Moving To & Living In Hawaii Kai, HI [2024 Edition]

Page Directory: Living in Hawaii Kai | Restaurants | Things to Do | Best Neighborhoods | Real Estate

Hawaii Kai is a planned community located around ten miles east of the vibrant Honolulu. The neighborhood used to be wetlands, but it was reconstructed in the 60s by Henry J. Kaiser. His vision was to create a perfect neighborhood for everyone. Whether you have a young family, you’re retiring, or you’re used to living in the lap of luxury, Hawaii Kai would appeal to you.

Living in Hawaii Kai

koko head hike hawaii kaiThe neighborhood is brimming with outdoor activities that allow homeowners to absorb the sunrays, ocean breeze, and the sense of community deriving from neighbors. Koko Marina is a hub of entertainment that features shopping, dining, a park, and basketball space. The Hawaii Kai Golf Course is available to homeowners in the town allowing them to perfect their swings, puts, and follow through. Families can take a day to pace the Koko Crater Botanical Garden or head out to the sandy beaches like at Hanauma Bay. Watersports, activities, and adventures like body surfing, snorkeling, and whale watching are pastimes that can be accomplished in beautiful Hawaii Kai.

koko marina in hawaii kaiHawaii Kai has become one of the wealthiest communities on Oahu, and many amazing amenities have moved in.

There has been significant growth in the community since it’s inception like Hawaii Kai Towne center; host to numerous dining options and retail stores, and some of the top schools.

Sandy's Beach and Hanauma Bay are close by to go boating, snorkeling, and surfing, along with areas to go for a hike, walk, or bike ride.

What neighborhoods border Hawaii Kai?

Waimanalo, to the east of Hawaii Kai, is known for its lush greenery, beautiful mountains, and spectacular beaches. Waimanalo Beach, with its turquoise waters and soft, white sand, is often ranked among the best beaches in the world. Agriculture plays a significant role in Waimanalo, and it's not uncommon to see horses grazing and large tracts of farmland.

Kuliouou, to the west of Hawaii Kai, is another residential area, but with a different atmosphere. Nestled against the Koolau mountains, it's known for its valley landscapes and serene hiking trails like the Kuliouou Ridge Trail. This neighborhood is less commercially developed compared to Hawaii Kai, offering a quieter lifestyle with easy access to nature.

In comparison to the other two, Kuliouou strikes a balance between the more commercialized Hawaii Kai and the rural Waimanalo. It offers a peaceful residential area with the convenience of city amenities just a short drive away.

Weather

Hawaii Kai, like the rest of Honolulu, typically enjoys a tropical semi-arid climate with warm temperatures year-round. The region gets plenty of sunshine, with a dry season (April to October) and a rainy season (November to March). It is recommended to check a reliable weather website or app for the most current conditions.

What does Hawaii Kai mean?

Hawaii Kai refers to a largely residential area located in the City & County of Honolulu, in the East Honolulu CDP on the island of Oahu. Kai is Hawaiian for "sea". So, Hawaii Kai translates to "Sea of Hawaii".

Is Hawaii Kai short for Hawaii Kaiser?

Hawaii Kai is not short for Hawaii Kaiser. The name Hawaii Kai comes from a development by industrialist Henry J. Kaiser around the ancient Maunalua fishpond and wetlands area known as Kuapā (meaning "fishpond wall"). He called his development "Hawaii Kai" to denote it was in Hawaii and beside the sea.

Is Kai an island in Hawaii?

No, Kai is not an island in Hawaii. It is an area within the city of Honolulu on the island of Oahu. Hawaii is composed of eight main islands: Hawai'i, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe.

What is the old name for Hawaii Kai?

Before it was developed and named Hawaii Kai by Henry J. Kaiser, the area was known as Kuapā, which refers to the ancient Maunalua fishpond and wetlands that were located in the area.

Where to stay in Hawaii Kai?

There are no hotels in Hawaii Kai so if you're planning to visit or you expect you'll have your own guests, they'll likely want to look for lodging in Waikiki. You can look for Hawaii Kai Airbnb or VRBO stays but recent legislation on island has prohibited vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods and limited them 3 Resort Zoned neighborhoods on Oahu that allow for Legal Vacation Rentals. 

Are there gyms in Hawaii Kai?

If you're moving to the area, join a gym! The Oahu Club and F45 provide membership options for more traditional fitness needs when you're not hiking or paddling. 

Is there Public Transportation?

Hawaii Kai is both transit-accessible and great for those who own their own vehicles. It’s located about 20 minutes from Honolulu’s city center with minimal traffic, and TheBus serves the area. The award-winning transit system offers several routes through Hawaii Kai.

How's the crime in Hawaii Kai?

According to Area Vibes, Hawaii Kai's crime rate 20% lower than the national average with majority of the offenses categorized as theft and petty crime. 

How many people live in Hawaii Kai? 

As of the 2010 census, about 30,000.

What is Hawaii Kai known for?

Hawaii Kai is known for a variety of attractions and features:

  1. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve: This is a nature preserve and a marine life conservation area with some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii.

  2. Koko Crater Trail: It's a challenging hike up an old railway to the top of Koko Crater, offering stunning panoramic views of the area.

  3. Maunalua Bay: This is a popular spot for water activities such as kayaking, jet skiing, and parasailing.

  4. Shopping and Dining: Hawaii Kai also has several shopping centers, including the Hawaii Kai Towne Center and Koko Marina Center, which offer a variety of shops, restaurants, and services.

  5. Luxury Homes and Marina Living: Hawaii Kai is also known for its affluent residential communities, many of which have homes fronting the marina and the ocean.

  6. Sandy Beach: Located nearby is Sandy Beach, known for its large shore break and popular among bodyboarders and expert surfers.

  7. Sea Life Park: Just north of Hawaii Kai is Sea Life Park, where visitors can see and interact with a variety of marine life.


Hawaii Kai Real Estate

From hillside communities with sweeping ocean and city views to serene valley neighborhoods tucked between mountains, and from marina-centric areas to stunning seaside homes, each neighborhood offers its unique character and appeal. You'll find everything from luxurious estates and single-family homes to condos and townhouses, each presenting a distinct taste of island living.

The prices in this diverse market also span a broad spectrum, with condos in Hawaii Kai starting as low as $600k, townhouses from $700k, and single-family homes ranging from around $1 million to over $15 million for grand oceanfront estates. However, these are not just homes, but entry points to a coveted lifestyle, where natural beauty, outdoor recreation, and community spirit are the threads that weave together the tapestry of life in Hawaii Kai.

Understanding this dynamic market can seem daunting, but our comprehensive Hawaii Kai real estate guide is designed to streamline your search. Whether you're looking for your first home, planning to upgrade to a luxury estate, or seeking a peaceful retirement haven, our guide provides detailed insights into each neighborhood, along with market trends, prices, and available amenities. We encourage you to explore our guide to learn more about homes for sale in Hawaii Kai.

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Hawaii Kai Restaurants

If you're wondering where to eat in Hawaii Kai, make a quick drive over to Koko Marina Center or Hawaii Kai Towne Center where you'll find about 99% of all of the restaurants in the region. Roy's Hawaii Kai is going to be the best play for finer dining but it's still beach-casual and if you're looking for a killer pizza, check Boston's. Beyond that, check out a related post we did featuring our Top 10 Picks for Best Restaurants in Hawaii Kai.


Things to do in Hawaii Kai

hawaii kai boat paradeAs we mentioned above, Hawaii Kai is one of the most active communities on island and this is due to copious amounts of sunny weather, numerous access points to the marina and ocean, as well as a number of iconic hikes nearby like Koko Head or Kuliouou Ridge Trail. Spend the day beaching it at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve or tee up at Hawaii Kai Golf Course.

The Hawaii Kai Marina makes this one of Hawaii's premier boating communities with hundreds of marinafront homes with boat docks up and down the inlets. As you can imagine; boating, water skiing, tubing, and fishing are obvious features of the lifestyle and this is further emphasized by the annual Hawaii Kai Boat Parade during the holiday season! For a more comprehensive list on what to do in Hawaii Kai, check out related post detailing the Top 10 Things to do in Hawaii Kai.


Beaches in Hawaii Kai

The region has miles of coastline but you won't see much sandy beach along the residential areas. Portlock in Hawaii Kai is the neighborhoods best option for beachfront homes for sale but many of the residences are more waterfront than they are beachfront. Seawalls take the place of sand here. Rest assured, you're not far from a few of Oahu's favorite beaches; Sandy's, Makapuu Beach, and Hanauma Bay. Read up on all 3 and what type of waters to prepare for in our related post detailing Hawaii Kai Beaches


Hawaii Kai Shopping

There are no traditional malls in Hawaii Kai but you're only 20 minutes away from the largest open air shopping center in the nation at Ala Moana Center. Shopping in Hawaii Kai is restricted to Koko Marina Center & Hawaii Kai Town Centre which are strip mall concepts featuring boutique stores, cafes, grocery stores, and big box stores like Costco Hawaii Kai and City Mill hardware store. 

You'll do well if you're shopping for surf apparel here as there's numerous surf shops but again, you'll want to head to Honolulu for majority of your retail therapy. Check out our related post for a more detailed look at shopping in Hawaii Kai.


 Parks

Beach Parks, Dog Parks, you name it. Hawaii Kai is host to many green spaces threading residential neighborhoods for family friendly outdoor fun. 

Koko Kai Beach Mini Park | 10 Hanapepe Place
A beautiful green space with a rocky beach to go swimming or fishing.

Hawaii Kai Dog Park | 333 Keahole Street
A local favorite, the Hawaii Kai dog park, is a well-maintained place for dogs to play and meet each other. There is a separate section for smaller dogs.

Hahaione Neighborhood Park | 663 Pepeekeo Street
A playground for children to enjoy right next to an elementary school.

Kamiloiki Community Park | 7750 Hawaii Kai Drive
Along with an open green space, there’s also a roller rink, basketball court, Hawaii Kai skate park, playground, and tennis court.

Kuliouou Beach Park | 96 Bay Street
One of many beautiful beaches, this park is an ideal place to watch the sunset along the sandbar or on the grassy green space.


Schools

Aina Haina Elementary
801 W. Hind Drive
Honolulu, Hawaii 96821
808-377-2419

The Aina Haina Elementary school works hard to encourage the high performance of its students. The staff have high expectations for students to achieve goals and successes. The staff and students are supported by the parent organization. While there is a strong focus on education, there’s also a focus on arts and being creative, building strong connections and relationships, and lifelong learning. Parents are often very involved in the school through volunteer efforts, tutoring, and extracurricular activities.

Kamiloiki Elementary
7788 Hawaii Kai Drive
Honolulu, Hawaii 96825
808-397-5800

Kamiloiki Elementary has been striving to become the premier math and science institute among Hawaii Kai schools. The school has an educational focus on discovery, exploration, and contributing on a global scale and being strong members of society. The school is working to become an International Baccalaureate school. While the school focuses on elevating the standard curriculum, there are many creative activities available for students to join after school. Programs like band/orchestra, piano, science club, art, chorus, golf, Japanese, hula, ukulele, and Junior Lego and FIRST Lego League Robotics that students can enjoy. Parents are heavily involved with volunteer efforts, fundraising efforts, and other activities to help build a strong community.

Koko Head Elementary
189 Lunalilo Home Road
Honolulu, Hawaii 96825
808-397-5811

Koko Head Elementary School strives for high-performing students with high standards and an atmosphere of excellence. The school is supported by the incredible parents and volunteers, so the students are privy to excellent resources. The school aims to prep students for their futures in an increasingly complex world. It focuses on programs, systems, and initiatives to make students the best communicators and problem solvers.

Even though these are elementary school students, the end goal is post-secondary education, and the school promotes lifelong learning and its importance. The school offers the traditional core curriculum of math, language arts, social studies, and science. It also offers music, Mandarin, Spanish, Hawaiiana, physical education, health, and computer technology. Staff also receive the ability to grow their skills and professional development in teaching, increasing awareness, and increasing student engagement.

Niu Valley Middle
310 Halemaumau Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96821
808-377-2440

Niu Valley Middle School is designated as an International Baccalaureate World School offering the Middle Years Programme. There are four areas of focus:
“(1) A rigorous and challenging academic program. All students are placed into the IB Middle Years Programme; (2) Extra- and co-curricular activities, including athletics, consists of afterschool extramural teams in cross country, volleyball, basketball, and soccer.

Other programs include Science and Engineering Fair, MathCounts, First Lego Robotics, VEX Robotics, Solar Sprint, Jr. Engineering Expo, Parade of Bands and Orchestras, Solo and Ensemble Festival, Select Band and Select Orchestra Programs and Visual Arts competitions; (3) Facilities, which support learning in a technological environment; (4) Parent and community involvement. The school is supported by parents and community through the Friends of Niu Valley Middle School,” - hawaiipublicschools.org.

Henry J. Kaiser High
511 Lunalilo Home Road
Honolulu, Hawaii 96825
808-395-1200

Kaiser High is an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School. It achieved this for its Middle Years Programme and Diploma Programme. Kaiser’s feeder school, Niu Valley Middle, is also an IB World School. This designation allows for students to complete the five-year IB curriculum.

The schools in the Kaiser Complex Area are all working towards developing the IB programs and employ the philosophy behind holistic learning, awareness, and the importance of lifelong learning. The high school offers the Advancement Via Individual Determination program, which is a program to prepare for college. The school is consistently focused on improving curriculum and resources.

Hawaii Kai Hospitals and Health Centers

Queen’s Health Care Center
377 Keahole St, Honolulu, HI 96825
Open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday
808-396-6675

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii Kai Clinic
6700 Kalanianaole Hwy #111, Honolulu, HI 96825
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday
808-432-2000

Straub Hawaii Kai Family Health Center
7192 Kalanianaole Hwy A200, Honolulu, HI 96825
Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
808-396-6321

Minute Clinic
377 Keahole St, Honolulu, HI 96825, Located in Longs Drugs
Open 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
808-395-4427

Island Urgent Care Hawaii Kai
6600 Kalanianaole Hwy #114a, Honolulu, HI 96825
Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day
808-735-0007

Emergency Hurricane Shelters

As mandated by the City and County of Honolulu Department of Emergency Management, there are designated hurricane evacuation shelters for when there are storms, high winds, debris flying around, and flooding. When the department urges the public to shelter-in-place, there are specific places to retreat. Residents are urged to bring a three-day supply of clothing, food, water, any medications, personal items, and something to sleep on as the shelters are not stocked. The department will advise residents through social media, television, and other local media during any emergency with directions and additional details.

Kamiloiki Elementary
7788 Hawaii Kai Drive
Honolulu, Hawaii 96825

Koko Head Elementary
189 Lunalilo Home Road
Honolulu, Hawaii 96825

Aina Haina Elementary
801 W. Hind Drive
Honolulu, Hawaii 96821

Niu Valley Middle
310 Halemaumau Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96821

Henry J. Kaiser High
511 Lunalilo Home Road
Honolulu, Hawaii 96825


Hawaii Kai History

Kai in the Hawaiian language refers to the sea or salt water. However, the “Kai” in Hawai‘i Kai does not
mean “salty Hawai‘i.” Rather it refers to the industrialist Mr. Henry J. Kaiser, the developer who dredged
and developed the area in the late 1950s and left his name behind. He’s also responsible for the Kaiser
Hawaiian Village Hotel, today known as the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort in Waikīkī.

The bay at Hawai‘i Kai is called Maunalua. This was the original name of the entire area, pre-
development. Mauna means mountain in Hawaiian, and lua refers to the number two. It’s believed the
area was named for the two mountains, Koko Crater (Kohelepelepe) more inland and Koko Head
(Kawaihoa) towards the ocean.

The bay was once an important source of aquaculture – famed for its
fishponds (Hawaiian fisheries), springs flowing down from the valleys, and vast wetlands. Once a thriving
bay, and former home to the largest fishpond on O‘ahu, the area changed dramatically and declined as
the population shifted. Invasive alien algae began to choke the bay. Mālama Maunalua stepped up and
has already removed over 3.7 million pounds of the aggressive algae since 2005. If you’d like to help,
visit https://www.malamamaunalua.org/volunteer/.

In addition to fish, Maunalua was also once famous for its ‘uala or sweet potato. The prolific crop fed
the entire region and many canoes from other regions on O‘ahu would stop by the bay to pick up their
share. Additionally, the bay served as a resting place for those journeying by canoe to or from Moloka‘i
enroute to or from Honolulu.

In 1786 the HMS Queen Charlotte and HMS King George, two British trading ships docked in Maunalua
Bay to gather provisions for their voyage. They were captained by Captains George Dixon and Nathaniel
Portlock, respectively. Both men were contemporaries of the infamous Captain James Cook, the great
British explorer. The eastern shore of Maunalua Bay, on the slope of Koko Head was named in honor of
Captain Portlock centuries after his visit in 1936.

The adjacent Koko Head, once named Kawaihoa is a headland and ancient tuff cone. Tuff is a kind of
rock made of ejected volcanic ash produced during a volcanic eruption. The cone indicates the shape the
tuff took once expelled from the sea. One of Koko Head’s depressions or old vents is called Hanauma
Bay. The age of the island of O‘ahu is approximately 3.9 million years old, this area is a young 30,000
years. Ocean erosion carved the bay into the nature preserve it is today. Hana means bay in Hawaiian,
and uma means curved.

Uma is also a type of wrestling. Therefore, Hanauma (pronounced Hah-NOW-
mah), means curved bay or hand-wrestling bay in Hawaiian. Hanauma was a playground of the ruling
class, the ali‘i. They enjoyed engaging in wrestling matches at the bay, hence the place name. Famous
for movies like Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawai‘i, this secluded bay continues to be a site of beauty in Hawai‘i
Kai.

Just mauka (inland) of Koko Head is a second, more obvious much higher tuff cone called Koko Crater.
Its traditional name is Kohelepelepe. In Hawaiian lore, Pele, the goddess of fire was being sexually
pursued by the pig god, Kamapua‘a in Puna on the island of Hawai‘i. In a plea for help, Pele called out to
her sister Kapo for assistance. Knowing what Kamapua‘a was after, Kapo detached her vagina and hurled
it into the sky, distracting her sisters pursuer.

The goddess’ genitalia traveled from Hawai‘i Island, over
Maui and Moloka‘i, landing on the island of O‘ahu and leaving a large imprint for the voracious pig god.
He was fooled and left Pele alone from that point on. To commemorate the incident, the site was
named Kohelepelepe, “vagina labia minor.” When looking at Koko Crater from the Makapu‘u Lighthouse
Trail, you’ll see what we’re talking about.

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