Gemstones to Chocolate: Your Essential Dominican Republic Shopping GuideBy Lebawit Lily Girma
Between chocolate bars, coffee and semiprecious stones, you might need a separate budget for all the tempting Dominican souvenirs and gifts you’ll want for yourself or for your loved ones.
Here are the top items you should take home, as well as the best places to find them.
Sipping on a cafecito in the morning, post lunch, or late afternoon — and pretty much anytime the fancy strikes — is part and parcel of Dominican life. Arabica coffee is cultivated in various parts of the country’s mountainous regions, including in the northern Cibao region, and in the southwest highlands of Bahoruco. The most popular brand is Café Santo Domingo, ubiquitous in restaurants, hotels, and homes.
La Cafetera, a diner where artists and scribes have gathered since 1930, serves the best Dominican espresso in Santo Domingo’s Colonial City. You can also purchase fresh beans here.
Take a walking tour of the Café Monte Alto coffee factory in Jarabacoa, complete with tastings, and buy your favorite coffee flavor to take home.
Finding a coffee spot is always easy — you’re sure to find a daily brew at the local colmados or corner store — they sell mini-cups all day long for just 10 pesos.
The Dominican Republic ranks among the top four largest exporters of cacao in the world, and is the largest exporter of organic cacao. That translates into a lot of chocolate tasting experiences and shopping.
For the best chocolate picks, shop while touring a local cacao plantation or factory. The best of these are located in the Puerto Plata province. Take a walking tour at the family-run Hacienda Cufa cacao farm in Guananico; learn about the cacao making process, plant your own pod, and taste multiple flavored chocolates, before enjoying a local lunch.
Chocal, a women-run cooperative in Altamira, has an on site chocolate store, filled with products made on site at the factory.
In Santo Domingo, Kah Kow sells a variety of bars, sourced from their large cacao farm in San Francisco de Macorís. While there, check out the museum on Dominican cacao, and sign up for a chocolate making class before buying chocolate to go.
If you’re in a rush, look out for local chocolate bars at Supermercado Nacional.
Amber and Larimar
Step into any jewelry store in the DR and you’ll spot two types of precious stones set in rings, necklaces, and bracelets.
Larimar, a semi precious turquoise-blue stone, is found only in the Dominican Republic. It’s sourced from the cliffs of the Bahoruco region — a four-hour drive southwest of Santo Domingo. If you happen to be in Barahona and Bahoruco, you’ll find the prices more affordable, and more negotiable, than elsewhere in the country. Locals say the larimar stone brings love, healing, and balance.
Dominican amber became famous when Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park was filmed here, and the director borrowed pieces of Dominican amber with fossilized prehistoric insects — a few of which are on display at the Amber Museum in Puerto Plata. You’ll find a variety of yellow and blue amber jewelry around the country. Your best bet is to shop a jewelry store enclosed within one of the country’s amber museums, including the Amber World Museum in Santo Domingo’s Colonial City.