Perhaps you fell in love with the ukulele during your last trip to Hawaii. Or maybe you’ve seen the viral video of Jake Shimabukuro playing Gently Weeps. Regardless of your inspiration, a visit to Hawaii offers plenty of opportunities to learn to play ukulele -- for free. All over Oahu, you’ll find lessons well suited to the beginner, as well as some welcoming groups who gather for a regular kani ka pila, or Hawaiian style jam session. Here are just a few:
Royal Hawaiian Center - Situated in the heart of Waikiki near its namesake, the famous pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the center offers free ukulele lessons Tuesday through Friday at 10 a.m. at the Pa‘ina Lanai food court.
Windward Mall - On the third Thursday of every month, the Ukulele Club of Hawaii offers free lessons for players of all ages and ability levels at Windward Mall’s Center Court. Various local artists participate and offer instructions for budding musicians. Bring your own ukulele or borrow one (there’s a limited supply). Instrument tuning begins at 5 p.m. and lessons start at 6 p.m.
Abrigo Ohana Kani Ka Pila - Bring your ukulele, guitar, ipu, or just grab a couple of spoons off your table and get ready to make beautiful music with the Abrigo Ohana from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (sound check starts around noon). The kani ka pila happens every third Sunday of the month in Hale‘iwa at Waimea Valley.
Waikiki Beach Walk - Ukulele lessons are held twice a week at the Beach Walk: On Thursdays from 4:00 to 4:45 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 to 11 a.m. Lessons are held at the Mana Hawaii store on the second level of Waikiki Beach Walk and are free and open to the public.
Some Waikiki hotels offer free ukulele lessons for their hotel guests, including the Outrigger Reef on the Beach, offering free ukulele lessons on Thursdays from 1 to 2 p.m. and again on Fridays from 11 a.m. to noon, and at the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach where guests can learn to play ukulele on Tuesdays at 1 p.m.
Please note: These times are accurate at the time of writing. But remember; schedules can and do change. Call ahead to make sure an event you’re interested in is happening.
- Kris Bordessa of Honolulu On The Cheap and Big Island On The Cheap