Royal Plaza is a popular shopping mall in Aruba. // © 2015 Aruba Tourism Authority
Feature image (above): Flea markets and street stalls are appropriate shopping destinations for travelers who like to bargain with vendors. // © 2015 Aruba Tourism Authority
Some Caribbean islands have lush mountains and waterfalls. Others have colonial cities. Some boast the best beaches. And others can be considered a tropical paradise for shoppers — such as Aruba.
Vacationers booked into a beachfront resort on the island are never far from a world-class shopping experience, whether they are looking for great deals on designer goods or a handful of modestly priced souvenirs.
Shopping central is the island’s capital city of Oranjestad. The well-heeled will find themselves tempted by designer brands such as Bvlgari, Cartier, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Visitors can also find stores selling an ample selection of jewelry, watches, perfumes, Cuban cigars, Delft pottery, linens, crystal and china.
The shopping experience runs smoothly, since Oranjestad’s Main Street is pedestrianized, and a trolley transports bargain hunters between downtown Oranjestad and the cruise terminal.
Those looking for the best deals should head to downtown Oranjestad’s wharf area, where they will find attractively priced electronics and designer clothes. This is also the area with the greatest number of art galleries and antiques stores.
Bargaining isn’t considered polite or acceptable in Aruba’s established shops; however, dedicated hagglers can try their luck with street vendors and at the island’s flea markets. If clients can convince a seller to reduce the price by 20 percent, they certainly did well for themselves.
Wharfside Flea Market and Palm Beach Market are two of the most popular flea markets on the island. Mostly, it’s a melange of souvenirs, crafts, T-shirts and beachwear. Aruban food products are also on sale, including an island favorite: a papaya-based hot sauce. Flea markets operate on a cash basis, although the U.S. dollar is widely accepted.
Unfortunately, much of the craft items on display are made in China. If authenticity is the goal, advise your clients to keep an eye out for craftspeople who are practicing their trade in front of their customers. These include handmade items in wood, pottery and leatherwork.
Some of Aruba’s most highly prized local products are those made from the aloe vera plant. Aloe vera is native to Aruba, and there are scores of aloe vera items on sale. This is a perfect purchase to make on the island, since aloe is beneficial to the skin, particularly when a person has sunburn. The prime place to shop for aloe vera products isn’t in Oranjestad, however. Instead, head to the Aruba Aloe Museum & Factory in Hato. In addition to a presentation about aloe, shoppers can score quality aloe products, including sunscreen, bath gel and skin lotion.
There are aspects of shopping in Aruba that clients should keep in mind before they set off on a shopping spree. Lots of stores in Aruba shutter between the hours of noon and 2 p.m. One way to deal with this is to make like an Aruban and have a leisurely lunch.
Two favorite eateries in Oranjestad are Blue Martini Bar and Iguana Joe's Caribbean Bar & Grill. Another thing to keep in mind is that there isn’t really duty-free shopping in Aruba. Instead, purchases are tax-free, which translates into savings on purchases up to a limit of $800 per person. The place to make duty-free purchases is Aruba’s international airport.