Tongan handicrafts are of the good quality, at about the lowest prices in the Pacific islands. The ta’ovala is the distinctive Tongan traditional skirt. It is made of finely woven pandanus - leaf mat, and is worn around the waist. The men secure it with a coconut fiber cord, while the women wear a kiekie waistband. The sight of a group of Tongan women on the road, each dressed in black with a huge mat tied around, is truly striking.
Worn especially on formal occasions, these mats are often priced heirlooms. The king and queen wear European dress when attending a European function, but dress in their plaited ta’ovala tied around the waist over the vala (skirt or kilt), and wear sandals or go barefoot to a Tongan ceremony or entertainment. In the villages, listen for the rhythmic pounding of tapa cloth makers. The women are happy to let you watch the process, and you may be able to buy something directly from them. Sandalwood carvings are also abundant in Tonga.