The 25 Most Expensive Homes On O‘ahu

This summer, the median price of an O‘ahu home topped $610,000. You’d practically have to be a millionaire just to buy in, say, Mililani Mauka. But if you think those prices are crazy, just wait until you see…


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Ever wonder how the other 1 percent lives? We take you over the walls of O'ahu's most exclusive properties, for a peek at beachfront homes where tennis courts, personal elevators and imported Italian marble staircases are all par for the course. Whether they're local-style, historic family estates or showy, lot-filling mansions, these are the Island's most expensive homes, according to the City and County of Honolulu's property tax records compiled by Hawai'i Information Service.

You might be surprised at what didn't make our list. None of our 25 homes are on Hawai'i Loa Ridge. None in Wai'alae Iki. Not even in Lanikai. See "When a House is Not a Home," page 140, for other exceptional homes we've excluded.

So what makes these 25 homes so valuable? Most of them are in the Diamond Head-Kahala area, with 13 properties on exclusive Kahala Avenue alone, many side-by-side. All but one are on the beach.

The dollar amount listed for each house is the city's most recent assessment of each property's value, for tax purposes. Actual sale prices are often much higher. For those homes with a recent sales history, we've included their last sale price for comparison. In most cases, the property details are also based on city data.

1. $15.2 Million
8 bedrooms * 9 full and 9 half bathrooms * 20,094-sq.-ft. interior * 42,176-sq.-ft. lot

What makes this the most expensive home on O'ahu? For once, it's not about location, even though this beachfront property covers nearly 1 acre along Kahala Avenue. The property is one of those exceptions in which the value of the building, $8.3 million, exceeds that of the land beneath it, which is assessed at $6.9 million.

The man behind the masterpiece is architect Roy K. Yamamoto, whose work includes the Westin Maui and Hilton Waikoloa. Homeowner Tomomi Kimura, chairman of a Tokyo-based shipping company, commissioned the home in 1992, the same year the summer Olympics were held in Barcelona.

"[The owner] wanted the design to reflect that Barcelona style," recalls Yamamoto, who says he was then given free reign-and a bottomless budget-to design the residence. The sprawling mansion also includes a spa, tatami room and commercial-grade kitchen that's "five times bigger than a lot of restaurants in town," says Yamamoto.

2. $13.8 Million
11 bedrooms * 9 1/2 bathrooms * 17,408-sq.-ft. -interior * 55,756-sq.-ft. lot

 

This is one of the few properties on our list that sold for less than its assessed value. Chikako Takeda scored this Kahala Avenue monster for a thrifty $9.7 million in 2002. She got a lot for her money; although you can't see it in the photo, the house is twice as long as it is wide. Think of it this way: This 17,408-square-foot interior is almost half an acre of house.

3. $13.8 Million
6 bedrooms * 9 full and
9 half bathrooms * 21,266-sq.-ft. interior * 35,870-sq.-ft. lot

 

Developer Chris Hemmeter reportedly spent more than $40 million over four years to build and furnish this Black Point villa, which oozes as much opulence as any of the luxury resorts he's created. There's marble everywhere (from the floors to the window casings), custom carpets by Edward Fields, gold-plated fittings, 30-foot floor-to-ceiling windows, a private movie theater and a lava-rock grotto swimming pool. The main entrance's one-ton, cast-bronze doors alone cost Hemmeter more than $1 million. "It's very European, very formal, but even if that's not your taste, this house will take your breath away," says real estate agent Jeffrey Fox, who sold the property to an undisclosed buyer in 1994.

4. $13.4 million
5 bedrooms * 7 full and 2 half bathrooms * 9,896-sq.-ft. interior * 56,628-sq.-ft. lot

San Francisco real estate tycoon Angelo Markoulis picked this one up for a cool $17.5 million in 2004, making it one of the largest residential sales of the past decade. Originally built by former Kahala Hilton owner William Weinberg in 1988, the single-story Kahala Avenue home has the best of everything: a 4,471-square-foot länai capable of accommodating 200 guests, a Baccarat chandelier in the foyer, kiawe flooring in a European parquetry pattern. Weinberg even installed an underground gasoline tank in the front yard, so he could fuel his cars right in his own garage.

5. $12 million
7 bedrooms * 7 full and 4 half bathrooms * 10,997-sq.-ft. interior * 64,469-sq.-ft. lot

If this Kahala Avenue compound looks like a beachside motel, well, that's because it kind of is. The property is mainly used by owner Konami Corp., the Tokyo-based developer of video game software, for company get-togethers. Other features include 50-foot-long glass windows leading to the inner courtyard, a practice green, a barbecue area and, as you'd expect, a state-of-the-art audiovisual system, says local architect Toshi Suzuki, who designed the mauka side of the property in 2000. The home's saltwater pool even housed a dolphin at one point, he says.

6. $11.6 million
5 bedrooms * 7 bathrooms * 11,080-sq.-ft. interior * 93,653-sq.-ft. lot

This Vladimir Ossipoff-designed home is best known as the long-time residence of socialite Clare Boothe Luce, wife of noted magazine publisher Henry R. Luce. The home is now owned by Houston-based Fayez Sarofim, who in 2004 was No. 124 on Forbes' "400 Richest" list, with a net worth of $1.8 billion. Sarofim, an Egyptian-born money manager who is known as "the Sphinx," bought the house in 1999 for $15 million, and has since made extensive renovations to the aging Kähala Avenue property.

7. $10.9 million
6 bedrooms * 9 full and 2 half bathrooms * 11,938-sq.-ft. interior * 33,306-sq.-ft. lot

Wondering what to do with that $25 million you've squirreled away in your sock drawer? That's exactly the asking price of this custom-designed, two-story Kahala Avenue mansion, owned by Japanese businessman Jiro Noguchi, co-owner of such local restaurants as Sarento's and Nick's Fishmarket. The property also includes a second parcel not included in our list, which brings the entire property to 50,620 square feet, with a 13,216-square-foot area of living space-a total assessed value of $13 million.

8. $10.5 million
7 bedrooms * 10 full and 2 half bathrooms * 8,784-sq.-ft. interior * 47,044-sq.-ft. lot

This Kähala Avenue house was sold in June by Chong-Moon Lee, a technology venture capitalist, and his wife, Reiko-Takahashi. Local architect Toshi Suzuki designed the house, which was completed in 1988, and features a tennis court, separate staff/guest quarters, a teardrop-shaped pool and not one, but two, gates protecting the main residence from curious street gazers. Lee owned the house for only a year before selling it to California corporation Tenir LLC for $9.7 million-a $3.2 million profit.

9. $10 Million
4 bedrooms * 8 bathrooms * 8,547-sq.-ft. interior * 41,151-sq.-ft. lot

Once the palatial abode of developer Chris Hemmeter, this Kahala Avenue property is now a fixer upper. Developer Donald Eovino bought the property last year for $9 million, with plans to demolish the aging mansion and build a $20 million dream home. Soon after, Japanese billionaire Gensiro Kawamoto offered Eovino $12.2 million for the property-as is. Kawamoto also paid an additional $6.5 million to buy two smaller, adjoining parcels that were part of the original estate. Eovino had just sold those parcels to a California firm two weeks earlier, for $3.5 million.

10. $ 9.8 million
N/A bedrooms* N/A bathrooms*15,470-sq.-ft. interior*81,892-sq.-ft. lot
13. $9.2 million
N/A bedrooms*N/A bathrooms*12,434-sq.-ft. interior * 34,542-sq.-ft. lot

These two Portlock properties are the only homes on our list owned by a single entity, Evershine II, a limited partnership set up by high-tech entrepreneurs and University of Hawai'i grads Fred and Annie Chan. Locals will recognize the property as part of the old Kaiser estate, built by developer Henry J. Kaiser in 1959.

The single-level main house, with its white-marble, Olympic-size pool, occupies the No. 10 spot on our list. The boathouse, whose guests have included Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson and Jackie Kennedy, comes in at No. 13. The Chans also own the three lots connecting the two parcels, giving them a total of nearly 51/2 acres of the old Kaiser estate, with a combined assessed value of $27.9 million. "This is probably the most important private residence on all of O'ahu," says real estate agent Fox of Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties. "There's really no equivalent."

Photo: David Franzen
11. $9.6 million
7 bedrooms * 3 bathrooms * 4,855-sq.-ft. interior * 47,916-sq.-ft. lot

Even though this beachfront property, owned by Moon Soo and Marilyn Park, sits on more than an acre on Diamond Head Road, it's tough to put a value on the house, which was designed by Island architect C.W. Dickey in 1930 and renovated by architect John Hara in 2003. Hara managed to maintain the character of the house-even using the same materials to replace the signature roof-while adapting the home for modern use. It paid off, earning Hara a 2005 Award of Merit from the American Institute of Architects' Honolulu chapter.

Photo Courtesy: Dolores Bediones/Prudential Locations

12. $9.3 million
5 bedrooms * 6 1/2 bathrooms * 8,200-sq.-ft. interior * 25,024-sq.-ft. lot

No need to gaze in vain at this one. As we went to press, David D. Kim's end-of-Portlock gem was on the market for a mere $16.5 million. Tech guru Michael Alfant commissioned the mansion in 2001 from architect Jeff Long, who took full advantage of the location's commanding views of Hawai'i Kai, Maunalua Bay and Diamond Head. Amenities include a tatami room, a paddle court, a sauna and a "safe" room. You know, in case of emergency.

14. $8.8 million
4 bedrooms * 5 bathrooms * 8,626-sq.-ft. interior * 38,284-sq.-ft. lot

Owner James C. Reynolds has created one of the most private properties on our list: Not only is his estate located on a private Black Point street, but large trees surround the house itself on three sides. Reynolds is a local real estate investor who has partnered with Jay Shidler on such properties as the Waikiki Beachcomber and the FAA Building, also in Waikiki.

15. $8.6 million
4 bedrooms * 4 bathrooms * 4,234-sq.-ft. interior * 47,045-sq.-ft. lot

Built in 1971, this modest Kahala Avenue property has remained in the same family for more than 30 years. It was built by the late Hung Wo Ching, who served as chairman of Aloha Airlines and is largely credited with the company's early success. After Ching's death in 1996, property ownership transferred to the Ching Family Perpetual Trust, according to city and county records.

16. $8.3 million
8 bedrooms * 5 full and 2 half bathrooms * 11,511-sq.-ft. interior * 27,546-sq.-ft. lot

A small plaque on the front gate identifies this house as Tutu Hale. It's the part-time residence of Yoshiko Morita, widow of legendary Sony Corp. co-founder Akio Morita. The building was designed by architect Geoffrey G. Paterson, and its prime location, nestled right next to the Wai'alae golf course, makes it perfect for taking in the action at the Sony Open each January. (This text has been corrected from the print edition.)

17. $8.2 million
6 bedrooms * 6 full and 2 half bathrooms * 12,005-sq.-ft. interior * 62,291-sq.-ft. lot

In 1987, Taiyo Development, based in Japan, bought this once-vacant 1.4-acre lot in 'Aina Haina, and the 1.7-acre Sullivan estate next door. The former Sullivan home became a vacation retreat for president Yutaka Tsukahara, and the vacant property was developed and sold in the same year. The architect who designed this modern home is Michael Okada, whose projects include the Mililani Middle School and the First Hawaiian Bank Building in Mo'ili'ili.

18. $8.1 million
7 bedrooms * 8 full and 5 half bathrooms * 13,409-sq.-ft. interior * 67,953-sq.-ft. lot

Villa Noela is the creation of Andre Tatibouet, founder of Aston Hotels & Resorts, and his wife, Jane. Theirs is the only non-beachfront home on our list, sitting instead in the shadow of Diamond Head, overlooking Waikiki. It's also one of the most understated properties, from the outside, at least: no faux classical pillars or blue-tile roofs here.

Jane Tatibouet says she wanted to evoke Old Hawai'i with traditional, plantation-style architecture: "Instead of putting up a lot of walls like everyone does in Kahala now, we left the entire lawn open like a park," she says.

Of course, Villa Noela earns its place on this list fair and square, with a laundry list of creature comforts that includes a two-story library, seven wet bars, an elevator, a formal dining room seating 24, 'ohi'a-wood floors, separate staff quarters and a heated pool. The home is currently on the market for $16.5 million.

19. $7.9 million
4 bedrooms * 6 1/2 bathrooms * 8,427-sq.-ft. interior * 36,372-sq.-ft. lot

Another part-time residence, this one in Portlock, belonging to Ellsworth and Carla Peterson of Wisconsin. Peterson, chairman of the board of Peterson Builders, is part of a ship-building dynasty that goes back almost 100 years. The company has diversified under his leadership, and now includes a shipyard and a real estate development corporation in Sturgeon Bay. Ellsworth and Carla are active philanthropists, both in Hawai'i and their home state; recipients include The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, and the Peninsula Players Theatre in Wisconsin.

20. $7.8 million
4 bedrooms * 4 1/2 bathrooms * 4,913-sq.-ft. interior * 45,737-sq.-ft. lot

No. 20 on the list is a Gentry home, but not in the way you might guess. Real estate developer Tom Gentry and his wife Nora lived here in the 1980s. It's a relatively modest residence, with an assessed structural value of less than $700,000, but more than an acre of beachfront Kahala Avenue land boosts the property handily onto our list. Currently owned by Alice Chiao, under a corporation called Princeview Kahala. (This text has been corrected from the print edition.)

21. $7.8 million
7 bedrooms * 6 1/2 bathrooms * 4,028-sq.-ft. interior * 50,094-sq.-ft. lot

This Kahala Avenue property is the home of local philanthropist Dorothy K. McMillan, who's resided here for more than 30 years. Her oceanfront estate features one of the most stunning private gardens in Honolulu, with a variety of brightly colored tropical plants and immaculately trimmed trees. The McMillan property also includes a botanical cultivation structure, a large entertainment pavilion and a swimming pool.

22. $7.7 million
10 bedrooms * 8 full and 4 half bathrooms * 9,669-sq.-ft. interior * 75,358-sq.-ft. lot

This property is still popularly known as the old Sullivan estate, although it's been a couple of decades since beloved businessman and philanthropist Maurice J. "Sully" Sullivan inhabited the 'Aina Haina home. It's not surprising; he did, after all, found the Foodland supermarket chain and introduce McDonald's to Hawai'i. Wait a few years, though, and the property might pick up a new name: The current owner is Ko 'Olina developer Jeff Stone, registered under the name Ko 'Olina Golf Estates LLC.

23. $7.6 million
6 bedrooms * 6 1/2 bathrooms * 5,427-sq.-ft. interior * 43,387-sq.-ft. lot

Here's another property that made it on the list in spite of its relatively modest house, which is assessed at $811,300. Location, location, location: just one acre of beachfront Kahala Avenue land is worth $6.8 million. Owners Michael and Colette Pentecost have made good use of their real estate gold-the front half of the property is filled with an assortment of large trees. With a pathway of stepping stones winding through it all, it's like their own private park.

24. $7.6 million
5 bedrooms * 4 full and 2 half bathrooms * 8,478-sq.-ft. interior * 28,469-sq.-ft. lot

 

This property, owned by Honda Windward president Morrie Stoebner, is the only home outside of Honolulu to make our list. Stoebner's nearly 1 1/2 -acre oceanfront property includes a second parcel, assessed at an additional $5.3 million. The spectacular Kailua Beach estate includes an inner courtyard for entertaining, a guest house, a tennis court, a gazebo and a pool with a cascading waterfall and a koi pond, giving lucky visitors the impression they've traveled to a Neighbor Island, rather than simply across the Pali.

25. $7.5 million
17 bedrooms * 18 full and 2 half bathrooms * 18,388-sq.-ft. interior * 42,872-sq.-ft. lot

 

High-powered Honolulu attorney David Schutter spared no expense in constructing this Kahala Avenue mansion, which features a 13,052-square-foot main house, plus a 5,524-square-foot guest house. Schutter packed his home with as many amenities as any superstar hideaway-Jacuzzis, two pools, waterfalls, a billiards room, a sunken wet bar and two maids' quarters-which is probably why his houseguests included such celebs as Kareem Abdul Jabar and Lionel Ritchie. Schutter, who died earlier this year, transferred home ownership to Bank of Hawai'i in 1995 to settle some debts. Tokyo-based Kirin Planning Ltd. bought the property in 1997.

When A House
Is Not A Home

Just because the city designates a property as “residential” doesn’t mean it’s a residence. When compiling our list, we eliminated several properties that aren’t lived in or are used for commercial purposes. Here’s what we left out:

Doris Duke’s Shangri La
$25 million

The late tobacco heiress’s five-acre estate, with its priceless collection of Islamic art, is now a museum, open to the public for guided group tours. Were it still a private home, it would’ve topped our list.

The Lester and Elizabeth Marks Estate
$8.1 million

In 2002, labor organization Unity House paid $2.5 million for the former Marks Estate, which was purchased by the state of Hawai‘i in 1956. In the wake of Unity House’s recent legal troubles, the organization requested, and was granted, permission to sell the property, along with other assets.

Queen Emma’s Summer Palace
$8 million

In 1913, the Daughters of Hawai‘i acquired this Nu‘uanu retreat of Queen Emma, wife of Kamehameha IV. To this day, the organization continues to preserve and operate the historic home as a museum.

The Contemporary Museum
$7.8 million

Once the Makiki Heights home of Anna Cooke, this Hart Wood-designed residence is now home to the only Hawai‘i museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art.

The Geffen Properties
$7.8 million, $7.5 million

These two Kahala Avenue lots are vacant right now, but may well be included on a future list—media mogul David Geffen is reportedly planning a huge estate spanning these properties plus a third, smaller lot, nearly three acres in all.

The Sammarinese Consulate
$7.6 million

This 40,380-square-foot lot looks a lot like the enviable beachfront properties that surround it—iron gates, winding driveway, colossal mansion—save for the sign pitched near its entrance that reads “Consolato Repubblica di San Marino,” which is a European microstate with a population of less than 29,000.

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