I just returned from a trip to Puerto Rico, and already want to go back. The people are the most friendly I’ve met, and having been all over the world, that’s quite an accomplishment by itself. Of course, perhaps some of this kindness is due to the environment, which is truly spectacular. The locals call it the “land of enchantment,” and I’m certainly not going to argue with them. While the island isn’t huge geographically, there are rainforests, urban landscapes, caves, and oceanfront views that are truly spectacular. In fact, I miss the ocean the most, along with the palm trees, iguanas, and the coqui frogs. These small amphibians I could never find, yet I heard them every night, as they make a noise that sounds like their name. Locals told me its hard to see them, due to their secretive nature, and the fact that they are about the size of a human thumb.
Yet I did find one “Coqui” on my visit that I appreciated. For the whole trip, I searched in vain to find authentic souvenirs with no luck. San Juan has plenty of stores, but all of their goods are made in China, or other regions of the world. What’s the point of that, unless you want a ridiculous shot glass with the Puerto Rican flag on it to enjoy rum from? Finally, I found the place to purchase souvenirs, and it was actually in my hotel. Coqui International has a main store, but several kiosks across the island, including a couple in San Juan. Here you can find arts and crafts, along with traditional souvenirs such as keychains, bracelets, necklaces, and paintings.
For the quality, you are going to pay a bit more, than the cheap touristy stores that are all over Ashford Avenue in the Condado section of town. However, the vast majority of goods here are handmade by artisans, and I’m especially enamored by the dedication to producing durable products. A painting of Old San Juan at $25 is a bit much, but when you look at the detail of this small print, you realize that the artist didn’t just “fill in the lines, and use certain colors of paint” by written instructions. The coconut candles are a unique item, and the feathered necklace(wooden) that I purchased for $10 is well worth it. Its truly a masculine piece of jewelry, as while its attached to a piece of black string, the wooden feather’s grooves and paintwork are impressive.
The kiosk at the Marriott Stellaris and Casino is impressive, in both size, and the helpfulness of the employees. It was here that I learned about the importance of the revered frog, along with the wooden birds that I purchased for only $5 each. These are hand carved, beautifully detailed, and an excellent value. The wooden chimes my wife bought for $20 are at a sacred place, and I love how they sound when the wind picks up. All of the goods sold here, with the exception of a few that are marked, are from Puerto Rico or next door neighbor Dominican Republic. Thus, if you want authentic Caribbean gifts, this is a place you’ll have to stop by and see. The kiosks are located all over, but the main store is located in Palmer, Puerto Rico. You can call them at 787-887-0770, and I fully recommend them, as the “international section” in our living room is a bit more colorful than it used to be.