Waianae, Hawaii | The Ultimate Shopping, Restaurant, & Neighborhood Guide

Waianae, a city situated on the picturesque Leeward Coast of Oahu, derives its name from the Hawaiian words "Wai" (water) and "anae" (large mullet fish), reflecting its rich history and deep connection to the land and sea. This vibrant community boasts stunning mountain ranges, lush valleys, and beautiful beaches, offering a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. With a strong sense of community and a deep appreciation for Hawaiian culture.

New to Oahu? Tour the neighborhoods with us!

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What Waianae is known for

Waianae is best known for its stunning natural beauty, including miles of white sand beaches, the towering Waianae Mountain Range, and deep lush valleys. Some of Oahu's best beaches are found in the region such as Pokai Bay, Makaha Beach, and Maili Beach Park. The area is also famous for the Makaha Valley, which features world-class golf courses and the Makaha Valley Towers, a popular place to find Makaha condos. In addition to its natural attractions, Waianae hosts various cultural events and celebrations throughout the year, showcasing the rich traditions of the Hawaiian people.

The weather in Waianae is a tropical climate, with sunny skies and comfortable temperatures throughout the year. Summers can get pretty hot relative to the rest of the island. The area receives less rainfall than other parts of Oahu, which contributes to its sunnier disposition. During the summer months, temperatures can rise into the high 80s, while winter sees cooler temperatures in the 70s.

Where Waianae is located

  • Distance to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport: approximately 29 miles (1 hour drive)
  • Distance to popular beaches: Pokai Bay (5 minutes), Makaha Beach (15 minutes), Maili Beach Park (10 minutes)
  • Distance to nearest military bases: Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (45 minutes), Schofield Barracks (1 hour)
  • Commute times to referenced locations during and outside of rush hour: During rush hour, expect an additional 20-30 minutes to the aforementioned travel times.

What it's like to live in Waianae

Living in Waianae offers residents a laid-back, tranquil lifestyle surrounded by natural beauty. The close-knit community values its cultural heritage and enjoys a slower pace of life than other parts of Oahu. While amenities such as shopping centers and restaurants are available, Waianae remains primarily a residential area with a focus on outdoor activities and family-oriented events.

Best places to live in Waianae

  • Mauna Olu Estates in Makaha Valley: This upscale gated community is nestled in the picturesque Makaha Valley, offering beautiful views of the mountains and lush greenery. Homes in this area are spacious, with large lots and modern amenities, making it perfect for families and those seeking a peaceful retreat away from the city's hustle and bustle. Cottages at Mauna Olu Estates offers the newest homes for sale in Makaha Valley; some with ADU options. 
  • Maili Sea Country: Located along the stunning Waianae coastline, Maili Sea Country is a master-planned community that offers a variety of single-family homes and townhouses. The neighborhood is known for its well-maintained parks, recreational facilities, and close proximity to beautiful beaches, making it an attractive option for families and outdoor enthusiasts.
  • Beachfront communities around Upena, Makau, Holt, & Moua Streets: These Makaha homes for sale offer a laid-back, coastal lifestyle with easy access to some of Waianae's most beautiful beaches. Homes in this area vary in style and size, ranging from charming beach cottages to larger, more luxurious properties. One of our favorite features of homes here is the large lot sizes; generally between 10,000 - 12,000sq. With the ocean just steps away, residents can enjoy stunning views, beach activities, and breathtaking sunsets on a daily basis.

How does Waianae compare to border town: Kapolei

While Waianae is known for its relaxed, rural atmosphere and tight-knit community, neighboring Kapolei is a bustling city with a more urban feel. As Oahu's second city, Kapolei has seen significant growth and development in recent years, with new shopping centers, restaurants, and businesses opening regularly. Waianae offers a more tranquil, nature-oriented lifestyle, while Kapolei provides a wider array of amenities and job opportunities. Both areas have their unique charm and appeal, depending on personal preferences and priorities.

Real Estate in Waianae

If you're looking for Waianae homes for sale, the area offers a diverse range of housing options, from Oahu Beachfront Homes, single-family homes, condominiums and townhouses. While Waianae is generally regarded as one of the cheapest places to live in Oahu, the area has seen an increase in property values in recent years due to growing demand. For those looking to buy or rent, offers a variety of neighborhoods and communities to suit different preferences and budgets.

You may also like

If you appreciate the relaxed, nature-centric lifestyle that Waianae offers, you may also enjoy living in:

  • Laie: A small town on the northeastern coast of Oahu, known for its strong Polynesian culture and beautiful beaches.
  • Haleiwa: A charming North Shore town with a laid-back atmosphere and a vibrant arts scene.
  • Waimanalo: A rural community on the Windward Coast, boasting lush greenery and stunning beaches.

Each of these areas offers a unique living experience, with their own blend of natural beauty, culture, and community.

Things to do in Waianae

Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to do in Waianae, from swimming, snorkeling, and SUP at Pokai Bay hiking in the Waianae Mountains. Popular trails include the Kaena Point Trail and the Maili Pillbox Trail. If you've got the time, take a drive to the end of the road and watch a Hawaii sunset at Yokohama Beach; one of Oahu's best beaches off the beaten path.

Popular Restaurants in Waianae

Schools in Waianae

Waianae is home to several public and private schools, providing education for students of all ages. Some of the notable schools in the area include Waianae Elementary School, Waianae Intermediate School, and Waianae High School. There are also a few private schools and preschools in the area, catering to different educational needs.

The History of Waianae

Wai‘anae means “mullet water” in the Hawaiian language. It’s the name of the moku (district) along
O‘ahu’s leeward coast, stretching from Nānākuli to Keawa‘ula at the far west and its waters are believed
to have been full of ‘anae or mullet at one time.

Starting with Nānākuli, the leeward side is drier and much more arid than the Ko‘olau or windward side
of the island. So much so that resources were limited and this first part of Wai‘anae translates to “look
at the knees,” – Nānākuli. It refers to the locals being unable to feed or host visitors traversing the coast.
Instead of calling out to these strangers in the spirit of ho‘okipa, or hospitality to come in, eat, and rest,
they looked down at the ground (or their knees), pretending not to notice them. It wasn’t for a lack of
wanting; it was merely an extreme lack of resources.

Also, many if not most are familiar with Disney’s
story of Moana. The demigod Māui is said to have slowed the sun to allow his mother’s laundry more
time to dry. Because of the similarity to the island Maui’s name (notice the macron in the demigod’s
name and the lack of one in the island’s name), most assume the “Hawaiian Superman” accomplished
the mythic feat up at Haleakalā, Maui. However, legends tell us that Māui the god was actually in
Nānākuli, O‘ahu. The story goes that he snared the sun from the summit of the 1,900-foot Pu‘u
Heleakalā, a very similar sounding name to the famous crater on Maui.

Just beyond Nānākuli is the community of Mā‘ili, often incorrectly mispronounced Maile. Māʻili is a
contracted form of Māʻiliʻili and translates to “lots of pebbles,” referring the visibly numerous pebbles
along the beach. This section of the Wai‘anae Coast has the highest concentration of Native Hawaiians
in the entire state of Hawai‘i.

Next to Mā‘ili is a community also named Wai‘anae, within the similarly named Wai‘anae coast. At its
shore is a protected cove called Pōkaʻī. Legends say Chief Pōka‘ī was from Kahiki, the far-off ancestral
lands where the Native Hawaiians are believed to have originated. Upon his landing he planted a grove
of niu, or coconut trees at what is called Pōka‘ī Bay, so named in his honor. Near the grove locals began
planting bananas and sugar cane, plus a fishpond named Puehu was built at the base of the Wai‘anae
Stream. This ancient form of aqua-culture was full of mullet and fed most of the coast.

This may also be
the origin of the district’s name, Wai‘anae or “mullet waters.” In addition to the flourishing agriculture,
temples or heiau sites have been found, alleging this area to have been a seat of power for later chiefs.
Jutting out along the coast past the Wai‘anae neighborhood is a natural dividing marker, a small, eroded
mountain named Mauna Lahilahi. Due to its size, the translation is believed to be “thin mountain,” but a
ruling chief of the area was named Lahilahi, and the mountain was likely named for him.

Moving along the coast is the next large community of Mākaha. In ancient times bands of thieves hid to
rob passerby’s, so the area was named, Mākaha, or “fierce.” Today the community’s focus is the
Hawaiian sport of surfing and hosts the Annual Buffalo Kealana’s Big Board Surfing Classic where the
only thing “fierce” are the sweet waves. Also, in Mākaha Valley is Kāne‘ākī Heiau, a temple originally
dedicated to Lono and Kāne, the Hawaiian gods of agriculture in 1545 CE. By 1650 CE the temple was
doubled in size and was eventually converted into a heiau luakini, or a temple dedicated to human
sacrifice and the god Kū, god of war.

Kamehameha the Great needed the mana or spiritual powers from
the temple to help him in invading the islands of Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau to complete his unification of the
Hawaiian Islands. However, the two islands were never conquered by Kamehameha, rather a somewhat
peaceful arrangement was made in 1810.

“Ola Wai‘anae i ka makani Kaiaulu – Wai‘anae is made comfortable by the Kaiaulu breeze,” as chanted
by the goddess Hi‘iaka, beloved sister of Pele, the goddess of fire, upon arriving from Kaua‘i along her
epic, arduous journey home to the island of Hawai‘i. She found comfort and respite at Wai‘anae.

Waianae FAQ's

How safe is Waianae?

Waianae has a higher crime rate than the national average, but it varies by neighborhood. Like any area, safety depends on factors such as location, community involvement, and individual awareness.

How many native Hawaiians live in Waianae?

Approximately 44% of Waianae's population is of native Hawaiian descent, which is the highest concentration on Oahu.

What does Waianae mean in Hawaiian?

In Hawaiian, "Waianae" means "water of the mullet," which refers to the freshwater streams that once flowed in the area, attracting mullet fish.

What are the issues in Waianae?

Some issues in Waianae include poverty, homelessness, and a lack of economic opportunities. Additionally, the area faces challenges such as drug abuse and crime.

What is it like to live in Waianae Hawaii?

Living in Waianae offers a laid-back, small-town atmosphere with a strong sense of community. Residents enjoy beautiful beaches, outdoor activities, and a rich Hawaiian culture. However, the area does face some socio-economic challenges.

Is Waianae Hawaii a good place to live?

Waianae can be a good place to live for those who appreciate natural beauty, a strong sense of community, and a more relaxed lifestyle. It's definitely exhibits some of most frustrating Hawaii traffic due to its proximity to Honolulu and dense urban nearby. 

Is Waianae rural or urban?

Waianae is considered a rural area, characterized by its small-town atmosphere, lush natural landscapes, and lower population density compared to urban centers on Oahu.

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