By Zain Deane
Okay, for the record, I'm the last person to recommend visiting a mall when you go to an exotic island in the Caribbean. Nothing against malls in general, but there are far more beautiful and memorable places to visit Puerto Rico. And even if you need to shop, there are plenty of options to be found in the city, from souvenirs in Old San Juan to designer boutiques.
But hey, we are talking about Plaza las Américas here: the largest mall in the Caribbean. This sprawling retail metropolis, located in Hato Rey, is more than just a collection of stores: it's a collection of more than 300 stores! And restaurants. And entertainment options. And even a few artistic gems worth checking out while you're taking care of your retail needs.
So while I wouldn't make Plaza Las Américas my top place to visit in Puerto Rico, I can understand why you'd want to go. And these 5 reasons back me up.
Pretty much every mall has its Gap, Foot Locker and Game Stop. And Plaza las Américas is no different. But you'll also find plenty of local boutiques and retail stores where you can shop for arts and crafts by local artisans. One place to check out is Paseo Cultural Ricardo Alegría, where you can check out handmade santos from some of the island's masters. Or you can visit Arts and Crafts PR for a varied array of souvenirs.
Then there's kiosks like Delicias Rikeñas, which sells typical Puerto Rican confections, like coconut and pineapple candies, sesame seed candies and local lollipops. And finally, boutiques like Hecho a Mano offer quality clothes and home decor goods made in Puerto Rico.
You can find the same stores that are in the mall down the street from your house at Plaza las Américas. But you'll also a bit of local flavor here.
Keep your eyes open for more than the hottest styles and best deals when you're wandering through the mall: there is some fine artwork to be found in the many open areas of the shopping center, and much of it is made by preeminent local artists. For example, scattered around the mall are seven mosaic medallions designed Myrna Báez, Nick Quijano, Marta Pérez García and Antonio Martorell. Each pays a tribute to a different element of Puerto Rico's history, geography and culture.
One of my favorite sculptures at the plaza is suspended in the air above the Grand Court: a representation of the sails of Columbus's ships on their way to the New World, by Jo Schneider. Other sculptures by this artist capture El Yunque and the flora and fauna of Puerto Rico, many of them complementing nearby mosaic medallions.
And if you're hungry, check out the "Festín en el Platanal" sculpture of a fork, spoon, and knife, created by Ángel Giovanni Ruiz. It's conveniently located near several restaurants on the third level above the Grand Court.