Arts and crafts can be purchased from three different sources: private craftspeople, shops (including a government crafts center in Suva) and the public markets. The least expensive source is generally from individuals, but these people are hard to find because they usually live in remote villages. Shops are the easiest way to purchase handicrafts but are more expensive but there is a reason for it. The better shops choose their merchandise carefully and must pay top dollar for quality goods. One may also purchase handicrafts at the larger public markets. Prices are generally reasonable at the markets but the quality varies greatly.
In Nadi and Sigatoka, Jack’s Handicrafts has a good selection of fairly priced, quality goods. In Suva the official government crafts center at Ratu Sukuna House has some fine items. The Suva outlets, especially the government store, tend to be expensive but the quality is quite good. Those interested in artifact-type replicas should first go to the Fiji Museum in Suva and carefully examine the relics therein. These are the models for the reproductions you are buying.
Most of the municipal markets in the larger towns such as Suva, Nadi and Lautoka have large handicraft sections. As a rule you can also purchase Tanoa (kava bowls) in the same area at the municipal market where yaqona or kava is sold. Beware of crafts manufactured elsewhere. Your genuine Fiji artifact may be from Asia! The advantage of purchasing goods at a public market vs. a shop is that you can bargain at a market thus get cheaper merchandise. However, the tradeoff is that at a good shop the quality tends to be much better. Keep in mind that ultimately, you get what you pay for.
Fiji artisans produce fine masi (tapa cloth) and excellent carvings that include bowls and replicas of Fijian artifacts such as cannibal forks. Woven items include baskets, mats, purses, fans and the like. Traditional clay pots and crockery can also be purchased in shops and at several pottery villages along the Sigatoka River.
Black pearls (which are raised in the waters of Savusavu Bay) can be purchased in Fiji at numerous locations or directly at the Fiji Pearls showroom in Savusavu on the main drag just a few meters from the entrance of the Hot Springs hotel. Prices for inexpensive pearls start at $20 and range from $400 to $4000 for top grade. If you're in the market for black pearl 'set jewelry' you'll spend anywhere from $100 to $10,000.
Also in Savusavu consider purchasing are woven goods such as large mats ('ibe' in Fijian), tablemats or even purses derived from kuta, a locally grown reed indigenous to Vanua Levu. Kuta can be woven finer than more ordinary fiber such as pandanus and has a more lustrous sheen. You can pick up kuta products at Taka's Gift Shop over at the Copra Shed Marina.
Though not strictly handicrafts, I like to bring home coconut oil which can be purchased in the public markets (for massage purposes) and coconut soap, which is manufactured in Fiji and comes in a variety of scents. Soap can be purchased at the larger souvenir shops.
When considering small useful gifts to bring home, don’t overlook Fiji spices (check your returning customs restrictions before buying). Spices are available in many shops; attractive gift packages in local pottery or other containers are sold at the government craft center and other outlets. Locally grown spices include pepper, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom. The municipal markets have a great selection of very inexpensive Indian spices that you may want to bring home. (Strangely, although a lot of vanilla is grown in Fiji, it is difficult to buy here).
Fiji has developed an indigenous rag trade that produces stylish sports wear such as `bula shirts’, swim wear and the like that is sold locally and exported. Generally the quality is quite good and the prices are reasonable. Some of the better shops to check out in Nadi include Jack’s Handicrafts and Sogos in downtown Nadi. In Suva look for Tiki Togs on Victoria Parade.
Another option is to have shirts or dresses made for you. The work by local tailors and seamstresses is good and inexpensive. A Hawaiian-style shirt can be made for under US$10 for labor, and a fairly good array of fabric is available. The best bet is to bring to the tailor a shirt whose pattern you wish copied, along with material.