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Deciding where to live on Oahu?

Updated: Sep 30, 2019

Have no idea where you should live on Oahu? Neither did we, as this can be hard to know if you are not previously familiar with the island. We encourage you to talk to friends who live here, read about the different areas and neighborhoods online, and consider the Island Lifestyle you want to have. 

For us, commute time was most important. We also wanted a walkable area with easy access to beaches and good schools. We wanted an area where our investment would ideally increase, and have a great rental market if we ever choose to move. 

Below is a little overview of the 4 most common places military families live whether they are buying or renting: Lanikai/Kailua/Kaneohe, Ewa Beach, Hawaii Kai, or Base Housing. While I’m not mentioning schools below, I highly encourage you to check out how each school ranks in Honolulu Magazine’s annual ranking:

I’m also happy to share my insights on each of the area schools both public and private.

Known for beautiful beaches, it also has one of the fastest commute times to Pearl Harbor (besides living on base) with three highway options to get you ‘over the mountain’. Average commute to Pearl Harbor is 35 mins, little to no traffic even at peak traffic hours. Kaneohe Marine Corps Base is located here, making shopping off the economy feasible with access to great programs for the kids on base and an awesome golf course. Kailua is a quaint beach town with great local shops, many restaurants, and is mostly walkable/rideable. We also have our own Target, Whole Foods, & local brewery.  Homes tend to be older construction, and you can expect move-in ready homes to start around $800k, with smaller condos beginning around $450k.

Known for its stunning “Jurassic Park” mountains and wide, sweeping views of the ocean, this is a boating community  but has very little direct “sandy” beach access. Depending where you live in Kaneohe you have about a 25 min commute to Pearl Harbor and close, easy access to the Marine Corps Base. The mall and movie theater for this side of the island is located here.  Kaneohe has a cool “Hawaiian” feel. Move-in ready homes start around $700k with condos beginning around $300k. 

Known California-style homes, golf courses, and waterfront canal communities around every corner, Hawaii Kai was the first planned community on the island. Beautiful beaches, famous Hanauma Bay, and Honolulu are close by and easily accessible. There are great restaurants and shopping, including the best (cleanest!) Costco on the island.  The commute to bases is considered a downside of this community, with 45 mins being at low traffic hours and upwards of 1.5 hrs in traffic. Move-in ready house prices start around $800k with condos beginning around $550k.

Ewa Beach - Known for having some of the newest housing communities on the island, you can expect to get more for your money here. Bigger, newer houses with small lots seem to be the norm. The newest outdoor mall on the island is located here, as well as plenty of places to eat. Ewa (pronounced “Eva”) Beach is not considered a “walking community”, but it is a quick drive to a great military beach, Barber’s Point. Construction is progressing on the first light rail system on the island, which will alleviate the terrible traffic from this neighborhood to Pearl Harbor and Honolulu, when completed in 5 years - also potentially raising home prices.  You can expect the commute to Pearl Harbor to be 30 min without traffic (depending on where you live in Ewa), to 1.5 hours on a normal day during rush hour. New homes start at $525k with condos beginning around $250k.  

Base Housing is also an option for our military families. There are some great communities and advantages to living on base that you should consider if this is an option for you.  A few to note: your daily commute time is almost nil, you will be surrounded by a community that understands your unique lifestyle, and most Base Housing options are pretty central on the island for getting to other places. I would be happy to share with you at another time the different base housing options if you’re interested - just let me know!

These are just my opinions and experiences, but I wanted to give you the lay of the land, so that when we talk, you guys might have some idea of the area and neighborhoods you would like to consider. 

Oh, and in the meantime, I wanted to share this cool neighborhood ranking tool with you, and 

highlight some of the areas most military families move too: is super useful and fun to play with as it ranks different areas on the island and gives them each scores.

Until we chat again, mucho mahalo for your time!

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