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Oahu

Best Oahu Neighborhoods Pt 1: Aina Haina

Aina Haina . . . I love living in this relaxing and peaceful neighborhood and also saying the name. Sort of a playful cadence to it as it rolls off the tongue.

Upon moving here, and first learning about the neighborhood, I was told “Aina” means “land” in Hawaiian, and “Haina” means “Hind.” Thus translated, Aina Haina means, Hind’s Land, named after Robert Hind who at one time owned the land and established a dairy farm (Hind-Clark Dairy) in 1924.

Robert Hind Aina Hina O'ahu

Robert Hind – Photo courtesy of Robby Hind

However, digging a little deeper, I learned there is an ongoing disagreement about the correct translation of “Aina Haina.” The reason? Far back in the Aina Haina Valley, are the ruins of Kawauoha Heiau. This is a sacred Hawaiian site dating back to ancient times.  It is also a place believed to be where human sacrifices once took place. And since some say the actual Hawaiian translation for “Haina” is “sacrifice” . . . well I’ll leave it to you to determine correct translation. For me, I agree with the latter, but regardless, it’s still one of the best neighborhoods to live on O’ahu.

Location & Weather

Aina Haina’s location is a significant reason why it is one of the best neighborhoods to live on O’ahu. Located in East O’ahu, Aina Haina is tucked between Waialae Iki Ridge and Hawaii Loa Ridge. Located approximately 6 miles east of Waikiki, it is about a 15-20 minute drive (no traffic) to downtown Waikiki. Hawai’i Kai or Kahala can be reached in about 10 minutes. During commute hours, it can take more than 30 minutes to get to/from Aina Haina and downtown Honolulu.

For weather, the further you go back in the valley, the higher the chance of you getting wet. Many times it’s been raining where I live, but just a short distance down the hill will be dry. Often, sunny as well. Another reason why Aina Haina is one of the best neighborhoods to live is the trade winds blow quite regularly. A blessing on hot, humid days.

History

For a vast majority of time, this area of O’ahu was sparsely populated and for hundreds of years was frequented generally by fishermen and passerby. This changed after the 1946 Tsunami that devastated much of the area and led to the decision of the Hind family to sell the dairy farm and focus on developing the land. After the victory of WWII, Hawai’i experienced an increased demand for housing and the Hind family took advantage of this situation to provide housing to returning veterans.

Cross over the Kalaniana’ole Hwy from Aina Haina, and you’ll find the more exclusive neighborhood of Wailupe. Prior to 1946, this area had been a very large fish pond — spanning approximately 41 acres. This pond was quite special as it was one of the last fish ponds to be preserved on the Leeward side of O’ahu — existing until the 1946 Tsunami. Unfortunately at that time, much of the sea wall surrounding the pond was badly damaged, along with the surrounding areas and the land was sold to the highly successful entrepreneur, Walter Dillingham.

Mr. Dillingham owned Dillingham Dredging and had a vision to transform the damaged fish pond into a residential neighborhood. Use filler and soil (obtained from dredging a deep channel off the shoreline) to fill the fish pond, Mr. Dillingham created what is now known as Wailupe Peninsula.

Picture of Aina Haina before developed

W. Hind entry to Aina Haina ©1952 – Photo Courtesy of William Bixler Flickr Collection

Aina Haina & Wailupe Today

Today, Aina Haina is a diverse, quiet and comfortable neighborhood with some homes being occupied by 2nd or 3rd generation family members. Any newly constructed home is usually the result of tearing down an older property. Many older homes have or are being remodeled, yet there are still opportunities for a buyer to find a home to build “sweat equity” if desired.

In 2018, average selling price for a home was over $1.2M. Much of this is due to the fact that homes listed for sale are quite rare in this area. It is not uncommon for a well-priced home to sell above asking price, and to also receive multiple offers. However, you can still find homes below $1M, such as this listing priced at $750,000.

Wailupe Peninsula is now a highly desirable and exclusive place to live. The oceanfront homes (approximately 2 dozen of them) are considered some of the best on O’ahu. Other than oceanfront, there are about 120 homes located on the peninsula, with most lot sizes being 10,000 sqft or larger. Since it is such a coveted place to live, Wailupe listings are quite rare, and any newly listed home on the market will likely be priced at $1.6 million or higher.

W Hind Street of Aina Haina

W. Hind entry to Aina Haina ©2019

Aina Haina Beaches

Another reason to consider Aina Haina one of the best neighborhoods on O’ahu are the two beach parks.

Kawaiku’i Beach Park: Kawaiku’i (translated means “the united water”) is a small park, with a narrow, sandy beach, located at the base of Hawai’i Loa Ridge. Usually quite uncrowded, it has a covered seating area that is commonly used by locals. It also has restroom facilities, outdoor showers, and a handful of fixed, uncovered picnic tables.

For hundreds of years, this area was sparsely populated and mainly frequented by fisherman, as well as other island residents fetching fresh water from the springs here. Today, you will often see fishermen still seeking a catch amidst the shallow waters. However, on many days, you’ll also see surfers, windsurfers, and SUPs. Just note: this area is very “reefy” with areas of very shallow water, even at high tide.

Wailupe Beach Park: Another small, and rarely crowded park in Aina Haina. Smaller than Kawaiku’i, it has bathroom facilities and a couple of uncovered picnic tables. There is a very small section of beach, but most of the shoreline is rocky.

Due to the reef, the water around this park is shallow for quite a distance from shore. Thus, it is not a favorable spot to swim or snorkel, but it is another popular spot for fishing. Local surfers also come here, though it is a long walk and/or paddle to reach the break.

Kawakui'i Beach park at sunset

Weekday evening at Kawaiku’i Beach Park

Schools in Aina Haina

  • Aina Haina Elementary School
  • Holy Nativity School

Shopping

Aina Haina shopping center is located at the bottom of Aina Haina valley. It has approximately 30 tenants with the anchor tenant being Foodland. A few other tenants are several restaurants, yoga studio, fitness center, Post Office and Public Library. Across the street from the shopping center, you’ll find Longs Drugs which replaced the beloved M’s Ranch House Restaurant.

Other Activities in Aina Haina

Hiking: At the end of Hao street, there is the Wiliwilinui trailhead that will take you into the forest. There are several trials throughout this area and all are infrequently used. Bring bug repellent.

Go for a Walk: If you live here, going for a walk in the valley offers you a great opportunity to meet your neighbors. Unless very wet weather, you’ll almost always see people walking (often with dogs) throughout the neighborhood.

Bird Watch: The Wiliwilinui upper trail is considered a “hotspot” by Ebird for seeing a variety of bird species. Last checked, 32 different species of birds have been seen in this area, even the increasingly rare O’ahu Elepaio. However, you can see numerous bird species throughout the residential area as well.

Fish, Surf, SUP or Relax: All can be done at either Kawaiku’i or Wailupe Beach Parks. Enjoy.

I hope this article does a worthy job on giving you an idea of why Aina Haina is such a desirable place to live (It’s a big reason why I’m happy I moved to Hawai’i). If you have any questions about the area, would like to tour a property, or receive a free consultation on selling your property, you are welcome to contact me at any time. I’m here to serve you.    

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