Those expecting exciting retail therapy are going to be disappointed with their holiday on Tobago. I'm not complaining because this lack of commercialisation is a major part of what draws so many of us back to Tobago time and time again.
Local souvenirs are limited to wood carvings, leather sandals, bags, tams (head covering) and non-precious jewellery, much of which are made by the Rasta community.
While on the beach, there's a good chance that you will be approached by someone selling hand-carved coconuts. These carvings can be very attractive and can often be personalised with your own name. The skill of these craftsmen is undoubted and the chat can often be as entertaining as the carving.
Local rum is cheap and of very high quality. Royal Oak is a popular brand. Please note that civil aviation authorities ban the transport of alcohol where the percentage of alcohol by volume is greater than 70% (140 proof), both in checked and cabin luggage. So, think twice before treating yourself to the 75% Puncheon rum.
There is some really nice batik work available, but very little will have originated locally. There is a useful small batik shop above Penny Savers in Canaan. The stalls at Store Bay can be worth a visit. However, our favourite gift shops are:
- Shore Things, Lambeau . An excellent range of souvenirs, crafts and local music plus wonderful cakes, juices and light meals. We always enjoy our visits to Shore Things and meeting up with friendly owner Giselle Beaurn and her team. Open most days until 5:30pm. Telephone: +1(868) 635-1072.
- Batiki Point, Buccoo . A small Batik studio and craft shop located opposite the beach facilities in Buccoo Village. The shop is owned and run by Tiina Friman-Louis. She has a nice selection of wall-hangings, wraps, t-shirts, clothes, art and craft designed and made by local artists. They are open daily from 10am to 5pm and on Sundays, during Sunday School, from 7pm until midnight. Telephone: +1(868) 631-0111 or +1(868) 787-4545.
- Planet Ceramics . Located near the jetty, within the Pigeon Point Heritage Park,, Pigeon Point Planet Ceramics produce uniquely crafted pottery, made in Tobago. Open Monday to Friday, 12:30pm to 4pm. Telephone: +1(868) 370-1907.
- Tobago Chocolate Delights, Lambeau . Wonderful, affordable chocolate delights made entirely from local products. Their slogan of 'Deliciously Decadent' neatly sums up the tasty offerings of the charming local owner, Jean Claude Petit, and the local chocolates he produces by hand. His luscious Coconut Rum Cream would be an ideal present for friends and family. Located next door to Shore Things (same building). Open Monday to Friday, 12:30pm to 4pm. Telephone: +1(868) 370-1907.
- Forro's Homemade Delicacies, Andrew's Rectory, Bacolet St, Scarborough . Located opposite the fire station on the road out of up-town Scarborough, towards Bacolet, Eileen Forrester, the wife of the Anglican archdeacon of Trinidad and Tobago, runs a fascinating small kitchen and shop, cooking and bottling local condiments, preserves and sauces. Delicious items such as guava and golden-apple jelly, lemon and lime marmalade, tamarind chutney and hot sauces; all packed in little straw or even bamboo baskets. Prices are very reasonable. Telephone: +1(868) 639-2485.
- Store Bay Craft Market, Store Bay . Although something of a tourist trap, the Store Bay Craft Market is well worth a visit. Some 15-20 small kiosks offer a variety of local craft products, many of which would make ideal souvenirs and reminders of your holiday in Tobago. Some items are of excellent quality, but we were very dissapointed to notice conch shells for sale. For the sake of our environment, please do not patronise stalls that sell prohibited items such as corals or conch shells.