French Polynesia is the black pearl capital of the world and you will find boutiques selling these lustrous gems throughout the islands. The Marquesas Islands are known for intricate wood carvings and shell handicrafts, while lithographs and paintings by Tahiti’s huge community of international artists – including Sydney artist Tania Wursig – are famous throughout the South Pacific.
Top 3 Things You Should Buy
Papeete’s Pearl Market is the place to go (see below). You can pay anything from $40 AUD for an individual loose pearl up to tens of thousands for a large, flawless item of jewellery. To ensure quality, the government requires vendors provide a certificate of authenticity – don’t buy without one.
Made from soaking gardenia petals in coconut oil, local women use aromatic Monoi oil to add gloss to their hair. On sale in most hotel boutiques, it’s an affordable way to take home the unmistakable fragrance of Tahiti. The Body Shop and Chanel are two well-known Monoi fans.
The explosion of colour throughout Tahiti’s luscious island gardens is reflected in the brightly-coloured prints favoured by locals. Tropical designs of fish, shells and native flowers can be found on shirts, sun-dresses and pareos everywhere, from island markets to high street stores.
Top 7 Places You Should Shop
Pearl Market, Rue Collette, Papeete
Look for retailers displaying a certificate proving their products have been inspected and x-rayed for quality by the local marine resources department. Well-known retailers here include Tahia Collins and Robert Wan, who can also be found at Fa'a'ā International Airport, Papeete for last minute purchases.
Duty Free, Avenue du Marechal Foch, Papeete
The biggest tax-free boutique here is Duty Free Tahiti near Centre Vaima on the Papeete waterfront. Find French perfumes and luxury brands like Cartier, Givenchy and Chanel. If your timing is right, you may find high-end French handbags on sale in the airport departure lounge.
Annual wine sale at Carrefour, various stores, Papeete
Savvy French wine connoisseurs keep an eye out for the timing of this famous wine sale, which attracts buffs from as far afield as Australia and New Zealand. Find rare vintages as well as Burgundy and Chablis from Bordeaux. Watch Carrefour’s website for details and dates.
Carrefour supermarkets, Tahiti and Moorea
Bulging with bon French products and local produce, the islands’ main supermarkets are a great spot to pick up French cheeses and wine for half what you‘ll pay at the resorts or in Australia. Add a fresh baguette and you have the makings of a ‘picnique magnifique’.
Centre Moana Nui, Puna’auia, Papeete
If you need a bank, post office, pharmacy or supermarket, this is the place. Located on Papeete’s main coast road bus route around the island, you can also grab a coffee or pick up an aloha shirt or floral sundress at one of the boutiques.
Dock markets, Vaitape, Bora Bora
Waterside markets selling shell jewellery, pareo fabric, tropical fashions and basket-ware are cheaper than the nearby boutiques in the tiny township, which generally deserve their reputation as expensive. Find black pearl boutiques, myriad potions, vanilla and pots of Manoi oil-scented beauty products and upmarket handicrafts.
Le Marché, Papeete waterfront
A huge variety of tropical flowers – including tiare, orchids, daisies and jasmine – are for sale on the ground floor of the capital’s main market. Pick up a colourful bloom for your hair or behind your ear or go all the way and buy an aromatic tiare crown, as worn by local ladies.