16 Of The Best Songs About Hawaii: The Aloha State Playlist

Whether it is popular music from Elvis Presley or folk songs local to the islands themselves, there have been many great songs written about Hawaii. These songs will project you into the paradise that many people call home and make you feel like you are right there.

So whether you are planning a Hawaiian-themed party or getting ready to vacation there, keep reading as we take a look at 16 of the best songs about Hawaii! Let’s get started.

1. “Kona Red” by Ho`aikāne

First we have Ho`aikāne who, with Kona Red wrote this upbeat, reggae-style tune that gets you in the mood to head to the big island.

They include English and Hawaiin lyrics within the song, making it even more authentic for the listener. 

Kona Red describes island life in Hawaii to the listener. From the clean air and wondrous sea to enjoying family gatherings, you can experience what Hawaii is all about through their music.

Listen closely as they sing about how much they love their native land, and how the sun and beaches make you smile as you take in everything that Hawaii has to offer. 

2. “Shave Ice” by Loyal Gardner

Another terrific song that talks about Hawaiian food and culture is “Shave Ice” by Loyal Gardner.

She was a Hawaiian musician that many coined Hawaii’s Lady of Love. This upbeat melody comes from her 1982 album Island Feelings. 

Naturally, as the song progresses, the lyrics describe the many different flavors you can experience with shave ice while in Hawaii, and how refreshing this tasty treat is.

If you enjoy songs that provide insight into Hawaiian food and drink, Shave Ice is a terrific tune. 

3. “Blue Hawaii” by Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley is one of the most important musical figures in American cultural history.

His song “Blue Hawaii,” from an album with the same name, came out in 1961, but was a cover of the original Blue Hawaii written by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger specifically for the 1937 film Waikiki Wedding. 

This song references the moon on the sea, making Hawaii a magical place for couples to enjoy.

Attesting that dreams come true in Hawaii, the songwriter asks someone they fancy to appreciate the blue Hawaii evening with them. 

4. “Island Style” by John Cruz

John Cruz released the song “Island Style” in 1996 as part of the album Acoustic Soul. Other big music names that appeared on this album as guest artists include Jack Johnson and Jackson Browne.

The song is all about the lifestyle of living on an island, and the relaxing acoustic atmosphere captures the album title perfectly.

The lyrics focus on some of the geographical features on the Hawaiian islands, specifically stating from the mountains to the sea, in reference to the many volcanic mountain regions.

Three-part harmony lines often join Cruz’s voice during the choruses, adding to the beauty and Hawaiian flavor. 

5. “Hawaii Aloha” by Reverend Lorenzo Lyons

Although this song has history back to the 1800s, it is still a popular choice for many Hawaiian gatherings and events today.

“Hawaii Aloha” brings people together as it describes the songwriter’s breathtaking native land. 

This tune emphasizes the joyful nature of the Hawaiian people and their close-knit culture.

Vivid descriptions of the sea and rivers, gentle breezes, and its iconic landscape are throughout this traditional and historic song from Reverend Lorenzo Lyons. 

6. “To You Sweetheart, Aloha” by Bing Crosby, Dick McIntire and His Harmony Hawaiians 

“To You Sweetheart, Aloha” is a popular tune that has several versions, but the original by Bing Crosby, Dick McIntire, and His Harmony Hawaiians grasps the Hawaiian culture perfectly.

It was written in 1936 by Harry Owens and emulates the ambiance that you would get when visiting the island. “To You Sweetheart, Aloha” sings about saying goodbye to a loved one on the island.

Aloha is a simple Hawaiian greeting that can mean hello or goodbye and is frequently used when you are departing but hope to return soon, which is often the case when visiting Hawaii with the urger to return quickly. 

7. “Pua `Ahihi” by The Kahauanu Trio

“Pua `Ahihi” is a tropical, relaxing love song written by Maddy Lam and first released in 1964.

One of the most memorable renditions of “Pua `Ahihi” was recorded by the Kahauanu Lake Trio, who sang beautifully and gently in their native Hawaiian language.

This song touches on one of the more iconic symbols of Hawaii, the lei. The Kahauanu Trio depicts a beautiful lei that crosses over their heart as their beloved strokes it over and over.

They compare the scent of the flowers with the teasing of their heart, and the beauty of the Hawaii skies with their desire to always see their love.

This song can instantly transport you to the islands of Hawaii, and “Pua `Ahihi” is without a doubt one of the most romantic songs.

8. “White Sandy Beach” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole released the song “White Sandy Beach” as part of his 1993 album, Facing Future. With a relaxing slow tempo and the sound of ocean waves in the background, the lyrics speak of the unique sun, sand, and sea vibes in Hawaii.

White Sandy Beach is a forlorn romantic song of a person remembering a long-lost love they spent time with on the beaches of Hawaii. References to the ocean wave sounds, hot sun, and sandy beaches provide an authentic Hawaiin experience through music. 

9. “Rolling Down to Old Maui” by Stan Rogers

“Rolling Down to Old Maui” is a traditional sea shanty, a song so old that its original writers remain unknown. One of the most famous versions of the song was recorded by Canadian folk singer Stan Rogers.

The song itself tells the story of whalers returning to Hawaii after being years away on a long voyage. They come home to Maui to celebrate the end of their difficult journey.

It definitely has a different feel to it than other songs on this list, but it’s a rousing, traditional tune that captures the joy of returning to the islands after spending so much time away from home.

10. “Hawaiian Wedding Song” by Elvis Presley

Next up is another track by Elvis Presley from the movie Blue Hawaii. This song came out on the same album in 1961, and it has a similar vibe to the previous song “Blue Hawaii”.

The original song was written in 1926 by Charles E. King in the original Hawaiian language, and there are still references to that language throughout the Presley recording.  

As the song title suggests, the lyrics and music are a love song centered on a wedding in Hawaii.

Mentions of the blue skies of Hawaii shine down on them as they join together as one, providing a tropical look into a romantic love song. 

11. “Aloha ‘Oe” by Queen Liliuokalani

If you want to be as authentic as possible, consider adding this Hawaiian folk song “Aloha ‘Oe” to your playlist. Queen Liliuokalani wrote this song sometime around 1878 while she was Princess of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

It is a slow song with melancholy lyrics in both Hawaiian and English. 

Aloha ‘Oe is a song that says goodbye to a loved one in Hawaii until they meet again. It references beautiful descriptions of the rain off the mountainous cliffs and the local flowers that adorn the landscape.

12. “Honolulu City Lights” Keola Beamer

The Hawaiian songwriter Keola Beamer wrote the song “Honolulu City Lights” in 1978, and released it on his album with the same name.

You can think of this song as a more contemporary style of Hawaiian music since it lacks some of the typical instruments of steel guitar and ukulele.

The lyrics are all about reminiscing about Honolulu and its city lights, and the longing to go back once more.

Comparing a loved one to the island sunsets and the urge to stay and live out an island dream ring throughout this melody. 

13. “Pearly Shells (Pupu o Ewa)” by Don Ho

Don Ho is a famous Hawaiian entertainer and his Pearly Shells song is the epitome of Hawaiian love.

The traditional song was translated to an English version by  Leon Pober and Webley Edwards in 1964. Don Ho released his version in 1965, which is the version many recognize today.

Pearly Shells describes the beautiful glistening seashells along the sandy beaches of Hawaii as the singer compares their love to begin more than the number of shells, grains of sand, and stars in the sky in the Hawaiin landscape. 

14. “Fish and Poi” by Sean Na’auao

Sean Na’auao released this song in 2009 as part of his album Hot Hits. Compared to some of the slower and more reflective songs in this article, consider this song an upbeat alternative.

The instrumentation, tempo, and singing are all positive, energetic, and sure to make you smile.

This song goes into detail about the many popular Hawaiin cuisine choices available.

From traditional family meals to attending a luau, Fish and Poi provide insight into the deliciousness that can be found in Hawaii.  

15. “Mele Kalikimaka (Hawaiian Christmas Song)” by Bing Crosby

R. Alex Anderson wrote “Mele Kalikimaka” in 1949, but it is Bing Crosby’s recording from 1950 that everybody knows.

His singing of this Hawaiian Christmas song has the typical rich sonority you expect from Crosby, and you can put this on your Hawaiian playlist even if it is not the holiday time of year.

Mele Kalikimaka describes the bright sunny skies during Christmas where the landscape is green and thriving, a large contrast to other locations.

With swaying palm trees and bright stars over the ocean, this song transports you to a Christmas paradise.  

16. “Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

And finally, a song that technically isn’t about Hawaii, it’s become synonymous with the state thanks to Hawaiin Israel Kamakawiwo’ole who released a cover version of the classic song “Over the Rainbow.”

The song is a blend of two existing songs, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World,” but with a Hawaiian and Jamaican musical style. 

The song was not immediately successful, but it eventually made it to the top of many charts. To recognize the popularity and cultural relevance of this song, the Library of Congress decided to add it to the National Recording Registry in 2021.  

Related: Read more about famous Hawaiian musicians here.

Summing Up Our List Of Hawaiian Songs

As you can see, there are a ton of songs that capture the tropical paradise known as Hawaii.

Many of the songs are Hawaiian folk songs while others come from famous artists everyone can recognize.

If you want to transport yourself into the landscape, culture, and cuisine of Hawaii, this playlist can help take you there.  

Remember that many of these folk songs are covered by various artists, so don’t be afraid to try other versions to see which you like best!

Photo of author
Written by Laura Macmillan
Laura has over 12 years experience teaching both classical and jazz saxophone and clarinet. She now resides in California where she works as a session and live performer.