Hawaii Kai

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Hawaii Kai

In Hawaiian, Hawaiʻi Kai translates to “Hawaiʻi by the sea.” This East Honolulu community is indeed oceanside, featuring premier Oʻahu real estate. The area was first developed by New York developer Henry J. Kaiser in 1959, just as Hawaiʻi became the 50th state. Like so many others, Kaiser came to Oʻahu on vacation and fell in love with its natural beauty. The East Oʻahu neighborhood has become one of Kaiser’s iconic legacies. In fact, Kaiser himself is credited with the name Hawaiʻi Kai. He wanted a name with meaning, and one that would be easy to pronounce but still sound Hawaiian. 

While Hawaiʻi Kai is predominantly residential, it bears some of the island’s most notable, visited and treasured landmarks, with both kamaʻāina, or residents and visitors. This includes Makapuʻu and Sandy beach parks, popular with bodysurfers and bodyboarders. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, a large snorkeling area with calm waters and colorful fish, is one of the island’s most desired snorkeling locations. Hikers and fitness enthusiasts love the Koko Crater Railway Trail, also known as the Koko Head stairs. The hiking path is lined with more than 1,000 railway ties and sure to give you a workout. But the view at the top is worth it, including 360-degree views of East Oʻahu, Waikīkī, Diamond Head and more. 

Most of the restaurants in Hawaiʻi Kai are located in shopping centers, namely the Hawaiʻi Kai Shopping Center and Koko Marina Shopping Center. But don’t let the locale fool you, the eateries offer tasty food and a welcoming atmosphere. There’s Moena Cafe, which serves breakfast and lunch with a local twist, all while using local ingredients on its menu. Don’t miss Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha. This shave ice place, ran by co-owner Clay Chang, lives up to its name. They also use all-natural, house- made syrups. And if you’re looking for the classic beer and pizza, Kona Brewing Co. is a must visit, and be sure to try limited releases offered only at the brewpub. 

When I think of Hawaiʻi Kai, I’m transported to Christmastime! Each December, right before Christmas, my husband Mike and I would venture to the back of Kalama Valley in Hawaiʻi Kai and visit the poinsettia farms to buy the crimson plants for the holidays. While there aren’t many farms there now, it was a fun tradition that started when we were college students at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. What wonderful holiday memories!

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