An iconic neighborhood known for its luxury oceanfront homes.
Hawai’i Kai’s unique marina community has residences to suit everyone’s ocean-loving lifestyle. High-rise condos with views of the ocean and activity on Maunalua Bay are an affordable option for buyers who want to enjoy Hawai’i Kai’s amenities. Townhouses and single-family homes built in the 1960s and ‘70s on inland waterways are also surprisingly affordable. Newer single-family homes travel up the ridges of the Ko’olau Mountains and into the valleys. Some ridgeline neighborhoods consist entirely of custom homes on spacious lots. The homes in the exclusive Portlock coastal communities are the most expensive in Hawai’i Kai.
As a marina community, Hawai’i Kai residences are on or nearby narrow peninsulas between inland waterways. Beyond the waterways, lovely neighborhoods are not far from the marina area on beautifully landscaped streets. Hawai’i Kai also includes subdivisions and custom homes up the mountain ridges and in lush valleys. It is a small-town atmosphere, but sunny, breezy Hawai’i Kai has everything needed to make living here convenient, casual, and comfortable.
The three distinct Hawai’i Kai residential areas are known for their distinctive features. The oldest area is on the makai side of Kalaniana’ole Hwy. between the ocean and the west side of the volcanic vent tuff sheltering Hanauma Bay on the other side. The Portlock neighborhoods face west and are known for fabulous views down the coastline to Diamond Head.
Some older homes on fashionable Portlock Road date to the 1930s and 1940s and are generally updated but still exude that early 20th century Hawai’i elegance. The Koko Kai and “Triangle” neighborhoods have homes built in the 1960s and later. Lots are limited in these affluent, in-demand Portlock neighborhoods, so older, outdated homes may be seen being torn down to build new luxury homes. The home styles may be varied, but the Hawai’i concept of bringing the outdoors in and blending with the natural surroundings is evident.
Henry J. Kaiser, the famous industrialist, retired with his wife to Hawai’i. He built his spacious modern home on the oceanfront along Portlock Road in 1959. However, Kaiser didn’t stay retired for long. He envisioned the marina community that is Hawai’i Kai today, as the next distinct residential area.
In 1961, Kaiser signed a lease with Bishop Estates, the landowner. Kaiser’s construction crews began dredging Kuapā Pond, a large ancient Hawaiian fishing pond. Dredging the pond and building retaining walls for peninsulas of land between channels of water created the marina’s inland waterways. The plan also filled in and leveled large areas on the pond’s edges for further residential development.
West Marina, with homes along the waterways and featured homeowner boat docks, was the first neighborhood completed in 1962. Then more homes were built on peninsulas and the leveled land near the water. The original marina homes were the popular mid-century, low-ceiling, single-story homes. Many today have been renovated or remodeled. The marina has a little over 1200 homes on peninsulas and nearby. Several townhouse and condominium developments are also a part of the marina area.
The Hawai’i Kai vision expanded to include a golf course in 1973 and neighborhoods of townhouses and homes on the east side of Koko Head, near the golf course. The latest Hawai’i Kai development is here, Koko Villas, completed in 2006.
The third distinct residential area began with subdivision expansion up the ridges of the Ko’olau Mountains. Mariner’s Ridge, a pleasant community with scenic views of the ocean, the marina, and Koko Head, was the first subdivision. Expansion continued, and custom homes have been built farther up this ridge and on other ridges. Residential development also continued into the valleys.
CHOOSING A HOME
Hawai’i Kai is very diverse, having many different homes styles and a wide range of prices. If the traffic or drive is slightly too long for you, I recommend browsing homes for sale in Kahala or homes for sale in Kaimuki. ‘Āina Haina and Niu Valley is slightly closer to Hawai’i Kai, but you still might hit the traffic.
Hawai’i Kai is a relatively new community, with the latest neighborhood completed less than twenty years ago. The marina lifestyle has attracted people largely from urban Honolulu and those who love the idea of marina living.
The largest percentage of the population is about 50/50 Asian and White. The greater percentage of working individuals is executive, administrative, professional, sales, and service. Though many residents have busy work schedules, Hawai’i Kai is a beautiful, relaxed place to come home to! Whether young or older, Hawai’i Kai residents love the outdoors and the striking beauty of their neighborhoods - from the ocean to the mountains.
Temperatures average between 72°F (22°C) and 75°F (24°C) during the winter months and 77°F (25°C) and 81°F (27°C) during the summers months. The monthly average of sunshine is between 28 and 29 days. The clean, fresh trade winds blow across Hawai’i Kai 250-300 days annually.
What perfect weather for sailing, boating, paddling, kiteboarding, windsurfing on Maunalua Bay, or hiking around to Hanauma Bay for snorkeling! Yes, and it’s excellent weather for hiking the many trails in and around Hawai’i Kai, too.
Bishop Street, the center of downtown Honolulu, is 12-13 miles from the Hawai’i Kai Marina via Kalaniana’ole Hwy. and the H-1 Freeway. Kalaniana’ole Hwy. is the only access west to town until Kahala. During rush hour, if heavy traffic or an unforeseen incident is holding up traffic, the commute can be much longer than 20-30 minutes.
Some offices allow staggered work hours, which helps alleviate rush hour traffic and the anxiety that goes with it. With the advent of the Covid virus, many people worked and continue to work from home, enjoying the serene environment Hawai’i Kai offers.
The Bus, public transportation, travels to downtown, Ala Moana Center, and the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Additional routes weave their way through Hawai’i Kai. Taxi, Uber, and Lyft services are also available.
According to 2021 statistics, Hawai’i Kai is 60% below the national average in violent crimes. Property crime is 12% below the national average. Several neighborhoods have neighborhood watch programs. Looking out for one another is another aspect of the caring community involvement.
Hawai’i Kai has three public elementary schools (PK-5). According to Great Schools criteria, Koko Head Elementary ranks the highest overall (8 out of 10) and ranks 9 out of 10 in test scores. The middle school (6-8) is next-door in Niu Valley and also ranks 9 out of 10 in test scores. Kaiser High School (9-12) ranks 9 out of 10 in college preparation and 10 out of 10 in test scores.
Private and religious schools (PK-12) are located along the H-1 Freeway in Kahala and Manoa.
There are a few excellent preschool choices in Hawai’i Kai and nearby, with more in Kahala and Manoa.
University of Hawai’i Kapi’olani Community College is near Diamond Head in Kaimuki, about 7 miles from Koko Marina Center. University of Hawai’i at Manoa is just off the H 1 Freeway, 9 miles from Koko Marina Center.
Straub Medical Center, The Queen’s Health Care Center, and Kaiser Permanente have clinics in Hawai’i Kai. Straub’s clinic in Koko Marina Center is also an urgent care facility, and Niu Health has an urgent care clinic in the Hawai’i Kai Towne Center.
Honolulu has several outstanding hospitals. Straub Medical Center, The Queen’s Medical Center, Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women and Children, and Shriners Children’s Hospital are all within minutes of Hawai’i Kai via the H-1 Freeway.
On the western boundaries of Honolulu, Kaiser Permanente’s Moanalua Medical Center and Tripler Army Medical Center for military personnel, their dependents, and retirees are also accessible via the H-1 Freeway.
The Hawai’i Kai Shopping Center has a Safeway, Longs Drugs, and 20 other shops and eateries. Costco is located in Hawai’i Kai Towne Center with City Mill, a Ross store, the multi-awarded original Roy’s restaurant, and other shops and eateries.
Koko Marina Center is the first shopping center in Hawai’i Kai and is still the hangout for many long-time residents and young surfers. It has a fitting nautical ambiance, with watersports-related shops, specialty shops, and some waterfront dining choices. It also has a movie plex. The center is on Kalaniana’ole Hwy. on the way to Hanauma Bay, so it attracts a lot of tourists.
After a busy workday or a fun-filled one on the bay, there is no need to head west into Kaimuki or Waikiki for dinner; there are plenty of delicious choices right here in Hawai’i Kai. Several small shops have take-out or tables for a quick bite, be it poke and local favorites, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, or just sandwiches and burgers. If fine dining is desired, Roy’s is an award-winning choice, but there are also other fine restaurant choices in Hawai’i Kai .
For a bit of affordable Hawaiian nostalgia, on the Koko Marina Center docks is Kona Brewing Company, a local Big Island brewer. Besides the charm of Koko Marina Center, a traditional Hawaiian canoe house inspires the restaurant’s design. It features indoor-outdoor casual dining with views of the marina waterways and Hawai’i Kai’s mountain backdrop, a lovely Hawaiian tropical setting. Though already living in beautiful Hawai’i Kai, residents never tire of the marina or supporting local Hawai’i businesses.
The fish tacos are onolicious, but not always available as the fish must be fresh! Many menu items have Hawai’i-sourced products and add that Hawaiian flavor to the dishes. Macadamia Nut Crusted Fish with Hanalei IPA-lilikoi beurre blanc has my mouth watering! Keiki dishes are on the menu also. Liquid Aloha is Kona Brewing’s signature slogan, and their brews, lagers and ales, can be enjoyed here, along with wine and cocktail selections.
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