Honolulu’s Gold Coast is a scant half-mile stretch of oceanfront high-rises at the foot of Diamond Head. You may think that Hawaii has the same unending tonnage of oceanfront high-rises seen around Florida, not true. Within Honolulu, there are just 18 oceanfront residential high-rises. Seventeen are on the Gold Coast, and one in Waikiki. None are newer than 1970, with most dating to the 1950s and 1960s. Typical condos sell between $1,500-to-$2,200-plus per square foot.

Built in 1958, the 12-story Tropic Seas isn’t the toniest building on the street, but that’s where bargains reside. Unit 203 is just such a bargain. The one-bedroom unit has 618 square feet with an additional 121-square-foot lanai. You know there’s a renovation needed when the first listing photo showing the interior is the 13th of 19 photos. But at $499,000, that’s $675 a square foot.


Hawaii is where "Million-Dollar Views" Really Are Millions of Dollars

Hawaii is where “Million-Dollar Views” really do cost millions of dollars

Last week we saw the sexy, unattainable house porn of Oahu. Now let’s be realistic. You don’t need millions to realize a dream of a second home in Hawaii. When looking for a home in Hawaii, it comes down to location, location, and size. Let me explain.

Location: The further a home is away from the ocean, the less expensive it will be until you start looking uphill. The further uphill you get, prices increases will follow. Sure, there are certain areas and neighborhoods that are generally less expensive. These areas target more local buyers who want typical homes without the ocean views second home-buyers generally clamor for.

Location: In this case, location equals view. When looking at a high-rise condo, what can you see? Will that view change (likely), and how detrimental would a view change be? Is an oceanfront building with a unit facing the garage better than a unit several blocks away from the ocean with good ocean views better? Often the price (factoring in size) can be similar. Many are in Waikiki, but I chose units on the fringe so you get the convenience without the tourist throng at your doorstep.

Size: How large of a space do you want? Size and price often will dictate both location variables. If you’re a single person, a few hundred feet of paradise may suit, but if you’re looking to house a family, probably not.

A single-family home on the water will be millions, but there are other alternatives. I’ve not discussed them in this column, because the easiest ownership will be a lock-and-go condo that has rental potential (if you need help with fees and perhaps a mortgage). Here’s smattering of what’s available in the Honolulu area from the $200,000 to $1m. I chose Honolulu to focus on first because I know it best, has the most selection and is the easiest to area rent.