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Kaimuki is a historic district of eastern Oahu with notable residential, commercial, and educational centers. It borders the communities of Makiki and Kahala, and is considered to be a generally upscale area for residential properties. Homes in Kaimuki are somewhat unique, in the sense that they are often valued at upwards of a million dollars despite appearing relatively modest. This is the result of plantation style homes being built decades ago, before Honolulu underwent a considerable expansion. Over time, the land that those properties were constructed on became more valuable, resulting in working class homes occupying million dollar lots. There has been something of a demographic shift in recent years, as some investors have started to buy and resell foreclosed properties in the Kaimuki area, but the core of the community remains largely unchanged. Kaimuki is only about ten to fifteen minutes from downtown Honolulu, and is even closer to the Waikiki and Ala Moana areas. This location is one of the reasons why rent and property values in the Kaimuki area are so high. In addition to a majority of single family homes, there are a few condominiums and apartment complexes in Kaimuki as well as a fair amount of businesses and restaurants.
The main commercial district of Kaimuki is located along Waialae Avenue, which runs through the heart of the community. Waialae was recently renovated to make it more bike and pedestrian friendly, changes that augment the consistent and award winning bus service that offers transportation alternatives to the region’s residents. One of the best known restaurants in the state of Hawaii, Big City Diner, has its original location along Waianae Avenue. Although the chain has since expanded to other locations such as Pearlridge and Ward, many items on the menu serve as a reminder of the restaurant’s roots in Kaimuki. A children’s favorite, Toys N Joys, is found in Kaimuki, as well as a top destination for airsoft enthusiasts, PowerEdge. The modern history of Kaimuki dates back to the nineteenth century, when the area served as an ostrich farm for King Kalakaua. King Kalakaua developed a fascination with the exotic bird during his reign, and used the mountain sides of upper Kaimuki as a holding area for these animals. The mythological history of Kaimuki helps to explain how the community got its name. “Ka imu ki” literally translates to “the ti root oven” in Native Hawaiian. This refers to an ancient myth about how the menehune of the mountains would build ovens in the area, as well as a slightly more modern heritage that involves human ti root bakers.
A historic dojo, Karate Hawaii, is found near a gas station in a yellow three story building in Kaimuki that also houses a real estate company and a spiritual center. Several highly rated schools are in the region, including Saint Louis School and Sacred Hearts Academy. Saint Louis School is one of two all boys Catholic schools in the state of Hawaii (the other is Damien Memorial School in Kalihi), while Sacred Hearts Academy is the only all girls Catholic school on Oahu. There are two public high schools that serve Kaimuki – Kalani High School and Kaimuki High School, as well as a number of elementary and intermediate schools. Kaimuki is home to Chaminade University, which is the only Catholic university in the state of Hawaii and which shares a campus with Saint Louis School. Kaimuki is only about five minutes away from the flagship campus of the University of Hawaii system – UH Manoa – and is even closer to Kapiolani Community College and its well known culinary program.