Picking the ‘Best’, especially in the real estate area, can be not only be difficult, but divisive. What one considers the ideal place to live in, for example, is the exact opposite of what another believes makes for the ultimate in living experience. Still, we have 4 areas we think are the Top Honolulu Condo Neighborhoods, and for good reason.
We’ll address the specifics of what makes each standout, along with some drawbacks to give you a complete picture. However, our picks center on not just the quality of the properties themselves, but also the amenities and recreation opportunities available nearby, and even a few unique factors that put this quartet firmly at the top.
Including Kakaako should be no surprise in any discussion of Honolulu condos, it’s more than earned its place among our picks of the best. The potential of this neighborhood is being realized now, with the large stores of Ward Village and the 1-2 architectural punch of the Anaha and Waiea displaying the modern, yet Island-rooted environment that will soon spread across the entire area.
It’s that combination of a forward-looking urban lifestyle and our own Hawaii values, on equal footing, that make it a shoo-in selection. Though some of it still only exists in plans, the unprecedented focus and momentum of this project ensures this vision will be realized.
One thing we love are the wide sidewalks, green spaces and parks that are an integral part of the Kakaako landscape, not just the usual occasional break in the concrete sprawl you usually see, and shopping & dining is ample and spread throughout the area, so you’re always close to a favorite eatery or store.
The entire area is built around pedestrian-friendly walking paths and scenery so a stroll to restaurants and shops that aren’t in your immediate surroundings is not only simple, but pleasurable. The famous saying that ‘getting there is half the fun’ just might be true in the new Kakaako.
The attractions of the outdoor life are equalled by the indoors. From Penthouse suites that are among the most luxurious condos in all Hawaii, a heady claim, but one that’s justified. Incredible, eternally open ocean views, private in-residence pools, vast lanais made for world-class entertaining and bedroom suites that will amaze the most discriminating homebuyer. That’s just the start of those top shelf properties.
Lower floors may not have the same level of luxury, but few properties anywhere do. They still stand out easily with views of that same ocean, use of incredible amenities, such as the pool that cantilevers over the sidewalk below in the Anaha, and often featuring floor-to-ceiling windows to bring the outdoors into your life at home.
Affordable condo properties are being offered here as well, raising the appeal of this place to being a true community open to a broad range of Oahu residents. This will guarantee a true local flavor is there from the very start.
The Kakaako style has spread even to Ala Moana next door, making it a part of this integrated urban living/shopping/dining environment, with One Ala Moana perched on top of the mall itself and Park Lane’s even more visible profile on the front of it, with single-family alike style units looking right out at the Beach Park.
There’s so much more to add, such as the green innovations that are being put in place to save energy, money and impact on our delicate Island environment. With the limits of space, though, it remains to just say that Kakaako was an easy selection, pointing the way for the Honolulu condo market to follow for some time to come. Plus it’s just an exciting place to live.
What has made this district famous throughout the world as a tourist destination also makes it another easy selection for condo living year ’round.
Waikiki condos have a surprisingly broad range, from small walk-ups that date to the 1950’s to the very latest in luxury in places like the Ritz-Carlton Residences. Though the prices are definitely higher in this part of Honolulu, you can find every variety within this segment of the real estate market.
That said, it’s true that much of the inventory is in older buildings. Waikiki, like much of Hawaii, went through a huge surge of development in the 1960’s and 70’s, covering much of the limited property in this area.
Many of the buildings date from that time and not all have been maintained well over the years. This has resulted in differences in the quality of the structures and the residences themselves. The interested condo buyer will need to sift sometimes in their search due to this factor.
There are more recently built condominiums, such as the Ritz-Carlton, the Trump building and a forthcoming project on the current site of King’s Village. However, due to the limited real estate, along with that previous widespread build-up and other factors, there hasn’t been the opportunity to add many new properties.
Those limitations can also restrict some normally expected neighborhood elements, most prominently a large supermarket or big box stores. There is the Food Pantry, but what it offers in convenience is balanced out by the higher prices.
Still, Safeway is just up Kapahulu Avenue and WalMart is almost as close at its location on Keeaumoku St, very near the vast Ala Moana Shopping Center. Those on the west side of Waikiki can actually walk to Ala Moana in no time to sample the unending selections there.
What all of these residences bring to your daily life, though, is access to the most dynamic neighborhood in Hawaii. Most of the major festivals and events happen here, such as the Honolulu Festival, the Aloha Festival and Spam Jam, along with practically every major parade.
The beaches here are celebrated in every corner of the world, and for good reason. Magnificent protected blue lagoons, waves to challenge every level of surfer and Diamond Head presiding over it all. Those welcoming sands are within easy walking distance from almost every corner of Waikiki. You enjoy the resort lifestyle in the most famous resort of them all.
Although a typical grocery store may be missing, the streets of this area are still your own huge shopping mall, filled with numerous eateries, designer stores and the brand new International Market Place.
Even when browsing doesn’t strike the mood there are all kinds of free entertainments available, especially the wealth of live Hawaiian music and hula dancing to delight in at the shopping centers as well as on Kuhio Beach most evenings. You’re never short of things to do when you live in Waikiki.
All these attractions bring a certain percentage of owners who buy here for reasons of investment and income. If you’re one of those, you should be aware of the ability to rent for short-term stays in certain buildings, opening the door to serving the vacation condo market that has grown in recent years.
Special zoning is required, of course, so this ability is not extended to most condominiums. However, it is a more significant part of the landscape here, for obvious reasons, than elsewhere. There’s much to this subject that cannot be explored here, so we highly recommend reading our article on short-term stay Waikiki condos to get a full understanding.
As we’ve pointed out, even the alluring image of Waikiki isn’t without its own issues, here and there. That’s not unique to them, it’s just part of the reality of real estate. There’s a give and take anywhere you look in Honolulu. What’s different here are the singular benefits that no other neighborhood offers, making life here something that truly cannot be experienced anywhere else.
DIAMOND HEAD GOLD COAST
There actually is a neighborhood, right next door to Waikiki, that has its own one-of-a-kind living experience to offer. The Gold Coast condos line the shore just east of Waikiki, as it starts to round the front of Diamond Head. They claim a special status, and setting, due to something no amount of money can overcome – local zoning and regulations.
These condominiums came into being during an era of more lenient laws, specifically ones relating to how close you could build to the shoreline. These residences benefitted from being constructed before a regulatory window closed permanently in the early 1960’s, allowing them to stand closer to the ocean than any homes in Hawaii since. Living in this close proximity to the water will never be repeated or duplicated.
From their lanais they look up at Diamond Head’s proud profile on one side. On the other, the waves rolling toward them, seeming to lap up almost at the foot of their building directly below.
Your hours within these condos are spent with the accompaniment of the sounds of those swells, creating a soothing environment that firmly underlines the sights of the ocean that you gaze upon so grandly from here.
We also make this one of our choices for the neighborhood’s atmosphere that recalls an earlier era of Hawaii. Despite being beside the busy streets and spaces of Waikiki, you immediately notice how quiet it is here. You can hear yourself think here, when you want to.
As high-end as these homes are, they are older, otherwise they wouldn’t be in this fortunate position. That can mean greater upkeep. They’re also a product of a time when amenities were not a priority. Only three of the buildings have a swimming pool and those are just about the extent of extras across the whole neighborhood.
This is strictly a bedroom community so daily or weekly shopping will require a drive, the closest option being Kahala Mall with its Long’s and Whole Foods or up Kahapulu Avenue to Safeway.
Another, larger concern is the seawall that is in need of repair after so many decades weathering Nature’s powerful forces. All agree that it needs maintenance, if not replacement, but the fight over who is responsible for that – the State or the condo/land owners – is still going on as of this writing.
Ultimately, though, this is a singular living situation and setting, even in Hawaii. It is truly a way of life that cannot be replicated even in the most expensive of modern condos. Though short on the luxuries that fill the brochures of today’s residential buildings, they grant their owners something that no developer could ever create, even with the richest of budgets.
Hawaii Kai is Honolulu’s version of the more upscale suburbs one finds in the major metro areas of the Mainland. The residents here prize the achievement of this master-planned community, with its well laid out residential and commercial areas, the preservation of the sightlines through primarily low-rise development and, of course, the marina.
Those are primarily condo properties that line those waters, with their close up views and even personal docks bobbing up and down just a few steps from their back doors. The most prized of Hawaii Kai homes, it’s an obvious place to start with why this is an obvious pick for our list.
Even those townhomes and condos in Hawaii Kai that don’t share those waterfront areas gain much from the marina’s presence, however. There’s something about living even near the water that brings a certain peace to your life.
Whether it’s drinking in the view from home, walking beside the marina in the cool evening with someone special or just taking it in on your daily driving routine, there’s something special there. It’s effect is unmeasurable, yet unmistakable, in how the waters both lifts and calms the spirit. Those who live here will attest to this in no uncertain terms.
There’s also Hawaii Kai’s more concrete advantage of Convenience. Shopping, from boutique shops and restaurants at Koko Marina, to mainstays like Safeway, Costco & Long’s, is in easy reach for all in this area. Quick errands or filling up on necessities for the next week is no problem.
As easy all of that is, the commute to Downtown that so many here make can be problematic at times. Kalanianaole Highway is the one and only route in that direction – and back. If there’s an accident, things can get backed up fast.
The beaches are not the kind you find in other parts of Honolulu, either. They’re a rocker variety so sun worshippers won’t find places to lay down their towel. However, the waters are pure liquid playground and locals take full advantage. You’ll see every kind of boat and craft out there enjoying the beauty and recreational possibilities of the ocean off of this coast.
There’s more close by, too. You always have Hanauma Bay, free to kamaaina, as well as Sandy Beach, one of the most popular stretches of sand on Oahu, just up the road.
Whether deep in the valley, where you have some of the more traditional towers that can see for miles around them or closer to the marina in one or two story townhomes, Hawaii Kai condos bring a modern, yet fully Island rooted neighborhood life to your every day.
It’s not City, it’s not Country, it’s just pure Hawaii Kai, the town built by, and on, the water.
THE BEST THERE ARE
Those 4 neighborhoods are our picks for the best of the Honolulu condo neighborhoods, each bringing something extra special and distinctive to the lives of their residents. We bring both the good and the bad to light because that’s the only path to your satisfaction ultimately.
It’s also, though, a recognition that these are the best because they still stand alone even with these drawbacks. That’s the sign of true real estate excellence – homes and neighborhoods that can acknowledge the negative and yet come up so richly on the positive side of the ledger.