There are many good reasons to become a malihini (newcomer) to Honolulu. The quality of life ranks high among these reasons – with the climate and natural beauty of the island itself perhaps the first perk to pop into peoples’ minds. The climate in Honolulu is legendary, with temperatures rarely dipping below 70 degrees and seldom topping 90. The city and county of Honolulu maintains seven world-class beaches and many more parks that and botanical gardens that are among the more beautiful in the world.
But there is more to Honolulu than beautiful beaches and nearly perfect weather. It is also home to a wide variety of family activities, quality neighborhood schools, hopping nightlife and other perks that will draw families and singles alike. Best Life Magazine named Honolulu number one on its list of “The 100 Best Places to Raise a Family.” If you’ve been looking for a place with a low crime rate, Honolulu was found to have the lowest per-capita crime rate among U.S. cities with a population of over 500,000.
In addition, Honolulu’s economy is strong, with unemployment standing at 3.8 percent in August 2013, compared to a national unemployment rate of 7 percent. Using Brookings Institution research, BusinessWeek ranks Honolulu as having the 19th strongest economy among U.S. cities. Using information gathered by Moody’s, Forbes ranks Honolulu as the as the 19th best job market in the country. Forbes also touts Honolulu as having the lowest unemployment rate among all major U.S. cities and says Honolulu is 34th among “fastest recovering cities.”
Sperling’s “Best Places” (www.bestplaces.net) ranks Honolulu as the fifth best place in the country to “live, work, and play,” and the tenth best city for dating. Honolulu ranks first in the diversity index category, which rates the likelihood of randomly meeting someone of a different race or ethnicity, and scores highest among cities in the dining out category as well.
All in all, Honolulu is a city that is both exciting for single people and very family friendly. Below is a collection of more accolades, amenities and facts that make Honolulu a great place to live:
- BusinessWeek ranks Honolulu and Hawaii as the number one city and state for a long life with a life expectancy of 80 years.
- Honolulu scored as the highest-ranking U.S. city among BusinessWeek’s list of “The World’s Best Places to Live,” ranking at number 28.
- Sperling’s “Best Places” ranks Honolulu at number five on its recent listing of the 10 best places to live the U.S.
- Using Brookings Institution research, BusinessWeek ranks Honolulu as having the 19th strongest economy among U.S. cities.
- Forbes ranks Honolulu as having the lowest unemployment rate among all major U.S. cities.
Honolulu is and always has been the business center of the Hawaiian Islands. In the mid-nineteenth century, Honolulu began its economic life as a port for whalers and a trade center for the nations of the Pacific Rim. Starting with trade in such goods as sandalwood, whale oil, and fur, Honolulu transitioned to being a trade center for sugar and pineapple markets. Today, still, one-fifth of the land in Honolulu County is zoned for agriculture, but fields are now giving way to new homes and commercial development. No longer reliant on sugar and pineapples, the agricultural economy is steadily diversifying. Aquaculture seems to have a particularly bright future. The cultivation of such “crops” as shellfish, finfish and algae has grown in recent years in Hawaii as a whole and in Honolulu County.
In addition to being the business and trading hub of the Hawaiian Islands, Honolulu, by virtue of its port and geographic local, is the transportation crossroads of the Pacific, linking East with West. The city’s recently expanded harbor facilities handle cargo for several international steamship companies, and a Foreign Trade Zone is based there.
There can be no doubt, however that the Honolulu economy is powered by tourism, the military, the defense contracting industry, manufacturing and research and development. Tourism typically contributes $10 billion a year to Honolulu’s economy. In addition, Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Marine Base Kaneohe, and Schofield Barracks Army base provide revenues that are unaffected by the normal business cycles. As the home of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu is a center for research and development, especially in the areas of oceanography, astrophysics, geophysics, and biomedicine. The city and county of Honolulu also contains many commercial, industrial and retail properties. Goods produced in Honolulu include jewelry, clothing, food and beverages, rubber products, construction materials, and electronics and computer equipment.
Growth and Expansion
Like most U.S. cities, Honolulu’s economy has contracted since 2008; however, after 11 straight years of expansion, the island of Oahu’s economy has taken a relatively light hit from the nationwide recession. The high rate of government employment is partly responsible for the mildness of the recession in Honolulu. Also contributing to this relative stability is the diversified nature of the Honolulu economy and a continuing labor shortage in Hawaii compared to the labor supply in other major U.S. cities. Most economists predict growth to continue in Honolulu during 2014 and 2015, with upticks in personal income, real estate values, construction, employment and tourism.
Although real estate values in Honolulu remain lower than the peak levels they reached before the recession, declines have been much less than in most other U.S. cities. In addition, recent data show that home values are again on the rise. The June 2013 median home sale price of $677,250 represents a 9 percent gain over the year before.
Generally, Honolulu home prices have been among the most stable in the U.S., with sellers only rarely having to cut their asking prices. At the same time, the number of home sales has increased significantly in the past two years. From January 2012 to January 2013, the number of single-family home sales in Honolulu jumped significantly, with median home sale prices increasing as well.
Honolulu is consistently ranked as one of the best places to “live, work, and play.” For example, Sperling’s “Best Places” (www.bestplaces.net) ranks Honolulu at number five on its recent listing of the 10 best places to live the U.S. As for the job part of that equation, for 2013, newgeography.com ranked Honolulu 22nd on its list of “Best Large Cities Job Growth.” Major employers include both large private sector employers, and state and federal governments. The Honolulu unemployment rate is well below that of the national average, and is continuing to drop. These characteristics add up to make Honolulu’s strong job market both stable and diverse.
Public-sector employment makes up about 22 percent of total employment in Honolulu and is one of the reasons for the stability and low unemployment rate. A decidedly white-collar town, 86 percent of the Honolulu workforce is employed in white-collar jobs, well above the national average. Overall, Honolulu is a city of sales and office workers, professionals, and service providers. The wide base of government employers provides protection from economic slumps. In addition to the numerous local, state, and federal agencies that employ more than 100,000 workers, there are also dozens of large corporations (and many more smaller ones) that employ workers in the areas of education, military contracting, medicine and financial services, just to name a few.
While Honolulu’s public sector presence and diverse economy make for an overall strong job market, that’s not to say it’s a job seeker’s paradise either. No region of the country is truly recession proof, and though Honolulu has fared considerably better than many comparable metropolitan areas, it’s best for each potential job seeker to get the lay of the land and evaluate opportunities relative to their strengths, experience, and professional aspirations. Below is a collection of statistics and figures to help you become familiar with the opportunities that Honolulu may have to offer.
Honolulu County’s four major industry sectors are government; trade, transportation, and utilities; leisure and hospitality; and professional and business services. These four industries account for about two-thirds of the total employment in Honolulu County.
Since the economic fallout in 2008, Honolulu’s job market has weathered the storm quite well, even in the face of a volatile economy. In January 2004, the unemployment stood at 2.9 percent in Honolulu. By December 2009, it had risen to 5.3 percent. According to industry experts, the increase in unemployment was partly due to the significant growth trends Honolulu had experienced during the previous five years. But the unemployment rate had dropped to 3.8 percent by the time of publication and it continues to decrease.
Safety and Crime
Honolulu is a safe place to live. Out of U.S. cities with a population of over 500,000, Honolulu was found to have the lowest per-capita crime rate.
Like any urban area, Honolulu has its share of high-profile crimes, and in recent years, the “Big Pineapple” has also seen a rise in property crimes and drug use. Generally, however the crime rate in Honolulu is below average for its size. Of course, you should take precautions such as being aware of your surroundings and avoiding poorly lit, solitary or otherwise dangerous locations and secure your home in a reasonable way. To identify high-crime area, the Honolulu police department maintains an online mapping system that allows you to search reported crimes at www.honolulupd.org/statistics/index.htm.
Honolulu is renowned for the multiplicity of ethnic foods available at area eateries. A person or family could eat on the island every day for weeks and not sample the same type of food twice. Types of cuisine available include food from the early immigrants — Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, and Portuguese — in addition to other cultures that have brought their food to Honolulu and Oahu more recently, such as the Vietnamese, French, Thai, Indian, Mexican, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern. There are certain terms you should be familiar with concerning food on the island that are descriptive of the type of restaurant and style of food based on the different origins of the cuisine.
Plate lunch refers to a favorite comfort food in Honolulu. It usually consists of an entree, two scoops of rice and one scoop of macaroni salad. This type of food is usually available of “mom and pop” lunch wagons and neighborhood lunch counters. Entrees typically include beef teriyaki, roast pork, shoyu chicken, hamburger steak, beef curry, mahi mahi, and meat loaf. A favorite lunch for business people, students, laborers, tourists and families on the go, these meals can be had in about five minutes for about five dollars. Plate lunch restaurants include Grace’s Inn, Helena’s Hawaiian Food, Ono Hawaiian Food, Rainbow Drive-In, Tsukenjo Lunch House and L & L Drive Inn, which operate multiple locations.
Bento was originally a term used by Japanese immigrants describing the lunch box. Today, bento refers to a lunch that includes rice, pickles and a few other samplings of food in a sectioned container. Another word often heard when talking about food in Hawaii is okazuya. The word originated in Japan but is no longer limited to just Japanese food. Okazuyas are found in neighborhoods all over Honolulu and Oahu and are eateries where patrons can pick and choose their own combination of ethnic foods in one shop. Okazuyas include Ebisu Catering Service, Fukuya Mitsuba Delicatessen and New Wave Kitchen.
Hawaii Regional Cuisine (HRC) is a product of local chefs taking advantage of the ocean’s bounty to develop a truly distinctive, world-class cuisine. HRC usually feature fish, produce and other food fusing the ethnic food types found in Honolulu. Well-known restaurants featuring HRC are Alan Wong’s Restaurant, twice named in Gourmet magazine’s “America’s Top 50 Restaurants”; Indigo Eurasian Cuisine, a hip downtown Honolulu restaurant; Roy’s Restaurant, offering Chef Roy Yamaguchi’s signature Hawaiian Fusion cuisine at its three Oahu locations in Hawaii Kai, Waikiki and Ko Olina (“Roy’s Classic” dishes include yellow fin ahi poketini.); Sam Choy’s Diamond Head and Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch & Crab; On the Rise, offering diners with dishes like ahi katsu and New York steak alaea; and Chef Mavro Restaurant, featuring HRC with a French influence.
Honolulu and the island also have many fine dining and local style restaurants. Included among fine establishment are Hoku’s, Chai’s Island Bistro, Ciao Mein, Diamond Head Grill and Nobu Waikiki. Among local style restaurants are Don Ho’s Island Grill, Kona Brewing Company at Koko Marin, Duke’s Canoe Club and Duke’s Canoe Club.
Nature, culture and adventure are integral to life in Honolulu. There are a plethora of sea, land and air activities available to residents, in addition to art and cultural museums and attractions. The beauty, excitement and cultural life of Honolulu are available to residents of all ages, interests and budgets.
When it comes to exploring the bounty of natural beauty available to people living in Honolulu, activities include biking, horseback riding, parasailing, parachuting, gliding, hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and — a sport originating in Hawaii — surfing. Of course, new residents may wish to join up with one of the many tour and excursion outfits that offer package deals featuring one of the many natural highlights of Honolulu. However, residents can choose to make their own experiences with the natural bounty of Hawaii.
For the hiker, Oahu offers many well-marked trails for all levels of experience and expertise. Diamond Head is one of Hawaii’s most recognizable natural features. The trail up Diamond Head climbs 763 feet to the summit, which offers unparalleled vistas of the Honolulu area. Other popular hikes include Makapuu, Old Pali Highway and Manoa Falls. The Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club (HTMC), 808-259-5443, www.htmclub.org, which was established in 1910 and meets Sundays at ‘Iolani Palace at 8 a.m., offers guided hikes over various trails on Oahu.
Another resource for the nature-loving family or individual is the 1,800-acre Waimea Valley Audubon Center, 808-638-9199, www.audubon.org. Located on Oahu’s scenic North Shore, this natural wonder features botanical gardens, wandering peafowl and a 60-foot waterfall.
Of course, when thinking of Hawaii, the first things that come to mind are beaches and the ocean. With over 60 beach parks and boasting more than 112 miles of shoreline, the island of Oahu has a beach for every interest from shell collecting, surfing, snorkeling, romantic walks, and people watching. Beaches on the windward side of Oahu regularly rank among America’s top 10 beaches, including Kailua and Lanikai beaches. Winter on the North Shore of Oahu is famous worldwide for waves and surfing contests at Waimea Bay, Banzai Pipeline and Sunset. In the non-winter months, the Pacific is calm again, providing perfect conditions for snorkeling, swimming and scuba diving. On the Leeward coasts of Oahu, families and individuals can enjoy miles of uninhabited beaches, the most extensive coral systems in the state and pristine areas far from the hustle and bustle of the city. On the South Shore, where Honolulu is located, there are of course the famous Waikiki beaches thriving with high-energy people from all over the world, sun bathing, surfing and swimming in the gentle waters of the Pacific.
Many tour, cruise and excursion companies offer ocean outings for residents and visitors alike. People can sign up for outrigger canoe rides and catamaran cruises that offer the opportunity to search for dolphins and Humpback whales or swim with Green Sea Turtles and explore Hawaiian reefs in the protected National Marine Sanctuary.
The rich cultural diversity of Honolulu and Oahu are evident in the art, history and lifestyle of the island. Below is a selection of institutions and locales that reflect the diversity and richness of Hawaiian culture.
- The Hawaii State Art Museum (HiSAM) is known to locals as the “people’s museum.” It contains works created by local artists and those inspired by the islands. Most of its works focus on the diverse culture and people of Hawaii.
- The Contemporary Museum, located at the former Alice Cooke Spalding residence, in the residential community of Makiki Heights, is an innovative museum comprised of seven galleries with rotating works of art by celebrated international and local contemporary artists.
- The Honolulu Academy of Arts is Hawaii’s oldest and largest art museum. Founded in 1927, it is recognized for its outstanding collections of Asian, European, Pacific, American, and African art, which is shown in over 30 galleries surrounding six garden courts.
- The Bishop Museum, established in 1889, leads visitors through an endless number of roads leading back through Hawaiian history. The Bishop is the principal museum of the Pacific and one of the world’s leading scientific institutions. The museum features a permanent Hawaiiana exhibit, rotating exhibits in the new Castle Hall and planetarium shows.
- The Hawaii Maritime Center is the state’s maritime museum, portraying its seafaring heritage with exhibits focusing on the Pacific’s rich seafaring history. Guests board The Falls of Clyde, the only fully rigged, four-masted sailing ship still left in the world. The Center is also home of the world famous voyaging canoe, Hōkūle‘a.
- The Queen Emma Summer Palace — built in 1849 and nestled in the cool Nuuanu Valley of Oahu — was once the country home of King Kamehameha IV and his wife, Queen Emma. Today, it houses their personal artifacts. Contact: 808-595-3167; www.daughtersofhawaii.org.
- The ‘Iolani Palace, built in 1879, is the only royal palace in the United States and was the official residence of Hawaii’s last monarchs, King Kalākaua and Queen Lili‘uokalani. Fully restored, the Palace is a concrete reminder of Hawaii’s former monarchical grandeur.
- Hawaii’s Plantation Village offers a view of the time when sugar cane transformed the land, economy and culture of Hawaii. It is a collection of 30 original and replica plantation homes and buildings that is a living museum of a plantation village recreating the lifestyles of the different ethnic groups that helped to form Hawaii.
- The Mānoa Heritage Center is a historic site committed to preserving and interpreting the heiau — a term describing the Native Hawaiian garden — the historic home, and the natural and cultural history of Mānoa Valley. This historic locale is comprised of Kūka‘ō‘ō Heiau, a Native Hawaiian garden and the historic home Kūali‘i. The heiau and historic home are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Currently, only Kūka‘ō‘ō Heiau and the Native Hawaiian garden are open to visitors.
- Pearl Harbor is a national landmark and is also home to three historic attractions. The USS Arizona Memorial was constructed above the USS Arizona — sunk during the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor — as a memorial to honor those who lost their lives during that attack on the United States naval fleet. The Battleship Missouri Memorial is a living museum offering visitors a real-life picture of aboard the historic USS Missouri or “Mighty Mo.” Guests are able to climb aboard the most celebrated battleship ever built. The battleship’s decks were the site of the signing of the Japanese surrender ending World War II. Located near the USS Arizona Memorial and Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine and Museum is a renovated World War II submarine and museum.
- The Polynesian Cultural Center is Hawaii’s top visitor attraction. Located on Oahu’s North Shore, the center is a complex of seven Pacific Island villages on 42 acres. The Center offers hands-on cultural experiences and interactions, along with staging a canoe pageant, hula show, lū‘au and a spectacular evening show.
Lifestyles for Singles
Ethnically and socially diverse, Honolulu offers a fit for every person and every lifestyle. The city proper is cosmopolitan, diverse and teaming with the excitement of many cultures and lifestyles. The “laid back” island living combines with the bustling metropolitan excitement of the city to provide the best of both worlds to single residents. Whether you are hankering for a Chinatown experience, with its unique food and entertainment, or feel like settling down for a day the beach, Honolulu has an experience for every mood.
Sperling’s “Best Places” reports that over 35 percent of adults in Honolulu are single, ranking it 22nd among U.S. cities. Honolulu Magazine (www.honolulumagazine.com) offers a regular feature, “Single in Honolulu,” providing advice and information for single people on the island. The Honolulu Advertiser (www.the.honoluluadvertiser.com) is another good resource for singles on Oahu.
Honolulu has earned a number of accolades from publications ranking cities in a variety of categories, highlighting the city’s appeal to a people with wide range of interests and preferences.
- Mercer ranks Honolulu as the top U.S. city in its “Quality of Living” ranking for international cities.
- Trifler (trifler.com) ranks Poipu Beach, Kauai, fourth among the world’s top ten beaches.
- For 2013, The American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) ranked Honolulu No. 9 in the small cities category among cities for college students.
Lifestyles for Families
Although Honolulu is home to more than one million people, many of its neighborhoods feel more like small towns, where neighbors know one another and families quickly form friendships at every generational level. Best Life magazine (bestlifeonline.com) ranked Honolulu number one on its list of “The 100 Best Places to Raise a Family.” Honolulu also offers a vast array of activities, organizations and locales designed with families in mind. Most museums and many of the area’s annual festivals and events offer children’s programs and family friendly activities. For more information, check venue or event Web site. Among the top attraction for families are the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center (808-524-5437, www.discoverycenterhawaii.org; Castle Performing Arts Center, www.k12.hi.us/~cpac, 808-233-5626; and the Honolulu Theatre for Youth, 808-839-9885, www.htyweb.org.
Both Island Family Magazine (www.islandfamilymagazine.com) and Hawaii Parent (www.hawaii-parent.com) provide listings of festivals, activities and places that offer family-oriented events, a family dining guide, and a slew of comprehensive directories for childcare, education, and other family-oriented services.
There are no professional sports teams in Hawaii, but in Honolulu, the University of Hawaii provides plenty of action, including NCAA Division I football. Women’s and men’s NCAA volleyball is also quite popular, with some of the more competitive matches played in front of sell-out crowds.
Water sports are king in Hawaii, especially on Oahu, which has nearly 600 surfing sites, including the famous Banzai Pipeline. The North Shore is host to some of the most important surfing and body board events in the world. During the winter, waves reach 20 to 30 feet in height, with some breakers reaching as high as 40 feet. During the summer is the best surfing is on the south shore of Oahu. Outrigger canoe racing is another fastest of the island’s favorite spectator sports. In January 2000, public school authorities were considering making it an official sport.
Given the year-round, summer-like weather, Hawaii is a golfer’s paradise, boasting nearly 40 golf courses in the Honolulu area. In addition, the Wendy’s Champions Skins Game, is hosted by the Wailea Resort on Maui, Hawaii’s second-largest island and a short flight from Honolulu. This tournament features four of the sport’s greatest legends in two days of “skins” competition. (Past participants have included Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Gary Player and Raymond Floyd.) The Mercedes Championships at Kapalua, Maui, kicks off the PGA TOUR in January, and the Sony Open follows, usually a week later, on Oahu with another week of competition by the best golfers in the world.
Childcare and Education
Honolulu boasts high-quality neighborhood schools and a wide variety of childcare options. Many resources are available to families new to Honolulu. PATCH, 808-839-1988, www.patchhawaii.org, is a non-profit advocacy agency that offers a free searchable online database of childcare centers and providers and, on request, will provide a comprehensive list of all childcare providers. PATCH’s Web site also contains links to nanny referral services and wide-reaching parenting information, including state resources for a variety of issues. Special services are available to military families at www.patchhawaii.org/families/military.There is a single, statewide public school district in Hawaii. The statewide district is comprised of 289 schools (including 31 charter schools and two special schools) on seven islands. With a total enrollment of nearly 178,000 students, it is the 10th largest school district in the United States. There are administrative offices in seven geographic locations, including Honolulu.
As an alternative to traditional public schools, the school system operates 31 public charter schools that receive public money and do not charge tuition. Each charter school administers its own admissions process which includes a lottery where the number of qualified applicants exceeds the number of available seats. To find out more about Hawaiian charter schools residents can contact the Charter School Administrative Office or go to its Web site at www.hcsao.org/hicharters/profiles.
There is also a wide range of private schools in the city and county of Honolulu. The Hawaii Association of Independent Schools (808-973-1540, www.hais.org) lists contact information for its 36 member schools in Honolulu. Honolulu magazine www.hidili.com/islandFamilyMagazine/islandBaby — in conjunction with the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools — publishes an annual Private School Guide.
Honolulu is also home to many fine colleges, universities and junior and community colleges. Among these are the University of Hawaii at Manoa, which offers undergraduate and graduate in a wide range of disciplines, as well as degrees in law and medicine. Chaminade University of Honolulu and Hawaii Pacific University are other notable universities in Honolulu.
Honolulu and Oahu are home to 11 major hospitals, six of which are teaching hospitals. Hawaii ranks first in the United States in life expectancy, with about 76 years for men and 81 years for women. People living in Hawaii are considered among the healthiest in the world. The state has 240 doctors and 82 dentists for every 100,000 people.
Queen’s Medical Center is the largest private hospital in Hawaii, with 505 acute care beds and 28 sub-acute beds. The center has more than 3,000 employees and over 1,200 physicians on staff. As the leading medical referral center in the Pacific Basin, Queen’s offers a comprehensive range of primary and specialized care services. Another notable medical center in Honolulu is Shriner’s Hospital for Children. Established in 1923, the Shriner’s Hospital is the second oldest hospital in a network of 22 Shriner’s Hospitals in the United States, Canada and Mexico and has provided orthopedic health care to over 23,000 children from Hawaii and seventeen other countries in the Pacific Basin.
Perhaps to in part to its notorious traffic snarls, Honolulu ranks fourth in per capita use of mass transit in the United States. TheBus (www.thebus.org) is the public transportation service in the city and county of Honolulu with a ridership of approximately 71.7 million per year. Many residents opt for the city’s Park & Ride service, which maintain parking lots in outlying area where patrons leave their cars and ride the bus.
To beat the traffic many people choose to get around by bicycle – and get some exercise in the process. To facilitate and promote bicycling, the City & County of Honolulu has adopted a plan, viewable at www.honolulu.gov/dts/bikeway, to make its streets safe for bicyclists. Plans include adding more dedicated bicycle paths and improving safety conditions for cyclists. In addition, all buses are equipped with bike racks.
To relieve traffic congestion, Honolulu Transit is currently planning a 20-mile elevated rail line that will connect West Oahu with downtown Honolulu and Ala Manoa Center. The system will feature electric, steel-wheel trains capable of carrying more than 300 passengers each. Trains are projected to carry more than 6,000 passengers per hour in each direction with new bus routes providing direct connections to the stations.
Because of its location, Honolulu offers excellent air travel options to residents and visitors. Honolulu International Airport serves the city and county of Honolulu and located five miles northwest of downtown Honolulu and 10 miles from Waikiki Beach. One unique aspect of the airport is the Reef Runway, which is the world’s first major runway built offshore. This runway is also an alternate landing site for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Space Shuttle in association with Hickam Air Force Base, which shares Honolulu International Airport. Twenty-four commuter and overseas airlines service Honolulu.