As the biggest of several east Oahu communities, Hawaii Kai is mostly a residential area around Koko Marina and extending back into several inland valleys which are separated by ridges.
Within the town of Hawaii Kai is a community called Kalama Valley where there is a shopping center and park as well as many single-family homes that are generally quite high-priced due to the desirable location.
Popular attractions in the vicinity include Sandy Beach, Makapuu Lighthouse and Makapuu Beach, Queen’s Gate Golf Course, and Koko Crater Botanical Garden, and one of Hawaii’s best snorkeling sites at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.
Just east of Hawaii Kai along Kalanianaole Hwy. is the Koko Head area, while just to the west is the eastern Honolulu neighborhood of Kuliouou. To the north of Hawaii Kai are the scenic Koolau Mountains and to the south is Maunalua Bay.
Nearby to Hawaii Kai is Halona Blowhole where waves crashing into an underwater lava tube sends a huge spout up through a blowhole in the rocks. To the right is Halona Beach Cove made famous in the 1953 movie From Here to Eternity when Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr shared a famous love scene there.
Other neighborhoods sharing the same postal code with Hawaii Kai include Portlock, Kalama Valley, Mariners Ridge, Queen’s Gate, and the valleys of Hahaione and Kaalakei.
The Hawaii Kai area was initially developed by American industrialist and shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser around a wetlands area called Kupua (“Fish pond wall”) and Maunalua fishpond.
In 1961 the land owner Bishop Estate signed a lease agreement with Kaiser-Aetna to turn the site’s 521-acre fishpond into a marina with commercial and residential lots on fingers of land separated by channels. Extensive dredging and filling transformed the area to what it is today.