Getting to Know Manoa Valley and its Neighborhoods

Nestled in the protective arms of the Ko‘olau mountains lies the premier valley of Manoa. Manoa is a residential neighborhood that has the duality of being centrally located close to downtown Honolulu and the relaxed feel of an oasis, where one can enjoy living in the tranquility and serenity that the verdant valley has to offer.

By REAL. Updated May 10, 2023. | Living in Hawaii | 5 min. read

Manoa Valley sees at least a short drizzle or mist almost each day and has rain more than other valleys nearby, thus giving Manoa its trove of rainbows, abundant tropical flora, and gardens bursting with blooms.

Spread throughout the valley are a mix of single-family homes, recently renovated houses, fixer-uppers, historic homes, multi-family homes, contemporary, and mid-century houses. You can check out the beautiful architecture yourself when looking at these Manoa homes for sale. Manoa is truly an adventure of personality and celebration of history, culture, modernity, and lifestyle.

The layouts of the houses and streets here in Manoa are unique in that Manoa was once an agricultural landscape in the 1800s that included lo’i (taro fields), crops, and had several dairies and ranches. Then in 1901, the first electric trolley came to Manoa, opening the valley to more development. You’ll find that Manoa has only two main roads–Manoa and East Manoa Road–and that there are many dead end streets and cul-de-sacs.

These unique features help create a closer knit community with self-reliant amenities such as two bus lines (the #5 and #6 bus), grocery stores, a laundromat, a library, parks, a pool, and more. Because of these amenities and the way the layout was designed, an important factor to remember about Manoa is that almost everything is walkable, and you will see everyone from kids to grandparents out and about doing just that. Even after living here most of my life, I’m always seeing something new on my walks.

Manoa's Neighborhoods

Which brings us to the neighborhoods. Manoa has smaller areas within the valley with features that separate it from other parts of the valley. One of the more prominent neighborhoods in Manoa is on Woodlawn Drive. Located behind Manoa Marketplace, Woodlawn Drive extends pretty far down the East side of the valley. This neighborhood includes Noelani Elementary, the University of Hawaii's faculty housing, Manoa Public Library, Manoa Innovation Center, and includes parts of Lowrey Ave and Kalawao Street.

As you continue heading North into the valley, following along Woodlawn Drive, you will arrive at another small neighborhood area around Manoa Elementary School called Manoa Gardens. This area encompasses the elementary school, the elderly housing nearby, the community gardens, streets including Kahaloa Drive to the East and Poelua Street and Pawaina Street as you continue heading towards the back of the valley.

Reaching the Northeast, back end of the valley, you will reach the neighborhood of the Manoa Chinese Cemetery and beyond it, Manoa Estates. This area includes the homes on Alani Drive, a scenic route with a forested backdrop that begins to wind its way up the mountain. After going a bit up the mountainside, the road makes its way back East down Woodlawn Drive towards Woodlawn Terrace Place and includes the entrance to Pu‘u Pia and Kolowalu trail heads.

On the West side of the valley, are homes with a height advantage. These houses are on higher ground than previous neighborhoods like Manoa Gardens and Woodlawn which rest in the flatter areas of the bowl of the valley. Making our way across the back of the valley towards the Northwest, I like to call this neighborhood the Kumu Neighborhood. Though not it’s official name, I deemed the neighborhood this as many of the street names in this area include Kumu including the following in its grouping: Kumuone Street, Kumukoa Street, Kumukoa Place, Kumu Street, Kumu Place, Kumulani Street, and Kumulani Place. The last stop for the #5 bus route is here before it turns up Kumuone Street.

Continuing Southwest, back out of the valley, you will reach another neighborhood. This one is not officially named but is denoted by four beautifully parallel streets that begin at Loulu Street and progress outwards towards the mountains with Oahu Avenue, Keahi Street, and Huelani Drive.

Five Corners

A unique feature of Manoa is its five way stop which you will happen upon next. This is where you can tell local Manoan’s from non-locals. Just make sure you remember what order each person arrived at their stop in and you’ll be fine.

After the five way stop is where you will reach the neighborhood of Oahu Avenue. Though this street is one of the major roads in Manoa and has a pretty far reach, the neighborhood for this street can be found here. The #6 bus route travels down Oahu Avenue. This neighborhood includes Ka‘aipu Street, Anuenue Street, and Halelena Place. You can also find the Manoa Heritage Center and Manoa’s Koganji Temple here.

And last but certainly not least, in the most Southwest area of Manoa Valley you can find the Ferdinand Avenue neighborhood of Manoa Valley. Just past the five way stop and taking Manoa Road, passing the Salvation Army and Waioli Bake Shop is this neighborhood on the mountainside. With driveways that declare the efforts of great views of the ocean and valley, these homes are a great place to explore.

You really can’t get lost in Manoa, which makes exploring it so much safer and exciting. Don’t be afraid to check out side streets and pick out your favorite house or neighborhood, see who has the nicest landscaping, or pick out a new jogging route.

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