Developed by Henry Kaiser on land that was once the ancient Maunalua fishpond and surrounding wetlands, Hawai‘i Kai is a primarily residential East O‘ahu neighborhood (with a small but significant commercial center, including a Costco) that includes Kalama Valley, Kamehame Ridge, Portlock, and Kamilo Iki Valley. Several of the island’s most-traveled outdoor attractions are right in the neighborhood: China Walls, Halona Blowhole, Hanauma Bay, and Koko Head District Park, as well as the Hawai‘i Kai Golf Course and miles of beach.
1. WHAT TO EXPECT
Known as a genteel and upscale area, Hawai‘i Kai is far sleepier than Honolulu proper, with most restaurants in the small commercial centers closing relatively early and the outdoor-adventure crowds that come to hike Koko Head or swim at China Walls receding with the sun.
2. THE LIFESTYLE
Laid-back and suburban, but active—boating and golf are very popular, and being situated right between town and the windward side makes for easy trips to both Kailua and Honolulu.
3. WHAT NOT TO EXPECT
Deep jungle or solace from crowds in public spaces. While the lifestyle is relatively quiet, Hawai’i Kai’s popularity with tourists and teenagers means that it is rarely serene. It feels more suburban here than in most parts of O‘ahu, so that Old Hawai’i feeling can be hard to come by in this planned community.
4. THE MARKET
Pricey and somewhat competitive, with more affordable homes closer to Kalaniana‘ole Highway and the surrounding streets, and fantastically luxurious properties found on Kamehame Ridge.
5. YOU’LL FALL IN LOVE WITH
The outdoor life—whether it’s hiking the 1,048 wooden railroad ties that serve as stairs going up steep Koko Head Crater, diving in the sometimes-dodgy water at China Walls, or taking a small watercraft out from one of the slips at Koko Marina, Hawai‘i Kai is a wonderful haven for outdoor sport enthusiasts.
Waterfront Views, Pricey, Low-Key, Parks & Recreation, Early to Bed, Great for Families
Airport: 25m by car
Downtown: 20m by car
Diamond Head: 20m by car
North Shore: 1hr by car
Kapolei: 50m by car
East to West Palolo Ave. and Alohea St. to Manoa Stream and Koali Rd.
North to South Wa‘ahila Ridge State Rec Area to Ocean
Nearby Neighborhoods Kahala, Waikiki, Kaimuki, Manoa
The coast that wraps around the eastern point of O‘ahu is one of the prettiest stretches of road on the island, and Hawai’i Kai serves as a midpoint between the small ridge and valley neighborhoods of the eastern Ko‘olaus and the expansive beaches of the windward side. With beautiful views, lovingly kept suburban streets, and a small-but-bustling commercial center for dining and shopping, the neighborhood is something of an oasis for folks who want the convenience of living on the South Shore but crave a more laid back ‘hood than Honolulu and its surrounding nabes.
Hawai’i Kai is speckled with astonishing mansions, many of which are discreetly secluded on the back roads and on Kamahame Ridge, but residents are typically laid back and the vibe is solidly unpretentious.
Living in Hawai’i Kai situates you well for access to the stunning natural splendor of the Ka Iwi Coast, which follows Kalaniana‘ole Highway around the easternmost point of O‘ahu and features big-wave bodysurfing mecca Sandy Beach, Makapu‘u Beach, and the Makapu‘u Tidepools.
Everyone in the ‘hood loves Kona Brewing Co., where local craft beer and pub food make for an upgraded sports bar experience, right on Koko Marina.
Hawai‘i Kai Towne Center and Koko Marina Center are tiny, by shopping center sizes, but they include an impressive array of dining and shopping options between the two of them, from Costco and Safeway to sweet boutiques and locally owned bars and restos—there’s a movie theater, too.
Hawai‘i Kai social life is all about dinner parties, backyard barbecues, and cocktails at the marina, so if a plethora of fine dining options is a priority, you’ll want to look town-ward.
In Hawai‘i Kai, land and privacy do come at a cost—smaller lots on the more suburban streets are far easier to find—but include phenomenal views and a wonderful combination of seclusion and access.
Condos and apartment buildings span the market, from some older properties to newer luxury options close to the marina, like Hale Ka Lae.
Taking in the sunset over a picnic at China Walls, the gorgeous oceanfront cliff face tucked into the Portlock micro-hood, is a beautiful way to spend an evening.
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