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Top 10 Caribbean Islands to Shop for Duty-Free Jewelry

Posted on February 21 2019

Top 10 Caribbean Islands To Shop For Duty-Free Jewelry

Your Caribbean vacation will be unforgettable — you deserve a souvenir that is as timeless as your stay.

Fortunately, many islands in the Caribbean offer duty-free shopping, which means you can get luxury goods at incredible prices. Duty-free shops sell items without the local government customs fees, or "duties," factored into the price.

If you can save on your stylish new accessory, you have more to invest in the premier dining, accommodations and attractions that fill the tropical islands. Buying duty-free is more than a great value — it allows you to thoroughly enjoy your trip in paradise.

To help you prepare for your next vacation, we've put together a list of the best Caribbean islands for duty-free jewelry shopping.

1. St. Thomas

The most cosmopolitan of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas pulses with color and life.

When you visit the 32 square miles of St. Thomas, expect to have your breath taken away by the clear, tropical waters and world-renowned beaches. For a taste of the island's history, tour the impressive Fort Christian, which was built by the Dutch in 1680. Ride the waves on an exciting boat tour, or slip beneath the water and experience the stunning beauty of a coral reef first-hand. From lush gardens to high overlooks, St. Thomas has something to intrigue every traveler.

For an upscale, duty-free shopping experience, stroll down Main Street in Charlotte Amalie, the capital city. With a significant exemption for U.S. travelers, St. Thomas is considered by many to be one of the best duty-free shopping destinations in the world. The duty-free exemption on St. Thomas is double the $800 limit from other islands. (It is $1,600 per person for the USVI) To find premier duty-free jewelry, wander down Main Street or the smaller markets on Back Street, Waterfront Street and the narrow alleys weaving throughout the city — if you shop on St. Thomas, you won't leave disappointed.

2. St. John

St. John Luxury Jewelry & Watches

The smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. John is nonetheless a center of tourism and industry, and it welcomes visitors from around the world to its tranquil beaches.

The first settlers of the island were ancient sea explorers — the Arawaks, Caribs and Tainos. Passing through Spanish, Dutch and finally U.S. control, St. John has a diverse culture that's evident in the artisan fairs, storytelling presentations, excellent food and colorful parades. Over 60 percent of the island's land is dedicated to a pristine national park, which makes the natural beauty of St. John unmatched throughout the Caribbean.

Although nature surrounds you, you are never far from exceptional dining, accommodation and shopping — after a day snorkeling in a teeming reef, visit the town of Cruz Bay to browse collections of luxury jewelry and watches. US residents can enjoy the exquisite shopping experience on St. John with a duty-free allowance of $1,600. To capture the vivid palette of a coral reef, look for colorful pieces such as a multicolored gemstone bangle or delicate five-strand bracelet.

3. St. Maarten

The southern half of an island shared with French-controlled Saint Martin, St. Maarten is an elegant and sophisticated hub in the Caribbean ocean.

A Dutch territory, St. Maarten is a blend of European style and warm, Caribbean hospitality. Travelers can enjoy slow days on bright beaches or sample some of the island's many water sports. During the evening, the nightlife of the island offers opportunities for fine dining and opulent casinos.

Some of the best duty-free shopping in the Caribbean is in Philipsburg, the capital city. Shop for premier jewelry from both local and international designers, and walk along the mile-long boardwalk of Front Street to browse some of the world's most exquisite accessories. Step into the nearby Sint Rose Shopping Mall for even more duty-free luxury — celebrate the sophistication of St. Maarten with a timeless diamond and white gold pendant or a rose gold ring layered with brown and white diamonds.

4. Aruba

Step onto the warm, white sands of Aruba and step into a culturally rich paradise.

Surrounded by the sunny waters of the southern Caribbean ocean, Aruba has a diverse history that influences more than its shops. Traces of its original Caiquetio Indian inhabitants are visible in cave art, and ancient pottery and jewelry are on display in the Archaeological Museum. The island brims with life, from clean beaches and bright resorts to the windswept desert landscape of Arikok National Park. Beyond its ornate architecture and wind-sculpted natural beauty, Aruba offers a wide variety of duty-free shops.

Over 90 nationalities are represented in the 19.6 mile-long island, and this diversity is expressed in its broad range of commerce. Shopping is mostly centered in two areas of the island — in downtown Oranjestad and centers located within the high-rise hotel quarter. Both locations brim with premier duty-free jewelry stores where you can find everything from diamond stud earrings to chic gold cuffs.

5. Bahamas

Bahamas Duty-Free Jewelry

With teeming coral reefs and a booming urban center, the Bahamas are a gorgeous destination on your Caribbean vacation.

The Bahamas include over 700 islands, but the majority of these are uninhabited cays, or tropical reefs. The Spanish gave the islands their name, which means "shallow water." In the past few decades, island tourism has boomed, and for a good reason — with stunning natural beauty and populous city centers, the Bahamas have become one of the top tropical destinations in the world.

For world-renowned shopping, visit Nassau, the capital city. The town brims with duty-free markets and malls where you can see anything from hand-woven straw baskets to designer jewelry. The city's mild climate and many attractions add to its tropical charm and make outdoor shopping a breeze. For the highest number of duty-free stores in Nassau, head to Bay Street for a day of shopping. You will also find plenty of shops in the Port Lucaya Marketplace on Grand Bahama Island. This 12-acre waterfront market offers a broad selection of Caribbean jewelry and other luxury items — look for gleaming necklaces set in delicate rose gold or elegant sterling silver bands inlaid with diamonds.

6. Barbados

For a fusion of colorful island culture, incredible food and breathtaking beaches, look no further than Barbados.

Barbados has been shaped by West Indian, African and English cultures, and this has led to a rich and unique national identity. Taste hints of India in the Bajan cuisine, or listen for British and African folk influences in the rhythmic tuk music. Listen for the soft sounds of Barbadian jazz on an evening walk along the seaside, and be sure to step into one of the hundreds of local bars of rum shops for a taste of the famous Barbados rum.

With a national motto of "Pride and Industry," it's no surprise that Barbados boasts a large number of fine jewelers and luxury shops. Most of the shopping is centered around the Bridgetown, the capital city — especially on Broad Street. But duty-free stores dot the island, so you can find incredible shopping wherever you're staying. When you are selecting the perfect jewelry piece, consider a one-of-a-kind purchase like a silver and diamond pendant shaped like a tropical flower, or maybe an intricate designer-brand watch.

7. Dominican Republic

Punta Cana is a small, lush resort town on the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic. Sapphire-blue waters and clear beaches bask in the sun, and the nearby reefs brim with bright marine life.

Hotels provide daily excursions into the island and the sea, and all-inclusive resorts offer a plethora of fun activities for the whole family. For a glimpse of the island's natural landscape and beauty, spend a day exploring the nearby Los Haitises National Park.

For some exceptional duty-free jewelry, stop by one of the shopping centers located in the many luxury hotels, such as the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino — you're sure to find some incredible pieces at competitive prices, like white gold drop earrings with halos of diamonds.

8. Curaçao

Curacao Duty-Free Jewelry

Pastel-colored buildings and white-powder beaches are just the beginning of Curaçao's beauty.

The name "Curaçao" comes from the Portuguese words for healing and heart because the natives of the island were said to have healing powers. The island was a colony of both Spain and the Netherlands, but the Dutch eventually took permanent control in the early 17th century. Curaçao's diverse history is apparent in the lovely, Dutch-inspired architecture and various historical districts scattered around the island, such as Fort Amsterdam and the Old Town. Mineral waters and hot springs pool throughout the island, and the year-round warm and sunny climate makes Curaçao a beloved Caribbean destination.

For the best duty-free shopping, wander through Willemstad, the island's capital city. The 57-acre Harbour Duty-Free Zone is the largest in the Caribbean, and Willemstad attracts visitors from around the world to browse its collection of premier jewelry and luxury goods. During your shopping, keep an eye out for spectacular pieces such as a glamorous two-toned plated bracelet or a white gold and diamond bangle.

9. Tortola

Tortola Duty-Free Shopping

Tortola is the largest and capital island of the British Virgin Islands and offers emerald mountains, white-sand beaches and enough pirate lore to keep you spellbound for the entirety of your stay.

The island's rich history brims with smuggling and intrigue. Blackbeard and Captain Kidd were some of Tortola's earliest settlers, and the island's lush and secluded coves served as bases for their pirating exploits. In the 17th century, England wrestled control of the island from the Dutch and established a colony on Tortola.

Today, visitors can relax on bright beaches fringed by palms, scuba beneath the clear water or windsurf on the gentle waves. To sample more of the island's culture, visit Main Street or the Tortola Pier Park for a wide range of duty-free shopping. For an island-themed piece, consider a palm tree pendant studded with diamonds or a topaz bolo bracelet that looks like the warm Caribbean sea.

10. Puerto Rico

Called "The Island of Enchantment," Puerto Rico boasts a rich history and a stunning natural beauty. 

A territory of the United States, Puerto Rico is known for its white beaches, rich culture and refreshing piña coladas. The island's hub is its capital city, San Juan. One of the oldest cities in the Americas, San Juan is filled with cobblestone streets and is known as "La Ciudad Amurallada," or the walled city. With abundant commerce and industry, San Juan blends old and new in colorful neighborhoods and charming historic districts.

Explore the city through the free trolley service, or spend a day in the gentle waves on one of the bright beaches. For the best duty-free shopping, stop by one of the many markets and shopping centers to browse local and international goods. Make sure to stop by the Ritz-Carlton in the Isla Verde district for some of the best jewelry shopping on the island, including gold-draped necklaces and high-end luxury watches.

Bonus: Key West

Key West isn't technically in the Caribbean Sea but between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Still, this sun-kissed island has the same breathtaking skies to turquoise waters, making a visit to Key West one you won't soon forget.

Key West is at the end of the Florida Keys islands, and Europeans first discovered it in 1521. Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon named it Cayo Hueso, or Bone Island, for the island's bleached limestone formations. Nothing matches the spectacular beauty of a Key West sunset and the following celebration in Mallory Square, both of which are must-sees on any Key West vacation. The impressive architecture of historic districts such as Old Town and Fort Zachary Taylor add historical layers to the town, and the glowing waterfront is full of restaurants and attractions.

After a morning spent on the beach or in the waves, head back to town or visit a resort for duty-free watch and jewelry shopping. To match the glow of the Key West sunset, look for warm pieces like a hand-engraved, yellow gold pendant or gold-rimmed aquamarine earrings — you could take a part of the Caribbean sun and sea back home with you.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Duty-Free Shopping in the Caribbean 

Tips for Duty-Free Shopping in the Caribbean

To get the most out of your duty-free shopping, think about these tips before you leave for your Caribbean vacation.

1. Plan Your Route

If duty-free shopping is one of the primary reasons you are visiting the Caribbean, plan your trip around your passion. It won't do you much good to spend most of your trip on an island that doesn't offer many shops with high-end clothing or designer jewelry.

Instead, before you book your tickets, spend time researching the best shopping centers for the items you want most, whether it's luxury accessories or artisan liquor.

2. Know Your Prices

Some shops will market their prices as "duty-free," but they have racked up the cost so that it is almost as expensive as a normally-priced item.

Before you board your plane or cruise, research the typical prices of your favorite items. How much would that designer watch you've been eyeing sell for back home? This will help you find the shops that offer the most competitive pricing and will ensure you get the best value for your investment.

3. Remember Customs

While the plethora of luxury items and bargain prices are tempting, keep in mind the specific customs regulations of your country. Most countries place limits on the amount of money you can spend while outside the borders — if you spend more than the allotted amount, you will have to pay a tariff on your arrival back home, which may undo all of your duty-free savings.

Visit Little Switzerland for the Best Jewelry Shopping in the Caribbean

For a truly luxurious shopping experience, stop by Little Switzerland and browse our selection of duty-free watches and jewelry from top designer brands such as Breitling, Omega, David Yurman and Roberto Coin. Providing the Caribbean's most extensive selection of designer accessories for over 60 years, we are committed to providing luxury accessories with unmatched service, and we offer competitive pricing and preferred no-interest financing plans.

On your next trip to the islands, treat yourself to a souvenir you'll treasure long after you leave. Contact our personal shopping team for special or duty-free pricing, or visit one of our many stores throughout the Caribbean. Let us help you find the perfect take-away from your vacation in paradise.

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