1. Travel
Send to a Friend via Email

Tahiti Souvenirs – What to Shop for in the Islands of French Polynesia

Most goods geared to tourists are nature-based.

By

Tahitian black pearls

Tahiti's famous "black pearls" actually come in a variety of shimmering hues.

Courtesy of Tahiti Tourisme

The most precious souvenirs you take home from a vacation or honeymoon in Tahiti are apt to be your memories of spending time together in such a beautiful and romantic place. But there are a variety of souvenirs for purchase that will keep your memories alive for years to come or help you share them with friends and family back home.

Tahitian Black Pearls: Once you see one, you want one-and another and another. These luminous orbs, grown on pearl farms located in the lagoons of Taha'a, Raiatea, Huahine and the Tuamotu Atolls, may be known as "black pearls," but they come in shades that range from gray-blue and dusky purple to peacock green and brilliant bronze. They also range in size, quality and price. Low-quality pearls with uneven shapes or surface flaws are often sold in local markets for $40-$60 a piece, while a high-quality single pearl will cost upwards of $250 and a full strand from $1,000 to $10,000 and up.

Pareus: The Tahitian word for sarong, pareus come in a rainbow of colors and patterns and are for sale everywhere-from resorts to souvenir shops to art galleries. Most of the cheaper cotton and rayon pareus costing about $25-$40 in the markets in Papeete on Tahiti and in Vaitape on Bora Bora are mass-produced in Asia. Pareus made in Tahiti, often hand-painted by local artists, are generally sold in upscale boutiques and galleries and cost two to three times as much.

Tiki Statues: These sometimes amusing but often frightening totems are seen all around the Tahitian islands, carved of wood or stone to represent mythical figures of Polynesian lore and serve as protectors of the land. Souvenir versions range from a few inches to several feet tall.

Tifaifai Quilts: These colorful, hand-sewn floral quilts, used to wrap a bride and groom as one at the end of a traditional Polynesian wedding ceremony, are for sale in many crafts boutiques and can bring a tropical ambience to any room back home. They cost several hundred dollars minimum as their beauty makes them quite labor-intensive.

Monoi Oil and Soap: Used by generations of Tahitian women as the ideal skin softener and hair tamer, this rich oil is made from coconut oil infused with a tropical fragrance. It's traditionally the fragrance of the tiare (Tahitian gardenia), but can also be vanilla, coconut, banana or even grapefruit. The oil is also used to make a variety of fragrant bath soaps, which make easy-to-transport gifts for friends or co-workers.

Carved Mother of Pearl Jewelry: In addition to working with black pearls, Tahitian jewelry artisans are also known for their intricate carving of mother of pearl, the shimmery, multicolored lining of oyster shells. Look for round or rectangular pendants and earrings, some with Tahitian black pearls inset, as well as rings and bracelets.

Hinano Beer T-shirts: While female visitors to Tahiti will not want to leave without a black pearl bauble, their male counterparts will probably be eager to take home a t-shirt bearing the ubiquitous logo of Tahiti's national lager, Hinano. The classic logo is of a long-haired Tahitian woman in a red-and-white floral pareu against a blue background with white palm trees, but all sorts of variations are now available.

Vanilla: Available as beans or as extract, this spice is grown mainly on the islands of Raiatea and Taha'a. After a week of dining on mahi mahi with vanilla sauce and every vanilla dessert possible, you'll want to bring some grown-in-Tahiti vanilla home to keep your taste buds happy.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.