Overview of Oahu – The Gathering Place

Oahu is the 3rd largest Hawaiian Island with a resident population of about 900,000 people. Oahu real estate is diverse from condos in the city of Honolulu, luxury living in Kailua, affordable housing in Mililani, and beach homes in Hawaii’s surf mecca know as the North Shore.

Oahu is about 44 miles long by 30 miles wide, and the island’s prominent geographical features are two parallel mountain ranges: the older Wai’anae Mountains on the west side and the deep-furrowed Ko’olau Mountains on the east side. These mountain ranges are aligned perpendicular to the northeast trade winds, creating a wet windward side of Oahu (the eastern side) and a much drier leeward side.

There are at least 100 white-sand beaches, from the world famous Waikiki Beach in Honolulu to the Pipeline where the world’s best surfers challenge the giant winter waves.

About 400,000 people live in Honolulu, the state’s capital which is also the largest city in the island chain and the 11th largest in the country. Honolulu is also the best place in the Islands to live if you want a serious career in banking, commerce, law, politics, or business.

As a general rule, the farther you get from Honolulu, the lower home prices become. Above Waikiki are many nice Honolulu neighborhoods with a mix of modern homes and older plantation-style homes. These areas—such as Kamehameha Heights, Pacific Heights, Nu’uanu, Makiki, and Manoa Valley—offer nice views and a peaceful atmosphere removed from the hustle and bustle of the city and highways yet still just a short commute to town.

South of Waikiki are the very desirable neighborhoods of Diamond Head, Black Point, and Kahala where the homes are quite expensive and most of the homes have ocean views.

Beyond Kahala on the southern shore is Aina Haina which offers a hodge-podge of architectural styles, and the planned community of Hawaii Kai, which is popular among newcomers and offers a mix of hillside homes, condominiums, and marina townhouses on Koko Marina. Development continues in this area leading to concerns about adequate infrastructure.

Following along the south coast on Kalaniana’ole Highway leads to the popular marine preserve of Hanauma Bay, a major visitor attraction, and also Halona Bay where Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster had an amorous encounter in the movie From Here to Eternity. Rounding the bend to the east side of the island you will come to Sea Life Park and the windward community of Waimanalo.

North of Waikiki the housing is less expensive in Pearl City, Aiea, Salt Lake, and Waipahu where there is government subsidized housing and also military housing. Some would consider this area a bit crowded.

Farther to the northwest is the commercial hub of Waikele and the planned communities of Mililani and Kapolei with many single family homes and close access to shopping centers. There are many high density developments throughout this area but for the most part they are clean and safe, offering good opportunities for first time home buyers and middle income families. There are many community parks, and the schools are usually considered fairly good even though they may be somewhat overcrowded.

On the other side of the deeply-furrowed Ko’olau Mountains is the town of Kaneohe overlooking Kaneohe Bay. Nearby is the town of Kailua bordering beautiful Kailua Beach. This is the northeast side of Oahu—the windward side. These suburb areas tend to be mostly Caucasian and the home prices are mid-range with above average schools. The commute to Honolulu from here is not too bad due to the access provided by the Pali and Likelike Highways.

Further north on the windward side the Kamehameha Highway traverses the coastline beneath the deeply furrowed and stunningly beautiful Ko’olau Mountains. There are many old plantation-style homes along this stretch of the northern shore which is relatively quiet compared to Honolulu and its environs.

Of course there are also many nice beaches in this area also, and beach towns such as Kahalu’u, Waiahole, Ka’a’awa, Hau’ula, and La’ie provide housing for many newcomers as well as long time locals.

The tourist town of Haleiwa is often visited by surfers who come from around the world to try the famous waves of nearby Sunset Beach and Banzai Pipeline. The nearby area called Pupukea has many small estates that look over this north shore wonderland.

On the Leeward Coast, a drier side of Oahu, are towns such as Makaha and Waianae with populations generally more local than other areas. Bordered by the Wai’anae Mountains, these areas offer perhaps the least expensive housing, with many smaller and older homes. There are also many nice beaches nearby.

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