Mementos to commemorate your time in the Dominican Republic. When you step onto Hispaniola, the island where Christopher Columbus landed in 1492, you’ll be transported back in time to a centuries-old culture. Some of the finest souvenirs you can buy to remember your visit to what was once the capital of the New World include precious stones, fine clothing, cigars and rum.
Amber: The movie director Steven Spielberg became enamored with this 40 million year-old yellowish resin. This transparent stone with fossil remains containing the DNA of prehistoric flora and fauna was the “origin” of the dinosaurs in Spielberg’s Jurassic Park.
Amber is a symbol of the Dominican Republic and its history, which has entire museums dedicated to it in Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata (the world’s largest amber deposit). According to legend, amber has extra-sensory and even magical properties. If you’re planning to buy any, we recommend that you buy it at a museum to make sure you’re getting the real thing.
Larimar: Also called Stefilia’s stone, this semi-precious turquoise stone is found on the Barahona coast on the southern part of the island of Hispaniola. Discovered by chance by a priest in the early 20th century, the main mine is located in Barahona province. Larimar is a rare stone that is only found in the Dominican Republic. This, combined with its unique blue tones, have made it one of the most coveted minerals in the world. It is sold in its natural form and in jewelry such as necklaces, rings and bracelets.
Guayaberas: the first written record of this garment dates back to Spanish colonial times, to the year 1514, to be precise, in the province of Sancti Spiritus in Cuba. These hand-sewn white shirts can be made of cotton, linen or silk, all obtained from raw materials grown in the Dominican Republic. Although originally worn by peasants and farmers to stay cool under the Caribbean sun, these shirts are now commonly worn at more formal functions in tropical countries where they go by the name of “chacabanas”, “camisa”, “guayabana” or even “cubana” depending on the country.
Cigars: Hand-rolled one-by-one, Dominican puros are the most famous cigars in the world. Tobacco was being grown in the Caribbean even before Columbus arrived and it is known that the Taino people smoked the plants that they cultivated in the fertile Caribbean soil. Today, most tobacco plantations are located in the Valle del Cibao and the province of Santiago in the northern part of the island. The Dominican Republic is the world’s largest cigar exporter and tobacco-growing has been the country’s second largest industry since 1990. Some of the most well-known brands include Aurora, El Coto, Vegafina, Macanudo, Cuesta Rey and Casablanca. As with amber and larimar, your best bet is to purchase them in an official establishment to avoid fakes.
Rum: The Dominican Republic’s sugar cane plantations have made it one of the world’s largest rum producers. The process of making rum starts by fermenting the liquid obtained from the sugar cane plant. It is then distilled and aged in casks. Rum’s popularity as an alcoholic beverage soared in the 19th century, which is also when well-known distilleries such as Bermúdez and Brugal were founded. These two brands, along with Barceló which was founded in 1922, sell more rum than anyone else in the world.
Cocoa /chocolate: In the center of Santo Domingo’s colonial district, very near the first cathedral ever built in America, the Chocolate Museum of the Dominican Republic housed in a 16th-century building has a chocolate factory and a cocoa museum that is free to visit. Just a few miles north of the capital there are many chocolate growers’ cooperatives that supply cocoa to some of the leading European and US chocolate companies, which use it to produce different grades of chocolate.