A lush enclave of upper and upper middle class living for more than a century, Manoa may be Honolulu’s most gracious neighborhood. Its homes blanket the floor and lower flanks of wide Manoa Valley—and indeed, the name Manoa means “vast” or “wide” in Hawaiian—tapering off at a backdrop of steep mountains and hidden narrow waterfalls. Because of its topography, daily mists and tropical greenery characterize Manoa’s mood, and the rainbow is its hallmark.
Manoa was once part of the greater Waikiki ahupuaa, or land division, linking the resources of a verdant valley and its rich mountain stream to the wetland plains and oceanfront in the distance. In the early days, taro was farmed in the valley and sweet potato on the slopes, and at least 12 heiau, or temples, stood here.
By the 19th century, as post-contact life changed Hawaii, Manoa Valley was the first place in Hawaii to grow sugar cane and coffee; rice was also eventually grown in the back of the valley. Manoa’s beauty, refreshing climate and central location also made it a favorite homestead for Hawaii’s elite, from King Kamehameha to wealthy former missionary families and elegant newcomers to the Islands. In the 1930s, a wave of middle and upper middle class arrivals from the Mainland led to charming batches of bungalows in Manoa, many of which still stand beside grand mansions on tree-lined, winding roads.
Manoa lacks modern shopping malls and the bustle of some of today’s neighborhoods—and that’s one of its selling points. It has managed to stay charming and “neighborhoody,” with one shopping marketplace; a few historic attractions from a community theatre to a botanical garden; exceptional public and private schools; and the University of Hawaii campus at the entrance to the valley. There may be 40,000 residents in Manoa, but you can actually get to know them at the local farmers’ market, coffeehouse or library, or at its Christmas Parade or other community events.
For upscale small-town living and a real sense of Hawaii’s lush Island beauty within the city, venerable Manoa is hard to beat.
Key attractions in Manoa include:
+ Natural attractions such as Manoa Falls and Lyon Arboretum
+ University of Hawaii at Manoa, offering degrees through PhD level
+ Historic destinations such as Waioli Tea Room and Manoa Valley Theatre
+ Punahou School, one of the nation’s most prestigious private schools
+ Noelani and Manoa Elementary Schools, all top ranking public schools