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The U.S. Virgin Islands are rightfully known as the shopping mecca of the Caribbean. It’s tempting indeed to comb the historic streets of St. Thomas’s capital, Charlotte Amalie, in search of bargains amid the global outposts of “luxury” goods, those international brands of china and crystal, jewelry, and cosmetics that blanket every cruise port. The incentives are strong: Every person gets a $1,600 duty-free allowance and no sales tax is tacked on. But for those seeking original, artisanal gifts made by the people who actually live here, the following is a sampling of our favorite Virgin Islands mementos.

  • Aragorn’s metal fireballs: Any search for wonderful local art should start at Aragorn’s Studio on Trellis Bay, Tortola. Tortola-born Aragorn is a printmaker, potter, and sculptor; his giant “fireballs”—silhouetted metal sculptures—are set ablaze during the monthly Fireball Full Moon Parties on Trellis Bay. Look for miniature fire balls (candle holders), beautiful original prints, pottery, jewelry, and gifts, the work of Aragorn, inhouse artisans, and regional artists.

  • Hot sauce: Virgin Islanders love their hot sauce (aka “pepper” sauce), and many island cooks prepare and bottle their own. Look for local favorites like Miss Anna’s (St. John), Blind Betty’s (St. Croix), Jerome’s (St. Thomas), and ValleyDoll (St. John), sold in gift shops and food stores around the islands. It’s a real taste of the islands.

  • Moko Jumbie holiday ornaments: A traditional presence at Carnival in St. Croix, Moko Jumbies are masked and costumed revelers on stilts. Glittery home-made Moko Jumbie ornaments are the handiwork of Cruzan native and “scrap-art designer” Sandra Michael; you can find her work in shops like Franklin’s on the Waterfront in Fredriksted  

  • Hand-blown recycled glass gifts: Founded by local nonprofit GreenVI, this outdoor glass-blowing studio on Cane Garden Bay in Tortola recycles bottles of beer and booze discarded from the local beach bars to fashion beautiful hand-blown glass delicacies, from starfish paperweights to turtle ornaments to flower glass sculptures. The GreenVI Glass Studio has trained a number of locals in the intricacies of glass-blowing, and a local octogenarian makes cloth bags out of donated clothing to carry them home in. 

  • Local art: Look for genre paintings by the accomplished artist Joseph Hodge, who has a studio in the Craft Alive artisans’ village in Road Town, Tortola. In Christiansted, St. Croix, the 40-year-old Many Hands gallery continues to feature original work by local artists and craftspeople. In St. Thomas, you can find the latest work of local artisans (dolls, jewelry, soaps) in the Native Arts and Crafts Cooperative.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.