What’s the Difference Between Wilhelmina Rise and Maunalani Heights?

Learn the history behind the popular neighborhood and its surprising connection to Matson Navigation Co.
Wilhelmina Rise
Photo: Courtesy of the City & County of Honolulu


The easy answer is this: Maunalani Heights is higher. Most would tell you that you’re in Wilhelmina until you get to the intersection of Sierra Drive and Wilhelmina Rise, just below the Maunalani Community Park. But there’s more to it than that.


Long ago, William Matson owned much of the hill. Matson was born in Sweden, came to the U.S. as a cabin boy in 1863, and bought his first ship in 1882. His business model of shipping goods to Hawai‘i from San Francisco and bringing sugar back was very successful, and Matson Navigation Co. boomed. Over time, he developed and sold the homes on the hill to create the neighborhood we now call Wilhelmina Rise. The lots are a bit of a hodge-podge of shape and sizes, and the streets meander in a style nearly as winding as San Francisco’s famous Lombard Street. There are beautiful historic homes big and small in various styles, including Tudor, from the old days, and new, contemporary homes that have replaced many of them. Once cars became the main form of transportation in Hawai‘i, the neighborhood got popular for its views and convenience, and it likely always will be.


Up higher, the streets in Maunalani Heights share names with Matson’s ships (as does the whole hill: The S.S. Wilhelmina was a 146-passenger tourist ship from 1910). Matsonia, Lurline, Monterey and Mariposa were all luxury passenger ships added to Matson’s fleet in the early 1930s. Lurline was a favorite—Matson had two ships by that name, and then named his youngest daughter Lurline as well.


Ethelwyn A. Castle bought 9.5 acres near the top of Maunalani Heights and built her home there. It later became the Maunalani Hospital, which she willed to be a residence for the elderly. You can see it from all over Honolulu. Eventually, Maunalani Heights was parceled off and developed; because it happened later than Wilhelmina Rise, the roads are a bit wider, the utilities are buried and the lots are larger, with a maximum of one home per 10,000 square feet.


Want to live on the hill? There are eighteen homes currently for sale on Wilhelmina Rise and Maunalani Heights. Prices range from $835,000 to $6.3 million for homes on Sierra Drive. It’s a popular place to live—in 2016, 44 homes were sold, and the median sale price was $1,102,500.


3690 Hilo Place

Hilo Place
Photos: Courtesy of HiCentral MLS

A four-bedroom, three-bath, 1,624-square-foot home with beautiful views, listed for $1,192,000.


3811 Anuhea St.

Anuhea Street

A four-bedroom, three-bath, 2,736-square-foot home built in 2013. Low on the hill for an easy commute, it still captures the views and has a large yard. It’s listed for $2,350,000.