Hawaii’s capital city is home to most of the island’s population, and is bursting with art, culture, history, culinary gems, famed beaches, world-class shopping and breathtaking displays of nature. For the purposes of this guide, we’re referring to Honolulu as the region, not solely the urban epicenter. The area stretches from Pearl Harbor to Makapuu Point, encompassing the southeastern shores of Oahu, including the birthplace of surfing, Waikiki.  

All the amenities you can dream of are available in Honolulu and it also boasts some of the best shopping you can imagine. There are local markets and name brands, fine dining and farm-to-table restaurants, museums, art galleries, the Hawaii Symphony, and heavenly white sand beaches skirting glorious mountains. Tourism is a massive industry in Honolulu and is fed by the many resorts, events, festivals, and of course, the beaches.


Because of the vibrant nightlife, high cost of living and other characteristics typical of city dwelling, inhabitants of downtown Honolulu tend to be younger professionals, students, singles or young married couples. You will find a healthy population of service members distributed amongst an eclectic array of civilian residents. You may also find yourself living amongst tight-knit ethnic enclaves which can vastly add to your experience here, if you embrace it!

Neighborhood Feel

The city is bustling and alive with activity at all hours, and the incessant traffic adds a layer of chaos and noise to urban living. In “town” you’ll find mostly high-rise condos and apartment buildings. The suburbs are sprawling eastward, with single family homes located farther from downtown.The type of construction in Honolulu is similar to that found on most of the island and may be a shock to “mainland eyes.” Central air conditioning is rare, and space is sold at a premium. There are some really great, walkable areas though, and the warm weather welcomes you outdoors year-round.

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Neighborhood Location

JBPHH – Nimitz Gate
Schofield/Wheeler – Lyman Gate
Tripler AMC – Main Gate
Fort Shafter – Buckner Gate
MCHB – Front Gate
Drive Time to Gate
20 to 45* minutes
35 to 60* minutes
15 to 40* minutes
15 to 35* minutes
25 to 60* minutes
By Transit
36 minutes
1 hour 40 minutes
48 minutes
30 minutes
42 minutes

Neighborhood Info

Honolulu - Fort Shafter & Trippler AMC, HI - gomillie.com

Points of Interest

Beaches – Waikiki, Waialae, Kuhio, and Kawaikui — just to name a few.

Ala Moana – World-class shopping destination.

Magic Island – Man-made peninsula park off Ala Moana.

Children’s Discovery Museum

Diamond Head – Iconic hike at the top of which you can take in panoramic views of Honolulu and Waikiki.

Downtown Honolulu and Chinatown – Honolulu’s center for government, art and historic districts.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific – Located in the Punchbowl Crater, this is the final resting place for over 53,000 veterans and their dependants.

Aloha Tower – Historic landmark and home to fantastic outdoor shopping and dining.

Iolani Palace

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve – The once volcanic crater turned crescent shaped bay is now a popular snorkeling destination.

The Kalona Blowhole

Koko Head

Big Plus

Honolulu has a variety of public schools to choose from and a higher concentration of private and charter schools than other areas on the island.

Thriving art scene and robust cultural and culinary offerings add to the quality of life.

Rich in history, this area is replete with displays commemorating Hawaii’s native and modern heritage.

Ala Moana calls Honolulu home and is the largest open-air shopping center in the world.

Iconic beaches line the southern and southeastern coastline, to include the birthplace of surfing, Waikiki.

Things to Consider

Be prepared for sticker shock. Not only is the area pricey, but you’ll be shocked at how little your money buys. This is not the place to pocket BAH, but city life can be worth it for some!  

The traffic is formidable and should be a serious consideration. The city is already very densely populated and even more Hawaiians and servicemembers commute in and out for work. Consistent congestion and over-stressed roadways will both add to the time you’ll spend in your car. There are three main highways on the entire island and only one that feeds into Honolulu. Parking is challenging and garages are very expensive. Street parking is considered prime real estate.  

Like any other urban center, you need to take the good with the bad. Some areas can have higher concentrations of crime and may be more run down than others. We recommend doing research on crime statistics and not renting or buying sight unseen.

The pace, noise level and lack of space may deter families from living in the more central areas, but larger homes in more family friendly communities can be found farther away from downtown. Young singles or couples tend to gravitate to this area for the social scene and active nightlife.

How’s the Market?

The median home value is $624,900 according to the Zillow Home Value Index.

Home Values are forecasted to increase by 0.9% in the coming year.

According to Zillow’s Rental Index, the median rental rate for in Honolulu is $2,849. The ZRI for Honolulu is for the entire metro area.

School Scoop

Honolulu has 109 schools. One of the best schools is Mayor John H Wilson Elementary School, which is rated a 10 by GreatSchools.org.

Hawaii is the only state with a unified school system, meaning all taxes are distributed to the schools at the state level and schools are not grouped into districts.  

When looking at Oahu’s test scores and GreatSchools.org ratings, we advise you to look at the entire picture. Hawaiian public schools are evaluated based on Common Core standards, but many areas suffer a fairly large achievement gap due to socioeconomic disparities, despite offering a better quality education than the ratings imply. Many spouses report that the rankings don’t always reflect a school’s quality of education, so we encourage you to talk to friends, or Scouts, about specific schools.

Geographic Exemptions (GE’s) are available if you wish for your child to attend a different school from where your family is zoned, but these are granted on a space available basis and are at the principal’s discretion. Keep in mind – if your child attends a school while in a temporary lodging facility, he/she will have to move schools when you move out of the TLF if your new home is zoned to a different school. You may apply for a GE, but it isn’t guaranteed. Priority goes to those zoned to a failing school (based on No Child Left Behind standards), children of teachers at the school, and children who already have siblings at the school.

Highlighted Areas

Hawaii Kai – Ultra luxe living.

Waialae and Kahala – predominantly multi-family dwellings (condos, apartments).

Aina Haina – Chic beachside luxury.

Port Lock – Pricey, posh coastal hideaway.

Waikai – Turnkey resort living.

Waikiki Very urban surf mecca with highrise apartments.