View Full Version : Hawaii vacation - Ukulele do's

08-10-2015, 05:41 AM
My wife and I will be going to Hawaii next year (August 2016) for our 25th Wedding Anniversary.
I originally thought that I might surprise her by arranging to pick up a custom made ukulele while are there. Since she doesn't play ukulele, I thought that my gift idea was pretty selfish.
I am looking for ideas of things to do, places to go while we are there to hear great ukulele playing and singing.

For those that live or have traveled there, where should we go on the islands? We will probably spend 3-5 days going to normal tourist attractions. We are not great swimmers and don't do surfing etc. Other than music stores, where are the places for ukulele enthusiasts to go?

08-10-2015, 05:57 AM
Have you decided which of the islands you will visit?

08-10-2015, 06:01 AM
Have you decided which of the islands you will visit?

We will have two weeks but have not made an itinerary yet. We are open to where we will visit and are looking for ideas.

08-10-2015, 06:40 AM
I'll be going to the Big Island soon so I'm looking forward to what people say here!

I haven't been, and they aren't on the Big Island, but I think you should definitely tour any / all of the 'K brand' factories if you can. (Kamaka, Kanile'a, Ko'olau, and KoAloha)

08-10-2015, 06:46 AM
I just got back from Hawaii, but half of my visit was meeting up with family, and the other half was bodyboarding/beachgoing. We stayed at the Waikiki Banyan, a vacation condo (better than hotels for us), which was one block from Kuhio Beach. Although I went to high school in Hawaii, I enjoyed hanging out on Waikiki and "doing the tourist thing"--breakfast at LuLu's with a view of the beach, dinner at Hula Grill over Dukes with a trio that had a good uke player and people sitting in to sing falsetto songs and random ladies doing hula. If your wife is a shopper, be careful about Kalakaua Ave and all the tempting shops. That's where we parted with some serious cash--although I did get to visit Ukulele PuaPua and Bob's Ukuleles and come away with a gorgeous KoAloha pineapple soprano. If you are game to snorkel, Hanauma Bay is beautiful. You can swim among schools of fish. I hadn't been there since I was about 12 years old, so it was a treat. Especially to see it again through my 6 year old's eyes.

I love the hike up to Diamond Head and to look around the fortifications.

I think it would have been fun to tour the KoAloha factory (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60982-d1909249-Reviews-KoAloha_Ukulele-Honolulu_Oahu_Hawaii.html).

The Polynesian Cultural Center is regarded as a must-see for tourists. I also like the Bishop Museum.

If I were to go back, I would check out master Ledward Kaapana (http://www.ledkaapana.com/concerts.htm), a titan of Hawaiian music; it looks like he plays at the Kona Brewing Company.

The Waikiki Aquarium has concerts (http://www.waikikiaquarium.org/interact/annual-events/ke-kani-o-ke-kai/) in the summer. For example Jake Shimabakuro just played. But you will need to get tickets in advance, and they're not available online.

08-10-2015, 05:56 PM
In Maui, you can attend a free uke jam in Kihei on Thursday evening. Google 808ukejam for details. I had a great time there - a very friendly group.

hawaii 50
08-10-2015, 07:53 PM
the third Sunday in July will have the 46th annual Hawaii Ukulele Festival in Kapiolani Park in Waikiki...many UU members are there.....

08-10-2015, 11:41 PM
You must see Taimane Gardner on a Friday, at SWIM bar, at the Hyatt--it's right there in the middle of Waikiki Beach--during happy hour by the pool. Get there early for a seat. Food is discounted (for Hawaii standards, not by our western Chicagoland standards..lol) and she is cute and fun and engaging and amazing. Oh, and did I mention: the show itself is FREE. Have fun, John

The Big Kahuna
08-10-2015, 11:45 PM
I'll be going to the Big Island soon so I'm looking forward to what people say here!

You MUST visit the Ukulele Gallery at Holualoa (more of a bend in the road than a town, but a charming little place). If you don't, you might as well have stayed at home ;)

Also, if you're staying in Kailua-Kona, visit the Seahorse farm, just South of the airport. Phone to make an appointment.

08-11-2015, 01:58 AM
I have Kamaka ukes so I'll probably try to visit their base. And I love seahorses so I will definitely have to visit that farm.

08-11-2015, 02:03 AM
Definitely hit the North Shore and visit HMS. The zoo runs a concert series that usually finishes up the first week of August. Someone mentioned Led Kaapana at the Kona Brewing Company. He's a great performer, we saw him at the Zoo. I found myself standing in front of him at the food concession and had a conversation with him about his cowboy boots. Very nice guy. If Willy K is playing anywhere be sure to go hear him, one of the best performers I've ever heard.
Food can be expensive if you eat in the touristy areas. Eat like a local and you will save some dough. L&L is a good place, they are everywhere. Rainbow Drive Inn is also good. The Big City Diner is also a good deal.
For the novice swimmer the beach at Waikiki is pretty tame but can be crowded. Go a mile west and try Ala Moana Beach Park. I swim there regularly when in Hawaii. It's mostly locals and the people are friendly. UU member MM Stan lives near Waikiki and is a great guy. We met up at the festival and also went out for lunch a week or so later. I believe Greenie 44 stays on Oahu for most of the summer. I also met up with him at the festival, also a nice guy. I'll also be on Oahu next summer, we usually spend 5 weeks visiting my wife's family.
Definitely visit and take the K Brand tours. I did the Kamaka shop a few years back, Fred Kamaka is a real character and in his 90's he moves like a man half his age. Ended up purchasing a tenor.I also toured Kanilea a few weeks back and ordered another tenor.

08-11-2015, 09:26 AM
While I would like to see the Kamaka facility and the HMS store etc I am not planning on making any ukulele purchases while there.
Of course, the best laid plans.....

08-11-2015, 09:43 AM
If I was going to Hawaii -- and it's not from lack of trying that I'm not -- I would go to Kauai and see the UU guys. And go see Aldrine perform. Yes...he is that good.

08-11-2015, 10:19 AM
I did see Aldrine when he was here, in Illinois. Bought a few CD's too. But you have a great idea, I have seen many other artists multiple times.

08-11-2015, 10:52 AM
Each island has its own little charm. If you've never visited the islands, the island of Oahu is pretty much a must. You've got to walk along boardwalk on Waikiki beach, stroll through the Beach Walk and Kalakaua Ave etc. I've been visiting the islands for 3wks at a time over the past 12yrs and I'm always finding something new to do in Oahu. That said, don't expect to be able to see everything in a week or even three+.

Indeed, most of the Hawaiian brand ukes are made in Oahu. You can get factory tours of Kamaka, KoAloha and Kanile'a. Not 100% sure about Ko'olau factory tours but check with Andrew.

Maui is a little quieter. If you're a golfer, there's the Kapalua Plantation course where they host the Hyundai PGA Championship annually. There's road to Hana, sunrise/sunset/stargazing at Haleakala, Black Rock beach etc etc.

Kauai is pretty small compared to the other islands. I found it pretty busy when I was there a couple weeks ago. There's Waimea Canyon, Hanalei, Poipu, Princeville, Na'Pali coast, lots of waterfalls and hiking trails if you're into that. It's also the wettest of the islands if memory serves me right. That said, the Poipu/Kapa'a side is drier. When we were there, the North Shore had two days of heavy rains, so much so that the Hanalei bridges were closed down due to flooding. It's a very green/lush island. We did most of the major attractions over 5 days all except for hiking trails. Most places close early so you've got to keep that in mind when out exploring.

Big Island is just that... BIG! It's a lot drier in the Kona side than up in the north by Hilo. There's lots to see on the Big Island but it's long drives to get to anything. It's by far my most favourite of the islands. I think it's because of the size, it seems a lot quieter. There's Waipo and Polulu Valleys to explore, black sand beaches by Ponolu'u, green sand beach, Volcanoes national park, Maunakea for sunrise/sunset/stargazing BUT hopefully the protesting gets resolved if you decide to go, waterfalls, hiking trails, beaches etc.

Check the calendar of activities on the islands before booking your trip and you could be in for a treat, such as the uke festival, mango festival, Halei'wa art festival, Lei Day, Hula Festival, etc etc. Don't forget to hit up the farmer's markets whenever you can for some tasty eats.

Eventually I'll end up checking out the other islands but I'd say the ones above are the more popular of the bunch. :)

Ok, gotta stop 'cause it's making me want to book a trip next year. lol

08-11-2015, 11:38 AM
I originally thought that I might surprise her by arranging to pick up a custom made ukulele while are there. Since she doesn't play ukulele, I thought that my gift idea was pretty selfish.
Not only selfish, but just plain stupid, if you ask me. Do that and you might not live to see a 26th anniversary. :p

L&L is a good place, they are everywhere.
They're a huge chain, like the Macdonald's of Hawaiian food. There's one about a mile from me and their site says they even have them in New York.

08-12-2015, 08:57 AM
Hey Jumpingflea,
For our family vacations, we have been visiting the Big Island for several years now after burning out on Maui. Maui is great (and we have ohana there), but it had gotten so busy and we got tired of waiting an hour for a dinner table (I do that here at home in SoCal). Anyway....
As mentioned in a previous post, visit the Holuoloa Uke Gallery up the hill from Kona. Sam Rosen is great to chat with and he carries local luthier's wares. If his gallery door is closed, hunt him down in his downstairs workshop. A nice drive north up the coast you'll find the little town of Hawi. The Hawi Gallery there is chock full of vintage and newer instruments, and not just ukes. I haven't been there in 2 years but Richard runs it, nice guy, and I bought my first uke from him several years ago.
In the Kings shops at Waikoloa Beach resort is Hawaiian Ukulele and Guitar, run by Robert and his wife. They have a nice selection of Hawaiian made and imported ukes. There's always Just UKes in Kona. I even managed to schedule in a couple hours with Chuck Moore (Moore Bettah)while we were there last month to see first hand how/where he creates his masterpieces. He's a gracious host and I couldn't have had a better time.
Check out this website http://www.konaweb.com/calendar/ for info regarding musical events on the Big Island, its kept pretty up to date.
Plenty to do.... horseback riding in upcountry Waimea, zip-lining in Hilo, Mauna Kea observatory, helicopter tours, and plenty of great vistas if you just want to take a leisurely drive. They don't call it the "Big Island for nothing.
Cheers and Aloha

08-12-2015, 10:18 AM
While it has been 10 years since my wife & I were in Hawai'i, we loved Maui. Spectacular SCUBA and snorkeling, guided walks in the rain forest, lots of great beaches (some so hidden only we were only ones there). Great horseback riding and an excellent aquarium (for rainy day). Made it to Mt. Haleakala to see the sunrise (bring a coat). Steve Grimes and Eric Devine are on Maui.

On previous trips we tried to visit 3 islands in 2-weeks. That was too much. The time we stayed 2-weeks on Maui only was the best and most enjoyable for us.

We found this book ( recommended by friends) to be very helpful.

08-12-2015, 11:26 AM
Plenty to do.... horseback riding in upcountry Waimea, zip-lining in Hilo, Mauna Kea observatory, helicopter tours, and plenty of great vistas if you just want to take a leisurely drive. They don't call it the "Big Island for nothing.
Cheers and Aloha

Yup, got to love Big Island!

As for Mauna Kea, there has been protesting against building a new 30meter telescope since Oct 2014 by the locals. Mauna Kea is considered sacred ground by Hawaiians. It got to a point where the protestors blocked the roads with rocks and it even came down to a few small squirmishes. They finally opened up the road about 3-4wks ago but all the park services are closed until further notice.

Heck, I think the kanaka maoli have been opposing these observatories since they started building the very first one back in the 60s and I think this new one was the last straw. There's a hearing with the Supreme Court on Aug 27th so hopefully they can come to a peaceful agreement. :(

08-13-2015, 01:38 AM
Doc J's idea, to just stay in one place, makes a lot of sense. I'm thinking that we will be there for 3-4 weeks. Maybe stay for a week on each of three islands? My sister suggested renting one or more condos.
On most of our vacations, to Africa, China, Australia etc, we go with a tour group. We will probably not do Hawaii as a tour so we will need to build our own itinerary.

08-13-2015, 02:14 AM
I have family on Oahu . . . tough life, this. Anyway, If you have a rental car, the beach on Kailua is absolutely beautiful. The Byodo In temple is a place I have spent hours in, just absorbing the Good Vibes. Up on North Shore, there are a lot of neat beaches, my fave is Sunset Beach - get there just before sunset and you'll understand why. And don't forget the Shrimp Trucks, my fave is Giovanni's. As mentioned, HMS. Wonderful folks, just seem to enjoy having anyone come in. And Cholo's in Haliewa (Never can remember how to spell it). Best Margaritas on Oahu.

And, just take the car and get lost. On purpose. You can't go very far.


08-13-2015, 03:55 AM
I'll put in a vote for a longer stay in Oahu. I'm there every summer for a while. A few things that I think have not been mentioned -

- Marukame Udon on Kuhio in Waikiki. Great fresh udon, incredibly cheap (for Waikiki). At mealtimes there can be a line, but it moves pretty fast.
- Shave ice. I swear by Wailoa Shave Ice (original on Wailoa Street in Honolulu, but a branch on Kapahulu Avenue about a mile from the beach), but others go with Matsumoto on the North Shore
- My favorite restaurant in Oahu, Tita's in Kahuku. Watch for it on Kamehameha Highway. Fantastic everything in what is basically a roadside stand.
- If you are headed for the North Shore, go to Laniakea Beach, where there are usually loads of giant sea turtles, on the beach and swimming off shore.
- Hanauma Bay. Wonderful snorkeling beach. Get there early - when the lot fills with cars, you can't get in

For ukes, you might also want to check out Pua Pua in the Sheraton on Waikiki. Nice selection there. It's no HMS, but you can walk there.

And there is a kanikapila (Hawaiaan music play and sing along) behind the Waikiki police station every Sunday evening. Oh, and the Kani Ka Pila lounge at the Waikiki Outrigger hotel has good music every night.

Finally, if you want great beaches in Waikiki, don't go to the main body of the beach. Both San Souci, on the Diamond Head side, and Ala Moana, on the airport side, are wonderful with very light crowds.