Settling Down in Kailua Part 1: Renting and Car Buying 101

Today is our fifth day in Kailua. Somehow it feels like we’ve been here for ages. I think much of our ability to adjust has to do with the place we’re living in–a beautiful breezy 2 bedroom directly across from Kailua Beach. We have a backyard, a front yard, and high sloping ceilings that could make anyone forget about a Manhattan alcove studio–no matter how central its location. The rent isn’t cheap but for two people trying to make Hawaii a real home (even temporarily) it was a no-brainer.

We found our place as most people do–through craigslist. It was the first place we saw (and liked) but were wary of the cost as well as this kind of retirement vibe. But the minute you walk out of the house, Kailua Beach stretches out in front of you quiet and golden, and with respect to Susan Sontag it’s so beautiful it looks like a tv show.

Hawaii is an easy place to find a new home. There are hardly any credit or reference checks. Mostly people want to meet you and see how it feels when they talk to you–which I find refreshing and very easy to adjust to.

From what I’ve seen, read, and heard this is the my order of Oahu neighborhoods I would live in:

  • Kailua/Lanikai
  • Diamondhead
  • the North Shore
  • Ala Moana for convenience
  • Waikiki if you need to be around alot of activity (bars, mainstream shopping)
  • and Chinatown which is not very pretty or close to the beach but seems more affordable and has alot of less touristy nightlife

We had settled on a home and next had to find a used car–a first for both of us. K had been combing through craigslist looking for a Toyota Corolla until my dad said we should buy a used car from a dealer because it would be certified and have a dealer’s warranty. A mechanic I spoke to over the course of this search recommended otherwise because a private owner would likely charge less and would be up front about any problems. We focused on finding a Mazda 6 or a Corolla. My dad said that if we were looking at spending 10k-15k that we should also consider the Nissan Versa.

We visited a Servco (a certified used car franchise) near the airport and pulled up a carfax that said that the Corolla we were considering from them with 5k+ miles may have had its odometer tampered with and the actual mileage was closer to 25k. Some dealers will pull up car histories for you but in my opinion it’s worth it to purchase the 10 pack of carfax reports ($30). Another very helpful tip was to identify a good mechanic that could do a once over on the car before you buy it. It seems to be standard practice for the dealer to bring the car to a mechanic of your choosing and pick it up.

Mechanics in Oahu with preliminary good reviews

  • A1 Auto repair
  • McCully Auto Repair

We spent 2 hours at New City Nissan, recommended by McCully Auto Repair. They were very nice but had no real options in terms of used cars in our price range and they were the Honolulu version of a car salesman stereotypes (ie they would not let us leave). They did however offer upfront to bring any of the cars to a mechanic. The place we ultimately purchased from, Servco Subaru actually discouraged it saying they’d had their own mechanic look at it and it was fine (which I find funny and weird). The highlight of New City Nissan was test driving the Versa– a compact cheap little car (14k-19k). Test driving it was like sitting in a little chocolate box. The SL is bluetooth enabled, has an iPod jack, and a seat jack. Very cute and sturdy.

Our salesman, Brian, as we waited for his manager’s offer, made some recommendations in terms of restaurants in Oahu. He said Nico’s for seafood and Pyramid for Indian cuisine. We’ve yet to try either. I think our time at New City basically plumped us up for the kill at Servco Subaru a licensed used Toyota dealer. In their tiny parking lot was a charcoal gray 2006 Toyota Corolla with dark interior, sun roof, and 30,000 clocked miles. We were so tired and happy to find a Corolla in such fine condition that we skipped the mechanic check. Which was a gamble that turned out alright.

Kailua restaurants:

  • Boots and Kimo’s-an Aloha Rag staff member blogged about their macadamia nut pancakes, allegedly the best in the world.
  • Buzz’s Steakhouse– great terrayaki burgers. cash only. no flip flops after 5PM.
  • Lucy’s Bar and Grill– the fish of the day plus crab dynamite reminds me of my favorite dish from Soho’s Aquagrill.
  • Champa Thai– haven’t been yet. recommended by two people.

note- someone that grew up in Kailua swears by the watermelon shaved ice w/ snowcap at Island Snow. IMO, it’s pretty good but Waiolas shaved ice with extra mochi is about the greatest thing one can eat.

Part 2: Conveniences in Kailua


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