Discover Oahu’s Neighborhoods
Oahu’s give island residents many lifestyle options. From beach towns to hidden valleys and family-friendly communities, the island of Oahu has it all. This is where you’ll learn more about Oahu’s wonderful neighborhoods
NORTH SHORE NEIGHBORHOOD
By Lisa Scontras | Photos by Justin R. Dotson
To many baby boomers, purchasing oceanfront property on Oahu’s North Shore is something they’ve dreamed of their entire life. Living on the beach, watching the sunset every evening, falling asleep to the crashing waves — it’s the ultimate retirement.
According to Carl Higgins, who is a Realtor at Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties and a North Shore resident, buying a home on one of the world’s most famous stretches of surf is something people aspire to. But the broad demographic of North Shore residents he describes may surprise you.
“Of course surfers, due to the North Shore being a world-renowned surf mecca, love it here,” says Higgins. “But for many, the ocean here is our playground, even if you don’t surf. Snorkeling, diving, swimming, body surfing, fishing, beach walking, wave and sunset watching are some of the favorite activities. We use the beach as our backyard.
“People’s lives here are planned around the ocean,” he adds. “We use the beach as our backyard playground for having get-togethers or playing catch. For surfers, lives are planned around the seasonal swells that come and go every winter. And for the surfer or non-surfer, you can find acreage here from 1 to 50-plus acres for folks who love their garden and farming, and of course their horses and animals.
“The military is also a good-sized segment of the resident buyers here,” says Higgins. “The proximity to Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Army Air Field makes the North Shore a fantastic place to live.”
Oahu’s North Shore has long had the reputation of having a beachy, unassuming lifestyle that comes with being located along the stretch of the island’s most favorite (and most famous) surfing spots. Its remote location, spectacular views, and laid-back setting are all part of the charm.
“The lure of purchasing a home away from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu in a rural majestic area surrounded by natural beauty, including the backdrop of Mount Ka‘ala (Oahu’s highest peak) is the draw,” Higgins says. The North Shore is a familiar backdrop in television series like Lost and movies like Blue Crush (among many) — the Hollywood exposure only adding to its popularity.
Home shoppers include local move-up buyers who have equity in their existing home and want to use it to upgrade to a mid-priced home between $600,000 and $875,000. There are first-time homebuyers looking to purchase a 1- or 2-bedroom condo, sometimes with financial help from family, in the $350,000 to $500,000 price range allowing a single-family home purchase.
“In the past years, we have had a lot of buyers from the West Coast purchasing properties in all price ranges ranging from $200,000 to more than $3.5 million,” says Higgins. A Japanese national bought a large oceanfront property a couple of years ago that was listed by Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties for over $5 million. He was a surfer.
“Many buyers are professionals or entrepreneurs who may not have to travel to downtown Honolulu every day,” he adds. “But there are plenty of residents who do make the trip downtown every day for work and school.”
If you’re looking to buy a home on the North Shore, Higgins says low mortgage interest rates are making it more affordable, giving buyers more purchasing power and enabling those who want to make that dream move happen.
The challenge, he says, is that inventory is low, which means when you do find a home you like and it is priced right, be ready for some competition because it is likely there will be several other buyers feeling the same way. Count on a likely bidding contest when you make an offer.
“The solution is to have a good Realtor ® who keeps a close watch on the neighborhood to alert you when something good comes up and recommends the proper action to take when you find that house to call home,” he says. “I’m available.”
The median sales price (MSP) of a single-family home on the North Shore (from Kahuku to Kaena Point) is $694,000 in 2012 (through August), compared to $577,500 for 2011 — up 20 percent.
Condo prices are up as well, with the MSP in 2012 at $295,000 (through August), compared to $221,000 in 2011. “While we do have traffic and the population is growing, if you are lucky enough, and know where to look, you can find just yourself with a few others basking with sea turtles, while sipping your favorite beverage, watching majestic sunsets and some of the biggest ride-able surf in the world.”
Waimea Falls Park
The natural beauty of the North Shore continues inland to Waimea Valley on a half-hour or so walk through the botanical gardens to a waterfall and popular swimming hole. The 1,875-acre river valley is full of blooming flowers and trees and plants, in an abundant number of varieties from around the world, along with a collection of birds, monuments and ancient Hawaiian culture.
Plants are identified with color-coded labels — green for standard varieties, red to identify rare or endangered plants or blue, which note plants that provide economic or ethno botanical uses of some of the species.
Peacocks walk the grounds along with hikers, as well as one of the planet’s endangered species: the Alae ula or Hawaiian moorhen.
In Hawaiian, Waimea means reddish brown water, and the river meanders from the mountains to the ocean. The setting is peaceful. The colors are vibrant. And the valley is full of history and archeological sites.
The hike to the falls is not difficult, but close-toed shoes are recommended. Lifeguards are on duty at the waterfall and swimming hole. Check in with them before swimming. No diving is allowed there. Admission to the park is $13.
Always popular Haleiwa is full of life as well, speckled with art galleries, restaurants and take out, shopping and plenty of tourists and locals alike. For highlights of food options, check out North Shore dining-in or on-the-go in this issue.
Hawaii Polo Club
It’s unexpected. Sometimes the sounds of hooves and mallets ring out over the crash of the North Shore surf. Mokuleia. Horses are big fun on the North Shore, which is home to Oahu’s premier oceanfront trail rides as well as to the Hawaii Polo Club, where every Sunday you can watch the best players and ponies in the state compete. Gates open at noon on Sundays and the games start around 2 p.m. Arrive early for a dip in the ocean.
Scuba diving and snorkeling
You wouldn’t think it, with a name like Shark’s Cove, but for those looking to explore the underwater world, this North Shore spot is the most popular venue for scuba divers and snorkelers. Part of Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District, the waters at Shark’s Cove are filled with life, including giant manta rays, humpback whales, turtles, crabs, octopus and schools of fish. These beautiful and majestic sea creatures are incredible to see. Reef wildlife is easily accessible from the beach.
“You can hop in and instantly see schools of fish,” says Higgins.
Hawaiian Sea Turtles
Bikinis and board shorts aren’t the only visitors to the North Shore’s idyllic beaches — the area also attracts Honu, or Hawaiian Sea Turtles. If you are lucky enough to find one of these enchanting creatures either frolicking about in the North Shore waters or basking in the sun on the warm sand, remember to observe them from a distance and never attempt to ride, touch or feed them. Sea turtles are listed and protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and are federally protected, so please be respectful when you see these treasured and adorable creatures.
North Shore Swim Series
Ocean water swimming is a sport rising in popularity among competitor and recreational swimmers alike. Considered to be one of the most scenic events above and below the water, the North Shore Swim Series includes four open swims over the course of the summer months at different North Shore venues. Attracting hundreds of participants, swims range from 1 to 2.5 miles in length. Individual times are recorded and awards are presented to top swimmers in each age division. Each event employs Hawaii’s finest water safety with certified lifeguards on Jet Skis and surfboards and each is electronically timed by one of Hawaii’s top timing companies.
The North Shore Swim Series will be celebrating its 25th year and season in 2013 with the first event (a one-mile swim) scheduled in June from Sunset Beach. More information at www.hawaiiswim.com.
Surfing North Shore Oahu
“Sunset Beach, Banzai Pipeline, Waimea Bay, Haleiwa, Outside Log Cabins, Outside Alligator Rock — are the most well-known surf breaks in the world,” says Higgins. “They come to life between the end of September and April.”
Higgins describes the Banzai Pipeline as “exploding over a super shallow coral reef with wave heights from 2-feet to 20-feet plus.”
“This wave is treasured for the ride inside the wave or in the curl or tube. Depending on the size, swell and the direction of the swell, there are first, second and third reef take-off zones that all offer beyond exhilarating thrills that come with not only dropping in a vertical-moving face of a wave, but then it gets even better. You get engulfed by the wave at a very high speed (ridiculously high) and ride inside while looking out a tunnel and planning your exit. Sometimes you make it out, and sometimes you don’t.”
“Pipeline can make you feel the most alive you have ever felt, or it can kill you, or come close to it,” he says. “Funny, it is such a famous wave, but it is only slightly marked with a small ‘Ehukai Beach Park’ sign on the grass fronting the park. I think tourists find it just by the number of automobiles that line Kamehameha Highway when it is on.
Higgins describes the ride at Sunset Beach as “friendlier than Pipeline, and a lot less fickle, making it more ride-able more days per season.” He says Sunset Beach is just as big and just as fun, but still, for experts only.
Nearby Waimea Bay is one of the most beautiful bays in the world. In the summer, the placid calm waters are amazingly blue.
“Waimea completely changes come November through March,” Higgins says. Her calm waters can go from flat as a lake to towering waves higher than 6 to 7 story buildings.”
“And here’s the topper. Waimea Bay doesn’t really even start to break for the top surfers until Sunset beach and Pipeline are too big to ride.” With these surfing conditions, the North Shore lifeguards have to be the best trained in the world to rescue people in all ocean conditions.”
Many of the names of the famous surf spots were given to them in the 1950s and ‘60s by big wave rider pioneers, such as Greg Noll and Phil Edwards. “Spots such as Avalanche and Himalaya’s were given the names due to the likeness of mountaineering terms and they do indeed live up to these names, believe me.”
Much Aloha to Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties and Island Homes Collection, Who bring wonderful neighborhoods and some of our favorite dining options.
*NOTE: MLS data deemed reliable but not guaranteed Listings and statistics included in this story are as of August 2012 from Coldwell BAnker Pacific Properties (CBPP) and the Honolulu Board of Realtors (HBR)
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