Hawaii Land for Sale
For many, Hawaii is synonymous with swaying palm trees, crashing surf and intemperate volcanoes. While all of these iconic characteristics are readily found on the more than 120 islands that make up the state, there is much more to this isolated archipelago than meets the eye.
The word “aloha” is recognized around the world as a Hawaiian greeting, and it’s regularly used as such. But the word means so much more to those who live in the eighth-smallest state of the United States. Literally translated, aloha means “breath of life” or “presence of breath,” and it is used to indicate love and affection. When Hawaiians say “aloha,” they are spreading this breath of life about the island. Indeed, the word itself is a symbol of Hawaii that transcends the mundane greeting of “hello.” Aloha is not only what is said, but what is done: People are treated with aloha – honor and respect. In fact, Hawaii passed the “Aloha Spirit” law – a state law designed to remind citizens and lawmakers alike to treat each other with respect and dignity.
Aloha is just a small part of the exotic and vibrant culture that thrives in Hawaii. The islands were discovered by the Polynesians, who navigated more than 2,000 miles in canoes to settle the land. Later, settlers arrived from Tahiti. They brought with them their gods and demigods, which, along with their social hierarchy, became a staple of the Hawaiian culture. The sport of surfing and the art of hula were born of these traditions, as well. Hawaii is the only state in the nation with an official native language: ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi.
Hawaii was once a sovereign kingdom, ruled benevolently by generations of Hawaiian royalty. When the commercial value of Hawaii became known to the United States, the kingdom became a republic of America in 1894 when the monarchy was overthrown. In 1898, the United States annexed the islands and created the Hawaiian Territory. More than 60 years later, Hawaii became the 50th state to join the nation on August 21, 1959.
Hawaii is the only U.S. state that is completely surrounded by the ocean, and it’s the only one located entirely in the tropics (Florida’s southern tip and the Keys barely penetrate the tropics). Due to its tropical allure, land over the entire state of Hawaii sells at a premium. Investors should expect to pay $15,000 per acre on the low end of the scale, with high-end properties commanding $500,000 or more per acre. Although each island has a distinct identity from climate to culture, one can separate Hawaii into several regions. From the Big Island to the Coconut Coast, Hawaii offers a little something for everyone.
Hawai’i: The Big Island
Hawai’i is the name of both the state and the largest of its more than 125 islands. To avoid confusion, the island itself is affectionately called the “Big Island.” It is almost twice as large as the rest of the other islands combined, so the nickname becomes obvious. While it is the largest, it is also the youngest of the islands, formed a mere 800,000 years ago – the blink of a geologic eye. Regular violent volcanic eruptions spur its continued growth.
Although Hawai’i, covers only 4,021 square miles, it is host to 11 of the 13 climactic zones in the world. Sandy beaches, volcanic deserts, snow-capped mountains and nearly everything in between can be found on the Big Island. Waterfalls, active volcanoes and more are all within the boundaries of this single small paradise. Natural black-sand beaches are a treasure along the Hawai’i coast, as are lush and green rainforests. The distinctive regions of the island are true to their appearance: Parts of Hawai’i, like Hilo, located on the eastern side of the island, get more than 130 inches of annual rainfall, while others, including the Kohala Coast in the northwest, get less than five.
Kilauea volcano is the most active in the world, continuously erupting since 1983. However, Hawai’i is home to a few other notable mountains. The world’s tallest sea mountain, Maunakea, is located here. Spanning from 32,000 feet below the surface of the ocean to 13,796 feet above, Maunakea is taller than Mt. Everest. The most massive mountain on Planet Earth, Maunaloa covers nearly half of the island’s surface.
Real estate on Hawai’i is the least expensive in the state. Investors can expect to find reasonably-priced properties in this region, but still reaching up to $500,000 per acre, depending on the amenities.
Maui is the second largest island in Hawaii, and it is known as the “Magic Isle” because of the majestic splendor of the terrain. Waterfalls grace the mountainside along the highways, and volcanic deserts sprawl through the higher elevations. The Maui region encompasses the neighboring islands of Lanai, Kahoolawe and Molokai. This area is home to what many believe to be the world’s best beaches. Whale watching, surfing and other outdoor activities are exceedingly popular in this area. These islands are sparsely populated, making them favorite destinations for those looking for a true escape.
Maui is home to fertile soils in the Upcountry (higher elevations), where botanical gardens and eucalyptus trees thrive. Ranches and farms sprawl through this area, inland from the beaches. Central to the island is Iao Valley State Park. One of Maui’s most notable landmarks, the Iao Needle is a 1,200-foot stone pillar that rests within the park’s mountainous outcropping of stone. The green valley is a favorite spot for hiking. The neighboring island of Kahoolawe is uninhabited, due to its lack of fresh water sources.
Lanai is a special island where nary a traffic light spoils the scenery. In fact, only 30 miles of road on the island are paved. There are plenty of things to see on this smallest of all of the Hawaiian islands. There are vast stretches of once-farmed grassland through the Palawai Basin, and Keahiakawelo is home to the Garden of the Gods, a rock garden set in a desolate moonlike terrain. Lanai is home to vast forests of Cook Island Pine. While most might not associate a pine tree with any part of Hawaii, the pines were imported from New Caledonia in the 18th century to siphon water from fog on this arid island, which receives the least rainfall of any in the state.
Molokai, the fifth-largest island of Hawaii, is an island steeped in the traditions of the Hawaiian culture of generations past. Half of the island’s population is Native Hawaiian, and the connection to the history of the lands is still revered. As on Lanai, there are no traffic lights on Molokai. No building on Molokai is taller than a coconut tree. Some of the world’s highest sea cliffs are found on this island, soaring at elevations between 3,600 and 3,900 feet above sea level. Navigable only by mountain bike or 4-wheel drive vehicle, this island is said to be the home of hula – the sensuous, swaying dance that is a trademark of Hawaii.
Investors interested in a slice of the Maui region should prepare to pay between $15,000 and $400,000 per acre, depending on the location of the property. As in the rest of the state, inland Upcountry properties are much more affordable than parcels near the coast.
Oahu is called the “Heart of Hawaii.” Home to the state capitol of Honolulu, Oahu is the most populous of all of the Hawaiian islands, despite being the third-largest. Oahu provides an eclectic mix of natural and man-made attractions, with a broad range of options from villages with small-town appeal to big resort amenities. The fusion of the eastern and western traditions that combined to create the current culture of Hawaii is apparent around every corner, giving this island a second nickname, the “Gathering Place.”
Oahu covers only 597 square miles, but this densely inhabited, yet beautiful island packs a lot of adventure into its tiny expanse. Clear blue waters lap at the shores of Kailua Beach while two ranges of majestic mountains, the Waianae and the Koolau, loom inland. The more than 100 ridges created by these mountain ranges create stunning valleys and majestic vistas in which the beauty of this island is preserved. The modern city skylines of Honolulu and Waikiki contrast the memorial site at Pearl Harbor and the historic architecture at ‘Iolani Palace, which was built by King Kalākaua in 1882.
As with the other islands, Oahu’s western, or leeward, side is warmer and drier than the eastern, or windward, side. On the east coast, untold centuries of gale-force winds and heavy rains have carved out near-vertical ridges along the coast of the island. These beautiful rock faces ripple along the coast, creating stunning scenery.
Investors interested in Oahu properties should prepare to pay a premium. Because the island is so densely populated, there are fewer large parcels than can be found on The Big Island or those more sparsely settled. The vast tourist draw drives prices up, as well. An acre runs between $40,000 and $40 million on Oahu.
Kauai and Niihau
Kauai is the northernmost and the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands. Dubbed “Island of Discovery,” there is a lot to see on Kauai. However, much of the island is reachable only by airplane or boat. While the shore boasts 50 miles of pristine beaches spanning from Poipu to Hanalei, nearly half of the coast line is covered in white sand. The most striking beach is the Napali Coast. This 17-mile stretch was formed from wind and water erosion over the island, creating high cliffs, lush valleys, picturesque waterfalls and hidden sea caves on this beach accessible only by sea or hiking trail.
Many of the best treasures of Kauai, however, are found in the Upcountry. The Waimea Canyon is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” In the heart of Kauai, waterfalls and deep gorges cascade down the face of the 5,148-foot Mount Waialeale. The lush, emerald valleys formed between the mountain spires and cliffs have given Kauai the nickname “Garden Isle.” With rainforests, sea cliffs and rushing rivers, this small, circular island of only 552 square miles is a true paradise to behold. Hiking, ziplining, snorkeling and kayaking are popular activities on Kauai.
As on Molokai, no building on Kauai is taller than a coconut tree. The atmosphere is decidedly low-key. One-lane bridges, small towns and abundant culture set the pace on this quaint island. The neighboring island of Ni’ihau can be included in the Kauai region. Populated by only 160 people, descendants of Elizabeth Sinclair, who, in 1864, purchased Ni’ihau from the sovereign Kingdom of Hawaii for $10,000. Her family has lived on the island ever since. Life on the island is tranquil and uneventful. However, on December 7, 1941 during the attack on Pearl Harbor, a Japanese fighter pilot crashed his plane on Ni’ihau and, for one week, threatened its residents. This tiny island is off limits to all but invited guests, family members, government officials and United States Navy personnel. These restrictions make Ni’ihau the “Forbidden Isle.”
Land in Kauai is, perhaps surprisingly, more affordable than on some of its neighbors. A typical parcel runs between $5,000 and $50,000 per acre, depending on its location. Investors in the region can find parcels ranging in size from less than one acre to more than 1,000.
Hawaii has a gross domestic product of $54.773 billion each year. Ninety percent of this sum comes to Hawaii from the tourism industry. Hotels, restaurants, airports, resorts, transportation agencies and rental facilities, guides and instructors and more combine to make Hawaii a nearly statewide tourist destination. Though only 1.36 million people live in the state, more than seven times as many people flock from all over the world to visit the Aloha State each year.
The agricultural industry thrives in Hawaii, as well. Major exports include macadamia nuts, pineapples, coffee and the unique tropical flowers that grow in the island. More than 40,000 people are employed in agriculture, and the services that support it.
The development of land on Hawaii is created solely from stone mined within the state. Though there are a few mines dedicated to the gemstone trade, the majority of Hawaii mining produces crushed stone, construction sand and cement with which to build property and roads.