in the resort areas.
    Photo courtesy of Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism

  • San Juan
    Puerto Rico

    Puerto Rico’s capital city has it all: modern malls, duty-free jewelry, cigars, good coffee, rum factories, fine art and local crafts. Its Old San Juan district is known for its cobblestone streets and unique boutiques. Two signature artisanal products can run into steep figures. The first are the masks island craftspeople create for their annual carnival. The second are known as santos – hand-carved and painted effigies of Catholic saints. Look for cuatro guitars, mundillo lace, Panama hats, vintage jewelry and herbal soaps made from local ingredients in the Old San Juan shops and markets.
    Photo courtesy of Puerto Rico Tourism Company

The top 10 winners in the category Best Caribbean Destination for Shopping are:

  1. San Juan, Puerto Rico
  2. Dominican Republic
  3. Aruba
  4. Haiti
  5. Willemstad, Curacao
  6. St. Kitts
  7. Barbados
  8. St. Martin/St. Maarten
  9. Nassau, Bahamas
  10. Martinique

Other nominees in this category included Anguilla, Cancun, Grand Cayman, Grenada, Jamaica, Playa Del Carmen, Providenciales, St. Barth, St. Croix and St. Thomas.

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon (JetSetSarah), Melanie Reffes, Mark Rogers and Chelle Walton (10Best) were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of Caribbean travel.

10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners.

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Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon

Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon

Melanie Reffes

Melanie Reffes

Mark Rogers

Mark Rogers

Chelle Walton

Chelle Walton