If you are active duty PCSing to O’ahu, Waimanalo can offer more affordable homes and an authentic Hawaii experience. It is truly an underappreciated gem for folks stationed at MCBH, as it offers a decent commute and feels much different than the typical Hawaiian town. Folks working at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam will have a more challenging commute, although members with a flexible work schedule ie not commuting at rush hour will not have as challenging as a commute.
Waimanalo has two public elementary schools: Waimanalo Elementary & Intermediate School, and Blanche Pope Elementary School, as well as Malama Honua Learning Center Public Charter School which military dependents going to elementary and/or middle school can attend. Unfortunately, all of these schools range in overall scores from 2-4 in greatschools.org ratings. While I firmly believe ratings in almost any system can be biased, many military members and veterans who buy in Waimanalo send their kids to private schools such as Le Jardin if stationed at MCBH and Navy Hale Keiki if they are commuting to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Waimanalo has no high schools, and kids attending public high schools usually attend Kailua High School.
Commuting from Waimanalo to military bases throughout the island besides MCBH can be a bit of a challenge. The majority of military bases are located in the central or southern parts of the island and Waimanalo’s location makes it a more challenging commute for members stationed at Camp Smith, JBPHH, Schofield Barracks, and the Coast Guard bases. Members who buy a home in Waimanalo will be looking at a 20-30 minute commute to MCBH and 45-90 minutes for other bases.
Things to do
Hawai’i is a nature-lover’s paradise and Waimanalo does not disappoint with numerous outdoor activities. It’s beaches are among the best on the island, with the two most popular among military members and veterans being Waimanalo Beach Park and Bellows Air Force Station. Both beaches have beautiful sand, crystal clear water, and lush green mountains in the background, Waimanalo Beaches are true paradise. The parks also offer picnic areas, showers, and restrooms, making it a great place to spend a day with family or friends.
For those who love hiking, Waimanalo Ridge Trail is a must-visit. This challenging trail offers stunning views of the Waimanalo coastline, as well as the surrounding valleys and mountains. The trail is approximately 2.5 miles one way, and it’s a great way to experience the natural beauty of the area. For a more leisurely pace, families can visit the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail. This popular trail is located just a short drive from Waimanalo and offers stunning views of the Makapu’u Beach and the surrounding coastline. The trail is an easy hike, completely paved (for those with children still in strollers), and is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels.
Sea Life Park offers a unique opportunity to see and interact with a variety of marine animals including dolphins, seals, sea lions, and tropical fish. The park features several attractions including a dolphin show, a sea lion show, and a variety of interactive exhibits where visitors can touch and feed the animals – my kids love feeding the turtles salad. Sea Life Park is a perfect destination for families and children, as it provides educational and entertaining experiences that help to raise awareness about ocean conservation and the importance of preserving marine ecosystems. Sea Life Park is a must-visit destination that offers a fun and memorable experience for people of all ages. It offers a military and kama’aina discount for season passes which are a very reasonable price (around $60-70). Sea Life Park is the perfect place to take kids when it is too rainy to hike or swim at one of Waimanalo’s wonderful beaches.
For a unique and authentic taste of Hawaii, visit the Waimanalo Country Farms, a small family-owned farm that grows a variety of crops, including tropical fruits and vegetables. The farm also offers tours, where you can learn about the local agriculture and taste some of the delicious crops grown on-site. Overall, Waimanalo is a great place to visit for those who want to experience the natural beauty and relaxed island vibe of Hawaii. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure, local culture, or simply a day at the beach, Waimanalo has something to offer.
Waimanalo is a small town and offers little in the way of food or grocery shopping. There is Shima’s a small, local grocery store with great poke, a few plate lunch restaurants, a couple fast food restaurants, and an L&L Barbeque. There is very little else, but as you are close to Kailua, MCBH, and Hawaii Kai – there are many options within a 20(ish) minute drive. Members who have PCS’d and bought homes here usually do their big grocery shopping at MCBH or Hawaii Kai’s Costco.
Utilizing your VA loan benefit in Waimanalo
The average home price in Waimanalo is slightly over $1,000,000, which is slightly lower than the average O’ahu home. The homes often are older, typically built in the 1960s and 1970s. Members and veterans looking to know how much home they can afford should visit our military pay calculator page ,start the process by learning how to pull your COE , or applying to get a Hawai’I VA loan pre-approval with a VA loan specialist. After you are pre-approved for your VA loan, you should look to find an agent who is an expert in Waimanalo and the surrounding areas – Daniel Lee Kim is just such an agent, as well as a Marine Corps veteran. He knows what it is like to PCS OCONUS and purchase homes using his VA home loan benefit.
Overall Quality of Life Rating for Members and Veterans
As with many things in life, the answer is “it depends”. Single or young couples without kids and stationed at MCBH, or older veterans might find the quality of life in Waimanalo amazing. Military members and Veterans valuing natural beauty, proximity to amazing beaches, and laid-back country life will rate Waimanalo quite high. Those who are stationed at a base other than MCBH, who have kids and desire a highly rated school district, or who simply want a more urban environment and nightlife will likely rate Waimanalo quite low. As a person who has a family with 3 school-aged children, Waimanalo is a place I love to visit but probably would not enjoy living due to the commute and lower-rated schools.