Ukulele god Jake Shimabukuro knows exactly what you should bring back from your next trip to the islands.
“As the ukulele has reentered pop culture in the last few years, I’ve seen more and more visitors to Hawaii buying ukes to take home. Yes, you could buy a cheap blue or pink one in your hotel’s gift shop, but you’re not going to be able to make it sound all that great. Spend a little more money on one and you’ll actually look forward to playing it.
“It’s a purchase that won’t gather dust. The uke is so small and light, you can take it with you on a hike or to the beach. Or even hand carry it through the airport; you can often find me practicing by the gate while I wait for a flight.
“I prefer ones made by Oahu’s Kamaka Ukulele. I don’t think I’ve ever played one not made by them. Owned by a native Hawaiian family, Kamaka was one of the world’s first manufacturers and still makes the best ukes 100 years later. You can find them at high-end music shops all over the islands. Their instruments, made of native koa wood, are such good quality they can be passed down generation to generation. My very first ukulele, which I got when I was four, was a Kamaka that belonged to my mom when she was a teenager.”