Our Favorite 5 Famous Songs About Hawaii 

Famous songs about Hawaii
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > Our Favorite 5 Famous Songs About Hawaii 

Whether you are traveling the islands or simply daydreaming about a vacation, there’s one thing to instantly put you in an Aloha state of mind: music. There are many famous songs about Hawaii, along with some less popular gems that you’ll love — here are our favorites! Check them out and let us know which ones you love.

A Unique Way of Life

Many of the songs that have so shaped my worldview are Hawaii songs, not necessarily Hawaiian in the literal sense but specific to the experience of being here long enough to have a deeply personal connection with this island paradise. 

Here are five famous songs about Hawaii that everyone should listen to. I think it will help any visitor understand what it’s like to live in Hawaii before they even get here. 

And, having heard them, I believe visitors can more fully appreciate what those of us who do live here know intuitively.

5 Famous Songs About Hawaii

Ku’u Home o Kahalu’u

Ku’u Home o Kahalu’u by Olomana is a song about coming of age, a bittersweet homage to a love parted, and a plea for acceptance when a dreamed-of reunion finally does happen. Literally, it’s about a girl. But it’s also a song about hope that a childhood home, Kahaluu on Oahu’s east side, will embrace the wandering, grown songwriter (Jerry Santos) as it did in his childhood.

Consummately produced with crystalline instrumentation and compelling swells of melody and harmony, Ku’u Home is patently nostalgic and sentimental. I’m not sure that anyone, anywhere, ever, has done that better.


Gabby “Pops” Pahinui is probably the most beloved figure in Hawaiian music. Hi’ilawe is his most recognizable work. It’s a traditional song sung in Hawaiian, written in the late 19th century but made his own by his slack key guitar stylings and his one-of-a-kind voice. Hi’ilawe is a song about a love affair that takes place under a towering waterfall in the heart of Waipio Valley on the Big Island.

While there are more famous songs about Hawaii, Hi’ilawe quickly becomes a favorite for many visitors and residents. Even most fresh malahini (transplant) women and girls can break off a convincing hula for Hi’ilawe. It’s another song that is simply part of the fabric of life in these islands.

Island Style: One of the Most Famous Songs About Hawaii

John Cruz comes from a family of accomplished musicians, all of whom have created songs that became part of Hawaii’s unofficial soundtrack. Island Style incorporates elements of modern pop music into a fundamentally traditional Hawaiian form. 

While this one doesn’t come on mainland radio, it’s one of the most famous songs about Hawaii that you’ll hear beyond the islands. 

In essence, Island Style is a song about food and family. But beyond that, it’s a proud affirmation of living “island style” with humility and filial piety common to the Hawaii experience.

Hawaii ’78

Israel “Braddah Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole gripped the world with his one-man-and-an-ukulele interpretation of Somewhere Over the Rainbow/Wonderful World. It was world music number one, and graced an absurd amount of movie soundtracks and TV commercials. It may be the most famous song about Hawaii ever. But Braddah Iz has other great songs that many music enthusiasts love even more. 

Hawaii ‘78 is not a postcard. It’s a lament, a dirge even, brooding and foreboding. It poses the question of what King Kamehameha the Great and his wife Ka’ahumanu would make of the ever-increasing commercial development of the Hawaiian Islands. 

It also answers the question. 

Simply put, Braddah Iz believed they would be bummed. Hawaii ’78 is a song that doesn’t celebrate what Hawaii represents to the world. It explores what Hawaii has lost to it. The song has gravity, enough to pull in Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, who performed it at the historic Hawaii Theatre a few years ago.

Lifetime Party

On a much lighter note, Cecilio & Kaponowas a hit-making machine back in the seventies. Frankly, any one of their songs from that period could be included on our list of famous songs about Hawaii. 

I’m going with Lifetime Party because it captures what I love most about having been fortunate enough to grow up here. Its upbeat clip and syncopated harmonies just make you feel good.

Lifetime Party is an invitation. It asks the listener to join the singers at a backyard kanikapila, where family and friends gather to play music, eat, dance, and otherwise embrace Hawaii’s true paradise beyond the postcard.

Fate Yanagi

Rap Replinger was a Hawaii comedian. His comedy sketches are legendary. Aunty Marialani. Room Service. I, along with everyone who grew up in my generation, can recite them verbatim. They are as funny as provincial humor can get, anywhere in the world.

Fate Yanagi is musically sound, expertly composed, arranged, and recorded. The words come from a man who died while body surfing Point Panic, “90-feet and glassy.” 

It professes love for Fate Yanagi, Head Cheerleader of Furtado Memorial High School, and a genuine concern for returning a borrowed can of surfboard resin “when I’m dead.” Its pidgin-English delivery is truly comic, and not lost on anyone who speaks regular English.

What’s Your Favorite Song About Hawaii?

There are countless other famous songs about Hawaii that could be included here. These are just the first few that come to mind when it comes to music I can listen to, Hawaii/Hawaiian or not.