There are a few favorite souvenirs from this tropical island, but there is one clear winner.
I always bring home a souvenir from my travels. After visiting several countries, I realize that the best souvenirs are the ones that I use all of the time — like the leather backpack I bought in Israel, the gorgeous oriental rug from Morocco, and a ring I can wear every single day. If you're going to the Dominican Republic, I can tell you the number 1 souvenir you should come home with — you absolutely need to bring home some larimar.
Pst: Don't just visit the DR, come volunteer here for a semester!
Our ILP volunteers have discovered the best kind of souvenirs from this tropical island and I'm obsessed with it. Say hello to larimar. Not only is it absolutely gorgeous, this unique stone has quite the story that makes it so much more than a little reminder of your time in the DR. Here's a deep dive on all things larimar!
Where Does This Dreamy Stone Come From?
You can only find it here! Larimar is a beautiful and rare stone that is found only in the Dominican Republic. Seriously. The stone itself is a stunning blue color, leaning towards almost teal or turquoise shades, but usually on the lighter side of the hues. Sometimes you can find larimar in a deep indigo blue that's almost violet. You'll most commonly find it in a light-blue variation, with white veins running through the stones.
It's an enormous part of the island's economy and the Dominican Republic's history. The first people who lived here believed the beautiful gem came from the ocean (which came with the nickname "blue stone"). Later, in 1974, a man named Miguel Méndez found the stone near Barahona that had washed ashore via the Bahoruco River. After following the river, a large mine filled with the stone was discovered — it's now the Los Chupaderos mine which exports millions of dollars worth of larimar worldwide. Méndez named the stone larimar, taking the first part of the word from his daughter's name, Larissa, and the Spanish word for the ocean, mar, to create the name "larimar".
There are shops all over the country that sell larimar, but around Barahona is the only place you can tour the mines if you really want to get a behind-the-scenes look. You can also find it at a variety of prices, from little souvenir shops to more expensive jewelry stores. We have more on that in a minute.
Where Can You Buy It? How Much Does It Cost?
One of our favorite souvenirs on the whole island are rings and other jewelry made of larimar. You will see this stone sold all over, from vendors at the beach or in little shops to expensive and high-end jewelry stores in tourist areas. The price varies quite a bit and depends on the silver the gem is set in, and the color grade of the larimar piece. Sometimes, you'll find red spots, brown stripes, and other minerals or oxidation processes that interrupt the classic color. The more intense the blue and contrast, the more expensive the piece is.
You can definitely spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars for high-end larimar, but there are several shops and vendors our ILP volunteers have shopped at (and love!) that have prices more in the $20 dollar range (and a little higher). You'll want to double-check the appearance of the larimar and feel good about the type of metal your ring or necklace is made out of, but you can still come home with a gorgeous souvenir without spending a ton of money!
Again, you'll see this sold all over, but here are some places ILP volunteers have found affordable larimar:
The Local Jewelry Man
In one of the neighborhoods where ILP volunteers live, there is a great little local jewelry shop where you can get custom things made at great prices — depending on what you're getting, lots of volunteers have gotten custom items for as low as $5-$10 USD. We love love love supporting this local business and are in love with the jewelry you can purchase here. Here's his Instagram if you want to take a peek at one of our favorite souvenirs from the Dominican Republic!
Sosua is a well-known tourist beach, with a shopping strip just off the beach with tons of vendors offering excursions and selling everything from snorkeling trips to hair braiding services to larimar jewelry. It's common for vendors to frequently approach you while you lounge on beach chairs — have cash handy if you'd like to purchase something.
Nearby Playa Grande
Near the beaches around San Juan in the DR, is Playa Grande (which may be one of our favorite beaches on the island). When you first enter the beach, you'll see a handful of souvenir stalls. Some have rows and rows of larimar necklaces and rings — it's one of our favorite spots to buy larimar.
Come spend 3-4 months in the Dominican Republic with us!
ILP volunteers get to live in the DR, right next to the beach and spend time making a difference by teaching English to a class of local kiddos. Living here means you'll have time to get to know the culture, and of course that includes all of the yummy food the DR has to offer!