Shopping in Tahiti and her islands
From a simply decorated pareo to the most spectacular Tahitian pearl necklace you will have no shortage of gift ideas during your stay in Tahiti and Her Islands.
Discover the uniquely flavored local products like the amazing Tahiti vanilla.
Be tempted by simple but authentic products renowned worldwide for their quality and exclusivity.
All these typical local products reflect the local at of living and are found in the many souvenir shops around Tahiti and her Islands.
- Pareos or “pareu” in Tahitian. They are the sheer symbol of life in the islands. They are used by everyone and for any purpose: to dress both men and women, to double up as a beach towel, to decorate a piece of furniture, armchair, bench or table and even in your car to cover the seats…
The design is always made locally but today some pareos are made overseas. Do not hesitate to ask the shop assistant who will honestly reply as to where the product is from. Some workshops even offer that you make your own!
- Tifaifai: they are among the symbols of traditional Polynesian handicraft. Originally, these were two sheets of different colors worked in a way to make geometrical or flower patterns. Their dimensions are generally 240 cm x 260 cm and are used as a quilt to cover a bed, piece of furniture or couch.
Nowadays, they are found as bed linen sets, in pastel or bright colors. They are still traditionally sewn and they require a group of 4 or 5 women who work around a wide table in order to see the entire sheet.
- Handicraft: plants (pandanus leaves or pae’ore, coconut palms or ni’au, coconut fiber) have long been used in the making of all sorts of original works, basket weaving, hats, fans, handbags, roofs, dish and rugs also called pe’ue… Each group of island has its own individual craft. Several local handicraft shows celebrate the artists throughout the year. The craft is being passed down from generation to generation. An art institute has also purchased local art as part of its educational program.
- Costume Jewelry: In Tahiti, many shops sell handicraft jewelry often made out of mother of pearl shell and black pearls. Except for the most basic ones, they are exclusively made from original local designs. In some islands especially Moorea, Raiatea and Bora Bora, buy them direct from the producers. Do not hesitate to ask them for a custom-made piece!
- Carving: Pieces are found on every island, mostly representing ancient local divinities called “Tiki” or animal carvings (turtles, dolphins, sharks…) or traditional objects (spears, paddles).
Marquesan carvings should be specifically highlighted as they are renowned worldwide with pieces being sold at Christie’s and Sotheby’s over the past few years.
- Tattoos: In ancient times, tattoos were performed with bone combs or turtle-shells. They were both a symbol of beauty but also social recognition. Nowadays, Polynesian tattoos are world renowned among professional tattooists. Every archipelago has its own artists using various styles and each has a different reputation. Do not hesitate to compare and ask around since Tattoos in French Polynesia are not just beautiful, they are meaningful and they tell a story… your story.
- Paintings: Just like Gauguin and Matisse, many painters have been seduced by Polynesian sceneries, the beauty of men and women living in our islands or by traditional life scenes. They set up their easel for a few months and sometimes several years.
Figurative painting is most popular around these parts thanks to artists such as Boulaire, Deloffre and Duday. Their original works are expensive but local art galleries offer quality prints of their main pieces and also exhibit local artists presenting interesting work.
- Music instruments: For those who are musicians or simply like nice objects, be tempted by a traditional handcrafted ukulele or toere.
As far as the “ukulele” is concerned, you can find basic models around each street corner around the Papeete market. Keen amateurs will like the high quality instruments at some specialized stringed-instrument makers around Papeete or Moorea.
- Fed up with your Havaianas?! Flips flops (tongs) are an institution in French Polynesia. They are commonly called “savates”. If you have enough of the Havaianas and would like to look different, try the local “Tahitian Move” savates. They are sold everywhere.
- Beautiful books, novels and history: Should you like to immerse yourself in Polynesian culture and the history of the South Pacific, go to “Vent des Iles”, a local book store. You can also order online or download books digitally.e.
One goes to buy but also to enjoy the vibrant market atmosphere open daily from 6:00am-6:00pm. It is the best way to discover genuine Tahitian life, its colors, and the warmth of the local people.
The building dates back to 1987 and was built on the historic site of the original market dating back to1869!
On the first floor, you will see the fish, fruit and veggies market where the local inhabitants of Papeete come to shop. See the “mamas” make seashell necklaces and flower leis. You will realize that these are not just meant for tourists but are truly part of everyday local life.
Upstairs, you will enjoy a great view of the building with many shops selling handicrafts from the five archipelagos: beads and jewels from the Society Islands and the Tuamotu, Marquesan carvings and basket weaving from the Australs and Gambier.
Discover exceptional quality vanilla.
Don’t miss Tahiti’s black gold. This unique vanilla, often awarded for the finesse and strength of its aromas, is enjoyed in both desserts and salted recipes.
As opposed to its Bourbon vanilla cousin, which traveled from Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean and now grows in areas such as central America, Africa and Asia, Tahiti’s vanilla (vanilla tahitensis) only grows in French Polynesia. Tahiti’s vanilla only represents 1% of the worldwide production of genuine vanilla. Over 99% of vanilla used in the world is, in fact, a vanilla artificial flavor. This is therefore a very special and unique vanilla.
Its price will meet its quality but the strength of its aroma enables you to use it in very small quantities. A pack of 250g will be sufficient to prepare a dozen recipes.
It will flavor your ice creams, cakes, puddings but also your fish recipes (sea bream and halibut) or foie gras.
Discover a very unique product born from the crazy idea to plant vines on a Tuamotu atoll! The grapes are pressed and the vinification takes place on site according to very strict principles. 3 different white wines are produced: a dry, a sweet and a third one named “Blanc de Corail” which will seduce you with its aromatic expressions.
Fresh fruits galore!
Bananas, mangoes, papayas, coconuts, pineapples and limes all grow in abundance around Tahiti and Her Islands, an ideal climate which only adds to their tantalizing taste! Enjoy the pleasure of tasting them upon a walking route, freshly fallen from a tree or bring them home as pre-made jams and chutneys. Delicious!
MONOI & FLOWERS
Monoï or “sacred oil” symbolizes the Tahitian art of living. Used as a hair & body product, massage oil and miracle remedy, this elixir is still widely used in Tahitian everyday life.
It is the result of this magical combination of the tiare flower and coconut oil. Fresh tiare flowers are harvested as buds and mixed with refined coprah oil to macerate. A suave and enchanting fragrance is then extracted offering purifying and moisturizing benefits.
Monoï is well known throughout the Western World where it was first introduced back in the 1970’s. With the rise of women’s surf culture and the bikini body, Monoi soon became a symbol of Tahitian paradise, sensuality and beauty.
Since 1992, the famous Monoï label guarantees where the product is from, the quality of ingredients and the manufacturing recipe. Monoï is commonly found as oils, soaps or balms.
The tiare flower fragrance has probably followed you since your arrival to Tahiti and Her Islands! Its subtle fragrance can now be taken home as a sealed pack of fresh flower buds from the Papeete Market. Well wrapped, it will travel well with your belongings and upon arriving home will ensure the fragrance of Tahiti will bring back memories of paradise. Once at home, display the flowers in a cup with some water and the fragrance will soon surround you just like in Tahiti!
Hibiscus, birds of paradise, opuhi, anthuriums and other porcelain roses are flowers used widely across Tahiti. Several flower shops offer ready-to-go bouquets packaged especially for a 24-hour plane trip. Make sure you order one in advance ensuring the fragrance of Tahiti follows you home.
Please note that you may have to hold a biohazard certificate to bring plants or flowers home depending on the country you are traveling back to. Ask a professional florist, including the shop at the airport, to advise you as to what the regulations are in your home country.
PEARLS & JEWELLRY
A true gem from the Tahitian oceans. Usually known as the black pearl, it actually shines into many shades ranging from white to black with more surprising tones such as deep blue, aubergine, cherry, bronze and silver with a pink reflection…
Although it conquered many overseas markets and is used by the most prestigious jewelers in Europe, Japan and the USA, it is actually here in Tahiti that you will find the widest variety of shades and colors. Your stay in Tahiti will definitely be ‘the’ occasion to shop for this unique jewel.
The quality of a pearl is evaluated through 6 different criteria:
- The luster
- The orient
- The surface
- The size
- The color
- The shape
try to see your reflection in the pearl – the clearer your reflection the better!
is the play of light on a pearl.
many pearls show small imperfections which makes them even more unique.
most pearls measure between 9mm -12mm. Over 15mm, beautiful pearls are very rare… and most expensive!
there is no specific rule, let your heart choose the one you really like.
perfectly round and symmetrical pearls are rarest. There are also beautiful pear-shaped, button-shaped and circular pearls.
The quality of a jewel depends on how creative the designer is, his skill in enhancing the pearl, his skill in finding similar colored pearls then matching the pearl to a complimentary piece of jewelry.
Jewelers classify pearls according to their size, shape and surface. Pearl farming and pearl retailing is strictly regulated in French Polynesia. This guarantees the highest quality pearls within Tahiti and her Islands.
All jewelers offer a wide range of choice in terms of color shades and pearl quality, which is your opportunity to find a perfect piece of jewelry.
If you have a bit of time in Tahiti, why not get a personalized piece of jewelry especially for you, reflecting your personality. They are created between 24 to 48 hours depending on your choice of settings and the pearls of your choice.
In Tahiti and Her Islands, shops are usually open from Monday to Friday, from 8:00am to 5:00pm and usually closed during lunchtime 11:30am and 1:30pm. In Papeete they open Saturday morning from 8:00am to 12:00pm and even sometimes until 3:00pm. They are closed on Sunday and during holidays.
It is mandatory for a retailer to display all product prices. Bargain is not customary but you may be offered a discount if you ask with a smile!
The Papeete market is open daily from 6:00am to 6:00pm.