In ancient times, Aiea was part of the Ewa District, one of the island’s six original Oahu districts. It was a fertile agricultural area known for its production of taro and other crops. The name “Aiea” comes from a native Hawaiian plant called “ʻāʻīeʻa,” which was once abundant in the region. The plant, known scientifically as Nothocestrum latifolium, was used by native Hawaiians for various purposes, including medicinal and construction applications.
Aiea: A Historical Hub and Military Community with a Thriving Present
The arrival of Westerners in the 18th and 19th centuries marked the beginning of significant changes for Aiea and the Hawaiian Islands. The introduction of new crops, such as sugar cane, led to the growth of the plantation economy. By the late 19th century, Aiea was home to the Aiea Sugar Mill, which was vital to the region’s economic development. The sugar industry brought many immigrants to Hawaii, particularly from Asia, resulting in a diverse population that has greatly influenced Aiea’s culture. This blend of cultures can still be seen today in the town’s architecture, food, and traditions.
The most significant event in Aiea’s history occurred on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, located adjacent to the town. The attack led the United States to enter World War II and transformed Aiea into a hub of military activity. Following the war, military presence in the area continued to grow. Aiea is a convenient, central location to bases throughout the island.
As the military presence in the area increased, so did the need for housing and infrastructure. Aiea developed rapidly throughout the mid-20th century by constructing residential subdivisions, shopping centers, schools, and other facilities. The town’s location near Honolulu, the state capital, further contributed to its growth as a suburban community.
Today, Aiea is a thriving town with a diverse population, a strong sense of community, and a rich history. Living in Aiea means you are a quick commute to: Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Scoffield Barracks/Wheeler, the Coast Guard bases in Ewa Beach and downtown Honolulu, etc. It is a reasonable commute to every base on the island.
It is important to note that since Aiea’s development and growth accelerated in the mid-20th century, particularly after World War II – many homes in the area constructed during this period and in subsequent decades. As a result, you will find many homes in Aiea with ages ranging from over 50 years to more recent constructions, with varying architectural styles and designs.
Education is essential for families when deciding where to live, and Aiea, Hawaii, stands out for its strong educational system. Aiea is part of the Hawaii Department of Education’s (HIDOE) Central District, known for its commitment to academic excellence, innovative teaching methods, and diverse learning opportunities. In this section, we will compare Aiea’s school district with other districts in Hawaii, considering both public and private institutions.
Like all other public schools in Hawaii, Aiea’s public schools fall under the HIDOE’s jurisdiction. This centralized system ensures consistent standards and resources across the state. However, Aiea’s public schools distinguish themselves from others in several key areas.
Aiea’s public schools have consistently performed above the state average in terms of standardized test scores. This can attributed to the district’s focus on providing a well-rounded education, incorporating core subjects and visual and performing arts, physical education, and extracurricular activities. This holistic approach to learning fosters critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills in students.
Further, in comparison to other districts in Hawaii, Aiea’s public schools are recognized for their lower student-to-teacher ratios, enabling educators to provide more personalized attention and support for each student. This emphasis on individualized learning contributes to Aiea’s reputation for academic excellence and its ability to meet the unique needs of its diverse student population.
Aiea is in close proximity to the many prestigious private schools in Honolulu, as well as some private schools in the Aiea/Pearl Ridge area. For those with kids in Pre-K thru 5th grade, I want to offer a highly biased plug for what I consider a truly magical grade school for military dependents. Hale Keiki School, located a stone’s throw from the Naval Exchange, is an amazing place for grade school kids. 80%+ of the kids are military dependents. Military families will not find a school more supportive of the military child than this. It even has a group for kids whose parents deployed. When I PCS’d here, my boss recommended it, and it turned out to be my daughter’s favorite school she ever attended. We loved it so much that I eventually became a School’s Board of Governors member.
Commute to Military Bases
One of the most significant factors that make Aiea an ideal place to live for military families is its proximity to several major military installations. Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Schofield Barracks, and Fort Shafter are all within a 30-minute drive from Aiea, allowing military personnel to enjoy shorter commutes and more time with their families. This ease of access to military facilities contributes to a better work-life balance for service members. It ensures that families have easy access to the services and amenities available on base.
Additionally, Aiea’s central location on Oahu means that military families can take advantage of the numerous resources and opportunities the City of Honolulu provides. With the state capital just a short drive away, Aiea residents can enjoy the conveniences of urban living while still maintaining a peaceful and tight-knit community atmosphere.
Things to Do in Aiea
Aiea’s central location offers a lot of recreational opportunities and provides a wealth of activities for military families to enjoy. The town’s picturesque location on the shores of Pearl Harbor offers residents easy access to beaches, hiking trails, and water sports. The popular Aiea Loop Trail, for example, is a family-friendly hike that winds through lush forests, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
The Pearl Harbor Historic Sites, including the USS Arizona Memorial, are also located nearby, allowing families to learn about the area’s rich history and the sacrifices made by those who served. Furthermore, Aiea is home to numerous parks and recreational facilities, such as the Aiea District Park, which features a gymnasium, swimming pool, and sports fields, providing a range of options for staying active and engaged.
Food and Shopping in Aiea
Aiea offers a diverse selection of food and shopping options, catering to a wide variety of tastes and preferences. The town boasts an array of restaurants and eateries, ranging from traditional Hawaiian fare to international cuisine. Military families can enjoy local favorites such as poke, plate lunches, and shave ice or explore the culinary delights of Japanese, Thai, and Filipino cuisine.
In terms of shopping, Aiea is home to the Pearlridge Center, one of the largest shopping malls in Hawaii. With hundreds of stores and restaurants, the mall offers a wide range of retail and dining options, providing a one-stop destination for all your shopping needs. Additionally, the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, held near Aiea, offers an authentic tourist shopping experience where military families can find unique souvenirs, gifts, and treasures at bargain prices.
Utilizing Your VA Loan in Aiea
Aiea represents the perfect opportunity to use your Hawaii VA loan benefit for military families looking to purchase a home here in Hawaii. VA loans offer competitive interest rates, no down payment requirements, and no private mortgage insurance (PMI), making homeownership more accessible and affordable for military families. Home prices in Aiea are slightly below the Oahu average, at $1,057,000. Still, most members PCSing into Hawaii look at their BAH and current interest rates and question if affording a home here is even possible. Fortunately, the rental market is very strong due to the proximity to so many bases. This makes utilizing your Hawaii VA home loan benefit in Aiea more appealing as members can assure they will have no problem renting their home if/when they PCS to another duty station.
Aiea’s robust real estate market offers a great opportunity for members and veterans to utilize their VA home loans. The great schools and the proximity to most bases, towns, and many activities make Aiea one of the more popular places for members PCSing to Hawaii to settle down in. The primary negative most folks list as the reason for passing on Aiea is the age of the homes. As mentioned in the intro, many of the houses built in the post-WWII boom, so the age of homes in Aiea is on the older side. For more information on homes in Aiea, please reach out to Cathy Possedi, who is a local expert on all areas of the island, but especially in the areas around JBPHH and the western side of the island.