If you love your neighborhood, you know how I feel about Aina Haina. What's not to like? It has everything in its favor. I'll name a few things about this East Honolulu area that make it one of the best places to live in Hawaii. And yes, I am biased, as a committed 23 year Aina Haina resident.
Aina Haina is the heart of the East Honolulu district, just 5 minutes to Kahala and the same to Hawaii Kai. The greater Aina Haina district includes Niu Valley and elegant gated Hawaii Loa Ridge to the east, as well as Aina Haina beachfront. I'll focus mostly on the Aina Haina valley here.
History. The name Aina Haina is said to originate from its history as dairy land, where the Hind-Clarke Dairy was founded in 1924. There is another possibility: the Hawaiian word haina means sacrifice, and if there is a connection, what was sacrificed here? (Read on for more information about this) So Aina Haina either means Hind’s Land, or Land of Sacrifice, two very different things unless it was the cows that made the sacrifice. The Hawaiian name of the seaward or makai district was Wailupe, which also has two different possible meanings. Wai means water, and lupe can mean either a kite, or a sting ray. So Wailupe means either sting ray, or water kite. It could have been an area where kites were flown near the water (the trades rush down the valley most days), or alternately, a place where sting rays congregate.
Convenience. It's great to live within 20 minutes of Waikiki, Ala Moana, and downtown. It's no big deal if you have to make an unscheduled trip "to town". Costco Hawaii Kai is just a short 5-10 minute drive, and the original Roy's restaurant is nearby. But that's the obvious. Unless you live in East Honolulu, you don't know that the commute is made lighter by the fact that the sun is always behind you as you go west in the morning, and east after work - not the other way around glaring into the sun with the Leeward drivers.
Seniors - and the Ice Cream Man! Many of our neighbors are retired folks, and they make great neighbors. There are many active retired folks with paid-off homes, who are comfortable staying in place as long as possible. Others have live-in caretakers, or visiting helpers to enable them to remain in familiar surroundings. There are also several licensed care homes in the valley, for those who need more support. Young families are starting to move in, attracted by great schools bringing the happy hubbub of children playing. We even have The Ice Cream Man who drives through the valley announcing frozen treats for sale by broadcasting those memorable jingling tunes - no kidding!
Fantastic schools. Aina Haina has two excellent private schools, Holy Nativity (K-6) and the new Waldorf High School. Aina Haina Elementary School is consistently rated in the top 5 state-wide, details are here: http://www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/May-2008/Grading-the-Public-Schools508/ , or for more schools information, check out my July 09 article here on the Roadrunner Hawaii web site. Sadly, little Wailupe Valley School closed its doors in May 2009, on one of the loveliest campuses anywhere. It's mascot? The Stingray, of course.
Aina Haina Real Estate. This mostly owner-occupied neighborhood includes homes ranging from early 1950s single wall shacks, to new luxury palaces rivaling those on nearby Hawaii Loa Ridge and Waialae Iki. There are several differences between Aina Haina and some of the other older East Oahu neighborhoods.
* Generous lot size, with a minimum of 7500 square feet, and a good selection in the lower valley on 10,000 square feet of land. * No CPR - There are few if any legal duplexes or CPR houses, which are a sneaky way to subdivide a lot that otherwise would not allow two homes. Some lower valley residences do have grandfathered-in cottages, and there are a few additions built under one of the various "Ohana home" clauses. * Fee simple from the start, Aina Haina did not undergo lease-to-fee conversion * Underground utilities on most streets, except in the uppermost section * Wide streets, and sidewalks everywhere which make for a lovely walking neighborhood
Aina Haina homes turns over slowly, with only 9 homes sold in 2009 as of late August. The average sale price was $696,000, mostly simple smaller properties built before 1960. In 2008 the neighborhood had an average sale price of $831,000 with a yearly total of 18 non-waterfront sales. Eight homes are currently on the market, with asking prices ranging from $600,000 to 7 million for an oceanfront estate. Some of the older homes are now being demolished to make way for new construction, usually without changing hands. The next generation often wants to stay in the same spot. If you want more information or a written Aina Haina Real Estate Update email me at mailto:email@example.com.
Churches? There are many choices without leaving the valley: Episcopal, Lutheran right on the beach (if you don't like the sermon, you can meditate on hypnotic surf views), Jehovah’s Witness (with unfortunate megalithic architecture), Baptist, and Grace Chapel to name a few.
Parks. Aina Haina Field next to the school has three resurfaced tennis courts, basketball, a couple of baseball diamonds, little rec center with ancient rest rooms, and a playground. Then there is the dog-friendly Wailupe Park on Hind Iuka just past Wailupe school, and Nehu Park, hidden at the end of a cul-de-sac. Kawaikui Beach Park is a lovely waterfront setting popular with kayakers, surfers and picnicers.
Mysteries. Ruins of the little-known Kawauoha Heiau still can be found near the back of the valley, a mile past the road's end. A rugged hiking trail leads past a grove of Norfolk pines, and through a bamboo forest to the heiau site. McAllister's Archaeology of Oahu published in 1933 refers to an 1847 document mentioning a human sacrifice which took place there click on the Kawauoha Heiau link here http://www.maunalua.net/ for more details. If you go exploring, watch for ferocious pig hunters and their determined dogs (or is the other way around). Over the years I've personally seen at least 10 big black boars splayed behind the returning trucks, heading for someone's luau. Another strange fact is that many maps show a phantom cemetery located behind Wailupe Valley School. If you try to find it it's just not there, or else it's just not visible during daylight hours. Hmmm.
Active Community. The voluntary Aina Haina Community Association has been around since 1966, and meets occasionally to address local issues. Recent concerns have been elder care homes, drainage issues, shopping center changes, and hillside stability. The association has a new web site you can check out at http://www.ainahaina.org.
It's not perfect. Many of the homes here need serious attention. Unless you live here or in one of the similar older neighborhoods you might not understand why. Older owners may no longer have the resources or energy to keep the property painted and the yard trimmed. Young families here as everywhere often are busy with two jobs, kids, school activities, and caring for elderly parents and sadly, home maintenance falls behind. (Or else they are just lazy slobs? - every neighborhood has these.) The phenomenon of junky houses next to beautifully presented ones is also seen in other older Oahu areas. There's no excuse for able-bodied folks who just don't want to take time to do the recycling and get junk cars towed, and trim the yard every couple of months.
It's All Here: If Aina Haina seceded from Honolulu, we would be A-OK. We've got all the essential services: A good Public Library, Post Office, bank, medical building including a tiny pharmacy, gas station, several restaurants, beauty salon, coffee shop, tasty Korean restaurant, and Mc Donald’s. The Foodland grocery store anchoring the shopping center just closed for renovations and upgrading. It will repoen in early 2010 as Oahu's first "Foodland Farms", We could use a bistro or two, but we're not Manoa, so our expectations are more humble. The shopping center was recently sold so new businesses may appear and old ones become energized. A Wet Feet stand-up paddling shop is a sucessful recent addition, and Cake Couture offers their famous gourmet cupcakes - but go early as they are a daily sell-out. Click here for their menu www.cakecouture.com.
What's Your Favorite Neighborhood? If you are lucky enough to live in Aina Haina, you may have other things you love that I did not mention. But if you are a Kailua fan, or Kapolei krazy, or nuts about anywhere in between, please email me directly here mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org with your top 5 things you love about your neighborhood. I'll try to use them in a future column.
Copyright 2009 Stephanie Gieseler. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced without the explicit permission of the author.
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Thanks for your comments and your perspective. Please tell me what is mistaken in my history of Aina Haina so that I can make any needed corrections.
I do realize that many people can't afford to spiff up their homes. And yes I am a "newcomer" to the area, only 25 years in the valley. My opinion is that you are not giving enough credit to the kupunas in the neighborhood. My neighbors in their 80s and 90s stay fit and active and in most cases have tidy yards - some are meticulous and spiffy. Many of the junky yards are occupied by young families. Yes they are busy, but perhaps an hour or two on home maintenance is not too much to ask every week or two. If they are homeowners, it is in their own interest to maintain and improve their property.
I suggest that we set our standards higher. It costs nothing to haul away junk cars - you just phone the City and County on their 24 hour hotline (532-7700 ext. 250 if you need it). Ditto piles of trash which go for free into the trash can, or bulky pick up once a month. Huge piles of containers for recycling are also free - just toss into the blue can - unless they are worth 5 cents in which case you get paid!
If families have lived in Aina Haina for generations, (it was developed mostly in the early '50s) they are probably in the younger generation and should be helping their parents, grandparents, or auntie and uncle with the basics of home care. Pride in your home is a basic value worth developing. I am talking about making sure the sidewalk is clear of weeds so it is passible. Tall brush and weeds are a fire hazard, and if folks can't cut back the jungle now and then, they should consider a condo for their own safety. Or unplug the TV and turn the computer off and get outside - it's great exercise and a good way to get to know your neighbors.
I do appreciate your perspective and wish you well - and I ask that you please respect my opinions even if we disagree.
Lovely article Stephanie. My father-in-law grew up in Aina Haina and my husband, his sister and I will be heading there in April to do repairs on the house where their aunt still resides. Thank you for sharing information on some of your favorite things about the community. I look forward to exploring the area. Gina Ortega-Chung