Live the aloha dream in a city where urban glitz meets beachside relaxation.

By Stewart Yerton
October 13, 2008
Douglas Peebles

Hawaii's capital city has a small-town vibe as warm and inviting as its weather. Just ask the locals. Rachel Daniel moved here from Orange County, California, four years ago and hasn't looked back. She and her husband, Warren, live in the Diamond Head area with their two daughters. The allure, Rachel says, is the casual lifestyle and relaxed attitude of the people who call this place home. "It all comes down to family and what the water conditions are and what you're doing on the weekend," she says.

That's Honolulu for you―at once a cosmopolitan, Asia-influenced city at the crossroads of the Pacific, and a friendly town where people fiercely preserve traditional Polynesian values such as hospitality, humility, and family unity.

Locals also respect the city's nature spots as much as its urban scene. Art galleries, spas, museums, and luxury fashion boutiques are easy to come by, but you'll also find green mountains lined with hiking trails, and clean waters alive with reefs, whales, turtles, and dolphins.

As expected, real estate in such a place doesn't come cheap. But good buys can still be found on the slopes of Diamond Head in the Kaimuki and Kapahulu neighborhoods. With access to water and Kapiolani Park, you might find that you don't even need a car.

Rachel agrees. She often walks with her family from their residential neighborhood of historic Craftsman cottages into bustling Waikiki for sushi or burgers, then strolls back home along Kalakaua Avenue, the main road through the city, which runs parallel to Waikiki Beach.

It all adds up to a place where you can slow down even as you stay active, says Lynn Lally, who moved to Hawaii from Silicon Valley in 2003, after her husband retired from a venture capital firm. The Lallys own a three-bedroom condominium in Hokua, one of several new luxury towers in Honolulu's oceanfront Kakaako neighborhood.

The couple can walk to the beach, tennis courts, and world-class shopping. And there's the "aloha-friendly" aspect of Honolulu. "We used to be very tense, focused people, and we feel more relaxed here," Lynn says. "I think we're going to live longer."

(published November 2008)