Holualoa Ukulele Gallery

Big Island Guide Travel Guide

The name ‘ukulele’ is the Hawaiian name given to a small instrument of the Middle Eastern and Galia region plucked, stringed instruments known as the ‘lute’. The ukulele is a member of the guitar family and was brought into Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants in the late 1800’s.

Manuel Nunes, Augusto Dias and Jose do Espirito Santo, arrived in Hawaii on the ship, Ravenscrag in 1879, from the Portuguese Islands of Madeira. Moving to the islands to work in the sugar cane fields, these Portuguese immigrants are believed to have been the first makers of the Hawaiian ‘ukulele’. The word ‘ukulele’ translates to ‘jumping flea’ in English. The story goes that when Hawaiians saw the Portuguese immigrants play this ‘lute’ like instrument, their fast-moving fingers looked like fleas jumping over the fingerboard; ergo, the name ‘ukulele’ was born. However, Queen Lili’uokalani, has been recorded as explaining that the term ‘ukulele’ means ‘the gift that came here’ (with ‘uku’ translating to ‘gift or reward’ and ‘lele’ translating to ‘to come’).

Regardless of how this mysterious lute got its name, the Holualoa Ukulele Gallery prides itself on featuring hand-made ukuleles for both locals and visitors to strum. Located at the south end of town, in the historic Holualoa Post Office building, proprietor and artist Sam Rosen has created the Holualoa Ukulele Gallery to display his hand-crafted ukuleles and others created from around the Hawaii islands. Sam’s woodworking shop resembles a 1900’s European woodworker’s cottage, complete with old, lead glass windows, antiquated carving tools, and scattered wood shavings. For those that hope to design their own ukulele, the Holualoa Ukulele Gallery offers a ten-day (7 hours per day) workshop with everything you need to construct your very own ukulele.

Tuesday – Saturday
11am – 4:30pm

76-5942 Mamalahoa Highway
Holualoa, HI 96725

(808) 324-4100

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