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Setting: The 2,300 miles of ocean between Hawaii and North America act as a climate buffer, tempering cold and warm fronts before they reach the islands. The result: nearly perfect weather. The average summer high is 89 degrees; the winter low, 65. Oahu is a five-hour flight from the West Coast.
Attractions: Sunny skies, cool trade winds, volcanic mountains, daily rainbows, and a relaxed dress code. Also world-class surfing, snorkeling, golf, tennis, and a host of cultural amenities. High-quality medical care is available in town. And Honolulu has some of the state's top-rated public elementary schools.
Drawbacks: Steep housing costs, high taxes, big-city traffic with rush-hour gridlock, and premium prices on everything from milk to gasoline. The isolation―Hawaii is the world's most remote inhabited island chain―can cause "rock fever."
Housing options: The price of a single-family home in Honolulu ranges from about $600,000 to $3 million or much more, depending on the location. The average for metro Oahu is about $710,000, but buyers can expect to pay about $1 million for a three- to four-bedroom family home in a desirable neighborhood with ocean views. Condominiums average $325,000 in town.
Your next-door neighbors: An archaeology professor from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, a real estate broker, a swimwear designer, a pro surfer, a restaurant owner, a semi-retired, 40-something transplant from Silicon Valley.
How you'd spend your free time: Hiking, snorkeling, golfing, surfing, watching the sunset over cocktails, enjoying some of the world's best sushi followed by live local jazz or Hawaiian music. Foodies flock to the slopes of Diamond Head, where the Saturday farmers' market offers a bounty of produce, fish, and flowers. For intellectual stimulation, you can visit the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Bishop Museum, rich resources for the study of Polynesian and East Asian cultures.
(published November 2008)