Ka‘upena Wong says: "I am a native Hawaiian with a quarter Chinese and a quarter English thrown in for good measure and I love it!" Born (1929) and raised in Honolulu he attended public and private schools in Hawai‘i and on the mainland. Over the years Ka‘upena Wong has been involved with education, serving as a teacher and an administrator in public and private schools, vocational education, and curriculum development. He has been a tour escort, and before his retirement was a practical nurse in a long-term care hospital. He is past chairman of the University of Hawai‘i Committee for Preservation of Hawaiian language, culture and arts; Queen Lili‘uokalani Children's Center Advisory Board; past president and life member of the Hawaiian Historical Society. He studied hula and chants from the late Tom Hiona and aspects of Hawaiian culture from Dr. Donald D. Kilolani Mitchell who has also passed on. He credits the late Hawaiian scholar, Mary Kawena Pukui as his most important teacher of Hawaiian chants, dance and Hawaiian cultural practice. About Dr. Pukui, Ka‘upena says "It was Kawena's intent that elements of the old tradition were not only to be studied but, indeed, they should continue to become a vital and living part of our islands' pluralistic cultural environment."
In 1982 Ka‘upena was honored as a “Living Teasure of Hawai‘i”.
In 2004 Ka‘upena earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts.
In 2005 Ka‘upena Wong, the dean of Hawaiian chant and a resident of Wai‘anae became one of twelve National Endowment for the Arts national heritage fellowship winners celebrating artistic excellence and cultural authenticity and diversity. The award is one of America's highest in the folk and traditional arts.
In 2012 kupuna Ka‘upena received the Kukui o Lota Award at the Prince Lot Hula Festival, a pendant given to just nine other honorees. The Moanalua Gardens Foundation gave the Kukui o Lota award to three respected kupuna in recognition of their contributions to the perpetuation of hula. The recipients receiving kumu hula and Hawaiian language specialist Edith Kawelohea McKinzie, 86, kumu hula Pat Namaka Bacon, 92, and master Hawaiian chanter James Ka‘upena Wong, 82.