Kanile’a Ukulele

Kanilea Ukuleles are a Hawaiian company run by Joseph and Kristen Souza. All their ukuleles are made in Hawaii and you can take a tour of the factory if you happen to be on Oahu (you can find out more on their website).

More recently they've come out with the entry-level Kanilea Islander range which has been getting excellent reports.

Kanilea Ukulele Review

Ken Middleton reviews his Kanile'a K1-C

On eBay

On Video

Lorraine from Learn to Uke goes on a trip round the Kanile'a factory.

15 Comments

  1. Jake Martins March 31st, 2011 4:08 pm

    I recently purchased the special edition Hawaii 50th Kanile’a CS ukulele, and I must say, the sound, finish and material/construction of the ukulele is amazing. Now I don’t know if it is worth the money I paid but it is beautiful.

    I.ve been playing a ukulele for the better part of 50th years and have a collection of martins’, kamakas’ and iland (Ropozo) ukuleles on hand. I also have been making ukuleles for a while so I have a good understanding of how they are made and the sound it should have.

    I’m a Kauai boy born and raised but now live on the coast; and, in a few years I hope to return to my roots. (retiring)

  2. Simon Clothier July 16th, 2011 7:29 pm

    It’s was my absolute privilege to meet Joe and Kristin Souza and their wonderful family.

    It’s been my further privilege to play one of their Tenor ukes for the past 3 years. It’s a unique instrument and I have used it to record the worlds first ever ukulele power ballad!

    Love it!

    Simon Clothier
    http://www.worldsfirstukulelepowerballad.com

  3. Paul September 14th, 2011 9:09 pm

    Bought a Kelii tenor in 2009 ($490USD) and after a couple years I got to be a better uke player and wanted an expensive one, LOL! Couldn’t spend that much money blind so I drove from ST. Louis to Indianapolis to sample a variety of upper end ukes from Ukulelehotline.com because they had them in stock. I’m glad I made the drive! I played Breedlove, Delgado, Koolau, and Kanilea tenors. My top 3 picks were all Kanilea! I bought the K-1 DLX SF ($988USD). The Kelii is a very good instrument but the Kanilea, although similar, has a higher build quality, attention to detail, and refined tone that is worth the extra money in my opinion and I’m picky!

  4. Peter Fox November 28th, 2011 4:07 am

    There have some questions as to how to solve the case problem for a Kanilea super tenor. From the measurements available. It appears that a Fremont tenor case will work quit well, wide enough and not to long.

  5. Sifcell December 12th, 2011 11:15 pm

    I recently had the incredibly good fortune to find a K1 tenor in Satin Finish at a local music store for close to $200 below common retail price. It was pure luck, and perfect timing, since I’d been saving money for the better part of a year specifically for a Hawai’ian “K” brand.

    I don’t know that words can really do this instrument justice. Everything about it is top-quality: from the workmanship to the sound. And in the two months I’ve owned it, it’s only getting better as it begins to open up and let it’s true voice out.

    The best part of joining the Kanile’a family had to be my brief interactions with Mr. Souza. I had some minor questions and emailed him, and he showed not only genuine interest but a strong dedication to his product. It was refreshing.

    It seems very trite to say, but anyone who is even part way serious about playing the ‘ukulele really does owe it to themselves to get a genuine, made by hand in Hawai’i uke. It may take time to scrape the money together, but you’ll be rewarded 100-fold at least with an instrument that will surpass all your hopes.

  6. Meg January 8th, 2012 10:37 pm

    Does anyone have experience with Islander by Kanile’a? I know it’s the import line, but curious about quality …

  7. Andy April 29th, 2012 2:02 am

    @Meg – I bought a soprano Islander a few months ago. It is comparable in build quality to mid-range Kalas and Ohanas.

    It has a very warm tone. Compared to a Kala smhs the fretboard is wider the tone is a bit less punchy. It stays in tune well with standard tuning. It doesn’t stay in tune as well when tuned up a whole step.

    The overall build quality is good. The Islander has more frets than my Kala. For around $200.00 it is a very nice instrument. I would recommend it but personally, I prefer the Kala SMHS however, they are hard to find at this point.

    The Islander would be my choice if I couldn’t get the Kala. I hope this is helpful.

  8. Jackson August 1st, 2012 5:53 am

    Just bought a Kanile’a KPE Tenor for around 1700.00. (I think they retail for 2k)
    It has ebony fretboard and bridge, ebony lam on the headstock with the beach sand “K” inlay. Also ebony binding. The wood is a rather understated premium curly Koa (which I really like), that makes it not so blingy. Nice mother of pearl sound hole rosette. Grover closed gear Black nickel tuners.

    Build quality is nothing short of fabulous (except for the plastic bridge pins). The only thing I don’t like about it is the setup. Action is set too high, thus if you press hard on a G chord, for example, the intonation is off. It seems the nut needs to be filed, and the saddle lowered about 1mm. I installed an Aquila red unwound low G string that is stretchier. Intonation is virtually perfect with that string.

    The sound on this KPE is beautiful. Full and bright. I have a piece of junk Lanikai CK-TEK, and compared the two. Wow, the Lanikai sounds like a tin can compared.

    Overall I love the Kanile’a, and I’m sure I will love it more once I find someone I can trust to work on the setup a bit. I gave the playability 3 stars because of this. Had it come setup perfect it would have been 5 stars for all categories.

    P.S. not that it really matters, but why does Kanile’a use plastic bridge pins, when ebony pins are fairly cheap?

  9. john Hubbard November 20th, 2012 6:56 pm

    I bought a Kanilea concert about 9 months ago. I bought without trying . Its beautiful and a real peice of craftmanship. However its just not for me. Its so difficult to get a volume out of it. Its so highly laquered that I think the sound just can get out, The neck is also quite wide which is not for me. Im a real fan of Koaloha and without trying I would not buy any other make. Its a waste of money . I love the look of the Kanilea but thats where it ends.
    John

  10. Steve May 5th, 2013 11:29 am

    I bought a Kanilea MST 4 Tenor a year ago and I have to say that I am not overly impressed with it. It has a “dead fret area” on one string, overall a very heavy action, and a very “glassy”, or un-mellow sound, both on Worth and Aquila strings. I would have returned it but for the relatively high cost of the postage. It plays and sounds like a mini-guitar on the low frets, and a mandolin on the highs. It has too much sustain for a normal ukulele strum pattern.

  11. Steve May 5th, 2013 11:31 am

    Ratings for the above comment….

  12. Jim McCool May 11th, 2013 11:36 pm

    I just bought a K1 Super Tenor while I was visiting Kauai. It is an awesome ukulele. The construction, sound and looks are far above any other uke I have seen. The only fault is that it doesn’t come with a hard shell case that fits the super tenor. I would have thought that a uke of this class would come with one.

  13. Gene K. May 27th, 2013 3:06 am

    I got a k-1 c and have been playing it for the last week. I have to admit I’m not used to a higher line instruments so the fact that the playability is awesome maybe should have been expected, but every aspect of this ukulele seams perfect.I did give her four stares for sound but I expect a five stare in about a year.

  14. Homer M May 7th, 2014 3:43 am

    Does anyone know of the brand called NALO. I bought a soprano in 2008 and trying to find out more about it. It seems to be of good quality and keeps in tune quite well. I noticed you do not have that brand on your list of ukuleles. Thanks for the help.

  15. Mark f May 25th, 2014 4:27 pm

    Recently purchased Kanilea K1 Tenor. Beautiful instrument. I do have one concern the action is a fraction high and the fret height seems very low. I find barre chords quite hard to maintain consistently and the skin on my finger tips touches the fretboard when making a note even though the string doesn’t quite hit. My Kala on the other hand a 1/3 the price is way easier to play. Action is lower fret are higher.
    Has anyone else experienced this with a Kanilea. If so what’s the solution.

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