Oahu, Hawaii, USA

Living in Oahu

Iyna Bort Caruso

In Hawaii, the spirit of aloha is a philosophy of warmth, friendliness and sincerity. It is a spirit deeply engrained in the culture and a reason why visitors return--sometimes bearing only one-way tickets.

Oahu is known as the heart of Hawaii, a Polynesian paradise with urban appeal. There’s no shortage of festivals, museums, theatrical performances and open studio gallery crawls as impressive as those offered in any major metropolis.

And then there is the legendary coastline, boundless sunshine and gentle trade winds. Despite these vacation island requisites, Oahu will never be mistaken for just another pretty spot in the ocean.

Oahu’s distinctive beauty is in how ancient traditions are so thoroughly woven into the fabric of everyday modern life. Hawaiian heritage--from hula dancing and the native Polynesia language to indigenous musical styles like the slack-key guitar--is very much at the fore.

Traditional Hawaiian architecture brings the environment into the design. Luxury homes in Hawaii are oriented to take advantage of cooling trade winds and ocean or mountain views. The architecture is distinct, yet it reflects influences from around the globe and a fusion of styles. Contemporary takes on plantation architecture, inspired by the old sugarcane and pineapple homesteads, is a prevalent style, marked by low-profile wood frames, large porticos and wide-hipped roofs. More modern architecture continues to emphasize open verandas and interior courtyards while assimilating Western and Asian details.

For some high profile homeowners, a primary or vacation residence in Oahu is an opportunity to step away from the glare and enjoy a level of privacy not always attainable on the mainland. Upscale gated communities are sprinkled throughout the island, mostly on or near the ocean like Hawaii Loa Ridge and Black Point. The beachfront estates of sunny Kahala, a neighborhood of Honolulu, are some of the most expensive, not just on the island or even the state but in the country. Portlock is another premier south shore suburb, about 12 miles from downtown Honolulu. A family friendly neighborhood, Portlock boasts killer views of Diamond Head, the Kahala coastline and Maunalua Bay. The state’s first master-planned community is in neighboring Hawaii Kai. Canal front homes giving owners a rare perk: their own boat dock.