For many Americans and Europeans on vacation, shopping in the Caribbean is a highlight of the trip. Caribbean markets offer a wide variety of coveted goods, and many of the islands are bereft of sales tax. Caribbean craftspeople bring an intriguing blend of African and European influences to their handiwork, a combination that reflects the disparate factions that make up their culture.

Shopping in the Caribbean
Shopping in the Caribbean

A wide variety of exotic goods can be found while shopping in the Caribbean. Tropical flowers are transformed into perfumes while tree bark, palm fronds, grass and straw are turned into remarkable accessories. Handbags, hats, and sandals are often born from these materials.

Jewelry is definitely one of the staples of Caribbean shopping. The duty free shops of St. Martin are there for both the wealthy and bargain hunters, while many boutiques on the island carry jewelry handcrafted from natural amber, shells and bits of broken sea glass. Visitors to St. Barts will find many of the same goods, along with thousands of fine French and the latest in European fashion. Those looking for hip clothes will also find them deep in the shops of Guadeloupe and Martinique.

Throughout the islands, shopping locales range from ultra-modern malls to independent vendors who set up shop randomly along the road. Whether it is one of the many chain store or one of the many Caribbean markets, shopping is one of the main draws of the island. Locally grown produce and spices yield a vast array of food and cosmetics - jams and jellies, soap and make-up, jerk seasonings and hot sauces. While you can find many of these markets while shopping in the Caribbean, Grenada is home to most of the spice-related goods, primarily nutmeg and cinnamon.

Caribbean shopping is not complete until you have purchased copious amounts of both coffee and rum. And while you can find many examples of both liquids all across the islands, Jamaica is home to a number of Caribbean markets that specialize in the production and distribution. Barbados also has one of the most popular and distinctive rums available to shoppers. The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Trinidad also have highly desired rums, many of which can only be bought on their home islands. Therefore, to do extensive Caribbean shopping, a bit of island hopping is necessary.

In the Virgin Islands, you will find a number of jewelers and fashion designers, but the island of St. Thomas is more well known for the concentration of Americanized malls that dot the its main port.

A note on Caribbean currency: though many islands have their own, you will be hard pressed to find a lot of vendors who will not accept dollars or euros. To be on the safe side, you may want to exchange some money into East Caribbean dollars, the official currency of Anguilla, Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis and St Lucia.

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