Kaimuki, an East Honolulu neighborhood approximately 15 minutes’ drive from downtown, is a community rich in history and today is bustling with activity in its vibrant business district. Today, Kaimuki is one of the most desirable places to live in Honolulu – for good reason. It’s a community that truly offers something for everyone.
Ka-imu-ki translates to “the ti (plant) oven,” and folklore has it that the menehune, a legendary race of magical little people in ancient Hawaii, often cooked the plant in this area. In ancient times, it was dry and dusty, and the lack of streams and freshwater meant Hawaiians settled in lusher areas. The building of a reservoir in 1908 atop Pu’u Kaimuki (popularly known as Telegraph Hill) – today a public park which boasts a scenic vista of much of the neighborhood – marked the start of a booming housing development.
The Jade Apartments and Brew’d Restaurant on the corner of 9th and Waialae
Scenes From a Different Era
In the 1930s through the mid 50s, an electric trolley car ran up and down Waialae Avenue, the main thoroughfare through Kaimuki, which was and still is home to dozens of thriving small businesses. Today the streetcar is gone, but the character of the neighborhood remains: striking historic architecture seen in homes and commercial buildings, with the central district relatively compact, walkable, and comprised of an attractive mix of long-standing businesses along Waialae, like the venerable eatery St. Louis Drive-In on 2nd Ave, or Punchbowl Fender Works on 9th and Waialae (established in 1968), grocery and drugstores.
Coffee Talk is a popular spot on the corner of Waialae and 12th Avenues
Today there are also new and trendsetting pubs, fine dining restaurants, home décor boutiques, and personal care salons. It’s often remarked that downtown Honolulu and Kaimuki’s business district are among the only remaining mixed-use residential neighborhoods from an era where folks walked to shop and do errands and everyone knew each other from these interactions.
For those who prefer the urban convenience and variety of a shopping mall, Kahala Mall, which marks the border of the exclusive Waialae-Kahala neighborhood to the East, boasts over 100 stores and restaurants, and many major national stores have a presence here.
Great Schools and Recreation
The Kaimuki area has many quality educational institutions – from good public schools (Aliiolani Elementary has a GreatSchools ranking of 9/10), to several top parochial primary schools, to college preparatory secondary schools. Chaminade University and Kapiolani Community College are both within the core of Kaimuki and offer degrees from the Associate’s to Master’s with additional opportunities for lifelong learning and noncredit education.
St. Patrick Church and School – Harding Avenue
The neighborhood is diverse, with young households living alongside lifelong residents and kupuna (elders). Opportunities for activities and recreation abound, from parks and hiking trails to cultural centers like Diamond Head Theater, an excellent public library, and a YWCA. Dog-friendly Kahala Beach park is just a mile East, and excellent Diamond Head surfing spots just ten minutes away.
A Rich Mix of Homes
Kaimuki’s housing stock is mostly single-family homes, with a smaller number of townhomes and condominiums. The median price of a home here in 2015 was about $850,000 – above the overall average for Honolulu, reflecting the premium on the proximity to the central business district and the luxury of avoiding the 60-90 minute commutes that are the norm for Leeward residents who work in Honolulu. However, there are a variety of listings of homes that meet the needs of diverse buyers – from charming 1940s bungalows to multifamily fixer-uppers waiting to be revitalized, to recently rebuilt homes with modern silhouettes and custom finish details.
Wilhemina Rise takes you up to Maunalani Heights and a spectacular view
North of Waialae Avenue on Kaimuki’s eastern end, Wilhemina Rise is a mile-long road that runs steeply up the hill and into the desirable mountaintop community of Maunalani Heights. Homes on Wilhemina enjoy cooling breezes and gorgeous ocean, Diamond Head, and Waikiki views; many fine examples of custom historic architecture are found here. Those daunted by the prices take heart; we’ve seen fee-simple 2-bedroom cottages in Kaimuki come onto the market which offer the convenience of town living for the price of a condominium.
For those seeking a culturally rich and vibrant urban community with plenty of nature’s amenities, Kaimuki is a great place to call home.
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