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Kahala is Classic

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Kahala Real Estate - Convenience Meets Luxury

Suppose you could live wherever you wanted on the island of Oahu - and price was no issue. There’s a good chance you would pick Kahala.  It’s hard to find a more attractive and convenient neighborhood anywhere on these favored islands.

The attractions are many: Kahala has been a kama’aina favorite for over 50 years, and has become a hot spot for people from all over the mainland and the world. It’s humble roots still show here and there, where people have retained the flavor of the original development. These were simple low-slung dwellings that opened to a lanai facing a pool and spacious yard - with high-quality finishes that passed for luxury during these simpler times.

Aerial Kahala view
Photo courtesy Hiroshi Ando 2011. 

The Location
Kahala is in the center of the East Honolulu area. You still have alternate routes in and out of the urban center, unlike those areas further out towards Hawaii Kai. Local residents know that Kalanianaole Highway can become constipated when something goes wrong. It might be road work, or a water main break, or an auto accident – every couple of months it happens one way or another- especially at the Ainakoa Avenue bottleneck. Here just one intersection is the gateway to all of the neighborhoods east of Kahala. That’s right around the time when Kahala residents get that smug look on their faces. They can chill out at home, or head to Waikiki, downtown, or Ala Moana in about 10 – 15 minute max.

Ahakea St lovely home

Kahala Homes
Aaaah, the homes. Kahala has the most gorgeous selection of expensive luxury homes exceeding that of any neighborhood on the island. The first real subdivisions were originally built after WWII with a few older ones from even earlier years. Then came the housing boom of the 1970s, with each subsequent land rush bringing further construction. Older homes were demolished if they were too small, too basic, or too difficult to update. In their place came the new ones, each reflecting their owner's increasingly opulent dreams.  Then came the McMansions, massive fence-to-fence palaces that were designed to make a Statement. Some were compared to "Beverly Hills gas stations" (you know who you are), and that's being nice. Ornate copper gates compete with each other for splashy tropical design, featuring dancing sea life or oversize flora.

Mediterranean style home

Now a Mediterranean style  predominates with tile roofs and stucco walls reminiscent of Southern California. A few bold designers have created boxy ultra-contempory numbers. Each style has its own beauty, but I am especially drawn to vintage "Old Kahala", and appreciate homes that were built for casual living, not to impress the neighbors.

Old Kahala
The retro appeal of the Old Kahala homes is still there. There are numerous examples of the Mid-Century Modern style, also known as Classic Modernist. On the mainland, these are prized by those who value the simple lines and functional beauty. It can be difficult to find these homes that have not been updated, so it's a treat to see this one designed by the late great Hawaii architect Gordon Bradley, for his own family.

Mid-century Modernist Hawaii home
For more information on this property, which I recently listed for $1,768,000, click here.

Kahala Home Prices
Homes in the pricey heart of Kahala range from a cool million for a fixer-upper, to the recent high sale of $4,100,000. Most are luxury single family homes, or will be once their renovations are completed. List prices are another matter: there are homes priced as high as $32,000,000 with beachfront properties commanding a big premium - but buyers are few and far between at this level.  Recent sale prices average about $1,600,000.**

Kahala SF Home Prices 2011 -  Listed, In Escrow, and Sold

Kahala Real EstateStatistics 2011

Kahala also offers townhomes for simpler lifestyles, and several high-rise condos. The Tropic Gardens, for example, is popular more for it’s location than for it’s architecture. It is near the mall, on a bus line, and also across the street from highly-rated Wilson Elementary school.

Tropic Gardens  

The above is a typical Kahala town home. I recently listed and sold it for $475,000 - a 2 bedroom, 2 bath  2 story of around 1000 sq. ft, and low low condo fees of just $300 per month.

The once-grand Kahala Beach Apartments below are a sad story, with a questionable future.  Build on the beach, it's on leasehold land owned by hard-hearted Bishop Estate/Kamehameha Schools.  Prices are plummeting. They are now selling at drastically reduced prices, many in the under $100,000 range. The land lease will end in 2027, and Bishop won’t sell the land. Owners of a typical condo there - a spacious 2 bedroom 2 bath -  now pay over $3100 per month, combined lease rent plus condo fees! It's a heartbreaker, as they are on the dreamiest beachfront setting.

Kahala Beach Apartments

Waialae-Kahala Homes
This area spans the hillsides and valleys adjacent to “Old Kahala”. More home choices are available in varied price ranges, starting around $600,000. Ainakoa features small older homes in the lower price ranges, with many long-term residents and very low turnover. Waialae Nui and Waialae Iki feature a variety of hillside properties with dramatic views mostly in the $800,000 and up.

Kalani Iki offers detached single family homes in a lush valley setting, for around $700,000 - $900,000. The association takes care of the extensive grounds in exchange for a monthly fee ranging from about $650 – 900 per month. I recently listed the updated home shown below for $828,000.

Kalani Iki view 

Kahala Trivia

  • The word Kahala refers to the hala tree, also known as pandanus. Its supremely useful leaf leaf, the lau hala, is prized for weaving into mats, fans, and other household items. 
  • Kahala neighborhood covenants require 25 foot front setbacks so the homes are set back further from the street than in other areas.
  • Many of the streets of Kahala are named after Hawaiian birds: Elepaio, the fly-catcher; Iiwi, the scarlet honeycreeper prized for its feathers; Pueo, the little Hawaiian owl; Koloa, the Hawaiian duck.
big pig
  • Much of Kahala was pig farms before the first subdivisions were built! It helps explain the fertile soil and lovely gardens. 

Kahala Beach Texas? Believe it or not, there is a Kahala Beach Estates near Galveston, Texas! The average home there costs about $259,000, but if you want to build a luxury home there, you can get about 1.8 acres on the beach for $550,000! Click here to check out this one. The one below is pricier, but still under 2 million.

Kahala, Texas beach home

Compare these with Honolulu's Kahala Beach prices. You can buy a similar-sized piece of raw land on the beach for a total list price of about $29 million for two adjacent plots. Of course ours is prettier than theirs, and a lot less hurricane-prone!

Kahala Beach

Kahala Beach
Kahala Beach is a long stretch of noncommercial white-sand beach, with public access paths every few blocks.  You can usually park less than a block away from your favorite one (try to match that, Southern California!). It’s hidden from casual cruisers by a blockade of gated mansions but lucky you live Hawaii. The beach is open to the public so they have to share it, and usually do so with aloha.  Yes, the beach is narrow especially at high tide, but it’s almost always swimmable, and the sand great for beach walking too. Dogs love it, and people do too when considerate owners keep them on their leashes. It’s a low-key friendly atmosphere. 

Who Are These People?
Kahala is a very diverse neighborhood, with many cultures and ethnic groups well-represented.  What ties them together is the color of their cash! More demographics are available here. There are still quite a few long-term owners, and a handful of original owners hoping to enjoy their advancing years in the homestead. Who could blame them?

Dolphin Quest Kahala resort

The Kahala Hotel
The Kahala Resort anchors the far end of the beach as it has for decades. Whether as the Kahala Hilton, the Mandarin Oriental, or its current incarnation, it’s always been a great place for dinner, a wedding, or just tea on the Veranda. The (public) beach is lovely, with islets just offshore and parking for beachgoers a couple of blocks away at the Waialae Beach Park. Or you can park at the hotel and have a drink or snack at the beachside bar in exchange for validation.  There are 5 dining choices, but my favorite is the Plumeria Beach House where you can dine out by the beach, or barely-indoors in the spacious main room. It’s  open all day from a sunrise breakfast through late dinners. Click here to check out the lodging and dining packages and kama’aina specials

Kahala resort

The Kahala Mall
It has all you need for ordinary living. Macys, Longs, Barnes and Noble and nearby Times Supermarket are the biggies plus lots of small shops. There’s fast food and Whole Foods (together they make a balanced meal, right?). The restaurant scene has improved recently with Assagio and Wahoo Fish Tacos, but it could use a few more choices.  Other nearby conveniences  are the Urgent Care medical office, the Pet Doctor, Shell Gas and Carwash, and the YMCA to name a few. The nearby Waialae Country Club is a great meeting place for it's members and their guests. 

Kahala Schools
Kahala has excellent schools to choose from. The two public elementary schools are among the best on the island: Kahala Elementary rated #13, and Wilson rated #6 by the Honolulu Magazine’s highly-respected ranking system - click here for more on public schools on Oahu . For private education, check out Star of the Sea Catholic School which goes through Grade 8.

Kahala Nui
Tired of maintaining your home after all those years? For those with substantial resources, Kahala has one of the island’s newest and most elegant retirement communities.  Kahala Nui is just across the street from the Kahala Mall, and offers gracious living and a "continuum of care" through all life stages. Visit the website.

If you could pick out the best places to live in Hawaii, and the world, Kahala would probably be near the top. Even if you don't live in Kahala, you can enjoy its many attractions. Check out my other website for more information on Kahala homes, as well as other neighborhoods of the island. If you click on my name in this column, you can also view over 50 articles on all aspects of Hawaii real estate.

Waialae Country Club 

**Home prices are courtesy of the Honolulu Board of Realtors based on the most recent 6 months MLS data from Oct 20, 2010 - April 20, 2011.

Article © 2011 Stephanie Gieseler, Honolulu, Hawaii. All rights reserved.

The views and information contained are not provided or endorsed by Oceanic Time Warner Cable or any its affiliates. The content provided is for general information and entertainment purposes only. Please seek professional advice before acting on any information contained within this web site. Any unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


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jhakana — Thursday, May 19, 2011
Aloha Stephanie, I always look forward to reading your articles. They are very informative, honest and really enjoyable to read. I especially like the fact that you share local tidbits about the 'aina from not only a "locals" point of view, but also the native Hawaiian information too. It gives future buyers a sense of place and respect of this 'aina. Mahalo!


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