The distance from Hawaii to the continental United States, or “the mainland” to locals, makes moving to Kaneohe challenging. The best strategy is to fly in for a vacation and start hunting for apartments, although renting a property sight-unseen is also possible if your nerves are on the tough side. One option is to rent an apartment short-term for your vacation and talk with your landlord about long-term leasing options.
The Housing Market The problem with tropical islands is that everyone wants to live on one. Hawaii’s gorgeous weather, idyllic setting and clean air are a bit of a perfect monsoon for real estate prices. Apartment rental prices in the most expensive parts of Kaneohe rival New York or San Francisco prices. Complexes and houses farther from the coastline are less expensive. A handful of small houses and apartments are available for significantly less, which are ideal for the college graduate (or college absentee) with one suitcase and a dream. Land is scarce, so home rentals are hard to find. Apartments for rent and condo rentals are more abundant. The market is tight, so searching for housing more than a month in advance of your move is advisable.
Are you Kaneohe-Worthy? Landlords can afford to be picky in this place, so prepare before you go barging in, cash in hand, hoping to score a new rental home! It’s easy to find hotels in this tourist mecca, but apartments are tougher to find. If you’re moving to Kaneohe for work, you probably want to get a letter from your employer to prove to landlords that you’re not going to bounce your rent checks. If you’re moving to Hawaii to retire or you’re hoping to find work, have a copy of your bank statement and credit history. Yes, really.
The Distance Problem Hawaii’s distance from the mainland makes moving there an expensive proposition, because anything you can’t cram into a suitcase has to be shipped. Shipping items can also take several weeks or even months, so planning in advance is essential if you don’t want to sleep on the floor while waiting for your boat to arrive. Many people opt to rent a furnished apartment to save a few dollars. Since it is a tourist haven, furnished apartments and apartments with utilities paid in Kaneohe are easier to find. Also, the expense of flights back to the mainland makes frequent family reunions a pricey proposition. Depending on how you like your in-laws that might be a problem or a perk.
What's your thing, nightclubs, family parks or something in between? This town has a variety of neighborhoods so check each of them out before you look into rentals. The areas on the coast tend to be more expensive and more geared toward tourism, while the neighborhoods on the slope away from the beach cater to locals. Newcomers should be prepared to be called “haole” by the native Hawaiians from time to time, with a special eye roll thrown in for good measure. The word means “foreigner,” and while it’s not exactly pejorative, it isn’t welcoming either. Hawaiians for the most part are really friendly though, so don't be scared!
Keaalau Park: This narrow strip of the city just up the coastline, offering spectacular ocean views. The Keaalau Park area hosts the local yacht club, a yoga studio and a meditation clinic. It’s also one of the priciest areas in town - surprise!
Bay View Golf Park: Positioned right next to the bay is world-renowned Bay View Golf Park, a challenging course featuring stunning vistas and the opportunity to feel like a big-shot on the green. Many of the homes and residences around the park are architectural marvels.
Keaahala: Located to the east of Kaneohe’s main strip is the Keaahala neighborhood, one of the more lively areas in town. This spot has easy access to Windward Community College, the Windward Mall and several small parks. The nearby Kaneohe Bakery is a local treat that newcomers must try.
Mokulele Drive: Mokulele Drive winds its way through Kaneohe’s largest residential area. This neighborhood is your quintessential family residential area, mainly composed of single-family houses and condos. It's close to the Windward City Shopping Center and Kamehameha Highway, the city’s main commercial area. For people looking for rentals, there is a big virtual sparkly arrow pointing to this spot.
Waokele Pond: Nestled against the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, the area around Waokele Pond, is a hilly residential neighborhood of winding streets and quiet cul-de-sacs. Something for your classic hermit or retiree.
Living in Kaneohe offers all the perks and all the downsides you might expect from life on a small island in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean. On one hand, it’s an amazing tropical island - duh. On the other hand, it’s quite literally in the middle of nowhere. The isolation of 800 miles of ocean in every direction can be liberating but also claustrophobic, depending on your personal character. Try to think of it as the former; you'll have a better time.
Sun, Surf and Turf Residents of this town love to spend their time outdoors, which is kind of unsurprising. Hawaii’s weather is generally dry and sunny, with brief showers throughout the year, although the occasional monster storm pours down buckets. The city boasts two of the best golf courses in the region, with many more just a short drive away. Those looking for a more athletic sport can try their hand at volleyball and surfing on one of several public beaches. Of course, the beaches offer plenty of room for sunbathing.
Natural Wonders and Birding Galore Manicured greens and raked beaches aren’t for everyone, of course. Nature lovers will adore Kaneohe’s easy access to impressive state parks. Heeia State Park and Waiahole Forest Reserve, both just minutes from downtown, preserve Hawaii’s indigenous splendor. Spotting unusual wildlife is easy at dawn and dusk, but the parks make a lovely hike any time of day. Hiking is a bit tougher in Kawai Nui Marsh, but the area is a birder’s paradise. Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is one of the best places on the planet to observe the unique and beautiful flora of the Hawaiian Islands.
Going Somewhere? Better get a Bike Let's be frank: cars are expensive here because they are all imported. The upside of this is that it means the local bus system is well-developed. That said, well-developed doesn't exactly equal unrivaled efficiency: traveling from one side of town to another can take up to an hour, depending on the time of day. Many locals rely on bicycles for transportation, a great option thanks to Kaneohe’s compact size and good weather. The hilly terrain makes biking a tough workout in some areas, however. So get fit or stay home, man!