Optical characteristics of hexagonal GaN self-assembled quantum dots (QDs) were systematically studied by photoluminescence (PL), PL excitation (PLE), time-resolved PL, and cathodoluminescence (CL). We observed a Stokes-like shift between PLE absorption edge and PL emission from the GaN QDs as well as from the Al(Ga)N base layer. With decreasing emission energy, the measured lifetime of the hexagonal GaN QDs emission increased, while that of the cubic GaN QDs kept almost constant. The optical emission from the GaN QDs was measured as a function of temperature from 10 to 300 K, and their properties were compared with GaN quantum-well structures. With increasing temperature, the PL intensity of Al(Ga)N base layer or GaN quantum wells was dramatically decreased, while that of GaN QDs was not changed much. We observed CL images showing strong carrier localization in GaN QDs. Therefore, we conclude that the GaN QD emissions are strongly influenced by built-in electric field as well as by carrier localization in the QDs. © 2002 American Institute of Physics.