North Shore (Haleiwa, Sunset, Pupukea, Waialua, Laie, Malaikahana, Mokuleia, Waimea) ~ Big waves, country roads, and multi million dollar houses. Locals will call this area "country,". Life on the North Shore is different than most of the island. It's a little bit like living in Maui, Kauai or the Big Island. The famous Pipeline and Waimea Bay bring giant waves and 800K visitors in the winter.
The North Shore community is highly focused on surfing, and in the winter the population increases dramatically with almost a million people a year from all over the world coming to see the big waves.
Most people drive to Costco in Waipio/Mililani, which is about 20-30 minutes away, depending on which part of the North Shore they live in.
This is a nice video of Pipline in the North shore. The waves break right in front of you.
Both Schofield and Wheeler are located in Wahiawa, HI off the same road. Wahiawa is located in CENTRAL OAHU and is at a higher elevation. The weather is about 6 degrees cooler than town, nice! It rains 4-5 months of the year though and the closer you are to the mountain the more it rains. North Shore is about 20 min away.
The nearest off base housing area is Mililani (older side) and Mililani Mauka (newer). Mauka means “mountain” in Hawaiian. Mililani is one of my top 3 choices to live on the island. Both are located just 5 min away off the H2 on either side of the freeway and I know of at least 5 families that live on either side of Mililani and love it. It’s a very family oriented area with great amenities and nice residential neighborhoods.
On Mililani side, Mililani High school is ranked the one of the top schools in the state of Hawaii. It has the highest graduation average rate and scores well when compared to other Hawaii public schools. Also the star from Disney’s movie, “Moana”, Auli’I Cravalho, is a student there!
In Mililani Mauka side, many families have told me Mililani Ike and Mililani Mauka elementary are their favorites. Also located in Mauka is Mililani Middle school. The only downside I was told is that the middle school is overcrowded so they have a track system, rotating schedule of 9 weeks on and 3 weeks off all year long.
Here is Mililani Middle school Track system Calendar http://www.milmdl.k12.hi.us/DOCS/SCC/SY1718Calendar.pdf
It is a 4 track system in which ¾ of all kids are on campus and ¼ is off campus. This schedule makes it really hard for parents who have kids in other schools in which the days off school do not match up.
I know some families get to go on vacation to Disney in Anaheim during “low season” so they like having those off weeks to travel economically. But regardless of the rotating schedule, the department of education requires 180 days of school.
The blue blue water of Kailua and beaches and the Sandbar in Kaneohe is worth the 30 min+ commute through the H3, Pali and Likelike tunnels. There is a new Target that opened in Kailua and lots of shops and restaurants.
The closer you live to the Ko'olau mountain range the rainier it gets. So if you are ok with Rain then live on the Windard side. The trade off is the H3 commute from Kaneohe to Camp Smith is easy and very little traffic.
The homes are older and mostly single story. The lots are much bigger than in town and it's a beach town so not always sidewalks or streetlights.
The MCBH Kaneohe has boat rentals at MWR. You can also rent diving equipment, snorkeling gear, etc. Kaneohe will be your only commissary on the Windward side and given the high cost of food, you will be there every week :).
Here is a look at homes in Kaneohe. Note the Ko'olau mountains go straight up. You can't get that mountain view anywhere else on the island.
West Oahu and the Ewa Plain (Ewa, Kapolei, Makakilo, Royal Kunia, Ko Olina) ~ Ewa is pronounced "E' VA", as in. People who live in Ewa drive a lot. Even if they don't drive very far, they are in the car a lot. That's because there is exactly 1 way out of Ewa into Town, where most of the 50,000 people in Ewa work. But here's the positive side - Ewa, Kapolei, and Makakilo are the newest developed cities in Oahu, which means the homes are newer, the building and some roads, almost everything is new. So on an island where everything gets rusted and oxidized by the sea air, the new housing can be very appealing.
People who live in Ewa typically do so because they want more house for their money, and they don't mind commuting - or at least they put up with it. The main problem is, as you drive into town in the morning, you're driving into the sun. As you drive home toward Ewa, you drive into the sun. So you are always driving into the sun!
The average 3 bedroom 2 bath house will run you about 25% LESS in Ewa than in Town or East Oahu. That is why you might want to check it out. Spend the night in Ewa and drive into town, then drive back to Ewa at 5pm. Wow. It's brutal. The 15 mile drive can take over an hour.
Disney's Aulani Hotel. It's located in Ko'olina (Kapolei) about 35-45 min from Waikiki and it is located in Lagoon beach 1 of Ko'olina. The lagoons are ideal for little kids. They shaped the lagoons in such a way that there is no significant shore-break. It's $12 an hour to park unless you can validate by buying something in the store or dining there. It's really a nice place but pricey at over $300 a night. They couldn't really give me any military rates in person so better to call.
If you have little kids you are better off going to the Ko'olina lagoons at Kapolei near the hotels. There is a man made reef break that calms the shore break. It's located just behind the Ko'olina resorts and Marriott. http://www.best-of-oahu.com/Ko-Olina-Oahu.html
Here's the new Mall in Kapolei. Just opened November 2016. http://www.kamakanaalii.com/
Thinking of living in Hawaii Kai? It's 6 miles to the freeway on ramp. There is only one way in and one way out. The traffic starts at 6:30am and is heavy to University until 8:30am. In the afternoon 4:00-6:30 pm. I know people who have sold their house in HK to move into town based off this. Think about it before you move there.
The pluses are it is the only "harbor" life on the island. It's water living there. People take their boats to Safeway and Costco across the water to shop and then out to sea. Also Hanauma bay and crater hike are 5 min away. Once you get a Hawaii DL you can go to Hanauma bay for free and only watch the video once a year as a resident. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawaii_Kai,_Hawaii
Kaimuki. If you want to go to public schools, Kalani High school is supposed to be the second best HS in the state. Housing in Kaimuki is where the boundaries are. It's $1M for 1300 sq ft to buy in Kaimuki but it puts you in town in 7 min! It's quite "dumpy" but you can get a classic Hawaii type living space but it may be in the basement of someone's house. It's called "Ohana" living or multigenerational. Think about it.
Pluses are there are tons of restaurants and things to do on Waialae Ave and Kahala Mall. And you are so close to Kapiolani park and Diamond Head beaches. Waikiki is only a couple miles away if that.
Population almost 20K in 2 square miles.
Manoa or Makiki.
If you like living on top of each other then Makiki is the place for you! High rise apartment life. Best privates schools are in Manoa, with Punahou and Mid Pacific. Hokulani elementary is a public school feeder into these private schools. Also are you good with the rain? It rains half a year in Manoa especially towards the back. It's about $1.2M and up to buy a dumpy home with no views. About $3000+ to rent a 1200 sq ft home. Lots of traffic though leading into Manoa.
Pluses are you can be in town....uh you are in town. Location, location, location. Downtown 3 min drive. Nice neighborhood.