Nestled among the stars of Waikiki’s Kalakaua Avenue — Coach, Tiffany and Co., Gucci, Yves St. Laurent — and the hotels listed with four of these $$$$ beside their names, lies the humble Ukulele Puapua store. Ukuleles crafted from koa, walnut, spruce, mango and even bamboo hang from its walls. Models vary from traditional instruments in the shape of a guitar to ones that look like pineapples. Some are painted with smiley faces and others enameled to resemble a cut watermelon, seeds and all.
They range in price from a starter outfit at $70 to professional models at more than $2,000. There are even some antiques priced far beyond that. As fans of the instrument, we had to stop by the store and look…often. Every day the store offers free lessons to introduce visitors to the charms of this inviting instrument. It’s no surprise that after tourists learn three easy chords they’re ready to buy one of their own. If we didn’t already have two ukes, it’s likely we would have joined them in making a purchase.
We weren’t the only ukulele aficionados on Waikiki. We encountered a group of seniors playing ukuleles, guitars, a mandolin and a steel guitar and performing from their broad repertoire of tunes in a covered picnic area that bordered the beach. All were happily singing and strumming, sporting loose leaf binders full of dozens of songs. They even set up a small PA system and took turns leading the group. Clearly this is a regular gathering by some of the happiest campers on the beach. It’s obvious they’re enjoying their retirement time in the islands. Thankfully, none sang of their little grass shacks or tiny bubbles, but then we didn’t stay to hear the entire concert.