Downtown Honolulu is one of America's loveliest and most compact cities, with most of the financial and business districts and residential high-rises covering 12 square blocks.
Exotic Chinatown is a part of downtown, but is in a charming world of its own. Iwilei, once Oahu's notorious red light district, is now the respectable home of such retail denizens as Hilo Hattie, K-Mart, Home Depot, and the charming shops, restaurants and movie theaters of the restored Dole Cannery.
Kalihi Kai is a crazy-quilt collage of tiny and tenacious older houses and aging apartment buildings, car repair shops, industrial businesses, and venerable mom and pop establishments. The neighborhoods of Kalihi-Palama are so similar, they're like conjoined twins.
What once was urban sprawl came and went a long time ago, leaving Kalihi and Palama with the lived-in look and neighborly feeling of real ohana. The world's greatest repository of Pacific and Polynesian research and artifacts is located here in the stone gothic confines of the Bishop Museum.
Moanalua-Salt Lake are as different as Kalihi-Palama are alike, with a major exception: the military presence. Both neighborhoods can certainly claim to be well protected. Moanalua has the Army's Fort Shafter on one side and the Navy's Red Hill Naval Reservation and the military's Tripler Medical Center on the other. Salt Lake is encircled by U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy bases, and low-cost military housing.
Moanalua residences are mostly single-family dwellings tucked away in lovely hills and valleys. Salt Lake, on the other hand, is almost all vertical with medium- and high-rise apartment dwellings springing up like cornstalks.
Nuuanu is as much a botanical garden as it is a wonderful place to live. Sudden rain showers swoop over the Koolau Mountains creating perfect mists for this community's profuse tropical vegetation.
Both the Pacific Heights and Punchbowl communities have the advantage of loftier perches going for them, creating spectacular views and cooler temperatures.
Both communities are less than 10 minutes from downtown, the State Capital Building, City Hall and Hawaii's principal state and federal buildings.
The mostly high-rise condominium and low-rise apartment communities of Ala Moana-Kakaako are Oahu's major shopping and cultural centers. Ala Moana is home to Ala Moana Center, Hawaii's largest shopping megalopolis, with over 200 shops and restaurants in a setting of lush landscaping and colorful fish ponds.
Kakaako is Oahu's cultural headquarters. The fine arts collections of the Honolulu Academy of Arts are here, as well as Hawaii's leading entertainment complex. Showcased at Blaisdell Center, Concert Hall and Exhibition Hall are the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, live broadway shows, major concerts and exhibits and trade shows of all kinds.
The Kakaako waterfront is now the focus of highly significant, image-setting state activity. In the planning stages are a world-class aquarium, gathering place, Ocean Science Center and ocean park.
Wide, tree-lined Kapiolani Boulevard, with its affluent condominiums, office buildings and elegant auto dealerships, is the focal point of Kapiolani. Affordable low-rise apartments and older homes lie in a criss-cross of streets mauka (toward the mountain) of the boulevard.
Makiki marches up the side of the Koolau Mountains in a steady procession of high-rise condos and apartments at the lower elevations to expensive residences toward the top in Makiki Heights. About half way to the top is the stunning Contemporary Arts Museum, one of Honolulu's most novel and cultural places to dine.
Manoa means vast in Hawaiian, a perfect description for this deep valley. A neighborhood of mainly older homes with immense character and charm, the valley's profuse vegetation is made more lush by frequent showers followed by spectacular rainbows. The University of Hawaii is located here, as well as Lyon Arboretum, the Manoa Valley Theatre and Manoa Marketplace, one of Oahu's loveliest little shopping and dining centers.
The close proximity to the University of Hawaii and Chaminade University campuses make McCully-Moiliili favorite haunts for local college students. The area is packed with student-friendly businesses and activities, mom and pop shops, and affordable to mid-priced low- medium and high-rise apartments.
Overlooking it all is St. Louis Heights where folks "view the scenery from their mountain greenery," as the old song goes. Waahila Ridge State Recreational Area, a 49.9-acre, pine-forested picnic site and hiking spot, is nestled in this neighborhood of older, established single-family homes.
The urban resort destination of Waikiki is Hawaii's major visitor attraction and an exciting place to live. On the mauka (mountain) side of the world's most famous beach is a self-contained neighborhood of high-rises, restaurants, shops, fun activities and entertainment.
*Content provided courtesy of the Honolulu Advertiser