Favorite Neighborhoods of Oahu
It’s an idyllic setting: fingers of calm water next to Koko Head and beautiful Maunalua Bay. Set in a bowl of mountains, some smooth and others as jagged as the spine of a dinosaur. Beautiful homes line the waterfront along with restaurants, parks, a marina, and offices. If you are interested in a waterfront lifestyle, here’s proof that the beach has some serious competition.
A Private Marina
The Hawaii Kai Marina is a jewel in a unique natural setting. Nearly all water frontage in Hawaii is owned and regulated by the State of Hawaii, and subject to an array of tangled government regulations. But this one is privately-owned and controlled by the Hawaii Kai Marina Community Association, for the enjoyment of the waterfront residents along its shores.
The marina is run from a sunny office located next to the BluWater Grill – overlooking the marina, of course. It’s easy to get information here about use of the marina, boat dock approval and rules for recreational use of the waterways.
Water + Sun = Heaven
It’s a near-perfect setting here at the eastern edge of Oahu. Hawaii Kai is sheltered when gusty trade winds blow. The ridge of mountains to the north blocks the heaviest rains that dump just over their rim. The waterways are calm, and are doubly protected from the open ocean by the reef and a land barrier. There are just 2 channels into the ocean at Maunalua Bay, and the bay itself is protected by reefs from Portlock Point to Black Point near Diamond Head. The marina is about as safe as a body of water can be, and averages about 6 feet deep. No water is idiot-proof, of course.
The trade winds can be brisk across the water, so the more protected waterfront is the most desirable. If you are not sure of the direction of the trades, do some further research – especially if you are looking at homes during the “doldrums” or in unusual Kona weather. Local knowledge is invaluable - contact me if you need help- my email is best, mailto:email@example.com.
Not Just for Sailors
Are a landlubber? No problem, just gazing at the water is a beautiful and calming way to end each day. Meditating by the shore has been an inspiration since time began. The reflection of the serene view doubles your inspiration.
Want to get out on the water for more active participation? In that case, a dock is ideal. If you will need to build a dock, it’s not hard to find out how it can be done. The Hawaii Kai Marina office can help, http://www.hkmca.com/ will take you to their helpful web site. A condo may have its own dock, or there may be shared docks or berths, so check with your building’s management for details and usage. In some condo buildings, even condos not directly on the water may have access to a dock. All home owners pay a $300 per year Marina Fee, whether directly or in their association fees.
If you have a boat but no dock, there are boat storage yards at some Hawaii Kai communities, or you can sign up for one of the 99 docks at the Koko Marina Center. The general public can use the boat ramp at Maunalua Bay Park for boating on Maunalua Bay – but are not supposed to enter the Hawaii Kai Marina itself. Kayakers do sneak in from time to time, as it’s easy to slip under one of the bridges if you are low-key about it.
Waterside House or Condo?
Marina living is not for those on a tight budget, and Hawaii Kai is among the most desirable and costly neighborhoods of Oahu. Still, great values are out there now more than ever and the home options are delightful. There are waterfront condos and single family homes in a wide range of prices from $400,000 (Marina Palms condos) up to a $1,500,000 and more (The Peninsula detached homes). There’s not a lot of turnover. Only 20 marina front houses and 27 marina front condos sold from Jan 2011- mid Feb 2012. An Accredited Buyer’s Agent can help: an eagle eye to watch for properties and negotiate for a great long-term value.
Mariner’s Cove, Anchorage, or The Peninsula?
What can compare to waterfront living in a house facing the beautiful marina - with its own boat and dock? Choosing a waterfront home is like opening the iconic box of chocolates. Pick and choose, they are all attractive and delicious. If you want the best and can afford it, you can live right on the water without the stress and risk of the open ocean. Jump in your watercraft and cruise the 20+ acres of waterways – pure pleasure. Or just sit and gaze at the sparkling water and wave at the people who may occasionally paddle or motor by.
The communities that front on the marina vary. Mariner’s Cove homes are located in the north most section of Marina, and date from around 1970. This has always been an upscale subdivision with some of the higher priced properties and lots sizes ranging from 7500 sq ft and up. Three waterfront homes in Mariner’s Cove sold in 2011, ranging from $1.2 – 1.5 million dollars. There are 2 homes currently on the market, both priced a notch above that, asking a little under 2 million.
This neighborhood started as a “tract” of homes, and there has since been extensive customizing so that the similarities are less obvious now. The Cove offers a simple recreation center with a pool, boat storage and a boat ramp – so that even the homes off the water have water access.
The Anchorage and neighboring Kealaula Kai are small neighborhoods across the water from Mariner’s Cove. These were built starting about 1980 and reflect more contemporary architecture. The Anchorage has distinctive tile roofs and stucco exteriors. Only 2 homes sold here from 2011-early 2012, both for the $1.1 – 1.3 million range.
There are several other neighborhoods in the West Marina /Spinnaker Isle area which were developed earlier. These are very convenient as it is fast to jump on the highway and head to town by the landmark Mt. Terrace high rise condo. Built mostly in the 1960s, most reflect a simpler time. Originally built as single wall construction, they tend to have fewer covenants so the street appearances are less consistent. Some have been beautifully renovated, and others rebuilt entirely. Fixer-uppers are waiting for a loving hand to create the home that the setting deserves. Prices? Over the past year, a major fixer upper on a narrow canal sold for just $750,000, and a beautifully rebuilt one on wide waterfront sold for $1,395,000. Most sale prices are in between these extremes, in the $900,000 – $1,200,000 range.
Townhomes and condos
Town Homes and Condos are great choices for easy livin’ on the water. The choices are enticing – there are about 12 major marinafront townhome developments, ranging from basic to luxury. An additional 18 are registered small condo developments with from 2 and 12 units. These are clustered along Kawaihae St and the little cul—de-sac streets that branch off it. Most were created in the 60s and 70s, during Hawaii Kai’s first building boom. Some are attached town home styles with no maintenance fees at all.
A few favorites:
Kuapa Isle – Has over 200 unique duplex townhomes and most are right on the waterfront. Look for the large lighthouse statue at the entrance, off Hawaii Kai drive. These have more privacy than most, since you have only 1 direct neighbor. They are distinguished by small fenced yards, attached 2 car carports, and mature tropical landscaping. Five recent waterfront sales in Kuapa Isle have sold from $715,000 to $780,000 range. Two current listings are under contract after less than 30 days on the market, priced in the $750,000 - $850,000 range. Are prices going up? Time will tell.
Koko Isle – a real island in the marina, accessed by a bridge near the Koko Marina Shopping Center. All have carports and courtyards, and are 2 stories. Eight sold since Jan 2011 at prices from $600,000 to $785,000. Four are on the market at this time, from $630,000 to $850,000 depending on how extensive their renovations. Koko Isle homes are relatively spacious, from 1400 – 1900+ sq. ft. Maintenance fees in Koko Isle and Kuapa Isle range from about $650 - $775 per month including water and care of the extensive grounds. Monthly fees are a consideration as with all older wood frame properties. But if you live in a house, you already know that electricity and water bills as well as insurance costs have increased dramatically, and it takes all 3 and more to keep the common areas safe and beautiful. For details on condo fees, check out my column here, http://www.aroundhawaii.com/business/real_estate/2009-02-condo-association-fees.html.
The Peninsula at Hawaii Kai – This is the large development built in 2002 - 2005 right in the center of Kuapa Pond. An upscale gated community with a harmonious selection of styles: townhomes, midrise condos, and spacious detached luxury homes – all under condo ownership*. The Villas and the Cottages are two different town home types, some on the water. The Cottages are a favorite and well-designed for privacy. They are styled so that once you enter, you feel like you are in a private home with little exposure to your neighbors until you step outside your door. With attached garages and interesting architecture, outdoor living space and fenced private yards, they fill an important niche. Monthly maintenance fees at The Cottages are in the $600s. Three waterfront Cottages have sold for prices ranging from $742,000 to $800,000.
Houses are Heavenly
Waterfront detached homes in The Peninsula are occasionally available, and offer the ultimate luxury: the convenience and security of community living with the privacy and space of a house, right on some of the most prime waterfront that Hawaii Kai offers. These have been offered recently in the $1.2 million to $1.7 million range. The Peninsula also includes the Carriage Ways single family homes, not strictly speaking on the waterfront, but with some views and water access.
It’s important to note that boat docks on The Peninsula are available in some but in short supply. All residents can use the lovely community center with its lovely pool, BBQ area, exercise room, park, and club house, and enjoy the water views and promenade along the shoreline.The Peninsula is popular with busy professionals, retirees, and second home owners, along with anyone wanting extra security and a newer home.
The Old Kuapa Pond
The entire area was originally Kuapa Pond and owned by Bishop Estate before being leased to Kaiser Development who enlarged and developed it. Ownership was transferred later to the Hawaii Kai Marina Community Association giving private control and access exclusively to those living in homes or condos bordering the marina.
See You at the Marina
The Hawaii Kai marina is a wonderful neighborhood for families, retirees, and anyone wanting a to enjoy the water in a more private setting than offered by Hawaii’s beaches, all of which are public. If you are interested in more details about a particular property or area along the marina, or any of Hawaii’s other marina areas such as Ko Olina, Waikiki/Ala Moana, or Kaneohe to name a few, please feel to contact me. My direct email is best at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Note that “condo” is a form of ownership, not an architectural style. Hawaii condos come in all shapes and sizes including single family homes and high-rises along with everything in between. Condos involve shared ownership of land and/or amenities such as parking, pool, lobby, entry areas. For more on this topic see my column http://www.aroundhawaii.com/business/real_estate/2009-12-house-or-condo-you-choose.html.
Copyright 2012 Stephanie Gieseler, Honolulu,Hawaii. All rights reserved.