Neighborhood Profile: Manoa

I lived in Manoa for several years and have a profound affection for my former neighborhood. I once heard it described as a Sims village, a humorous comparison that rings true. To take a stroll down East Manoa Rd., the main boulevard, is to see smiling faces dining al fresco at Serg’s (my vote for Oahu’s best Mexican food, by the way), groups of students from University of Hawaii at Manoa studying at the Coffee Bean, people walking their dogs and old friends saying hello. Like many of the island’s older communities, Manoa’s residents often have deeply rooted ties, with several generations having been born and raised here.

Manoa is close to downtown—about 20 minutes in light traffic—but doesn’t feel like it’s in town. Tucked away in a valley, the community is quiet, safe, pedestrian-friendly and, thanks to ample annual rainfall, a verdant, tropical landscape. There are a number of hiking trails in the vicinity, including the popular Manoa Falls trail, as well as the Lyon Arboretum and Botanical Garden. Families often take to the green spaces of Manoa District Park for Little League games and soccer practices, and to take advantage of the tennis courts and public swimming pool.

Shops and restaurants are largely clustered within Manoa Marketplace, which is anchored by a Longs Drugs and Safeway, and also has a yoga studio and a boxing/mixed-martial arts gym; two delicious bakeries, Bakery Manoa and Fendu Boulangerie; and several restaurants, among them Red Ginger and, across the street, Andy’s Sandwiches & Smoothies. For evening entertainment, the Manoa Valley Theatre stages a different play every other month.

Manoa’s proximity to Mid-Pacific Institute, UH, and Chaminade University has made it a popular rental community. As a result, you’ll find a lot of homes have been converted to accommodate multiple rentals (like this one). Families also appreciate the area’s award-winning schools, which include Punahou, a private K-12 school; St. Francis School, a Catholic private school that serves grades K-12; Manoa Elementary and Noelani Elementary.

Stately, historic homes are a big reason for Manoa’s popularity. In fact, I’ve written about several, including the George D. Oakley residence and Manoa Valley Inn. If you’d like to check out the area’s loveliest estates, Malama O Manoa hosts a biennial walking tour of the area’s historic homes.

Of course, location, amenities and architectural gems equal higher home values. According to the Honolulu Board of Realtors, the median sales price for a single-family home in Manoa last month was $986,000. A quick MLS search shows that the area’s most affordable property is currently a $440,000 teardown, while the most expensive listing tops out at $2,875,000.