I was recently hired to drive a couple from Georgia through the neighborhoods of Kailua Kona so they could get a feel for where they wanted to buy a house without wasting the time of a Realtor. They asked me, “What are the best neighborhoods to live in Kona?” and of course, I had to ask them, “What is your price range? Do you have children? Do you have big dogs? Where will you be working? Is a view important?” There are a variety of factors that go into answering this question, so I will share with you here what we found and experienced, but it may not be the answer you may be looking for if you have small children or if you cannot afford a home over $500,000! (As of November 2019, the median price of a home in Kona is $625,000 for your standard issue 3 bedroom/2 bath house)
We started in the lower Lako Street area where homes are a bit more affordable due to the age of the homes and the fact that as you get closer to the ocean, you also don’t have the air flow you will enjoy at the higher elevations on upper Lako and the whole band of homes above Queen K highway. (Mauka as we say) This neighborhood is home to families with children who can walk to the local elementary school (Kahakai Elementary) and has bus pick up for Konaweana middle school and high school. This neighborhood also has easy access to both Alii Drive and the highway.
Keauhou View Estates is easy walking distance to Magic Sands beach and the homes resemble what you may consider a “suburban neighborhood feel” with sidewalks, homes side by side, etc. This neighborhood has some homes with ocean views, but the location to the beach and downtown is what makes it desirable..
Upper Lako Street has the commanding views of the ocean. It also has a price tag to go with it, as these homes are newer, spacious and they capture the natural air flow of the tropical breezes. When I was showing my new friends around, we veered to the right of this neighborhood and found ourselves in what is called the Sunset District and the Walua Trail area. These homes are much older than the Lako Street subdivision and as I was pointing out, many are suffering from deferred maintenance issues, which will bring the price of the homes down when it is time to sell, but they will also require the work of local professional trades people, which can be very expensive. The woman I was showing the homes to was just gasping at the views from the lanais of these homes and enjoyed the character of the neighborhood here where the homes were not cookie cutter and the landscaping was not perfectly manicured, but had interesting elements due to Japanese influence and homeowners who enjoyed gardening. The ability to take a run or walk and to take pets and children out on the Walua trail, a mostly protected six mile long road/trail that stretches from Lako Street all the way up past Kamehameha Road is a very nice benefit of this area.
Heading south, we also toured the Keauhou area, a place near and dear to my heart having lived there for six years. However, I WILL tell you that living makai (ocean side) of Alii Drive is HOT. The condos on Kamehameha Rd are walking distance to the bay, but I WILL tell ya, our Realtor did not pass along the memo about how hot it is down there with no air flow during the summer. Average temperature in our condo was 86 degrees for a very long time. Keauhou is one of the hottest places to live in the entire Hawaiian Island chain. No joke, so as much as I loved being there and being so close to Keauhou Shopping Center, it is a great place to visit, but if you are looking for full time, just know you have been forewarned. However, upper Keauhou has some fantastic views and you DO get all the amenities of Keauhou Shopping Center, Keauhou Bay and being close to the resort. My folks were not interested in living in the gated community of the upper Keauhou area across the street from Keauhou Shopping Center, but if you want privacy, amazing views of the ocean and proximity to a golf course and the bay, this may be for you. (Prices are between 800k and over a million in this neighborhood)
The last place we looked was Pualani Estates to the immediate north of Lako Street on Puapuaanui Street. I have a new appreciation for this area, as I currently live above it and I can zip down to meet friends in Kailua Village in 7 minutes, we are ten minutes from Magic Sands and I have a great ocean view! This subdivision is a “family friendly” neighborhood with a park, playground and soccer and baseball field below it. The homes are of average square footage (1300-2000) and enjoy the breezes. The school district is Konaweana. (to the north of this neighborhood, kids will attend the Kealekehe middle school and high school.) I can lament the prices of real estate here, as this was a newly built subdivision when we got here in 2005 and homes were 300k. Now they are twice that in this neighborhood. (Don’t get me started on affordable housing for our young families, teachers, etc. This will be a pressing issue if you decide to purchase a home in West Hawaii)
Those are the neighborhoods we looked at as my friend has to be within a quick drive to her job and they wanted a home that was not on catchment or cesspool (homes in South Kona have these aspects of life). I have many friends who live in the Palisades area of north Kona where you can get older larger homes for less, but you are driving longer to get kids to school and to go grocery shopping. However, you ARE closer to Kua Bay and the airport if that is important. Homes in the upper Palisades area are much cooler as that area gets almost daily clouds and rain, but also the sweeping view of the ocean.
I offer tours to folks who are interested in buying a home in Kona as my husband is a Realtor (full disclosure) who works with a fantastic team here. Since I wrote the book, “How to Move to Kona” and the “Insiders Guide to Buying Real Estate on the Big Island”, I can definitely talk your ear off in the car about what it takes to move here, live with Aloha, avoid many pitfalls and as my recent guests said, “save you thousands of dollars in mistakes avoided”.
In my guide, I DO list almost every major subdivision with how big the homes are, pros and cons, etc, and I also give insight into the various towns around the island if you are not sure where you may wish to call home.