The Best Tongan Gifts for Friends and Family
Looking for a really great gift from Tonga to show the people back home how much you care? Or perhaps you just want something for yourself to remember your time in The Kingdom? Whatever the reason, there are some stunning gifts and souvenirs to be found in the islands of Tonga, especially as handicrafts are an integral part of the Tongan culture. All the handicrafts you see in Tonga are handmade, so you know what you are getting is authentic and unique. But it’s not just all about handicrafts, as there are some food and beauty products from Tonga that also make great gifts. So check out some of our suggestions for the best souvenirs to get in Tonga in the list below!
For more information on gift shops and markets, check out Where to Find the Best Souvenirs in Tonga.
1. Tapa Paintings
Tapa or “Ngatu” are handicrafts made from beaten mulberry tree bark to create a kind of textile. This textile is then painted with all sorts of impressive designs, which is one of the most iconic kinds of handicrafts Tonga is known for. There are all sorts of tapa gifts to be found in the markets and gift stores of Tonga, from classic wall paintings to handbags to coasters to neckties! Learn more about the significance of handicrafts in the Tongan culture in The Guide to the Tongan Culture for Travellers.
2. Woven Bags
Tongans are also skilled weavers, making all sorts of goods, from waist mats that you see Tongans wearing (ta’ovala) to baskets and other practical items. The Langafonua Handicrafts Centre in Nuku’alofa has a particularly good selection of woven bags for sale.
3. Wooden Carvings
Master carvers in Tonga are inspired by the ocean and tribal aspects of the traditional Tongan culture, which is what you’ll see in many of the wooden carvings found in Tonga. Small wooden turtle ornaments, large sculptures of whale flukes, kava bowls and tribal masks, there are plenty of designs to please anyone who has a passion for the South Pacific.
4. Carved Pendants
Small and easy to take home with you, carved pendants are a good go-to as a gift for your friends and family. Wood and bones are the main materials chosen to be carved with Polynesian symbolism or designed with influence from the ocean, such as whale flukes.
5. Pearl Jewellery
There are around 13 mabe pearl farms in Tonga, with some farmers making their own unique jewellery from the half-shell pearls or sending them to places like the Vava’u Pearl Centre to be carved by artists to make all sorts of beautiful jewellery. A pearl necklace or earrings from Tonga makes for a special gift for your loved ones.
6. Tongan Coffee
For the foodie in your family, Tongan coffee is sure to impress. There are two major coffee brands in Tonga, Tupu’anga Coffee and Kingdom Koffie, which can be picked up in gift stores and some supermarkets particularly in Tongatapu.
7. Tongan Beer
And for the beer-lover, get them a bottle or six of Tonga’s very own beer. Some brands include Tonga Lager, Maui Pacific’s range of beers and the Pacific Brewing Co.’s range of craft beers. Check out other popular drinks in Tonga in the 10 Drinks in Tonga You Have to Try.
Worth purchasing early into your trip, just in case you need to cover your legs to respect the local customs, a “lavalava” is a sarong and can be found with many different prints, designs and colours in Tonga. They are also a good thing to hang onto for travelling to other South Pacific islands.
9. Vanilla Beans
Vanilla is organically farmed in the islands of Vava’u and is considered one of the world’s most labour-intensive agricultural crops. Vanilla beans, powder, paste, sugar, syrup or extract make for a pretty special gift for any friends and family who like to bake. Popular vanilla brands in Tonga include Heilala Vanilla and ‘Ene’io Naturals.
10. Coconut Oil
Used to hydrate the skin or to add to cooking, coconut oil can be found in a range of products that make great souvenir gifts. Pick up a bar of pure coconut oil soaps from Koko Designs in Tongatapu or look out for Kakala body oil or moisturiser in various gift stores.