Past Makapuu Beach lies the beachtown community of Waimanalo.
Single-family homes in Kailua sit on spacious lots basking in the balmy ocean breezes and tropical sunshine. There are many small subdivisions and enclaves comprising Kailua, from the elevated areas around Olomana to the beachfronts in Lanikai and on Kailua Bay. Many single-family homes are one-story cottage, bungalow, ranch, or plantation style, with a definite nod to the beach and ocean ambiance. Closer to the beaches are larger custom designs in homes. The casual beach town lifestyle also extends to condo and townhouse living in Kailua.
Kailua is situated on some of the loveliest coastline on the Windward side of Oahu. And while Kailua has beautiful soft-sand beaches with lots of fun-filled activities, Kailua Town has become a lively center of boutiques, bistros, coffee bars, and shopping conveniences for residents and tourists alike. Kailua retains its friendly small-town atmosphere with the absence of resorts and hotels and with caring residents who continue the characteristic community involvement that has always been Kailua.
Because Kailua has so much to offer as a lifestyle, real estate is in high demand in this very competitive market. Kailua condo prices begin at around $600,000, and single family homes at $850,000, generally fixer-uppers. Luxury mountain and beachfront estates can be $15,000,000 or more.
Each of the many subdivisions and communities of Kailua tends to have unique a history and characteristics. One of these areas is Coconut Grove. At one time, Coconut Grove was just that, a coconut grove, between Kawainui Marsh and the ocean, with over 130,000 trees. But when the venture finally failed, the acreage was purchased in 1924. In 1925, Kalama Tract, named for Queen Kalama, wife of Kamehameha III, became the first housing tract in Kailua, with 184 lots for sale. The adjacent Coconut Grove Tract followed as an early subdivision.
After World War II, Kailua experienced a housing boom accelerated by the newly opened Pali Tunnels from Honolulu in the 1950s. In the second half of the 20th century, Kailua developed into the many communities that comprise today's multifaceted beach town.
Kailua is bordered by the higher elevations of Olomana and Maunawili on the mauka (mountain) side, Kāne’ohe to the north and Waimānalo to the south, and the ocean, makai, opposite the mountains. These differences in topography also make Kailua communities distinct.
Topography and other distinct features include beachfront areas, such as the makai side of Kalaheo Avenue or exclusive Lanikai. Close to the beach, Kalama Tract, rebuilt, renovated, or remodeled from the original tract homes, is in demand for its older styles. Kailua Estates is sought-after for its large lots and proximity to Kailua Beach. Kalaheo Hillside has large lots and ocean views. Lakeside and golf course frontage homes and equestrian acreage are also among the many distinct home options in Kailua.
The common thread in all of Kailua’s communities is a comfortable and casual beach town.
The active lifestyle is an integral part of the culture of Kailua. On any balmy, sunny day, at Kailua Beach, windsurfers race by while kitesurfers may fly by, literally. Outrigger canoe racers may be out practicing while young boogie boarders may be doing the same - with less success. Kayakers are heading to The Mokes (Na Mokulua), the two small island bird sanctuaries off Lanikai beach. Someone may be running along the beach while families are building sandcastles. Someone else is easing a catamaran down the boat ramp. The year-round average water temperature is 75°F (24°C).
As Ka’elepulu Stream pools at Kailua Beach, moms and dads are wading in the stream and catching small crabs with their little keikis, who still get a thrill out of such things. When the bucket is full, they throw the crabs back in the water.
Hiking trails are all around Kailua, and bicycles are seen meandering along the streets, maybe stopping at one of the coffee bars or McDonald’s.
The District Park has a gym, swimming pool, tennis/pickleball and basketball courts, baseball/soccer fields, and spacious lawns. There are several smaller community parks and a couple of dog parks.
A drive winding up the mountainside to the Pali tunnels, with dramatic views of the mountains, ocean, Kailua, and the windward coast, then down the leeward side flanked by the towering Ko’olau Mountains, is an entrée to Honolulu’s many cultural offerings. Museums, galleries, theatres, and historic neighborhoods are a few of the many gems in Honolulu. A day of shopping or an evening of fine dining and music awaits in Waikiki.
The community is actively involved in preserving Kailua’s heritage while supporting positive growth, such as the reinvigorated commercial center of town. Neighbors and businesses come together to support beautification projects, local athletics, and school projects and to organize and participate in events such as outdoor concerts, plays, and the annual Christmas light displays. Hopefully, the traditional “I Love Kailua” Town Party hosted by the Outdoor Circle and the Fourth of July parade and fireworks display will return when Covid 19 has diminished.
The drive to Honolulu on the Pali Highway is about 15 miles and is usually a fast track into Honolulu; however, heavy rush hour traffic can make it seem twice as long.
Due to heavy rain or wind occurrences, the Pali Highway and tunnels can be closed. The alternate routes are the Likelike Highway, the H-3 expressway, or the Kalaniana’ole Highway through Waimānalo and around to Hawai’i Kai and into town.
With the commercial growth of Kailua and Kāne’ohe, many residents now work on the Windward side, with shorter commutes to offices and stores.
TheBus public transportation has express buses to Honolulu and three bus routes serving Kailua. TheBus also has a scenic “circle island” route traveling through Kailua Town. It’s a lovely way to spend a day getting a close-up view of the island.
The annual average high temperature is 82°F (28°C), and the annual average low temperature is 72°F (22°C). In the highest elevations of Kailua, the temperatures are a few degrees cooler. The trade winds help to create these lovely temperatures.
While the Windward side is known for more rain, Kailua has an average of almost 275 sunny days per year. Rain is more prevalent in elevated areas.
According to Great Schools criteria, Ka’elepule Elementary in Enchanted Lake is the highest-rated school of Kailua’s eight public elementary schools (PK-6).1 Ka’ōhau Public Charter School in Lanikai is the next highest rated elementary school.1 There are seven private and religious elementary schools in Kailua.
Kailua Intermediate School is the only public school for grades 7-8. It is rated as above average by Great Schools.1 There are seven private and religious schools with grades 7-8.
Two public high schools serve the Kailua area. Kalāheo High School is rated above average.1 Three private or religious schools in Kailua have high schools. Two of these schools provide education from pre-kindergarten through high school.
Besides its public and private schools, Kailua has many options for pre-kindergarten care and learning.
Forty years ago, the circle island bus would pull into Kailua Town and stop by the now long gone Liberty House department store. The town was charming but quiet, and a trip into Liberty House was most definitely absent of crowds. The entire town seemed to induce a delightful yawn.
Today, the Liberty House building remains as the modern Lau Hala Shops. The new Kailua shopping district is brimming with activity. Besides two weekly farmers’ markets,
Down to Earth Organic and Natural and Whole Foods Market stores are nourishing Kailua residents’ healthy lifestyles. A broad selection of eateries are in the area, too.
For capturing the ambiance of an earlier Kailua, soaking in the idyllic tropical scenery and soft breezes, the place to eat is Buzz’s Steakhouse. It sits across from Kailua Beach Park – “On the beach in Lanikai since 1962.” There are no tourist shops or other restaurants around.
The restaurant is a traditional tropical architecture with inside open air dining and more casual dining outside. And all this atmosphere across from one of the most fabulous beaches on the globe.
Buzz’s menu includes fresh fish, steaks, ribs, and surf and turf for enjoying both meat and fish. To have delicious food in such an iconic spot is a memory maker. Being local, I never tire of returning, whether lunch or dinner, never jaded by its familiarity. Every visit is a luscious new experience.
Past Makapuu Beach lies the beachtown community of Waimanalo.
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