The Big Island
Tech entrepreneurs love it. Vacationers always come back to it. Those who have never been can’t wait to visit. Hawaii has always been a beloved vacation destination, but since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the work-from-home era, ultra-luxury real estate is booming at a rapid pace.
Many rode out the pandemic safely in Hawaii and were able to be outside and enjoy the surrounding nature and privacy in peace. People also made their mark on Hawaii more permanent, by picking up secondary, and even primary homes.
Oracle founder and billionaire Larry Ellison confirmed he has officially moved to Lanai, the Hawaiian island he purchased in 2012 and has spent more than $500 million developing. Ellison said in an email to Oracle staff in late 2020 that he hopes to “use the power of Zoom” to continue working remotely. He also has quite an impressive real estate portfolio, which is worth $1 billion. He’s not the only Silicon Valley tech titan making his mark on Hawaii. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently purchased 600 acres of land on the island of Kauai for $53 million, much to Hawaiian locals’ disappointment.
“During Covid-19, Americans with the financial means looked to places in the U.S. that allowed for physical space; amenities, such as chefs, nannies, tutors and restaurants; and some semblance of normality for their children,” says Matthew G. Beall, CEO of Hawaii Life, a real estate firm across the Hawaiian islands. “Those in California also faced natural disasters, rising taxes, and an extreme Covid-19 crisis. In addition to enjoying white sand beaches, warm waters and a variety of outdoor adventures year-round, we also use the same currency, have modern infrastructure, technologically sophisticated hospitals, good schools and most importantly in time of Covid-19, we were able to shut down our borders and control the virus in ways that were much more difficult to do it would have been in the mainland U.S.”
This transition, however, might prove just how sought-after Hawaii is for many. Wealthy people have always been attracted to Hawaii for its privacy and tranquility.
“Hawaii has long held allure to the wealthiest people in the world,” he says. “Here, they find privacy, luxury, a relatively short travel time from the mainland U.S. and highly skilled personal staff such as private chefs, security and nannies. There is no doubt that the trend in the real estate market in Hawaii is reflecting the billionaires of the world doubling down on all the reasons they loved Hawaii pre-Covid-19. Those same reasons are now amplified, and the risks are high enough that they are willing to relocate their entire family and staff to Hawaii to create an idyllic life, as best they can, in the midst of a global pandemic raging around them. Every island has upgraded their airports and runways to accommodate more private aircraft landing.”
So, where are people buying?
Across its 137 islands, some more well-known than others, there are several notable gated communities that are home to modest single-family homes to massive, sprawling estates. Kohanaiki, located in Kona, Hawaii, is just one of many ultra-luxury private communities attracting a set of wealthy clientele, with estates ranging in size and price, from $3 million to $30 million. The community features an 18-hole Rees Jones-designed golf course; a 67,000-square-foot Clubhouse; a private spa; ocean sports; horseback riding; deep-sea fishing; fitness classes; tennis; culinary experiences; an organic farm; beach club; and adventure activities.
Ala Kohanaiki 25 at Kohanaiki recently went into escrow for close to $22 million and will close in June. It marks the most expensive home to be sold at Kohanaiki to date. The custom-built 47,044-square-foot estate belonged to the founder of Sonoma’s DuMol Winery, who created a 6,755-square-foot home with views of the ocean. Indoor-outdoor living is the focus at this home, and it has an outdoor lava rock shower and tub, koi pond, an infinity-edge pool and several outdoor lounge and entertainment spaces. There are five bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms and features a lanai with a built-in-bar, custom beer tap and a beautiful wine room. The pod-like estate is truly a private oasis nestled within the lush gardens and native Hawaiian foliage. An expansive lawn allows for many outdoor activities and is the perfect spot to enjoy sunrise and sunset.
Sunrise and sunset are among the most beautiful times on the island of Hawaii.
“We spent a great deal of time dreaming up a home that reflects the story and feeling of Hawaii,” says Ala Kohanaiki 25 owner Margie Murphy. “One of my favorite features is that all the common areas inside and out allow us to gather comfortably. However, when the day is done, everyone has their own quiet pod in which to retreat. The custom design mixed with work by local artists provides a distinct sense of belonging to this beautiful island of Hawaii.”
5022 Makena Road is on the market for $28.9 million.
Caprice Nicole Photography
Golf is a major attraction for wealthy homeowners, who can build among some of the country’s most scenic golf courses and the ocean. The palatial $28.9 million home at 5022 Makena Road is a one-of-kind five-bedroom and 5.5-bathroom residence located on just under 1.5 acres of land and is listed by Sotheby’s International Realty. Cliffs and rocky promontories surround the home and owners have access to coves and tide pools just below.
“What also makes the listing unique is the ability to build yet another home on the property allowing the buyer to create a multi-part estate,” says listing agent Rick Brandt. “For the discerning buyer wanting to create a Hawaii-based retreat while taking advantage of the resort lifestyle to entertain friends and clients, 5022 Makena Road stands alone.”
There are 180-degree ocean views, which are perfectly framed via the glass doors at the rear of the house. This masterpiece is a new construction built in 2020 and is made using the finest materials, including Pietra Gialla di Vicenza stone and Taj Mahal quartzite, and top-of-the-line appliances and technology. Nature is the draw here, but the home has all the amenities you’d want, like a balcony, deck, pool, spa, wet bar and security system.
The home has several outdoor living and lounging spaces, including a pool to cool off in.
Caprice Nicole Photography
“There is an unspoken ethos of privacy and humility in the Hawaiian culture, allowing celebrities and billionaires to enjoy a latte in the local coffee shop without locals staring or paparazzi hounding them,” Beall says. “Security teams are available, both for the properties and the families when they are on-island at their estates. For all these reasons and more, Hawaii has become arguably the singular most desirable locale for the wealthy, especially in the age of Covid-19.”
Hotels that also have residential offerings are incredibly appealing for guests as they have access to restaurants and bars and activities in addition to their private homes. Hualālai Resort, located on the Kona-Kohala Coast on the island of Hawaii, is another sought-after destination for ultra-wealthy buyers.
“The Kona-Kohala Coast is home to some of the most high-end luxury residential developments in the state, such as Kukui or Mauna Kea,” he says. “Kauai is the least populated and least commercialized of the islands. That said, we are seeing a more dramatic rise in the price, price per square foot and pendings on the North Shore of Kauai than any other market segment in the Hawaiian islands. There is an influx of wealth occurring on the island of Kauai that is arguably unique among all of the Hawaii islands.”
72-808 Waiulu Street is on the market for $34 million.
The resort offers luxury residences, including one that is on the market for $34 million. The home, 72-208 Waiulu Street, has a total of 8,008 square feet of interior living space, 11,288 square feet of under-roof area and a 2,476-square-foot covered lanai. With six bedrooms and six bathrooms, this custom-design home overlooks the Hualālai Golf Course, with unobstructed ocean views. Five fireplaces, a wine cellar, a 25m infinity lap pool, outdoor Molteni oven and more await future buyers of this spectacular residence.
The home has beautiful oceanfront views.
Hapuna Beach Residences is the newest addition to Mauna Kea Residences, a portfolio of luxury homes, condos and rentals. Hapuna Beach has some of the most magnificent oceanfront residences on Kohala Coast in Hawaii. Residence #B15, priced at $8.995 million, is a modern take on Hawaiian living. This contemporary residence has a private pool, spacious lawn, outdoor lounging and beach access. Inside, there is 3,408 square feet of living space with impeccable design finishings and high-end appliances. With access to Mauna Kea’s hotel and restaurant amenities, you can’t find a better residence.
Residence #B15 is on the market for $8.995 million.
West Point Investment
Residents of Hawaii also have the benefit of experiencing the unique culture and nature on each island, as its incredibly accessible to hop between islands.
“Every major Hawaiian island has its own unique style, eco-systems and more,” Beall says. “As much as the islands are different, they are also similar. What is consistent across the state is warm ocean water, a temperate climate year round, communities that are built on an ethos of friendliness and helpfulness, and a culture that cherishes our keiki (children) and kupuna (elders)