A whopping 27 neighborhoods makes up the city of Hawaii Kai.
Kaneohe’s single-family homes and condo/townhouse enclaves, subdivisions, and neighborhoods are very diverse in characteristics, often a result of topography and popular home designs of a particular era. Newer single-family subdivisions are located in rising elevations closer to the Koolau Mountains, while older areas with homes built on finished or entitled lots are closer to the bay. Subdivisions built in the 1950s and 60s are clustered around the business district, many still the original plantation-style homes.
Kāne’ohe lies sprawled along the largest sheltered body of water in Hawai’i, lovely Kāne’ohe Bay, meandering up the Windward coast toward the fabled Chinaman’s Hat. It is the second largest coastal town on the Windward Coast in population and area. While stunningly beautiful in its coastal and majestic mountain features, it is generally not a primary tourist destination. Kāne’ohe retains a casual small-town ambiance reflecting the cultural and economic mix that has cared for it and its heritage.
Kāne’ohe comprises over 40 neighborhoods with various types of housing and distinctive topographical features. In one neighborhood, the bay waters may be lapping up under a backyard boat dock. In another neighborhood, an elevated panorama of the bay and ocean fills the view from the kitchen window while the lofty Ko’olau Mountains are the backdrop for a lanai barbecue.
The earliest Kaneohe neighborhoods of the late 1930s were finished leasehold lots on which the buyer built a home, usually a popular design of the period. The Opaapaa subdivision along Kāne’ohe Bay Drive is one of these early neighborhoods. Usually, neighborhoods that began as purchased lots are easy to spot with their spacious yards and variety in home styles, adding a casual country charm to the area.
Many of Kaneohe’s home styles largely reflect the local housing designs popular in the decades they were built. Plantation-style houses predominate in older neighborhoods along with remodelings, additions, or even new housing. Mid-century modern and ranch styles are prominent in planned communities of the 1960s and 70s. In northern Kāne’ohe’s more rural areas, spacious lots exhibit a variety of home styles. However, most of today’s Kaneohe homes, older and newer, retain popular Hawaiian design features of the past and present.
Some Kaneohe single-family homes are CPRs, Condominium Property Regimes. A CPR is a property zone in which homes share common elements and their expense, usually as homeowners association (HOA) fees.
Condos and townhouses, introduced in the 1960s, have continued to be popular as more were built in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Many condo complexes are close to the coast with spectacular views of Kāne’ohe Bay and the Windward coastline. However, most condos farther inland also have lovely views of the bay or the impressive Ko’olau Mountains.
Some condos, both older and newer, are leasehold properties. As a leasehold property, the buyer, in a sense, is renting the property. In addition to the cost of the condo, an agreed-upon annual or monthly lease amount is determined. At the end of the lease, usually 40-50 years, the leaseholder may create a new lease, discontinue the lease with the property reverting to the leaseholder, or provide the option to buy the lease.
Generally, a leasehold property is not as expensive as a comparable fee simple property. The buyer may be planning to sell the unit before the lease expires or may hope that there is an offer to buy the lease. A fee simple property is one in which a buyer purchases the condo and shares common elements of the condo development's property and their expense as HOA fees.
Tracing back to the earliest settlements by Hawaiians, the Kāne’ohe area was rich in agriculture owing to the steady rainfall below the steep vertical face of the Ko’olau Mountains. Taro and sweet potato were essential crops. The early Hawaiians also created coastal and inland fishponds of various types. Kāne’ohe had thirty fishponds, some still used today.
In the fourteenth century, the island was divided into ahupua’a, self-sufficient land areas, by the ruling chief of Oahu. These land areas generally ran from the mountaintops down to the coast, including small nearby islands. In the moku, or district, of Ko’olaupoko, Kāne’ohe was an ahupua’a abundant in agriculture and aquaculture.
All land was considered the responsibility of the ruling chief. However, with the Great Māhele of 1850, Kamehameha III created a land distribution system of crown lands and private land ownership. His wife, Kalama, was given 20,000 acres on the Windward coast, which included Kāne’ohe.
In 1865, partnered with a Kingdom minister, Kalama began a sugar plantation. When she passed away in 1870, the Kingdom minister, C.C. Harris, purchased the plantation. To transport the cane from the Kāne’ohe and He’eia plantations via ocean steamer to Honolulu, the plantation owners built a pier where today’s He’eia Kea pier is. The ventures went well until soil depletion and Leeward plantation competition forced the closure of both plantations at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Rice was in demand at the turn of the century with the prior influx of Japanese and Chinese workers on the various plantations throughout the island. Many taro farms in Ha’ikū Valley became rice paddies.
Kāne’ohe remains very rural during most of the first half of the twentieth century. In 1893, Harris's heir leased 15,000 acres of the Kailua-Kāne'ohe area to create Kāne’ohe Ranch, primarily for cattle ranching. In 1917, Harold Castle purchased the ranch. In the 1920s, the earliest housing development on former ranch land began in Kailua. Kāne’ohe Ranch sold residential leasehold lots in Kāne'ohe in the late 1930s. However, Kāne’ohe’s residential growth would go hand-in-hand with Kailua as ranch lands were transformed into residential areas. By the mid-1950s, fifteen subdivisions had been developed in the area since World War II.
In 1950, the Kāne’ohe population was 3,208. In ten years, the population would grow almost 450% to 14,414. Residential housing accelerated when the Pali Tunnels were opened in the late 1950s, connecting the Windward side to Honolulu. The Likelike Hwy. and Wilson Tunnels opened a few months later at the end of 1958.
What was it like before the new Pali Highway and Tunnels? In 1953, with the residential growth of Kailua, over 11,000 vehicles traversed the old Nu’uanu Pali Road each day.
This number far exceeded the Federal safety standard of 4,000 vehicles per day. In 1957, before the opening of the Honolulu-bound Pali Tunnel, the daily numbers had swelled to 16,000 vehicles - traveling on its steep, windy, and narrow hairpin curves!
During the 1960s, Kāne’ohe experienced its largest growth in housing. Harold Castle and Kāne’ohe Ranch oversaw the construction of 10,000 new homes in the Kailua Kāne’ohe area over the next ten years. The large residential housing expansion continued in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, despite Kailua’s popularity, Kāne’ohe is still garnering the attention of buyers with its multiple housing options in a setting with stunning natural beauty and a lifestyle-rich community.
The Kaneohe lifestyle is country and laidback despite Kāne'ohe’s surburban size. The awesome beauty of its natural features might sometimes be taken for granted but what the area offers is not. While Kāne’ohe offers many healthy outdoor activities (hiking, sailing, fishing, to name a few), the lifestyle also includes cultural heritage and preservation. For example, some of the ancient Hawaiian fishponds are being revived and sustained, and the imposing Byodo-in Temple marks the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Japanese immigrants to Hawai’i. There is strong community with these initiatives and with family, community, natural resources preservation, and environmental issues.
Like most of Hawai’i, the Kāne’ohe population is an ethnic mix. The largest population is Asian-American, many the descendants of the sugar plantation workers. When more affordable Kāne’ohe housing, especially single-family housing, became available in the 1960s and 1970s, many people moved from the Leeward side to realize the dream of a nice home with two or three bedrooms, a carport, and a backyard for making family memories. The natural beauty was a bonus.
The three routes to the Leeward side of the island offer options depending on where the Kāne’ohe resident works. The Pali Highway terminates in the Honolulu central business district (CBD) while the Likelike Highway flows into the H-1 Freeway a few miles west of the CBD. However, heading to the CBD via the Likelike during rush hour results in an almost guaranteed bottleneck at the H-1 Freeway. The trip during non-rush hours is 25- 30 minutes for both highways. It can be another 20-30 minutes or more during rush hour.
Just as beautiful a drive, the H-3 Freeway travels the border between Kailua and Kāne’ohe. Leeward bound, it begins at the entrance of Marine Corps Base Hawaii and merges with the H-1 Freeway for easy access to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Kāne’ohe generally gets warmest in August and September with an average high temperature of 84°F (29°C). The average coolest temperature is in January at 68°F (20°C). In higher elevations, the temperatures can be a few degrees cooler. The trade winds contribute to these lovely temperatures, especially in the summer.
While the Windward side is known for more rain, Kāne’ohe has an average of almost 270 sunny days per year. However, it does get some precipitation on 250 days of the year. Rain is more prevalent in elevated areas closer to the mountains.
The water temperature is between 75°F (24°C) in the winter months and 80°F (27°C) in the summer months.
Kāne’ohe has eight public elementary schools (PK-6). According to Great Schools.com criteria, Kāne’ohe Elementary School, Ahuimanu Elementary School, and Puohala Elementary School are the three highest ranking elementary schools at above average (8 of 10). There are two Hawaiian language charter schools; one is a DOE public school.
There are three Christian elementary schools in Kāne’ohe.
Kāne’ohe has one public intermediate school, Governor Samuel Wilder King, for grades 7-8 and one DOE Hawaiian language charter school. There is another Hawaiian language charter school and four Kāne’ohe Christian schools providing grades 7-8.
Five high schools serve the Kāne’ohe area. The two public high schools are Castle High School and the DOE Hawaiian language charter school. One Hawaiian language charter school and two Christian schools in Kailua have high schools. Two of these schools provide education from pre-kindergarten through high school.
Kailua has a private International Baccalaureate school (PK-12) and three Christian schools (PK-12).
Kāne’ohe has several options for pre-kindergarten care and learning.
The University of Hawai’i’s Windward Community College provides associate degrees at its lovely campus in Kāne’ohe.
Adventist Health Castle is part of the highly regarded Adventist Health system of hospitals. The hospital is located on the mauka border of Kailua. Over the Pali or Likelike Highways, Honolulu has several highly rated hospitals.
Straub and Kaiser Permanente have clinics in Kāne’ohe. Marine Corps Base Hawaii also has a health clinic for military personnel and dependents.
The Windward side of the island has several general medical and urgent care centers and doctors’ offices to care for residents’ health needs. Alternative health and medicines options are also available.
Kāne’ohe has all the shopping necessities one could need, except the big box stores and haute couture. Windward Mall, anchored by Macy's, has over 100 national and local stores and is the only large shopping mall on the Windward side. Cinemas and a food court can make a day of shopping at the mall.
However, shopping, services, and dining options are many throughout Kāne’ohe, which is large enough also to have several car dealerships. And a little searching can find unique Hawaiian activities and gifts in Kāne’ohe, such as a factory tour at Kanile’a ‘Ukulele to see how its beautifully handcrafted professional-grade instruments are made, or an art gallery with local Hawaiian art and crafts, such as Sunshine Art Gallery.
There are a couple of Farmers Markets in Kāne’ohe, one at the Windward Mall on Wednesdays and Sundays. The mall also has a seafood market.
A short trip to Kailua is worth the time to see its newly expanded shopping area with Whole Foods and Target stores, and a number of new boutiques – still no haute couture, though. The haute couture is in Waikiki.
Kāne’ohe is the right place to call home for those who want multiple housing options, community, an active lifestyle, and all, perhaps, in the most beautiful surroundings on Oahu.
A whopping 27 neighborhoods makes up the city of Hawaii Kai.
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