Where should you live on Oahu? I recently took the quiz “Where on Oahu Do You Belong?” It came as no surprise to me when I saw Kakaako displayed in my quiz results. I love me some urban city vibe. I’ll take a vintage boutique and farm-to-table restaurant over hanging out at the beach and a hiking up a mountain, ANY day. Hence my two most favorite cities to live in have been DC and Tokyo. I miss them both.
It’s been almost a year since we made a BIG move from Ewa Beach into Town (Honolulu proper) and the decision was not made lightly. I don’t like to move. I’m not big on change. We’ve moved five times in the past four years. Four of the five moves were overseas- that is a whole other story completely! (Remember, we were repatriating from having lived abroad.. it took us a while to really find a spot that clicked.) I have officially had my fill of moves. Moving, especially while pregnant and with two children under four years-old, is a major disruption to diet, schedule, sleep, routine, etc. I don’t recommend it. (No, remember we’re not military.)
But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do! And so we did it. When I was seven months pregnant. And I survived.
Whether you live here or you’re moving to Oahu and you’ve been wondering what it’s like to live in Ewa Beach or Honolulu, here’s my personal experience with the two. Perhaps this will shed some light on things for you..
What It’s Like Living in Ewa Beach
Ask anyone living in Ewa Beach and they’ll tell you, it’s a great place for families. The amount of space you get in Ewa for the price just can’t be beat anywhere else on Oahu. If you like suburbia, you’ll love Ewa Beach. It’s full of families with kids, cute subdivisions. It’s close to Kapolei. There are also a lot of golf courses, manicured landscaping, community pools, close to Koolina, other beaches and grocery stores. Plus, there’s a major mall planned to break ground next year that will surely be a go-to destination on island once complete.
Proximity to grocery stores, dry cleaners, all of that is about a five minute drive around the corner. Very convenient. Also there are several schools in the area, so kids can easily walk to school or ride their bikes if needed.
Ewa Beach has a lot of nice and reasonably priced homes. We lived in a 2900 square foot four bedroom home with a studio apartment unit connected to our garage, of which my husband occasionally used as a home office. It was a very open and spacious floor plan. It was a beautiful home. A pain to clean, but a lovely place to call home. We paid $3,400 a month for it + separate utilities..
We later deemed it to be a bit too much house for us, as it consisted of two levels and the only time we used the second level was for sleeping. Once my girls began sharing a room, two of the bedrooms were seldom used, unless we had house guests, which wasn’t as regular as we initially anticipated.
The Weather in Ewa Beach
Ewa Beach can get pretty hot and is normally about 2-3 degrees hotter than the rest of the island during the summer months. It is very dry land. Thus, if you’re living in a house in Ocean Pointe especially, I strongly warn against running your AC. It can get EXPENSIVE… quickly. I’m talking $800 electricity bill expensive!
Running your AC during the month of July from 8AM-4PM will gift you a bill of about $500-600 additional in electric. EASY. You’ll be tempted to do it. Don’t. I recommend heading to Costco and purchasing those cooling tower fans and strategically placing them around your home to for the months of July, August and September to help cool your home.
Traffic and Proximity
What about the traffic coming from Ewa Beach? You tell people you’re considering Ewa, guaranteed response will be one of these- “Ewa is HOT”. “Ewa is far!” “Ewa has a LOT of Traffic!”
It’s true, driving and traffic can be a challenge if you have to drive into town from Ewa everyday. However, if you don’t have to drive into town, your average commute (if you’re headed to a military base near Ewa) will be about forty minutes. I could be wrong, as we didn’t have to commute in the morning, so I am purely estimating here.
Honestly, the traffic coming from Ewa Beach and commuting in the morning would have been a total deal-breaker for us. Just getting down Fort Weaver Road in the mornings to get to the H1 requires 15-20 of traffic. If you don’t have to drive during peak rush-hour times in Ewa, or if you’re driving in the opposite directions of traffic during rush hour then living in Ewa could work for you.
Social Quality of Life
We like to be social. Cook-outs, beach days, dinners with friends. We like entertaining company and enjoying friends and good food while our kids play and run around. Socially, we found Ewa Beach quite isolating and not the best place for what we wanted. Because of the neighborhood design in Ocean Pointe, you rarely see your neighbors due to the garage being in the alleyway instead of the front. So, you basically learn which of your neighbors are home based on their distinct garage door and car sounds.
Further, in Ewa, you’re either military or local. We were neither and it was a challenge for us to find our fit. I’m a friendly mama, always striking up conversations, exchanging numbers, and inviting others to my home. In Ewa Beach, I found the best way to connect with people was via FB playgroups. Connecting with moms on my own didn’t really yield much in terms of relationships or invites to family cookouts, compared to connecting with moms via FB groups. My favorites were Ewa Beach Little Explorers and Fit4Mom Ewa Beach.
What People Who Live on Oahu Think of Living in Ewa
People love to put Ewa Beach down, talking about the homes in Ewa being cheap, poorly made ‘cookie cutter’ houses with no character, yada yada yada. [eye roll] I’m convinced this argument makes others on the island feel better about paying a whole bunch of money for half of the space. Why people must hate on Ewa Beach, I don’t know. My guess is that it has historically been a place lacking ‘prestige’ as it was where old sugar mills and workers were located. Thus, if you’re into boasting about the area you live in, or if you’re into pleasing the snobs of Oahu, then Ewa Beach probably won’t be a good fit for you. As soon as you tell others where you live they’ll question why you live there. If that sort of thing bothers you, you’re better off living in Hawaii Kai, Kailua, Manoa, or some other place that makes you feel good about telling people where you live.
We discovered something called the ‘Ewa Beach Put-Down Look’ when you tell people where you live. Ask any person living in Ewa Beach and they’ll confirm this. It’s kind of like a look of surprise, shock, and disgust all wrapped into one. We detested this response and started challenging people on their snobbish responses. My favorite response to this was, “Have you even BEEN to Ewa Beach once?” A majority of the responses were, “No…. but….. I heard…” or “Not for a while…”
Ummmhmmm, yeah, that’s what I thought. (Defend Ewa, ha!!)
I learned that people have a very outdated view of Ewa Beach as being a ‘hood’. When people think of Ewa, they don’t think Socal-style houses and manicured lawns and golf courses. They think hood with a bunch of country brown folks. (It has that too, which I for one, appreciate seeing a more diverse population on Oahu). Thus, I took GREAT pleasure in living in Ewa Beach and correcting the snobs of Oahu regarding our choice to live in Ewa Beach.
Why We Decided to Move into Town.
Here’s why we decided to move into Honolulu and leave Ewa Beach.
1. With the exception of grocery stores, everything is at least a 20-40 minute drive away.
2. We learned that we’re definitely NOT suburbanites after our time in Ewa Beach. I’m an urban girl through and through. My husband loves city vibe. We learned that we’re definitely NOT suburbanites after our time in Ewa. I love the city, cafes, walking, parks, museums. I tend to navigate towards the heart and life of a city. So, though we enjoyed living in Ewa Beach, we just weren’t that into it.
3. Our top reason for moving into town is, our church is in the heart of the city. It’s a great church who serves the city and regularly volunteers with Mayor Rights Housing Project. I love community outreach, especially when it comes to black and brown kids, who are often forgotten and overlooked, no matter where you go.
4. Another reasons we moved to Town is, we love really good food. Let me preface this by saying, we used to live in Tokyo, which is a culinary oasis of absolute food bliss, everyday. Tokyo continously passes Paris in terms of Michelin stars restaurants. Yes, it is just that good. Food is just good in Tokyo. All of it. You can’t go wrong.
Ewa Beach was quite disappointing in terms of GOOD food options. Good breakfasts spots are lacking. Good restaurants that are not chain franchise are lacking. Though, we did enjoy Monkeypod and Roy’s often. But, you can only go to those two places so many times. I would have loved a farm-to-table spot or a nice vegetarian spot to frequent there.
5. Greater diversity was yet another reason. I love meeting people from different places who are doing different things. Especially other mommy business owners, bloggers, moms on the go, making things happen. Also, I like for my girls to be exposed to different children from different cultures, this is very important to me. Town offers much more opportunities to do that. There’s just no contesting that.
6. More educational and amusement options for my children. There are quite a few regular spots me and the girls hit up for playtime in the Ewa Beach are. We frequented the library in Kapolei. We often enjoyed the lagoons at Koolina, and we were regulars at the neighborhood parks in Ocean Pointe. However, planning a trip to the zoo was more like a day trip as opposed to a morning trip. I recommend joining the Kroc Center if you move to Ewa Beach. At least join for the first few months you’re there. Lots of social activities, lots of things for your kids to do and many chances for you to mix and mingle with other families.
7. Better Proximity to excellent Surf spots and kid-friendly beaches. This is a big one. My husband is simply a happier guy when he can surf regularly. Everything is much closer to us now. 10-15 minutes gets me to the places I want to be.
8. More opportunity to use and practice our Japanese. Something we’ve both invested a lot of time in and don’t want to lose.
9. The weather is much better in town. 3-4 degrees difference can make a big difference in your quality of life, especially if you’re pregnant and if it is HOT like it has been recently.
Finding a Place in Town and the Quality of Housing
When we first moved to Oahu, we lived in Manoa, close to the UH campus for a few months, subletting from a sweet family taking a sabatical in Japan for the summer. Manoa was damp, beautiful, oddly Japanese in style of home, which was quite pleasant and surprising to me. It kind of reminded of the Brady Bunch neighborhood. I loved living in Manoa, but I wasn’t really big on other areas. I was just shocked at how run down and dingy things looked in Town. To me, I had the impression of living on a tropical island as being the equivalent of living in Bali in my head. Thus, until recently I had no serious desire to live in Town.
The thing about town is… Good spots go quick! Super quick. I’m talking you see it, you apply right then type of quick because it will get snatched away from you. Also, the rental market is pretty discriminatory- favors locals with Asian names (think Daniel Tanaka, Kim Lau, etc.) Just a word of caution to you. You don’t get a lot of bang for your buck living in Honolulu. Be prepared to pay a LOT for a smaller space but better proximity and ease to the city. We happened upon a great little house, Hawaiian style cottage in the Alewa Heights area, complete with a basement, front and back yard, garage, three bedrooms. We cut our budget by $1500 too.
Town has a LOT of clutter, pests, and is lacking in sidewalks.
Here’s what I don’t love about living in Honolulu- clutter clutter and more clutter. This place is a hoarder’s paradise. There’s a serious hoarding problem happening in Town! What is going on?
Also, unless you want cockroaches and ants all over your house, prepare to budget an extra $100-200 a month to pay for an exterminator. Raid is not going to cut it. On the other side of the island, we hardly ever saw cockroaches and ants in our home in Ewa Beach.
Which brings me to this, factor in the extermination out-of-pocket costs you’ll spend on your home if you’re moving in Honolulu. We were being overrun by ants so I finally broke down and called an exterminator. Seriously, just go ahead and call an exterminator. The attitude of many Town folk is ants and roaches are to be expected, just live with it. Ummmm, that would be a big, ‘No Ma’am!” in my book. Call an exterminator. End of story.
One more thing, if you enjoy taking walks around the neighborhood with your kiddos, on a sidewalk, you’d be hard-pressed to find that in Town. Sidewalks are a luxury I took for granted in Ewa Beach.
So which place is best for our family?
Though we loved Ewa Beach for the space, Town is best for us. So far, we LOVE our new home. Despite having to deal with ants in my kitchen some time, we are very happy with our move. I homeschool, so we don’t have to deal with the schools here. We’re about 5 minutes away from our church. And a 10-15 minute drive away from pretty much anywhere else we want to go.
Living in town allows for more freedom to get out and about Town with ease and still return home to take care of my house. If you’re planning to live in Town, the most important thing is finding a nice home. Invest a lot of time into finding a great place and put in your application right away, things go quickly. I recommend taking a friend with an Asian look, as there are some serious discriminatory practices happening here.
So there you have it.
The culture here is pretty tight-lipped when it comes to sharing information like this. I find that annoying. One of the many reasons why I started Fun Little Ohana. I hope this article might be of some use to families similar to ours deciding where on Oahu you should move.
And Here’s a Video Regarding Tokyo’s culinary status, just in case you were questioning it’s validity.