It might be a scarf or a ceramic bowl adorned with brightly colored,
hand-painted flowers, or a piece of jewelry that matched the color of
the sea from the hotel’s balcony. It might even be a small pink
shell found in the white sand, softened to the touch by a millennium of
The last day of your vacation in the Dominican Republic can be a little
depressing as it’s almost time to leave your newfound friends and
home. To help ease the airplane ride back and take the edge off any post-vacation
blues, a few souvenirs might be in order. In addition to the obvious souvenirs;
Dominican coffee, merengue music, rum and cigars, here are some ideas for items
that will reawaken Caribbean memories or make special gifts for someone
Santo Domingo is a treasure trove of shopping delights you won't find anyplace else. Amid the centuries-old structures in the Zona Colonial sit well-stocked galleries, ranging from upscale boutiques to large mega centers that are home to a wealth of Latin American paintings — sometimes so many that the pieces are stacked against the walls. This is where you'll find artwork by the best-known painters in the Dominican Republic, as well as promising new talents just beginning to make their mark. And the setting in the midst of buildings dating from the Spanish colonial period hundreds of years ago makes shopping for art a singular experience, browsing masterful works amid crumbling buildings and Spanish courtyards.
But art isn't the only precious resource homegrown in the Dominican Republic. Santo Domingo is one of the best places in the world to buy amber, thanks to the high quality and rare colors of amber found in the Dominican Republic. Most stores will give you the option of buying a piece of amber on its own or enclosed in a jewelry setting. Look for amber containing insects, as well as shades of blue and green - those make the pieces more valuable.
You also have a wealth of jewelry and upscale shops to choose from, like Bentrani, which offers the best prices on Cartier products in the Caribbean, or Villa Russo 1898, which has carried top brands of watches for more than a century.
The Southern Coast
Don't miss the artists' village of Altos de Chavón, a replica of a 16th-century Tuscan village complete with cobblestone streets and stunning views from the hillside down to the Chavón River valley. Artists' studios and art galleries are sprinkled amid restaurants and shops, offering visitors a look inside the world of a Dominican artist.
Closer to the capital, the resort town of Boca Chica also offers shopping opportunities. Strolling vendors along the beach sell plenty of original handicrafts, from hand-painted artwork to silver jewelry.
The East Region
Thanks to the thousands of tourists who visit the east coast each year, shopping in and around Punta Cana at its many resorts has been elevated from traditional crafts stores to upscale boutiques often offering bargain, duty-free prices.
But that's not the only shopping around. Local goods like amber and larimar jewelry, rum and cigars are sold widely around the eastern coast; most resorts have jewelry boutiques and souvenir shops on-site, putting authentic Dominican mementos within anyone's reach.
Secret, Secluded Samaná
By now, it should come as no surprise that Samaná's authentic, un-touristy scene does not lend itself well to duty-free shops and designer boutiques. Where shopping here is concerned, it's traditional Dominican crafts or nothing at all. Some of the best shopping takes place around the region's many festivals, like the annual harvest festivals in the town of Samaná each Friday from late August through the end of October. The Malecón, or beachfront strip, is another year-round shopping destination, lined with small shops offering handmade souvenirs.
In a region known for its amber and its rum, you shouldn't have too difficult a time deciding what your best buys are. Amber jewelry is in full supply here. Also, specialty rums from major and smaller local distilleries are a must. And you'll find local crafts from vendors along the beach, or during festivals like the annual Dominican Jazz Festival in Puerto Plata.
Though most of the region is lush farmland, shoppers can get their kicks on Calle del Sol in Santiago. This primary downtown attraction is also the city's main shopping district, lined with shops, hotels, restaurants, bars and an array of vendors. There's also the Cibao Valley, where you can learn about the art of cigar making even as you sample the goods for yourself.
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