“Aloha ʻOe” (Farewell to Thee) is Liliʻuokalani’s most famous song and a common cultural Leitmotif for Hawaii. The story of the origin of the song has several variations. They all have in common that the song was inspired by a notable farewell embrace given by Colonel James Harbottle Boyd during a horseback trip taken by Princess Liliʻuokalani in 1877 or 1878 to the Boyd ranch in Maunawili on the windward side of Oʻahu, and that the members of the party hummed the tune on the way back to Honolulu. Different versions tell of alternate recipients of the embrace — either Liliʻuokalani’s sister Princess Likelike Cleghorn or a young lady at the ranch. According to the most familiar version of the story:
This tender farewell set Liliʻuokalani to thinking, and she began humming to herself on the homeward trip. Overhearing, Charles Wilson observed, “That sounds like The Lone Rock by the Sea,” a comment with which Liliʻuokalani is said to have agreed. When the party paused to rest in an orange grove on the Honolulu side of the Pali, the others joined in the hummings, and the song was completed later at Washington Place.
The Hawaiʻi State Archives preserves a hand-written manuscript by Liliʻuokalani, dated 1878, with the score of the song, the lyrics, Liliʻuokalani’s English translation, and her note evidently added later: “Composed at Maunawili 1878. Played by the Royal Hawaiian Band in San Francisco August 1883 and became very popular.”