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
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.
(Annie Groves Photography, Yes She is Awesome!)
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.
Love this! We have been on island for over a year now and we lived in Ewa Beach up until about 2 weeks ago. We moved down to the AIrport area into beautiful military housing. We loved EVERYTHING about living in Ewa Beach but the time away from my husband who did the commute and having to plan anything with friends between 9-1 was tough, we missed out on a lot of events and get togethers. We are happy in AIR CONDITIONING which we didnt have living in Ewa but miss being away from “base” life…..all in all, a great time was had in Ewa Beach and loving our new life here down by Pearl Harbor! GREAT READ!
Oh yeah Christina, the Military Housing on near the airport is pretty sweet! I just recently visiting a friends home, I loved it! Yeah, we had a lot of friends in Town and after a while, it became a big deal just leaving Ewa Beach to drive into town. Thanks for commenting!
Fantastic. We live in Kaneohe, and are shopping for a condo in town. I work at a private school in town and it would cut my commute to nothing. But oh, leaving the Windward side, my home for thirteen years…hard to think about!
Our church is in town, also, though, and there are so many things we love to do there. Thanks for laying it out here. BTW, I’ve referred so many of my friends to this blog! You made our summer. I think I saw you at the Taiko drumming in Kakaako in June, but we left before it finished so I didn’t want to come over and say hi. Thanks for keeping up this helpful blog!
Hey Alexandra! Oh yeah, making the move from Kaneohe to Town would be a tough choice for me too I think 🙂 but, since our move from Ewa, I’ve realized we were prioritizing space over proximity to things. Perhaps the commute and improved quality of life due to proximity will make this a great move, the key will be finding the right place though!
We lived in Ewa for our first 6 months and recently we moved up to Makakilo. Best choice for us. We are not urbanites at all, so when we found this home we were really excited about it.
I agree on all points about Ewa Beach. We always got that look and now we don’t get that look about Makakilo. Love living out here more.
Hey Dina! Thanks for commenting! Interesting responses regarding Makakilo vs Ewa right? I remember looking at houses in Makakilo and the breeze being so nice up over there. How’s the heat in the summer, you still catch a breeze?
Thank you for this article. We live in Ocean Point but are weighing the pros and cons for moving to town. I have been hesitant because for our family situation it means moving into a little condo with our toddler and dog in tow. But I whole heartedly agree with all your points about Ewa (especially the food choices or lack there of!). And how it’s difficult to make friends if your not local or military. Thanks for showing that it is possible to raise littles in the city.
Thank you so much for this write up. We are facing similar decisions and we found this very helpful. Would love to speak with you some day.
Hey there! Are you still living in Honolulu? We are moving from Australia and I love this post! I have been pushing to living in the city, but looking online Ewa keeps popping with great spaces, but…. Well, you know. I identify with a lot of what you said. 🙂 would love to get more advice from you. We have two little ones under 4 and we have moved about four times in the past five years– while pregnant too– and no we aren’t military either! Anyway, would love to pick your brain if you have the time.
I would love to know the name of your church, it’s sounds amazing based on your description. Planning on moving to Oahu with my family in the next few months, and finding a great church is a huge priority.
Hi Courtney :), We attend Harbor Church!
My husband and I are on the hunt for a home to buy and I stumbled across your post. We’ve been on island for nearly 5 years and have moved every single year for various (and ridiculous) reasons…and I’m over it! So we have made the decision to buy. We lived in Kapolei in Koolina at one point and our electric bill was nearly $700 per month. I can’t stomach that again. This was a great read – thank you for sharing!!! Xo
We are preparing to move to Ewa Beach. We settled on the apt complex with the beach because that’s what Hawaii is all about. Fun, beach and recreation. I was shocked to see so much clutter when viewing rentals online. Junk everywhere. We are moving from a 3800 sq ft house to less than 1500 sq ft. But we are from NYC so 1500 is a lot of space. I prefer a smaller footprint anyway. I love the outdoors. Thank you for so much information. I also homeschool my children.
This post was very helpful to me. My husband and I will be moving to either Oahu or Big Island this next spring. The homes in Ewa Beach (we will buy, not rent) are within our price range, but we did wonder about the neighborhood.
We are both retired, although I am an author. Hubbis is a retired physician but he is also retired military. Looking at a map, Ewa Beach looks like it is close to the Hickham amenities, so we are confused by your comments about how long it might take us to get to the base from Ewa Beach. We would be shopping at the commissary there.
We would also be active in the Honolulu arts scene (symphony, opera), so we don’t want to live somewhere that is so far from those activities that we would have a difficult time getting to-from events and board/committee meetings.
Our price range is up to $950k. Can you recommend a neighborhood that we should look in besides Ewa Beach, so that we don’t get “the look” from the Oahu snobs? LOL
I really enjoyed this. Very insightful for me. I plan to move back to Oahu one day.
I am curious, which church do you and your family attend?
Great article. I lived in Mililani now Makaha. Talk about night and day.
This was a great article. Thank You!! we are moving to Hawaii next month and plan on Ewa Beach but I have been thinking about looking into other areas. We have three kids that are a little older and I like the idea of living in Kapilina because of the community feel but I am worried about being so far away fro everything. Thanks again!
P.S. Beautiful family!!!
Thank you for writing this article. We are moving to Hawaii next month and plan on moving to Kapalina shores in Ewa Beach but I started thinking about looking into different areas because I don’t want to be too far away from things but I like the community feel. WE have three kids 18, 15, and 8.
P.S. You have a beautiful family.
Awesome,thank you so much for all your advice!
Takara, love this article. I lived in Hawaii for over 13 years and I now live in California. I am planning on moving back and just wanted to get you opinion on some thins. How can I reach you?
I’m a single mom considering relocating to Hawaii & ran across your article through Google. Any info you can share about possible good areas of the island will be very helpful. Thank you.
Thank you for your blog! I was born in Kahuku and lived on the North Shore until I met my husband and we landed on the mainland. I am always looking for a way to get back, especially with the pandemic now. The advice you give as a mother is invaluable. Last time I was a local I was in college and single, so my priorities are much different now with a family. Beautiful family, by the way!
Great article! My british wife, 16 YO daughter and I are moving to Oahu this summer. I’ll be working in the middle of the island. We currently live in a neighborhood outside of Denver and not liking living in suburbia hell. We moved from England where we loved walking everywhere and having everything at our doorstep. Lot of people have recommended Ewa Beach but we think we might might like somewhere else better. We are both social people, love meeting new people and walking to pubs and restaurants. Of course we will have a limited budget so I’m not sure I could afford living in town.
Also I lived in Northern Japan for a year and loved it but I think Tokyo was too busy for me. Great to visit but not sure I’d want to live there. .
Anyway great work and keep it up!
So glad to have found your blog and this post. Although it’s three years after the fact, I find this information so useful as my family and I are looking to move to Manoa from Makaha in the fall. Some of your words validate some of my anxieties about moving to town. We’ll be checking out Manoa tomorrow after we visit the University’s preschool where my child may be attending in the fall.
I’m with you on the pest thing. That’s a no for me, too. And the discrimination in housing is something I’d wondered about as well, cause…well it just seems like that might be the case.
And you homeschool! That’s my plan (despite what I mentioned previously).
Great post. I’ll be reading!
(Also, although I have not yet read your post about not being military, I shall, cause I feel like I might know where you’re coming from. I’m probably gonna do a post in it myself.)
Thank you for this well written article. It has helped my family in many ways. All the best to you and your family.