What to Shop for on Your Next Trip to the Polynesian Islands

by Julia on January 30, 2019

Your dream vacation is right around the corner and you’re already packing your arsenal of cute bikinis for those magnificent sandy beaches. If you’re planning a trip to the amazing French Polynesia, exciting times are definitely on the schedule – but besides enjoying those picture-perfect blue waters, you’ll definitely need a mini guide on what to shop for on the islands of Tahiti, Bora Bora and Mo’orea. From authentic beach fashion to black pearls that capture the magic of the area and from ornate patchwork to everyone’s favorite flavor, here are the five must-shop items when traveling to the French Polynesian islands.

1. Tifaifai Quilts

If you love the vibrant and tropical-enthused culture of the islands, there’s no better gift to take home than a lovely Tifaifai quilt. Available in the widest range of bold and bright colors and decorated with floral and leaf motifs, these hand-sewn quilts are used on the French Polynesian islands as part of the wedding festivities, where the groom and the bride are wrapped together during the ceremony.

Where to Find Them: Grab your own Tifaifai quilt at one of the craft boutiques around the islands.

The Price: Be prepared to spend at least a couple of hundred dollars on an authentic Tifaifai quilt, as these beauties are very labor-intensive.

2. Black Pearls

The most popular souvenir when visiting the islands of French Polynesia is, without a doubt, the pearl – the black pearl, to be exact. Tahitian black pearls are world-famous for their unique iridescence and wide variety of hues that fall on the dark side, ranging from green to blue and from steel-grey to purple and bronze. Whether you opt for a loose pearl to later use in a custom jewelry design, a pearl necklace or a single pearl on a simple leather bracelet, this particular souvenir perfectly manages to capture the beauty of the exotic islands. Alternatively, if you are looking for creative, fantasy jewelry pieces, opt for carved mother of pearl jewelry, featuring shimmery layered linings of oyster shells.

Where to Find Them: Literally everywhere, from the local markets to the upscale jewelry boutiques.

The Price: You’ll spend anywhere between $40 to a few thousands for a pearl or pearl jewelry piece, depending on the quality, color and size of the gems.

3. Pareu

Known as the Tahitian sarong, the pareu is the perfect beach cover-up when vacationing (or residing) on an exotic island. Available in the widest range of colors and designs, pareus are often hand-painted by local artists, which makes them one of the best, most authentic souvenirs to take back home.

Where to Find Them: Find your vibrant pareu in local galleries and posh boutiques.

The Price: You can find local-produced, authentic pareus for around $100 – and keep in mind that anything cheaper than $50 is usually mass-produced in Asia.

4. Vanilla

If you are an avid baker, you probably know that high quality vanilla beans and extract are hard to come by. But that doesn’t ring true when you are in the French Polynesia. Fact is, Tahitian vanilla is renowned for its intense flavor and equally tempting fragrance, perfect for those Sunday vanilla frosting cupcakes you’re planning on delighting your family with.

Where to Find Them: Get the best quality vanilla beans on the islands of Raiatea and Taha’a. And if you missed this delightful shopping opportunity, make sure to grab some from the airport on your way back home.

The Price: Tahitian vanilla beans cost around $600/kg, considerably more than the Madagascar vanilla beans.

5. Hinano Beer T-shirts

While the ladies visiting the French Polynesia are probably all about those radiant pearls and that irresistible scented vanilla, their male counterparts will surely love this next souvenir: the Hinano beer T-shirt. As the national lager of the island of Tahiti, Hinano comes with an exotic statement logo featuring a Tahitian woman in a traditional pareu.

Where to Find Them: Anywhere on the island of Tahiti, with some good options online, just in case you forgot to pick one up on the islands.

The Price: Save $20-$30 for your Tahitian beer logo tee.

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