The Big Island of Hawaii has the most diverse terrain in the state. As the largest island in Hawaii, it is also the most isolated, which makes it an ideal spot to buy real estate on the beach. Here you’ll find an eclectic mix of residents and visitors, from farmers and factory workers to celebrities and authors.
View guides to these Big Island towns:
This lovely town, twelve miles south of busy resort-saturated Kailua-Kona, is full of Hawaiian history and has plenty of charm. The atmosphere is laid-back and relaxed. The weather is moderate, and the town offers stunning views of the ocean and rainforest. With a population around 11,255 (2010 census) the town overlooks Kaiwi Channel to Maui and Hana coastline to its east. In 1969, several Puna communities, including Captain Cook, merged into one political district called South Kona.
About Schools in Captain Cook
Captain Cook has three primary public schools: Captain Cook Elementary School (PK-6), Niumalu Elementary School (K-6) and Konawaena High School (7-12).
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- Kolekole Beach Park has three boat ramps that offer opportunities for water sports and fishing. Lifeguards are on duty when lifeguards are required. The park is dog friendly so it’s a great place to bring your pup along for a day of fun.
About Real Estate in Captain Cook
A few small enclaves of private housing exist along Captain Cook’s northern fringe above Kaumalapau Harbor and southward around Pohoiki Bay; but over half its land area remains vacant to preserve native flora and fauna habitats.
Hakalau was home to the largest sugar plantation until the early-sixties. The area is now used for family farms that grow fruits, coffee, and flowers, and there is some cattle ranching in the area, too. Vestiges of the village’s past can be seen in the old railroad bridge that leads to Hakalau Bay and in the plantation towers that still stand where the Hakalau stream meets the bay. The bay is popular with surfers and local fishermen.
About Shopping in Hakalau
There aren’t really any big shopping malls around, so people usually shop at local stores or head to Hilo. Fresh produce can be purchased at Hakalau Farmers Market and FoodShare.
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- Nearby is Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, a wilderness preserve that is home to many endangered species.
- A great place to get a bite to eat is Aaron’s Blue Kalo.
- Botanical World Adventures offers paved and unpaved trails that explore tropical flora, plus a children’s maze and zip lining above rainforest.
- Carmela Orchids is a thriving business in Hakalau.
- Mahana House Country Inn is a 3-star hotel located in adjacent Pepeekeo.
- Akiko’s Buddhist Bed & Breakfast offers serene accommodations.
About Real Estate in Hakalau
Located on the North Shore of Big Island West, Hawi was once a sugar plantation town that is now known for its local charm. At last count Hawi had a population of 553. Although it is not a full-fledged town, it has almost all necessary businesses for daily life such as lodging and dining options. Hawi is also known for having historic houses and buildings that date back to World War II. As one of the largest communities on the west side, Hawi has numerous shops, some restaurants and a hotel. It has since become a popular destination for visitors seeking affordable lodging and real estate. Residents of Hawi are mainly employed in agricultural work or real estate.
About Shopping in Hawi
There are many shops along Hawi Road including galleries, surf shops, clothing stores, gift shops and more. There are also several restaurants ranging from casual diners to fine dining restaurants serving dishes like steak, seafood and more. Groceries can be found in nearby Kawaihae and Hilo.
About Real Estate in Hawi
Those looking to buy property in Hawi will likely find single-family homes and residential units within walking distance of stores and restaurants that serve local dishes like sweet-potato pie.
As you may know, like most islands in Hawaii, there are a number of towns and places that make up Hilo, such as Pana’ewnua and Pepeekeo. There are other villages along each side (east and west) such as Waiakeawaena and Ocean View Estates. All of these areas combine to form what we call Hilo Town, with a general population of 45,579 and considered the largest city on the Big Island. The town has a distinct tropical feel and the weather is mild and rainy thanks to Hilo’s location on Hilo Bay.
Hilo evolved from a busy farming and fishing area into a commercial area during the sugar industry and later became the seat of county government. The town has its own airport, Hilo International Airport, and a number of major hotels. Downtown streets are lined with wood front stores, a variety of restaurants, great art galleries and there often is live music on the weekends. The town has a distinctly college vibe, thanks to the University of Hawaii campus.
About Shopping in Hilo
The Hilo Farmers Market in the downtown area is where locals gather to buy produce and crafts every Wednesday and Saturday. Many people from throughout the island come to shop at big box stores in Hilo: Target, Safeway, and a Walmart. The town as a variety of other types of stores, restaurants, and fast-food vendors, too.
About Schools in Hilo
Hilo has a campus for the University of Hawaii, and about 10% of Hilo’s residents work there. There are a number of public schools in Hilo proper: Kaumana Elementary School, Ernest Bowen Desilva Elementary School, and Waiakeowaena Elementary School. Waiakea Intermediate School offers middle school, as does Hilo Intermediate School. High school students can attend Waiakea High, Hilo High, or Keaau High.
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- Hilo offers world-class fishing in Pana’ewnua Beach Park and Rainbow Falls Park.
- For those who like to hike are extraordinary waterfalls at Akaka Falls or Wailuku River State Park.
- The Liliuokalan Gardens feature beautiful fishponds and rock gardens on its thirty acres.
- Worth visiting to learn about the history of Hilo is the Lyman Museum.
- To earn about the tsunamis that nearly drowned Hilo, there is the Pacific Tsunami Museum.
- There also is a world-class astronomy center, the newly built Imiloa Astronomy Center.
- Hilo is considered the Orchid Capital of the World, because these gorgeous flowers are raised here and also appear in the wild.
About Real Estate in Hilo
Single-family homes are centered along Hawaii Belt Road. Further south, the neighborhoods are filled with bungalows that provide easy access to the coast. There also are some very high-end homes in Hilo. The median home price is $398,400.
This small village farms coffee at 1,400 feet above Kailua-Kona. Its main road features a few art galleries, a yoga studio, and a number of coffee shops. At first glance, Holualoa appears to be another sleepy Hawaiian town that time forgot. But take a closer look at some of its eclectic stores and restaurants and see that there’s far more to it than meets the eye. Ten minutes from Holualoa is a great eco-beach called Boca Paila where visitors can play in tide pools and lay on beautiful soft white sand beaches.
The town got its name from the Hawaiian practice of sledding down mountain slopes with wood sleds, called “holua”.
About Real Estate in Holualoa
Honokaa, a former sugar town, is now a charming place to live. The downtown is lined with old wood-framed stores along Mamane Street (formerly a boardwalk) that feature small gift stores, boutiques, antiques, and several restaurants. Also located on Mamanee is the town’s historical center, featuring the Honokaa People’s Theatre and the Hamakua Harvest Farmer’s Market. As the gatewa1y to the Hamakua Coast, Honokaa provides the first unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean when traveling down east from Waimea.
The decades of sugar production in Honokaa brought thousands of Japanese, Portuguese, Filipinos, and Puerto Rican immigrants contracted to work on plantations, adding much diversity to the area’s population.
The town is surrounded by fertile pastureland and farms. As an agricultural center, Honokaa’s fertile soils have long been cultivated for crops of coffee, macadamia nuts and papayas. Locally raised and grass-fed beef is sourced from the fields around the town. Many fishermen work the coast of Honokaa, and a large power plant that powers the island operates in the area.
In addition to farming, many residents work in services or retail in nearby Hilo.
About Schools in Honokaa
- Honokaa High and Honokaa Intermediate share some campus facilities, such as the cafeteria and library, with the elementary school.
- The Honokaa Heritage Center is a part of the University of Hawaii’s satellite campus. Its mission is to preserve, educate and celebrate the heritage of the town through exhibits, archives, a visitor center, and a gift shop.
About Shopping in Honokaa
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- Honokaa People’s Theatre This theatre started out as a small, grass-roots theater and has evolved into a professional, non-profit that showcases local talent. The theatre is currently under renovation thanks to donations from locals. The new stage will give actors, dancers, singers and musicians more options for their performances. It serves as a community center for Honokaa residents.
- Also worth a visit is Green Sand Beach, 25 minutes from downtown. The unusual beach is a fantastic place to hike because of its beautiful green sand that was created by volcanic activity at least two million years ago. It’s a great place for small children to learn how to snorkel and view marine life.
- On the outskirts of Honokaa, is Tex Drive In, which is famous for malasadas, Portuguese doughnuts.
- For outdoor recreation, Kaumana Park features an 18-hole golf course, swimming pool and tennis courts.
- The region’s best-known attraction is Akaka Falls State Park. It features several scenic waterfalls that drop as much as 200 feet into a valley of sculpted lava rocks carved by ancient volcanic eruptions.
About Real Estate in Honokaa
Honokaa has increasingly become a bedroom community for Hilo. Real estate prices here average 39% lower than other areas of Hawaii, and the cost of living is 17% lower. The median home price in Honokaa is $552,000. With the closing of the sugar business in 1994 and the most recent staggered tourism, the local economy has been in decline.
The town of Honomu is a secluded, picturesque coastal community, located about thirteen miles north of Hilo. Like many other communities in the area, the town was once a sugar plantation. Today about 500 residents enjoy this small community. As they say, if you blink, “you’ll miss the downtown”, which is has a handful of shops and places to eat.
The name Honomu means “silent bay” in Hawaiian.
About Shopping in Honomu
Enjoy locally grown produce and homemade goods at farmers markets on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. The shops offer unique gifts, treasures, and local fine art. Mr. Eds Bakery is well loved for its sweet treats, like chocolate covered shortbread cookies. Glass from the Past is a unique antique shop, full of historic glass bottles, knickknacks, vintage Aloha shirts, and jewelry.
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- Close to Honomu Punalu’u Beach, one of our favorite snorkeling spots on Big Island. Keep in mind it’s off limits to vehicles.
- If you’re looking for an unspoiled white-sand beach with plenty of shade, head over to Mahaiula Beach Park.
- Along Akaka Falls Road, is the Honomu Goat Dairy Farm, whichis a fun place to shop for cheese and candies, as well as to see baby goats. The farm also makes handmade soaps.
- Akaka Falls State Park, with its 400+ foot tall waterfall, is the biggest attraction in Honomu. From town there is a short 0.4-mile walk over a paved pathway that travels dense tropical forest and passes several picturesque waterfalls along the circular route: Kahanu Falls and the thunderous Akaka Falls, which plummets 442 feet into the gorge below. The hike only takes about 40 minutes.
About Real Estate in Honomu
There’s a lot of history to Kailua-Kona, including that King Kamehameha spent the last years of his life here. This town is located on the shores of Kailua Bay and enjoys sunny, dry weather year round. The main attraction in this area is Pu’ukohola Heiau, an ancient war temple built by King Kamehameha. Another is is Pua Mau Place, a botanical garden on the western slope of the Kohala Mountain. The garden showcases unique sculptures, everblooming plants, a hibiscus maze (planted with more than 200 varieties of hibiscus), large lava rocks on ravines and the Magic Circle (a circular arrangement of stones patterned after standing stone circles of the Celtics in the British Isles).
About Real Estate in Kailua-Kona
The village of Kalapana is nestled on a point at Ka’uiki Point on Kona’s leeward coast. It has a colorful history, dating back to when it was discovered in 1823. The name means pathway to sea and in ancient times it was used as a port for early settlers to reach their canoes across Mokuola and then into Hilo Bay. Throughout its long history, Kalapana has witnessed many changes; originally a peninsula, it eventually eroded until there was no land left to connect with Kailua-Kona side. Recent lava flows from Kilauea have left much of the land around Kalapana barren. Today there are no active flows near Kalapana.
About Shopping in Kalapana
You can get most everything at Foodland in Keauu There is also an ABC Store in Kaimu and if all else fails, there’s always Walmart on Waikoloa Beach Drive.
About Schools in Kalapana
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- Uncle Robert’s Awa Bar and Farmers Market is a favorite for local to meet up, shop, and sometimes listen to live music. Every Wednesday, a “night’ farmers market is held at the adjacent compound.
- There are a number of orchid farms in Kalapana.
- Two decades after the eruption of Kilauea volcano, a new black sand beach emerged where the lava flow reclaimed the ocean. A few years ago, fine black sand start to fill up the shoreline, a result of massive ocean waves crashing relentlessly against the lava rocks, breaking large chunks of lava into smaller and finer grains of sand over time. This area is now called Kaimu Black Sand Beach.
About Real Estate in Kalapana
This small port town (population 1,821), located on a scene bay, is a hub of commercial and community activity, including interisland transports. The town is busy on weekends when surfers, tourists, and local fishing boats are on the water. It’s known in Hawaiian history for being the place where King Kamehameha launched his canoes and men when they set out to conquer neighboring islands.
Hilo and Puna share jurisdiction over Kawaihae, with most governmental offices for each district located here.
About Schools in Kawaihae
Students are served by Kawaihae Elementary, Keonepoko Elementary, Waiakeawaena Elementary, Waikoloa Elementary, Waikoloa Middle School and Waimea High School.
About Shopping in Kawaihae
- In addition to being a great place to buy groceries, there is Kawaihae Harbor Seafood Market & Deli which offers fantastic poke (marinated raw fish) and sushi grade sashimi.
- There’s a lunch spot called Kaanapali Café where you can get both breakfast and lunch items like loco moco, sandwiches and plates featuring local ingredients.
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- Kawaihae means the “leaping place” or “place to jump up”, referring to a legend about Chief Kahekili’s warriors who leaped from their canoes onto solid ground before proceeding to battle Maui warriors.
About Real Estate in Kawaihae
Keaau, a town of about 2,724 residents, is considered a bedroom community for people who work in Hilo. In this town, you’ll find a handful of restaurants and shops all within walking distance, making it a great place to live and shop without having to get in your car. At an elevation above 3,000 feet in elevation the town feels cooler than other areas of the island. The town is surrounded by an Ohia forest, and nearby are black-sand beaches and a number of botanical gardens. Downtown consists of mostly buildings with commercial shops and offices. Some residential lots extend off of downtown on side streets.
About Shopping in Keauu
The Keaau village Farmers Market is a small market where you can find lots of affordable produce, a bakery, and several places where you can have breakfast and (take out) lunch. This market has a very local feel and the prices of the fruit and produce are lower than those at the Hilo farmers market.
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- A well-known attraction is the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts company that has a visitor center with a gift shop offering free nut candy samples. Visitors can enter the factory area and look down to observe nut sorting, husking, drying, chocolate enrobing, packaging, and other kinds of candy manufacturing processes.
- Hi’iaka Healing Herb Garden provides instruction and access to Hawaii’s famous medicinal plants, including endangered plants. It has a gift shop, offers tours and even offers accommodations for those who wish to stay. The garden makes for a pleasant afternoon trip, and you’ll likely leave feeling healthier than before.
- The town’s greenhouse Pacific Floral Exchange, deals in cut flowers and foliage, ginger, anthurium, and heliconia.
About Real Estate in Keaau
The median home price is $335,100, and this area is growing fast.
Pahala, the name refers to the burnt leaves of the hala tree, is another former sugar town with a population of 1,500 residents who enjoy a tranquil, rural life. There are several coffee farms in the hills above Pahala, that produce Ka’u coffee. The town has a few places to eat, Longs Pharmacy, schools, a gas station, a small shopping center, a post office, and a few churches. Pahala’s economy centers on the small scale farming of coffee, flowers, macadamia nuts, and cattle. Some of its inhabitants are descendants of sugar cane workers. Pahala is known for it community hospital, Ka’u Hospital.
About Schools in Pahala
Pahala is also the site of the Big Island’s oldest public school, established in 1881, Kau High and Pahala Elementary School. It serves the entire Ka’u region, even students who travel several hours each day to attend. School buses transport students who live in outlying areas with transport to and from school.
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- Pahala Plantation Cottages is a gorgeous place to stay in rural Hawaii. This laid-back paradise was built by Teddy Roosevelt in 1883 and boasts historic architecture as well as comfortable amenities—such as stone fireplaces, Hawaiian décor, and modern technology.
- A favorite nearby beach is Punaluu Beach, a gorgeous black sand beach, created by lava flows.
About Real Estate in Pahala
The community has experienced a small scale revival with the construction of a wide variety of accommodations and the continued presence of the Pahala Plantation Cottages and several convenience stores. Vrbo has a big number of homes, bungalows and condo/apartments available for vacation rental in Pahala.
Pahoa lies along Hawaii Route 130 on the east coast and extends inland into hills that reach an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet. The town features the largest concentration of historic buildings in Hawaii. The town’s boardwalk, over a hundred years old, runs along all Western-style buildings. Many of the town’s residents are eclectic and live alternative lifestyles. Volcanic activity continues to change the lay of the land in Pahoa. In May 2018, a new volcano grew just two miles about side the town and there were some major losses to homes and buildings. Many Native Hawaiians still live in Pahoa today.
About Schools in Pahoa
The schools in Pahoa are public institutions that are open to all students within a given area or city. Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science is a public school elementary school, enrolling about 600 students. Then there is the Montessori Country School and Pahoa High & Intermediate School Charter School of Excellence and Le Jardin Academy operate on a semester schedule, while Ke Kula o Nawahiokalaniopuu operates on a trimester schedule. Charter School of Excellence has an excellent sports program and participates in both state championship and island-wide competitions, including soccer, volleyball, basketball, cross country running, softball and baseball, and they have won many awards for their athletic achievements over time.
About Shopping in Pahoa
The town includes a number of restaurants, including Mexican and Shushi, a UPS store, a post office, an auto parts store, a public library, and several bakeries. There are several orchids farms nearby.
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- The name Pahoa means hole or cave in Hawaiian; its location between volcanic mountains with a large ocean opening made it a natural anchorage for canoes.
- Pahoa offers easy access to two popular attractions: Volcanoes National Park and Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
- Pahoa Fresh Fish is in the heart of town, and offers casual dining and specializing in fish and chips.
- Kehena Makai a 2-bedroom, 2-bath vacation rental house on the Big Island of Hawaii set just 100 feet from the Pacific where ocean spray can be felt on the lanai.
- Kalanimua Big Island Retreat Center is a wellness retreat. Guest teachers offer daily yoga, art and dance classes, community workshops, special events, and more.
About Real Estate in Pahoa
There are a large number of condos available in Pahoa in all sizes from small to large size units. You can buy both new or resale condo units, with resale condos sometimes priced below $200K depending on their location or building condition. Home prices in general are quite low compared to other islands but they have increased over recent years as more people move to the Big Island because of lower cost of living here compared to Oahu or Maui. Demand is high for real estate in Pahoa at present and it’s expected that prices will continue to rise with even greater demand ahead. The availability of single family homes varies widely based on different communities in Pahoa. In some areas there aren’t many left while others still hold many good options if you don’t mind buying an older property.
The character and quaint charm of Papaaloa is what draws people in. Perched on the edge of a cliff, this charming neighborhood of little homes, clustered around a gym and a park, enjoys rainbows nearly every day. This is an old village where many locals have lived for generations. Though small, the town of around 3,310 residents has its own post office. It also is home to an elderly independent living complex (part of the Big Island Housing Foundation). There is a distinct “plantation” feel to the town as it once was filled with camps for plantation and sugar mill workers. The road to get here can be a little challenging but you may find yourself exploring by car, bicycle or perhaps hiking from your front door into the great outdoors that surround Papaaloa. This is an area where residents can truly get back to nature.
About Shopping in Papaaloa
The Papaaloa Country Store and Cafe is a community market with a gourmet feel that “has something for everyone”: groceries, local gifts, propane fills, and EV charging station, and a cafe where the Hawaiian food, especially the laulau, is fantastic. Locals gather at this restaurant and bar for bingo nights.
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- Papaaloa is known for the nearby Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, a fascinating place for botanists, photographers, scientists, and tourists to explore. It features over 2,000 species viewable on a raised wood boardwalk that winds through lush rainforest.
About Real Estate in Papaaloa
Many homes are built on large sections of land with views that cover miles of ocean and greenery below.
Waimea sits at the base of Mauna Kea, the tallest volcano on the island, a few miles inland from the beach. It’s known for a cowboy culture of ranches, rodeos and horseback riding. The weather is warm and can fluctuate between wet and dry, though mostly dry.
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- Parker Ranch is one of the largest in the entire United State.
- Waimea is home to the Lunar Observatory Association, thanks to its dark sky areas.
- Located in the heart of Waimea is the Isaac Art Center Museum and Gallery, promoting local island art.
About Real Estate in Waimea