Around the Island living

Are you looking to rent off base? If you are looking to buy please skip to the bottom of this page.

Most rentals are privately owned so it's hard to find a property manager that only shows rentals. Normally they are realtors of which a small percentage does rentals. So you'll have to do a lot of footwork yourself.

There are some things you should consider:

  • CHECK IN. If you are Military, you might want to check in with your base housing first before you go off and sign a lease. It is mandatory to do this with some services.

  • PETS. It's challenging when you read rental listings off base it seems like no one wants dogs over 25lbs or more than one dog in town. That is true in the condo's and apartments due to weight restrictions. You should have better luck renting a single family home outside of town. And on base housing you can have up to 2 dogs.

  • COST. Renting off base may not be saving you a lot of money. Base housing is slightly more reasonable in size, space, and location.

    • Base housing may have discounts on electricity since it's very expensive here. If you see a rental with photovoltaic solar panels that is advantageous because it can reduce your electric bill to $18.00 a month (2018). It's on average around $150-$200 a month for electricity for a single family home.

  • SIZE. It's normal for a 3bd, 2bath, single family home to be 1500-1600 sq ft.

  • A/C. Most homes do not have A/C. They may have window units but rarely central air. Electricity is so high most people sweat it out or buy fans and open the windows.

  • PARKING. This is a bonus if you can park on your property or even on your street. In town, there may be a carport or you park in tandem. Or you may only have street parking. In West or Central Oahu you may have a garage.

  • LOCATION. It's important to consider your commute time to your work place. Ewa to town is the worst commute on this island. 50,000 people live in Ewa/Kapolei. About 1 million people live in Honolulu county. Make sure you try out your commute during rush hour to see if that will work for you.

  • CRIME. And make sure you have ways to lock up your stuff because there is a lot of theft, people breaking into houses and stealing cars (5500 stolen a year). Here is the crime map around Oahu You can also follow "Stolen Stuff" Facebook group about crime and lost items in Oahu.

  • FOOD. Food is very expensive so you'll find yourself shopping at the commissary regularly. Sometimes it's almost the same price to eat out as it is to buy.


Here are some useful sites to use when looking to rent on Oahu. not only lists apartments but there are single family homes as well.

Craigslist Oahu has the most rentals listed has some listings

Are you interested in the popular town of Mililani? So are about 75% of all the Military families who move here that want to go to the top schools in the state. 

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. Here is a great write up about living in Mililani.

On Mililani side, Mililani High school is ranked the one of the top public 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. I heard 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

  • 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.

MILILANI MAUKA BY DRONE. It is a lovely planned community. As a reminder if the you tube video loads in low resolution you can click on the dial icon? And raise it from 240p to 1080p

MILILANI TOWN CENTER, Genki Ramen and Napoleons bakery


Mililani Town Center 

H3 Drive to Kaneohe is little traffic from Camp Smith

H3 Drive to Kaneohe is little traffic from Camp Smith

Thinking of living on the Windward side of Kaneohe and Kailua? The most beautiful beaches on the island? 

The blue blue water of Kailua, the beaches and the Sandbar in Kaneohe is worth the 30 min+ commute through the H3, Pali and Likelike tunnels. No where on the island can you get the spectacular Ko'olau mountains view. 

COMMUTE: 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 30 min H3 commute from Kaneohe to Camp Smith and Pearl Harbor is very easy and light traffic. 

The homes in Kaneohe/Kailua are older and mostly single story built in 1960-70’s. The lots are much bigger (7500-10000 sq ft) than in town and it's a beach town so not always sidewalks or streetlights. Amazing views of the Ko’olau mountains. You will NOT see any mountain views like that anywhere else on the island. It’s about 12 miles to Honolulu and population around 53,000. about 15,000 commute through the tunnels every day. That’s less than 1/3 that commute from Ewa/Kapolei.

For shopping, there is a new Target and Whole foods that opened in Kailua and lots of small business owed shops and restaurants. 

The MCBH Kaneohe has boat rentals at MWR. You can also rent diving equipment, snorkeling gear, boogey boards, etc. and visit the Kaneohe sandbar which is one of the largest sandbars in the world. 

  • MCBH Commissary will also be your only commissary on the Windward side and given the high cost of food, you may probably shop there every week.

Here’s 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.


MCBH Exchange and Commissary

View of the Ko'olau mountains at HAWAII MEMORIAL in Kaneohe

View of the Ko'olau mountains at HAWAII MEMORIAL in Kaneohe

Salt Lake park near Tripler Army Hospital

Salt Lake park near Tripler Army Hospital

What is it like to live and commute in Ewa Beach or Kapolei? 

West Oahu and the Ewa Plain (Ewa, Kapolei, Makakilo, Royal Kunia, Ko Olina) ~ Ewa is pronounced "E' VA". Ewa/Kapolei is located on the West side of Oahu.

COMMUTE: Even if you don't drive very far, you are in your car a lot. There’s is 1 main road out of Ewa into Town, Fort Weaver road, that leads you to 5 miles of different communities. Commute to Schofield is 11-15 miles and up to 30 min during rush hour. The 15 mile commute from Ewa to Pearl Harbor is the worst commute on this island. It can take you 1 hour between 0530-0700AM. Kapolei and Ko’olina are closer to the H1 freeway on ramps than Ewa so there are less lights. Kapolei is slightly farther but a little less congested for now. That will change with the massive expansion of the new construction in the works. Here’s a little blog from someone who moved to Honolulu from Ewa. And you can get demographics and ask questions on city-data.

NEWER HOUSING: Ewa, Kapolei, Ko’olina and Makakilo are the newest developed cities in Oahu, which means the homes are newer, the buildings, most roads, and strip malls. So on an island where everything gets rusted and oxidized by the sea air, the new housing can be very appealing. They are going to build another 25,000 homes by 2031 in anticipation of the Honolulu Rail completion. So you can still buy new construction fairly easily for some time in the future.

People who live in West Oahu typically do so because after they have searched across the island they realize they want a newer home for their money, and they don't mind commuting - or at least they put up with it. And this is appealing for those who only plan to stay 3 years, they normally don’t want to do any renovations. Also note that the closest commissary for you is Schofield or NEX at Pearl Harbor.

The average 3 bedroom 2 bath house from what I've seen, will run you 15-25% 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. The commute from the Airport is brutal so need to really research that.

This is a great drone video of Ewa Gentry and the Kamakana Ali'i mall that just opened in Nov 2016

Disney's Aulani Hotel. It's located in Ko'olina (Kapolei) about 35-45 min from Waikiki (non rush hour) and it is located in Lagoon beach 1 of Ko'olina. There’s a gorgeous walking path along the water that connects all the lagoons on this path. Aulani is a really a nice place to stay but pricey at over $300 a night. They couldn't really give me any military rates in person so better to call.

BEACHES - In Kapolei, you have White plains and Ewa beach. Leeward surfers go to White Plains to surf. Both these beaches have significant shore breaks and can be a risk for little kids. 

There are 4 lagoons in Ko’olina with minimal-no parking. There is a man made reef break that calms the shore break and is great for kids. It's located just behind the Ko'olina resorts and Marriott at Lagoon’s 1-3.  

KAMAKANA ALI'I MALL. Here's the new Mall in Kapolei. Just opened November 2016. Kapolei is opening new stores everyday and slated to be the second largest city after Honolulu.  

Kamakana Ali'i Mall in Kapolei, HI There

View of Ko’olina and the Waianae mountains from the Disney Aulani hotel.

View of Ko’olina and the Waianae mountains from the Disney Aulani hotel.

Have you thought of living in the resort town of Ko’olina? It’s located next to Kapolei in West Oahu. There are 6 gated communities with a walking path to 4 lagoons. Mostly condos and townhomes. Average size is between 1000-1600 sq ft.
Here is more info on the communities of Ko’olina.

Thinking of living in Hawaii Kai? Think about the Beauty and the commute.

It's a 6 mile drive of lights to the H1 freeway on-ramp. There is only one way in and one way out on Kalanianaole. The traffic starts at 6:30am, town bound, and is very heavy to University until 8:30am. In the afternoon 4:00-6:30 pm. Some people have sold their house in Hawaii Kai to move into town due to the congestion on Kalanianaole.

It is the only "harbor" life on the island. It's water living in Hawaii Kai and people love it. Residents 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. 

Kaimuki. If you want to go to public schools, Kalani High school is supposed to be one of the top 3 best public HS in the state. Housing in Kaimuki is where the boundaries are for Kalani HS. It's about $1M for 1300 sq ft to buy in Kaimuki but the location to town in 7 min is amazing! It is an older neighborhood and sometimes "dumpy" but you can get a classic Hawaii type living space. Don’t be surprised it may be in the basement of someone's house. It's called "Ohana" living or multigenerational. It's a very popular area due to it's location to the city and it's next to Diamond Head. 

According to a Hawaii report, there are 47% of renters in the state. Rentals are a big deal in Honolulu because affordability is moderate-low 😬 but you can find good deals, but they go really fast.

Wilhelmina Rise in Kaimuki overlooks Diamond Head crater

Wilhelmina Rise in Kaimuki overlooks Diamond Head crater

Population in Kaimuki almost 20,000 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 Institute. In Manoa, Hokulani elementary is a public school feeder into these private schools.

Also are you good with the rain? It rains quite a bit in Manoa especially closer to the mountain. It's about $1.2M and up to buy an older home with no real views. About $3000+ to rent a 1400 sq ft home. Lots of traffic though leading into Manoa from the University of Hawaii.

The pluses are you can be in town. So Location, location, location. Downtown 3 min drive. High end neighborhood.


Dream goals Ocean view

Looking to buy on island?

Are you looking to buy a home?

Everyone has imagined this life on Hawaii with ocean views or living near the ocean. The reality is is that is a very expensive option that most cannot afford. The average single family home price is in the high $700K and about 1400-1600 sq ft. An ocean view home like this photo is around $1.2M and this particular home is located in East Oahu where you live within a mile from the beach.

Reality is over 50% of all who settle here end up in West or Central Oahu due to price, value, age, size, and location to work. Most end up in Ewa/Kapolei area. Others live on base due to traffic commute to JBPHH.

Here is the 2019 VA loan information for Hawaii from the Veteran home loans of Hawaii. The loan borrowing limits for 2019 are the same across the islands.

$726,525 Hawaii big island
$726,525 Honolulu
$726,525 Kalawao 
$726,525 Kauai
$726,525 Maui

If you’re a veteran planning to purchase a home in Hawaii, a termite inspection is required. Additionally, there are restrictions based on lava flows. The purchase of properties located in Lava Flow Zones 1 and 2 is not permitted, although purchasing property in Lava Flow 3 is allowed. (Lava is on the Big Island)

Here are the 5 top underwriters for homeowners insurance in the state. This site says the "best" however, not sure if what makes them the "best" but they do lay out some of the key advantages and differences of each.

Top 5 in Hawaii for Home owners insurance.

  • Allstate

  • State Farm

  • First Insurance Company of Hawaii

  • Heritage Insurance

  • USAA

I’m still working on this section so stand by for more information.

Thanks for reading and please share your experiences with me on my FB group, HAWAII MILITARY LIFE, so we can help others. I mainly post Local Hawaii events and information in that group. And if you are retiring or transitioning, please join our HAWAII MILITARY RETIRED VETERANS LIFE Facebook group.

HAWAII MILITARY LIFE is a recently created FB group. We try to look for a lot of FREE events or discounts for Military. We also post PCS info, buying a car, pet info, BAH, and anything related to Military command events in Hawaii. This group is NOT FOR PROFIT so we are REAL DoD families helping each other. You can search through our Facebook site using key words on the left column.