Naval Base Pearl Harbor (Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam)
Home to the Pacific Command, 15th Wing, Pacific Air Forces headquarters and the Hawaii Air National Guard, Hickam Air Force Base is designated a National Historic Landmark for its role in the World War II Pacific campaign.
Hickam has a flat terrain, wonderful for walking and biking. There are open playgrounds located throughout the base. Behind Wright Brothers Cafe, there is a paved path which runs along the Pearl Harbor channel, where you can often see ships and submarines coming and going. Just down the road from Wright Brothers is Hickam Harbor Beach. The southeast corner of Hickam backs up to Honolulu International Airport.
Hawaii is considered an overseas duty station, even though you are still on US soil. You will rate an OCONUS move, and will receive additional COLA pay while you are here. All service members in Hawaii rate COLA to accommodate the high cost of living. Gas, groceries, cars, and also car insurance all cost more here. Car registration is offered for the military at only $25/year, and you get to keep the pretty Hawaii tag after you move away. Amazon Prime is an excellent option to mitigate shipping costs and usually takes 5-9 days to reach Hawaii. And from experience, order the Christmas presents you want delivered to the island by December 1 to accommodate seasonal shipping delays.
Off Base Neighborhoods
One of the great things about Hawaii is being able to live just about anywhere and still have a [semi] reasonable commute to a military installation. Popular areas to live off base include Leeward (West) Side, Ewa Beach, Kapolei, Central, Mililani, Wahiawa, Salt Lake, Windward (East) Side, Kailua, Kaneohe, and Hawaii Kai.
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On Base Housing
Pearl Harbor military housing is called Ohana Navy Communities, and is managed by Hunt Military Communities. There are 24 neighborhoods in various locations on and around the installation. The Ohana Navy Housing has a wide variety of home types and floor plans. Most of the homes are townhomes or duplexes from 2 to 5 bedrooms. Please note that there is often a lengthy waiting list for housing. We recommend contacting the housing office to be placed on the waitlist the moment your family is in receipt of hard copy orders.
There is one school, Hickam Elementary, located on base. Public schools are part of the Hawaii Department of Education. If you have school-age children, a great place to start in finding a school is to contact the School Liaison Officer for your respective branch. The SLO can assist in getting your child registered. Hawaii does not have any DoD schools, but there are many public, private, and charter schools to choose from, as well as a large homeschooling community on the island. Just a heads up: most schools and childcare centers require a negative Tuberculosis test to enroll.
Cost of Living and BAH
The BAH for Hawaii tends to be on the high side, similar to the Washington D.C. area. Island living, in general, tends to be pricey because everything has to be shipped in. Hawaii is considered an OCONUS assignment. Military Families will also receive a Cost of Living Allowance (COLA).
Pearl Harbor BAH ranges from $2,088 to $3,507 for enlisted. BAH at Pearl harbor begins at $2,655 for O1 without dependents and goes up to $3,966 for O7 with dependents.
Hawaii has one of the highest tax rates in the country, at 5.3%. However, the property tax rate is at 0.27%, one of the lowest rates in the country. The median sales price of a single-family home on O'ahu is $835,000, which is a new record high. Whether you rent or buy, remember that energy bills will be higher in Hawaii than in most places, even with only moderate use of air conditioning.
Trade winds keep the average temperature in Hawaii at around 85 degrees throughout the year. The landscape across the island, however, varies significantly depending on location. On the Leeward (West) side of O’ahu, you will find a drier, more desert-like environment, while the Windward (East) side is home to the lush Ko’olau Mountains. Much of central O’ahu is farmland, and the North Shore consists of a rocky shoreline with higher surf. Many popular surfing competitions are held there. • Winter is usually around 78 degrees, while summer hovers around 85 degrees.
It rains virtually every day, but not usually for longer than 15 min or so. Island dwellers refer to this as “liquid sunshine”. It’s rarely (if ever) a downpour, and is what contributes to the tropical climate of the islands. If it does rain harder, the leeward side of the island (where JBPHH resides) usually takes the brunt of this while the windward side is typically spared.
Noteworthy: Very few homes off base have central a/c.
All of the military bases in Hawaii have the usual amenities: Commissary, Exchange, gym, community pool, etc. The Pearl Harbor Commissary is located adjacent to the NEX. It is open every day, Mon-Sun from 0900-2100. The AMC Terminal at Hickam offers Space A flights back to mainland USA. It is more difficult to arrange than a traditional airline ticket, but Space A can be an affordable way for military families to travel.
MWR is very active at Pearl Harbor, with numerous programs for service members and families. Samples of their available activities at Pearl Harbor include the Makai Recreation Center, 2 Marinas (Hickam Harbor and Rainbow Bay Marina), several beaches: (Hickam Beach, Honeymoon Beach, Nimitz Beach, and White Plains Beach), the Auto Skills center, 2 Theaters, a library, Information Tickets & Tours (ITT), and Outdoor Rec for beach equipment rentals, pavilion rentals, beach cottages, and more.
HIKING: Hawaii boasts AMAZING hiking. Trails range from the paved and stroller-friendly (but steep!) Makapu’u trail on the eastern end of the island, to lush and tropical trails in Manoa Valley, to the dormant Koko Head and Diamond Head volcano crater trails.
WATERSPORTS: Kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, spearfishing, and diving are just a few ways to enjoy the warm water and 271 days of sunshine per year.
BEACHES: Kailua’s beaches are far less crowded than the more touristy Waikiki. Be aware, the deep ocean currents can be extremely strong even near shore. Many beaches also experience shore break. Search “Sandy’s Beach” on youtube to get a glimpse of the power of the ocean here. Parents with little children may want to check out the lagoons at Ko’olina for gentler waters. SURFING: Surfing is the signature sport of Hawaii. Duke Kahanamoku and Eddie Aikau are local legends and surf icons. Surf lessons are available around the island. If you want to get into surfing, there is no shame in purchasing a $100 eight-foot foam board from Costco. Pros on the North Shore, water patrol, and surf school students all surf them with joy. Surf competitions are community events for surfers of all ages and skill levels.
MACADAMIA NUT FARM TOUR: This tour near Kualoa Ranch is more befitting a crash course for “Survivor” contestants than farm tour. It is both educational and entertaining. Your host will highlight various film locations on the property as you ride on crew buses used in the original “Jurassic Park.”
LUAUS: Grand luaus are available on the leeward side of the island, the Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore, and also Sea Life Park on the east end. The Hale Koa luau in Waikiki is a less costly, shorter luau option open to service members, retirees, and their guests.
TAKE A RIDE: The North Shore is the most rural part of the island. However, Ted’s Bakery and Sandy’s Sandwiches near Pipeline are worth the stop on your drive along the Seven Mile Miracle. Waves can reach 40 feet during the winter months. Helemano Farms in Wahaiwa grows sustainable Norfolk pines for cutting at Christmas.
INTER-ISLAND TRAVEL: Island hopping is not as cheap as one might think but the other islands are all unique. Volcanoes Park on the Big Island is a place to behold, and military members can rent cabins at the park. Also, don’t forget to register for your free National Park military pass so your $25 vehicle admission will be waived.
Food and Drink
Food is also essential to Hawaiian culture. School cafeterias serve local favorites like kalua pork, haupia (coconut) pudding, and poi (pureed taro root). Poke (raw, marinated tuna), shave ice (don’t call it “shaved” ice), and Spam musubi (Spam and rice wrapped in seaweed) can be found in every corner store.
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