Hawaiian Ukulele Songs: 50 Easy Kani Ka Pila Tunes

These songs are some of my top picks for beginners in Hawaiian music to learn and play on their ukulele. These are common songs you might hear at a jam – or kani ka pila – and should take the time to get familiar with.

Hopefully this list will help you find songs you’ve maybe heard before, but couldn’t place because of the ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language). Or maybe you just want to expand your repertoire with some standards.

This is NOT a comprehensive list. These are the Hawaiian songs I personally have heard played most often at ukulele kani ka pila jams over the years – YMMV.

You can find chord sheets for many of these tunes at Hoʻomaumele.com. It’s a wiki style site that often links to other sites like Huapala for lyrics, but they have original chord sheets as well. The issue with this site is how overwhelming it is to browse, hence this abbreviated list to help you focus on popular jam songs.

Old/Traditional Hawaiian Ukulele Songs

These are tunes that are considered classic staples from before the 1970s.

The trickiest (and most important) part of learning these songs will be pronouncing the Hawaiian words.

I cover some of the basics of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi in this podcast. If you want to dive deeper and take lessons (which I strongly advise if you want to sing these songs!), I recommend my friend, Kaliko Beamer-Trapp’s classes at ʻŌlelo Online.

  • “Aloha Ka Manini” – Lot Kauwē
  • “Aloha ʻOe” – Queen Liliʻuokalani
  • “E Huli Mākou” – David Chung
  • “Green Rose Hula” – Johnny Alemeida
  • “Hawaiʻi Aloha” – Lorenzo Lyons
  • “He Aloha Nō ʻO Honolulu” – Lot Kauwē
  • “Henehene Kou ʻAka” – Traditional
  • “Hiʻilawe” – Sam Liʻa
  • “I Kona” – Traditional
  • “Kanaka Waiwai” – Johnny Alemeida
  • “Kaulana Nā Pua” – Ellen Prendergast
  • “Ke Aloha” – Lei Collins & Maddy Lam
  • “Koali” – Traditional
  • “Kuʻu Hoa” – Francis Beamer
  • “Laupahoehoe Hula” – Irmgard Aluli & Mary Kawena Pukui
  • “Makalapua” – Traditional
  • “Makee ʻAilana” – James ʻĪʻī
  • “Nā Moku ʻEhā” – J. Kealoha
  • “Noho Paipai” – Traditional
  • “Pauoa Liko Ka Lehua” – Emma Bush
  • “Puamana” – Irmgard Farden Aluli
  • “Pūpū Hinuhinu” – Helen Desha Beamer/Nona Beamer
  • “Puʻuanahulu” – David Alapai
  • “ʻUlupalakua” – John Piʻilani Watkins
  • “Uluwehi O Ke Kai” – Edith Kanakaʻole

Most of these songs can be found in He Mele Aloha. It’s a fabulous book that’s a must-have for anyone interested in playing Hawaiian music on their ukulele. Read my review of it here.

In-Depth Breakdown of Five Classic Hawaiian Songs

These video lessons with teach you how to pick, strum, sing, and solo arrange “Aloha Ka Manini,” “Ua Noho Au A Kupa,” “Heha Waipiʻo,” “Nani Kaʻala,” and “Ahe Lau Makani.”

hawaiian songs for ukulele video course cover thumbnail
▶️ Video Course

Learn to pick, strum, sing, and solo arrange five classic Hawaiian songs.

Hapa Haole Hits

The term “hapa haole” means half-Caucasian and is used to describe songs that have a Hawaiian feel, but are sung with English words.

  • “Aloha Week Hula” – Jack Pitman
  • “Beautiful Kauaʻi” – Randy Farden, Jr.
  • “Hanalei Moon” – Bob Nelson
  • “Hukilau Song” – Jack Owens
  • “I’ll Remember You” – Kui Lee
  • “Island Style” – John Cruz
  • “Lahainaluna” – Kui Lee
  • “Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua, Hawaiʻi” – Bill Cogswell, Tommy Harrison, and Johnny Noble
  • “Lovely Hula Hands” – R. Alex Anderson
  • “Maui Girl” – Sylvester Kalama
  • “Molokaʻi Slide” – Tad Suckling
  • “My Yellow Ginger Lei” – John Papa, Sr./John Kaʻōnohiokalā
  • “That’s the Hawaiian in Me” – Margarita Lane/Johnny Noble
  • “Waimanalo Blues” – Liko Martin
  • “White Sandy Beach” – Rich Bibbs

Modern Favorites

As the Hawaiian renaissance took off, new audiences began to seek fresh composers. These new-school songs are all post-1970.

  • “All Hawaiʻi Stands Together” – Liko Martin
  • “Kokeʻe” – Rev. Dennis Kamakahi
  • “E Hīhīwai” – Rev. Dennis Kamakahi
  • “E Kuʻu Morning Dew” – Eddie Kamae
  • “Hanohano Ka Lei Pīkake” – Kealiʻi Reichel
  • “He Hawaiʻi Au” – Ron Rosha/Peter Moon/Alice Namakelua
  • “Kawaipunahele” – Kealiʻi Reichel
  • “Pua Hone” – Rev. Dennis Kamakahi
  • “Hōlei” – Led Kaapana
  • “Wahine ʻIlikea – Rev. Dennis Kamakahi

The purpose of this list is to give you a hand-picked starting point to reference. Most of these songs should be on YouTube if you search the title.

I’ve only shown the songwriters here. Often the songs are performed by many different artists. Listen to every version you can find!

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