Hawaii Reopening: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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Hawaii has been effectively closed to tourists since March 26th. I say “effectively” because while you could visit, all visitors had to quarantine for 14-days – in your room for two weeks, food and toilet paper had to be delivered (here).  And even if you could go out, most businesses and recreational activities (e.g. beaches) were similarly shuttered.

Beginning October 15th, travelers to Hawaii can avoid the quarantine if they’d had a negative COVID-19 test within 72-hours. Airlines are also beginning to offer testing to make the process more seamless (here, here). American Airlines will be offering a variety of testing options for Hawaii-bound travelers (up-the-nose and rapid saliva testing).

Inter-Island travel is still hampered, so for the moment, stick to the island you land on.

Me? I’m leaving for Hawaii on November 1.

Be My Neighbor at Colony Surf

I’ve been waiting for 20 years for the unit next to my Hawaii condo to come on the market. My goal was to blow a hole in the wall and gain a big bedroom. Of course, my being bogged down renovating my Dallas home offers opportunity for any of my stalkers who missed the Penthouse Plunge to live next door to me at least part-time.

Floor plan for unit 506

Unit 506 at the Colony Surf is a 505-square-foot studio. It’s also a renovation project as it’s been a full-time rental that’s largely untouched from 1959 – I recognize cabinets and counters from my own renovation. One tenant told me that when they put down peel-stick tile in the kitchen, the owner wanted to charge them more rent for (using their own money) making it better.

A first question might be why there’s a fireplace in Hawaii?  A second question might be why there’s a fake fireplace in Hawaii? I have no answer for either. What this picture shows is the depth of the unit along with the wall of windows that are at palm tree height.

This view looks back towards the entry/kitchen on the left and the bathroom entry on the right. Again, this is no hotel room in size at 505 square feet. I have friends who live in this size unit full time.

This is where you can see the age. Because the building has no HVAC at all, air movement is critical. The kitchen door is louvered to bring in those breezes. The kitchen isn’t gourmet-size, but it’s quite workable. Recent renovations have moved the fridge near the door so they can open the end of the kitchen to the living area. A few have wrapped the counters to create extra counter space doubling as a breakfast bar.

The bathroom is similarly a gut. A double vanity would easily fit in the space and glassing-in the shower creates a more spacious feel – and views outdoors while showering. The whole wall on the left is a long closet that most use for a combination of hanging and drawers.

The price is a pedantic $808,000 (808 is the Hawaiian area code). Shockingly, the price isn’t as bad as a Dallas buyer might think. Renovated units can sell for just shy of $2,000 per square foot on this side of the building, while unit 506 is priced at $1,600 per foot. So there is money to do a renovation. If the price is shocking, the property taxes are shocking in the other extreme. The property is assessed at $462,900 with an annual property tax bill of $1,620.15. HOA dues are $659 per month including all utilities (cable and internet too).

And then there’s the beach in back of the building. One of the few direct oceanfront buildings on Oahu and one of three in the area with their own beach. It also has one of Hawaii’s most romantic restaurants located oceanfront on the ground floor – Michel’s. Sunsets included.  

Diamond Head Ambassador in yellow, my building tallest to left

Too Close? Diamond Head Ambassador

If sharing a wall with me is too close or the price too steep, a couple of buildings down the road there’s a fourth floor, 310-square-foot studio at another oceanfront building costing $339,900 – cutting your cost by half to $1,096 per foot.

This is pretty much it (although there’s a large storage space in the basement). In back of the photographer is the kitchen and bathroom. What’s great in a small space like this is the wall of windows and the usable lanai (where I’d put a dining table for two).

Virtually staging the place and you see this. A Murphy bed-sofa combo frees space during the day. Like my neighbor, the kitchen isn’t huge but serviceable – and it’s pretty freshly done. While small, a buyer won’t need to manage a remote-control renovation – a plus.

Unlike my building, the Diamond Head Ambassador sits atop a sea wall, so instead of a sandy beach, it has a swimming pool. There is ocean access for swimming, but no beach. However, for mid-century architecture buffs, the Diamond Head Ambassador was designed by renowned Hawaiian architect Vladimir Ossipoff.  

More Space Away From Ocean

Up in Kaimuki there’s the Jade high-rise. It’s a donut-shaped building with a hollow core. Units are all the same 906-square-foot size with two bedrooms and one-and-a-half bathrooms. The real difference is which way you face – into the Palolo Valley or towards the ocean. Unit 603 faces towards Diamond Head and is priced at $385,000 (or a wallet-warming $425 per square foot) with $567 in HOA dues.

What makes this unit great is the location. It’s not on the ocean, but it’s a block of Waialae Avenue – the local restaurant row of new and hip eateries – Mud Hen Water, Kaimuki Superette, 3660 on the Rise, etc.). You’re also a block away from my favorite poke palace – Tamura’s Fine Wine. It’s a one-stop-shop for lunch and a snort.  So even with a pretty good-sized kitchen, you certainly don’t have to cook.

The entry to the unit in in the living area in back of the kitchen. The center section of the unit contains the kitchen and dining areas with the two bedrooms in back of the photographer.

Each of the two bedrooms is about the same size comfortable holding queen size beds. They also have a decent amount of closet space (for a 906 square foot two bedroom condo).

I told you the building was donut-shaped (helps ventilation). 

Regardless of your needs for a Hawaiian getaway, Things will be smaller and more expensive, but it’s Hawaii – and I’ve never regretted it for a minute.

Reader Interactions


  1. Brian Parker says

    Thanks for the Hawaii real estate news ! Hawaii holds a special place in my heart, so I’m always curious about the goings-on. I had a Covid-related wedding cancellation for June 2020, on the Big Island. I’m curious – is Oahu more expensive than the other islands or is it more related to view, location, updates? I’ve looked a little on the Big Island and it seems cheaper. Thanks