aiea arial view

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.

Public Schools

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.

Private Schools

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.




In the early 20th century, Central Oahu was predominantly characterized by pineapple and sugar cane plantations. However, as the agricultural industry began to decline in the 1950s and 1960s, the Castle & Cooke Company, one of the original “Big Five” companies that dominated Hawaii’s economy, saw an opportunity to develop a master-planned community in the area. They envisioned a town that would provide affordable housing, job opportunities, and a higher quality of life for the residents of Oahu.

Mililani: A Visionary Community Born from Nature’s Embrace

In 1968, Castle & Cooke acquired approximately 3,500 acres of former plantation land to develop Mililani, which translates to “heavenly caress” in Hawaiian. This ambitious project aimed to create a self-sufficient community that would accommodate the growing population of Oahu. The master plan for Mililani was designed by Al Boeke, a renowned architect and planner who also designed the famous community of Sea Ranch in California.

The first homes in Mililani were built in 1969, and by the end of 1971, over 1,000 families had moved into the new community. In addition to residential areas, the initial development phase included the construction of parks, schools, shopping centers, and other essential infrastructure. The Mililani Golf Club, which opened in 1972, provided an additional recreational amenity for residents and visitors alike.

Mililani Mauka: A Mountainward Expansion of Community and Sustainability

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Mililani continued to expand, eventually necessitating the development of a second community, Mililani Mauka, to accommodate the growing population. Mililani Mauka, which means “toward the mountain” in Hawaiian, was planned as a separate community with its own distinct identity and infrastructure.

Construction of Mililani Mauka began in the early 1990s, with the first homes being completed in 1992. Like its sister community, Mililani Mauka was designed with a focus on sustainability, pedestrian-friendliness, and a strong sense of community. The new development included additional parks, schools, and commercial centers, along with a network of pedestrian and bike paths to promote connectivity and reduce dependence on automobiles.


In 1997, the Kamehameha Highway was extended, connecting Mililani and Mililani Mauka and providing a more direct route between the two communities. The opening of the highway spurred further growth and development, as it allowed residents to commute to jobs more easily in other parts of Oahu.

Throughout its development, Mililani has prioritized sustainability and environmental stewardship. The community has implemented various initiatives to conserve energy, protect natural resources, and reduce waste.


As I mentioned in the beginning, when I got orders PCSing to Oahu, I chose to live in Mililani because of the excellent schools. All its public schools are highly rated, and depending on which rating site one uses, almost all are in the top 20% of public schools in state. So, for members and veterans moving to the Hawaii, this is one of the biggest positives of using your Hawaii VA home loan benefit for a purchase in Mililani. If one is looking for private schools, Hanalani Schools offers an excellent K-12 education with both a rigorous college-prep curriculum and many extra-curricular activities.


Mililani being located in Central Oahu, which makes it an attractive location for military personnel and their families due to its proximity to several military bases on the island. Here are the estimated commute times from Mililani to some of the major military bases on Oahu:

Schofield Barracks / Wheeler Army Airfield: Approximately 9 miles away, the drive to Schofield Barracks / Wheeler from Mililani typically takes around 15-20 minutes via the HI-99 (Kamehameha Highway) and Kunia Road. Schofield Barracks is the largest Army installation in Hawaii and is home to the 25th Infantry Division.

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam

This joint Air Force and Navy base is approximately 18 miles from Mililani. The drive typically takes around 25-35 minutes, depending on traffic, via the H2 freeway southbound, which merges into the H1 freeway westbound, and then onto the HI-99 (Kamehameha Highway).

Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH) Kaneohe Bay

MCBH Kaneohe Bay is about 28 miles from Mililani. The commute usually takes around 40-50 minutes via the H2 freeway southbound, which merges into the H1 freeway eastbound, and then onto the HI-63 (Likelike Highway) or the Pali Highway (HI-61).

NSA Hawaii

The distance between Mililani and NSA Hawaii is approximately 11 miles. The typical commute time from Mililani to NSA Hawaii is around 20-30 minutes, depending on traffic conditions. To reach NSA Hawaii from Mililani, you can take the HI-99 (Kamehameha Highway) northbound and then turn right on Whitmore Ave.

Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point

This Coast Guard installation is approximately 24 miles from Mililani. The drive typically takes around 30 minutes via the H2 freeway southbound, which merges into the H1 freeway westbound, and then onto the HI-750 (Kapolei Parkway).

Please note that these commute times are estimates and can vary depending on traffic conditions and time of day. It is essential to account for potential traffic delays, especially during peak hours, when planning your commute. I often advise members and veterans to get up early and do a dry run on their potential commute so they have an idea of what their daily life will be.

Things to do

For veterans and members PCSing or moving to Hawaii, almost no other town offers the broad range of things to do like Mililani. This is the closest you will likely get to mainland USA. The town has a plethora of shopping options, a Costco located a few miles away, as well as a town center with many small shops and local events. My top things to do while living in Mililani:

Mililani Golf Club

Enjoy a round of golf at this 18-hole, par 72 golf course, featuring a pro shop, driving range, and restaurant.

Mililani District Park Or Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Park

The Mililani district park is a large park offering sports facilities, a playground, and picnic areas for families and sports enthusiasts. The Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional park is the biggest park on Oahu and offers 12 Baseball/Softball fields, 20 tennis courts, an Olympic size swimming pool, an archery range, and a walking path. It is a fabulous place to walk the family dog, practice with the kids, or just enjoy the wonderful Oahu weather.

Mililani Town Center

Shop and dine at this local shopping center, which also hosts a weekly farmers market with fresh produce and handmade crafts.

Waikele Premium Outlets

A short drive away, this outlet mall features over 50 stores for bargain shopping. Most shops offer a 10% military discount for veterans and members shopping in the outlets.

Waimea Valley

Explore this lush park with botanical gardens, a waterfall, and cultural sites, located about a 30-minute drive from Mililani.

North Shore / Westside Beaches

Discover the beautiful beaches of Oahu’s North Shore, such as Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay, and Banzai Pipeline, about 30-40 minutes away by car. The beaches on the westside are also very nice with Ko Olina lagoons, Makaha Beach, or White Plains (a great beginner surfing spot).

Hiking Trails

Take advantage of the numerous hiking trails around the island, such as the Aiea Loop Trail, Ehukai Pillbox Hike, or the Kuliouou Ridge Trail.

Dole Plantation

Visit this historic plantation, where you can learn about Hawaii’s pineapple industry, navigate through the Pineapple Garden Maze, and take a train ride through the plantation grounds.

Polynesian Cultural Center

Experience the rich history and culture of the Pacific Islands at this living museum, featuring traditional villages, performances, and hands-on activities. This is located near Laie, about 30-40 minutes from Mililani.

Mililani High School Farmer’s Market

Sunday from 0800-1100, this market is EXACTLY the kind of Farmer’s Market I love. Tons of farmers selling fresh fruits and vegetables, a lot less food trucks and local arts and crafts sold here. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against local artists or the amazing food truck scene here on island, but I come to Farmer’s Markets to buy fresh produce for my family – and this is the best market on the island for that purpose. May-July is the best time, as it is Lychee season!

Mililani Rec Centers

One of the best and easiest family activities for veterans and active-duty members PCSing to Oahu and living in Mililani is the town rec centers. Mililani has SEVEN rec centers, almost all with swimming pools, playgrounds, and a plethora of activities/classes for the family to take advantage of. The town association charges a modest annual fee for family memberships.


One of the few drawbacks with Mililani is its rather pedestrian selection of cuisine. As discussed, Mililani most resembles a suburb on the mainland. Likely due to the large amount of military members/veterans in the community, Mililany has many chain restaurants you could reasonably expect to see in any suburb on the mainland: Chilis, Ruby Tuesday, California Pizza Kitchen, and Five Guys are all in Mililani.

Mililani is near all the stores any practical person may need. It has a Walmart, is a few miles away from Costco, as well as the exchange and commissary at Schofield. Unless one needs a specialty store or more high end fashion, one shouldn’t ever have to leave Mililani.

Utilizing your VA loan benefit in Mililani

The average home price in Mililani is $933,000, lower than the average home price throughout the island. However, homes on the town side tend to be older, and cost closer to this price while homes in Mililani Mauka tend to be newer, and over $1,000,000. If you are looking to know how much you can afford please contact me for a free consultation. I offer same day pre-approvals, but please visit my website as it is also great for educating yourself on your Hawaii VA loan benefit. It provides weekly mortgage updates, and various guidance such as how to pull your COE . After applying and getting pre-approved for a VA home loan here in Hawaii, you should look to find an agent who is an expert in the area and Grant Kapono Kanoho is a perfect match. Contact him to find out more about owning a home in Mililani or elsewhere on the island.

Overall Quality of Life Rating for Members and Veterans

Mililani offers an amazing quality of life for veterans and members PCSing to Oahu and utilizing their VA home loan benefit in Hawaii. The schools are top notch while the rec centers and parks offer low-cost family entertainment options within walking distance. Its central location puts it neither close, nor far away from almost any activity on the island. It is affordable (for Hawaii) and the abundance of shopping and recreational opportunities means that military members and veterans living in Mililani rarely have to leave the town. It also offers a reasonable commute to all bases besides MCBH. For military families Mililani ranks 10/10 for quality of life. The only areas this town may disappoint is in its proximity to beaches and nightlife. With only a few bars in the town, single veterans and members looking for an active nightlife scene will need to take an expensive Uber into town.