Headed to Hawaii - Tell me what I should buy

If you are going to take the circle drive around Hawai'i, I would recommend the slight diversion out of Kona to the Holualoa Ukulele Gallery. It's in a nice little artsy-fartsy section and Sam is great to shoot the breeze with. You won't find any K brands there, he has instruments from local builders, and you are encouraged to play anything you like.

Assuming he is still there - his pages have not been updated in a while (I was last there in July of 2021)
 
I have only been to Hawai'i once, but here are my thoughts!

-Find all the local artists and see their shows. Tavana, Corey and Brey, Henry Kapono, Bryan Tolentino and probably tons others around Oahu. Tip them too much and be their personal cheer leaders, have fun and say hello. Buy them drinks.

-Eat all the tuna.

-Go to Bailey's Vintage and get some aloha shirts

-Shave ice

-Try to find and buy as much local as you can! Make a game of it. Farms markets will have awesome fresh stuff. Buy some sunshirts from Hae Hawai'i or another brand from Hawai'i, get some Mama Kuleana and Kokua sunscreen both brands from Hawai'i and reef safe, very nice on sensitive skin. (I ordered mine ahead of my visit)

-Go the the Native Books store in Waikiki, they had some interesting books on ukulele music and many other awesome things

-Then pop by Roberta Oaks, hand make aloha shirts from HI, get another shirt while in Chinatown!

-Go to the Chinatown market, eat something you've never tried before. They have nice but expensive fresh fruit, literally the best mango I've ever had in my life

-Buy a lei. Buy 2 leis. No special occasion necessary! The green ones I think are usually tea leaves and are the more traditional style. They dry nicely and I hung mine on my ukulele hanger at home, smells nice and looks pretty!

-Buy an ukulele from one of the local builders if you can, and definitely visit TUS if you can and check out North Shore
 
Based on your signature I see you got two of the "K" brands covered so maybe focus on the other two, Kamaka and Ko'olau.

And, how come no one mentions Zippy's when the subject of food in Hawaii comes up?
 
There's also an Ululani's location next to Leonard's on Kapahulu .
They are expanding all over, even Austin, TX. The original/best is Kihei. The "Wailuku" location mentioned is actually Kahului/Maui Lani and is fairly new.
 
for lei, Chinatown (Lins).

search the forum for Oahu, Honolulu, Waikiki for plenty of threads and replies on visiting.

if coming from the mainland you will be up early, at least the first few days... so take advantage and get out. stores will be closed and coffee shop lines long (prices will be high too), but it's a good time to walk and get a lay of the land before it gets too warm.
 
And, how come no one mentions Zippy's when the subject of food in Hawaii comes up?
I'm not a fan, but many are


speaking of Lanai, his food tour is awesome, request him if he's in town.
also if you must do a luau, do the one at Nutridge for a great experience.
 
My recommendation is head to TUS and try out those Millar and Oli ukuleles that everyone is raving about but I have never seen at a mainland US music store. Also, try out the different K-brands side-by-side so you can figure out what sound and playability works best for your style of playing. All the ukulele factory tours are fun. If you're going to drive out to TUS, you may as well make it a full day trip and take the Kanilea factory tour in the morning, then have lunch and shave ice in Haleiwa before visiting TUS.

Regarding Zippys, I see a lot more locals there than tourists. This is not Hawaiian food. It is more like American food adapted to local tastes and ingredients (eg spaghetti with chili sauce or Korean-style fried chicken). If you're interested in the local non-tourist culture, this is a good place to start. I don't like their saimin, though. Go to one of the specialty restaurants like Palace Saimin instead.

The internet has lists of the best traditional Hawaiian restaurants (e.g. Helenas or Highway Inn) but Da Ono on Kapahulu is the main one within walking distance of Waikiki. There is also Haili's (also on Kapahulu), but last I heard they were only open for lunch and may be going out of business soon.

My favorite fish restaurant in Hawaii is Maguro Brothers (maguro is the Japanese word for bluefin tuna as opposed to ahi which is yellowfin tuna). They are takeout only, relatively inexpensive, and have stores in Chinatown (lunch only) and Waikiki (dinner only). They have a big menu and not just tuna. Tuna is not a traditional Hawaiian meal, but due to the large Japanese population, it may be the most popular fish in Hawaii.
 
Last edited:
While I have visited Oahu many times and the big island a couple times, I really wasn't ukulele aware until our last trip to Oahu. At that point, I didn't play and had no idea what I might want, so I really didn't even know where to look. We did the Kamaka tour and visited a couple local shops in/near Waikiki, and also made a pilgrimage to Haliewa to see the TUS store.

My advice would be to think about what you want to try rather than what you want to buy. If you have definite thoughts or curiosities about particular instruments or particular types of instruments, you can almost certainly make arrangements to see/play ukuleles that are uniquely available in Oahu. Others here can give you better guidance on specfics, and some already have, but there are a range of stores and collections. Even TUS has a much larger stock than what is displayed in their store, so if you are looking for something, even if you can't be extremely specific, they can select some instruments for you to try.

Can't pass up a couple more food suggestions on Oahu: Leonard's Malasadas of course; they are available in several places, but the original shop on Kapahulu is a real scene and just up the street from Waiola shave ice. Much more upscale is lunch at Halekulani: the food is good, the location brilliant, and the coconut cake is to die for. If you like jazz, the Halekulani has a very nice bar, The Lewers Lounge, with regular good music. (If you press and get lucky, you can order the coconut cake at the bar after hours). BTW, Halekulani is at the end of Lewers Street where there are several already mentioned ukulele shops. Rangoon Burmese Kitchen in downtown Honolulu is very good.
 
if coming from the mainland you will be up early, at least the first few days... so take advantage and get out. stores will be closed and coffee shop lines long (prices will be high too), but it's a good time to walk and get a lay of the land before it gets too warm.
brah! it's a good reminder of the trauma of seeing the person in front of us order the last bacon maple scone from Coffee Gallery in Haleiwa. Why do they sell out so quick and why don't they just make more?!?! It will sell.

Go Ted's Bakery and get some chocolate haupia pie! They will not sell out.

Not sure if anyone mentioned garlic shrimp yet... a few trucks on the North Shore. Brada Brey from TUS told us his favorite is Romy's and I think we agreed. At least I do! It's a bit of a farther drive, but it's worth it. Try a few and compare!!

Speaking of Brada Brey, it was great meeting him at the TUS Haleiwa shop. But if you tryna meet Corey or Kalei, you gotta somehow figure out their schedule. Maybe try call. Last time I visited, Corey was only working there Saturdays. Maybe @scrambled_eggs knows?!
 
@hands_on_lanzon I was to TUS recently at the Haleiwa store, but sorry no clue yall! I am not an organized person so I didn't think to call ahead at all 🤷‍♀️

I imagine their schedules also shift since a lot of them are gigging musicians that work there, so if you would like to arrange to meet someone specifically a call is prob a good idea!
 
If you are going to Hawaii, buy a plane ticket. You will thank me later.
 
I thought on this. I might try many ukulele such as any of the K brands, but I would hope to buy something I couldn't get readily at home. For instance, the Koalohas I enjoy were bought from TUS and came by mail.

There are many luthiers on the islands. Enjoy, enjoy.

Oh and of course as others have suggested, enjoy the food. Yummy .
 
Top Bottom