Hawaii is easily one of the most beautiful places on earth. Nearly unspoiled islands, tall and lush mountains, world-class beaches, and pristine examples of the natural world everywhere you step foot. The culture of the native people of Hawaii is just as interesting as their home’s natural beauty though, something you’d expect from a place that tends to attract people from all walks of life and from around the world.
In this article, we’ll go over the 31 best songs about the state of Hawaii out there, from traditional tracks and classics to modern hits.
1. Blue Hawaii – Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley and Hawaii are inextricably linked thanks to his love for the islands and after setting one of his many films there. His track Blue Hawaii is one of the most famous songs about the islands in all of history. In 1961, it served as the title track for his album but was originally written for the 1937 film Waikiki Wedding. The song talks about the magical nature of Hawaii, how it’s a wonderful place for couples to enjoy together, and tells listeners that it is a palace where all your dreams can come true.
2. I’m Dreaming of Hawaii – Perry Como
Hawaii almost seems like a fantasy world for a lot of people. Stunning beaches, amazing weather, and dramatic landscapes all contribute to this otherworldly presence. One could say it’s the stuff of dreams, so it’s no wonder that visitors easily become enthralled with it. Perry Como captured that feeling pretty well in his song I’m Dreaming Of Hawaii, as he yearns for the sunny shores to relax on while describing the natural beauty of the islands.
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3. Kona Red – Ho’aikāne
One of the things that can make or break a great track about Hawaii is whether or not there are any Hawaiian-language lyrics included in the song. Kona Red is a track that pulls this off masterfully, mixing Hawaiian and English together to make a song that has you all but ready to move to the islands.
The entire track is a description of life in Hawaii, from the fresh breezes to the pristine seas. Ho’aikāne sings the song to express how much they love their native land, and it’s easy to see why when you listen and hear everything Hawaii has to offer.
4. Shave Ice – Loyal Garner
Loyal Garner is one of the most important Hawaiian musicians to have performed in recent memory. Her song Shave Ice is another one on the list about the amazing food scene in Hawaii, but she uses it to talk about how much she loves her home.
Shaved ice is a Hawaiian treat that many have been able to try over the years thanks to different versions of it coming over to the mainland. The best part about it isn’t how easily it can cool you off in the heat, it’s the ridiculous number of flavors you can have with it, meaning there’s always something for everyone and something new to try out.
5. Somewhere Over The Rainbow – Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole
Somewhere Over The Rainbow remains one of the most loved songs of all time after becoming a surprise top hit in the 1980s. It’s everything you could ask for in a track about the Hawaiian islands, with Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole’s silky-smooth voice crooning over a gentle ukulele. The serenity of the track matches up perfectly with the beautiful nature of the islands, and his vocal performance is enough to raise goosebumps on your arms.
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6. Island Style – John Cruz
Hawaii is much like other island communities, in that it’s known for having a laid-back lifestyle. There’s a reason the term “island time” exists, as people move at a much slower pace and on their own time in such a relaxed environment.
John Cruz wrote Island Style as an ode to that way of thinking, an upbeat and happy tune that’s just as laid-back as the Hawaiian people. The song not only describes the beauty of the Hawaiian island, but it also talks about the joy that comes from spending time with loved ones and the simple things that make life worth living for.
7. Tiny Bubbles – Don Ho
Tiny Bubbles is Don Ho’s most famous hit and what eventually became his signature song. It’s a carefree single about living a carefree life on the Hawaiian islands and making time for the things that are most important, like our loved ones.
8. Hawai’i Aloha – Rose Ensemble
Hawai’i Aloha has very deep roots, running back to the 1800s. Reverend Lorenzo Lyons was the original writer of the song and it has a particular focus on bringing people together. In essence, the track is another amazing description of the natural beauty of the Hawaiian island. You may also recognize it by another title, Ku’u One Hanau, which was originally intended to be the state song of Hawaii. While it was replaced in that capacity by Hawai’i Pono’i, it’s still a well-known track in the islands today.
9. Fish And Poi – Sean Na`auao
Poi is one of the most important traditional foods of Hawaii. It’s made from the taro root and has fed Hawaiian islanders for thousands of years at this point. Sean Na`auao penned Fish And Poi, an ode to one of the most popular dishes on the islands, spending plenty of time describing the taste of the dish. But it also serves another great purpose. The song has a lively tune that’s perfect for anyone looking to dance around and have a good time.
10. Higher Than The Clouds – Anuhea
Higher Than The Clouds is a touching love song that sees the singer pleading with the person she has feelings for to just admit their own feelings so the two can be together. Sometimes, one person has strong feelings while the other needs more time to come to terms with them. It’s a place that will make you struggle, but once you finally end up together, the happiness you’ll feel will make you feel like you’re soaring above the clouds.
11. Hawaiian Wedding Song – Elvis Presley
Hawaiian Wedding Song is another Elvis Presley track from his film Blue Hawaii. Much like the title track of that movie—that we already discussed—it captures the laid-back vibe of the islands. Charles E. King was the original writer of the song, publishing it in 1926 in the Hawaiian language. Presley’s version of the track doesn’t remove all of those references, leaving this one much more true to its roots. Of course, the song centers around a wedding on a beautiful sunny day on the islands.
12. To You, Sweetheart, Aloha – Bing Crosby And Dick McIntire And His Harmony Hawaiians
Harry Owens was the original writer of To You, Sweetheart, Aloha. His original version was meant to emulate the ambiance of the islands as it tearfully said goodbye to a loved one who would be staying there while the singer left. Bing Crosby’s later version captured that feeling even better though, so it remains the version more people are familiar with.
Aloha is a simple Hawaiian greeting that can mean both hello and goodbye, with this song using it to tell a loved one farewell and wanting to come back soon. This is a feeling many who visit the islands have to face once they decide to leave for any period of time.
13. Pua `Ahihi – The Kahauanu Trio
Pua `Ahihi is one of the best traditional Hawaiian songs out there, devoid of any English. The lyrics describe the lei, an important symbol in Hawaiian culture and one most people have become familiar with today. In it, the singer has a loved one playing with the flowers of their lei, and they compare it to teasing the singer’s heart. They always want to be around their love, as their heart has been totally captured by this person, and The Kahauanu Trio sing this beautiful song in a breezy, gentle manner.
14. Home in Hawaii (King’s Serenade) – Bing Crosby
Plenty of people have dreamed of making Hawaii their new home and longed for the natural beauty of the islands. But not all of those people understand any of the rich history the islands offer. Bing Crosby—at the very least—included a little bit of that in his ode to Hawaii.
Home In Hawaii (King’s Serenade) isn’t just him wishing to live in such a beautiful place, it’s also a beautiful tribute to Queen Liliʻuokalani, the last monarch of the Hawaiian islands. He covers everything from the beaches and mountains to the welcoming nature of the people as reasons for wanting to move there.
15. You Ku’uipo – William Kahaiali’i
You Ku’uipo is a song dedicated to the island of Ku’uipo itself. William Kahaiali’i talks about all the happy memories he made on the island and goes into detail about its natural beauty, extolling its graces to the world and making it feel like one of the most special places on the planet. There’s no way you can listen to this song without some part of you wanting to visit there one day and experience it for yourself.
16. White Sandy Beaches – Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole
While most people only know Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole from Somewhere Over The Rainbow, White Sandy Beaches is another amazing track that largely gets slept on. It was originally released as part of his 1993 album Facing Future and is just as soothing as the rest of his music. With a relaxed vibe, he described the unique kind of sand, water, and sun in Hawaii. It also talks about the sadness of remembering a long-lost lover and all the fun they had on those beaches.
17. Rolling Down to Old Maui – Stan Rogers
Rolling Down To Old Maui is a traditional sea shanty, much in line with other songs like Leave Her Johnny. The original writers of the track are unknown thanks to the song’s age, but the most famous recorded version of the track came from Stan Rogers.
It describes whalers returning to Hawaii after spending years at sea, celebrating the end of their journey and their long-awaited return home. While it isn’t the soothing or laid-back style of most of the other songs on the list, it’s a refreshing shift into the old traditional style of tracks.
18. Aloha ʻOe – Queen Liliʻuokalani
We couldn’t make this list without including this song. Queen Liliʻuokalani’s performance of this traditional Hawaiian folk track is perhaps the most authentic entry to the list. She wrote the song in the 1870s when she was the princess of the Hawaiian Kingdom, mixing Hawaiian and English lyrics to say goodbye to a loved one until they will finally be able to be reunited.
It’s got a tinge of sadness running through it that turns it into more of a melancholy song than most of the joyous entries to the list, but it remains incredibly popular thanks to its beautiful sentiment and wonderful descriptions of the local landscape and flowers.
19. Hawaii – The Queers
While Hawaii is known for having a laid-back vibe, there’s still plenty of punk-rock spirit to be had there. The Queers’ Hawaii captures it perfectly, eschewing the soothing lyrics about how beautiful the islands are to describe the thrill of surfing waves and living life in the fast lane. There’s an adventurous side to Hawaiian culture that often gets forgotten about by visitors, and this song is the perfect introduction and reminder of its existence.
20. Pearly Shells – Don Ho
Don Ho is among the most famous Hawaiian performers of all time, so you know he’s got a song honoring his home. Pearly Shells is just that, a traditional track translated into the English language in 1964. His 1965 version of the song is the one you’ve most likely heard before, describing the shining seashells you’ll find on Hawaiian beaches and diving into matters of the heart.
21. I Miss You My Hawaii – Na Leo Pilimehana
I Miss You My Hawaii is evocative of the call many people who call Hawaii their home hear that want them to return there. Na Leo Pilimehana captures this perfectly in this song, telling the world that everything reminds them of their home and that they’re so homesick they’re literally grieving. It’s a beautiful and sad track that anyone who feels homesick will be able to relate to.
22. Ipo Lei Manu – Cyril Pahinui
Ipo Lei Manu is a song that dabbles in both the happy and the sad. It explains that the native people of Hawaii still see Americans as conquerors of their land—for good reason—and it’s a fairly popular track in the Hawaiian Islands. For anyone interested in the culture and music of the state, it’s a good song to listen to to get a perspective you won’t be hearing at tourist stops or forums of things to know before you go online.
23. Honolulu City Lights – Keola Beamer
Honolulu City Lights served as the title track of Keola Beamer’s 1978 album. While it remains somewhat in the realm of traditional Hawaiian music, it lacks some key elements like the ukulele, so it falls more into the contemporary style of the genre. It also goes over the often-felt emotion of longing for a return to the Hawaiian islands white using the bright lights of the city of Honolulu to signal their way home.
24. Mele Kalikimaka – Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby sure loved Hawaii. Mele Kalikimaka is a Hawaiian Christmas song that was written in 1949 by R. Alex Anderson. Crosby went on to record the track in 1950, producing the best-known version of the song. It talks about the bright and sunny skies Hawaii sees around Christmastime, a shocking difference from the white Christmas many in the Northern Hemisphere experience. But this one is more than just a Christmas track, fitting into a Hawaiian playlist year-round.
25. Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai – HAPA
Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai roughly translates to “The Plants Of The Sea” in English. The song is, of course, about the natural beauty of Hawaii but specifically dives into the beautiful nature of the underwater plant life you’ll find in the waters surrounding the islands. Simple yet elegant, beautiful yet useful. HAPA’s track is yet another amazing ode to the Hawaiian islands.
26. Harleys In Hawaii – Katy Perry
Katy Perry put her own pop twist on a classic Hawaiian love song with her recording of Harleys In Hawaii. The roads on the islands are typically long and winding, running directly along incredible beaches and cliffs that make for perfect views and a spectacular ride. The song describes the thrill of riding a motorcycle down those roads, taking in the scenery with the wind in your hair.
27. Waikiki – Andy Cummings
Waikiki is one of the most famous songs about Hawaii out there and is one of the tracks that helped popularize the Waikiki beach with mainlanders looking for a good surf spot. Andy Cummings’ version of the song elegantly describes the turquoise waters and white sands of the beach, portraying the perfect picture of paradise for many who have never been able to get there before. It’s a catchy and cheerful track that has become loved over the years for helping set the standard of Hawaiian beach tunes.
28. About You – Cecilio & Kapono
About You is a wonderfully confident love song. The narrator has spent a lot of time deciding what they want when it comes to a particular love interest, and their mind is made up that the pair should be together. They lay everything on the line, telling them that it’s up to them how things proceed from here. Their connection is unique in that it’s a subtle and quiet one, something that many others seem to not understand.
29. Bamboo – Kimié Miner
Bamboo served as the lead single for Kimié Miner’s album Proud As The Sun and is based on the real-life story of one of her breakups. After dealing with the emotional fallout of a relationship ending, she found that she had come to be a stronger person and that the lessons learned would allow her to have a better relationship with someone else down the line.
30. He Mele No Lilo – From Lilo & Stitch
He Mele No Lilo is based on a traditional Hawaiian chant titled “Mele Inoa No Kalakaua.” In English, this roughly translates to “Name Song For Kalakaua.” The track is mainly an ode to the final king of the Hawaiian Kingdom and one of the island’s native bird species whose feathers the king wore adorned on his cape. This is a song many people may recognize who haven’t learned much about Hawaii though, as it was used as the opening track for the 2002 animated film Lilo & Stitch.
31. Escape – The Pina Colada Song – Side Salad
Sometimes, getting out into nature can be a very healing experience for people. A calm and relaxed place with plenty of natural beauty is the perfect spot to stop for a little introspection and to put your life into perspective. Side Salad captured that well in their song Escape – The Pina Colada Song, making Hawaii out to be a paradise on earth. The culture, landscape, and vibes of the state might be just what a person needs to escape the feeling of being lost in life.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.