Olé Puerto Rico
105 Calle de La Fortaleza, San Juan, PR 00901
| +1 787-724-2445
Sun 10am - 6pm
Mon - Thur 10am - 6:30pm
Fri, Sat 10:30am - 6:30pm
Authentic Panama Hats, Hand-Fitted & CustomizedOn my way back from beautiful Vieques, I had a brief stop-over in San Juan, and set out to find Olé Hats, one of the few authentic stores left in souvenir drowned Old Town. Olé is a small, family owned venture that sold its first Panama hat in the seventies. Attention to clients, product quality, authenticity, and not to forget the major boost of a New York Times mention a few years ago has kept it alive and bustling amidst the sea of tourist tchotchkes.
I had almost passed it, when I spotted a few hats haphazardly on display. I looked inside the store and there it was, the infamous sign I had heard about: 'We do not carry items made in China!'. The shop was buzzing; shoppers were helped, hats worked on, among much friendly banter and laughter. It was fun to hang back and watch the activities, while trying to stay out of the way of Guillermo, the owner, and his two feisty daughters flitting about, taking care of their customers.
When it was my turn, Guillermo helped me chose a classic Paso Fino, a Panama hat with a wide 3 inch brim. The right size was fetched, fitted, and then customized with a hat band. I learned about the history of Panama hats, the different weaves available, and that some hats can take many months to produce. The high end ones are so light and soft, they barely feel like they're made of straw.
Hats can be bought at Olé starting around $60, and the options to customize them are endless and fun, so don't leave San Juan without the perfect souvenir!
Thrilled with my new hat, and armed with a recommendation to go next door to have a great meal at Café El Punto, I left. Guillermo rushed after me, to walk me over to the café, to make sure I got a good table.
A heartfelt thank you to Discover Puerto Rico (@DiscoverPuertoRico) for 3 days in beautiful Vieques and a fun stop-over in San Juan, Puerto Rico.