Category Archives: Rental Properties

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Creative Real Estate Investing

Millionaires Invest in Real Estate

Do you want to invest in real estate but short on cash? Not having to deal with tenants?

Real estate investing does not require lots of your own money. Not only that. You can pay down your 30-year mortgage in less than 10 years, use OPM (other people's money) to invest in real estate AND generate a stream of "passive" income. Income that goes automatically to your bank account without you doing anything or lifting a finger.

Sounds pretty good. I can see you putting on your skeptical thinking hat.

Don't worry. I was in your same position when I first heard of this strategy and was skeptical too. But after I learned what it is, the light bulb in the head just light up.

This is exactly what I've been looking for. I was looking for a way to finance my current mortgage so I can have access to my equity because I realized early on that in a traditional mortgage (the one that you and I have) accumulates equity, which is a good thing. But you can't use that money until you sell your property. That's why some homeowners are "home poor" because most of our money are locked in our homes.

I have always wanted to make some real estate investment, but I don't have the cash available for the down payment. All my cash is tied up in my home equity. And I don't want to take a home equity loan, because that means another loan I have to pay every month.

I started looking into selling my property, which has accumulated quite a bit of value in just 5 years (of course, it is in the highly-sought after Waikiki neighborhood), and purchased another residence with extra units for rental income.

One day while talking to a friend who is in similar situation, she mentioned about "off-set mortgage". Apparently, it is something that has been around for years in Australia and United Kingdom. According to Investopedia, the reason why off-set mortgage is not available in the United States is because of our tax law, which translates to "banks does not reap much profit from off-set mortgage". That's why it be banded by our tax laws.

Investopedia explains the off-set mortgage in a very simple and easy to understand way. You should check it out here.

Then I started asking my real estate broker, who has been in real estate business for over twenty years if he had heard of off-set mortgage. Of course, the answer is no. I asked banks, loan officers, etc. They all gave me a negative answer.

Out of nowhere one day, another friend of mine called and want my opinion about a property she and her husband are contemplating whether to buy or not. And during the conversation, she mentioned some kind of financial education that helps people with their mortgage and it's called "Sweep Strategy". I have no idea whatsoever. But I looked it up anyway per her recommendation.

Voila...the information on the website caught my attention. I attended the introduction presentation, which is totally and purely informative. No pressure or obligation whatsoever to buy anything or sign-up.

After the presentation, I was like "God just answered my prayer". This is exactly what I was looking for.

How funny?

I always say be careful what you ask for, because you always get what you ask for.

Visit www.sweepstrategies.com to learn more. And if you're curious, schedule to attend an introductory class. They have offices in Ward area and Aiea.

Disclaimer: I have no financial ties with the Sweep Strategies other than being one their potential clients and partners. I'm just a purist who loves to spread the joy and any good information that I have to my friends and family. It surely would be nice if you mention my name as the one who refers you to them. They will treat you exceptionally well.

Here are few creative strategies to help kick start your real estate investing career:

How to Analyze Rental Properties for Maximum Cash Flow

In this LIVE webinar, you'll learn how to accurately estimate the current/future value, income, expenses, repairs, cash flow, and more of rentals!

Host: Brandon Turner | BiggerPockets
Date: Wednesday, 12 October 2016
Time: 04:00 pm Pacific Time (US and Canada), GMT -7

Sell Your Home as Rent-to-Own

Rent-to-own homes

Rent-to-own, also known as lease option, is an investing strategy that can be benefit both home buyers and home sellers.
For home sellers, rent-to-own may be the perfect solution to ensure you get top dollar for your home in a buyer’s market. It may even generates some extra income for the seller before the actual sale of the home. The rent-to-own strategy also increases the number of potential buyers for your home to include those who do not qualify for the conventional mortgage from banks.
In a rent-to-own or lease option, the homeowner rents his/her property to a potential buyer (lessee) with the exclusive right to purchase the home within a certain time period, usually 3 years or longer. The homeowner cannot legally sell the property to anyone else during the period defined by the lease option. The homeowner and lessee would negotiate in the beginning of the lease the term of the lease to include the purchase price, option or earnest money, monthly payment in addition to the rent.

Decide if a rent-to-own is for you. Rent-to-own isn't for everybody. If you need all the money from the sale of your home right away, you're better off with a straight sale. In addition, the majority of rent-to-own aren't exercised, so you may have to begin the process of selling your home all over again after the lease terminates.

You might also have to consider if you want to, or aren't able to, keep up with the responsibilities of continuing to own the home. In the a rent-to-own scenario, the homeowner must continue to pay property taxes and insurance and is generally still responsible for major repairs during the lease period.

Do a background and credit check on the applicants. At this point, you have to look at potential buyers as potential tenants, and you don't want to do a rent-to-own with somebody who you wouldn't rent to. Look for someone with good references, a steady source of income, and the ability to pay the rent plus, if applicable, the additional monthly option money.

As far as the applicant's credit history, you probably don't want someone with serious credit trouble, but at the same time you may want to be somewhat lenient. Many buyers who choose rent-to-own do so because they have some blemishes on their credit and want to improve their profile before applying for a loan.

Pre-qualify your lessee. It's a good idea to contact a loan officer or mortgage broker to at least discuss the potential buyer's prospects for obtaining a mortgage at the end of the lease term. There is more uncertainty (and, hopefully, more chance of improvement) the longer the lease term, but both you and the potential buyer can get a realistic idea of whether they'll be able to buy the house.

This step is essential if it's important to you to sell the house at the end of the lease. But ethically, and perhaps legally, it's important regardless of your preference because if you take option money and above-market rent from a tenant who can't possibly buy the house at the end of the lease, you're just ripping the tenant off.

Provide the potential buyer with a seller's disclosure form. The disclosure form lists any known problems with the house. You attest, to the best of your knowledge, to the condition of the house. This form is standard for other purchase transactions but is sometimes left out in a rent-to-own. Make sure you give the buyer this form to help him or her make an informed decision and to protect the integrity of the contract and sale. The buyer should also have an independent home inspection done.

Prepare a lease agreement with option to buy and collect option money. You can get fill-in-the-blank rent-to-own forms online, but you're better off getting them from a local real estate agent or attorney. The contract is sometimes added as an addendum to a standard sales contract. Unless you really know what you're doing, get help with the details of the contract from a real estate attorney, not a or broker.

The most important thing to remember is that you've got to cover not just the money issues but also who is responsible for what types of repairs and other complications that are bound to come up.

◦ Agree on the purchase price of the home, which should be fixed on the lease contract. You'll be obligated to sell at this price, so you want to make sure it's something you can live with. Ideally, the agreed-upon price should be at least at fair market value and maybe slightly more (especially for lease terms of 1 year or more) to compensate for the convenience to the buyer and for the likely appreciation of the property over the term. You and/or the buyer may want to pay for an appraisal to validate the price. Banks and other lenders will only loan against the appraised value, regardless of the price that you agreed on with the buyer.

◦ Determine how much option money to collect. Some states and municipalities have laws specifying a maximum amount of option money that can be taken, but in general the initial option money or option fee can be almost any amount. A typical figure is 2-4% of the purchase price. You will keep this money no matter what. If the lessee decides to buy, the money will be credited toward the down payment or the purchase price, and if the lessee doesn't buy, he or she forfeits the option money to you. Keep in mind that many buyers choose lease options because they can't come up with a big down payment, so don't expect to be able to get a huge amount of initial option money.

◦ Decide how much of the lessee's monthly payment will be credited toward the option. Anywhere from 0-100% of the monthly payments can be credited toward the purchase price, although the amount is sometimes subject to state or local laws. In general, the monthly payment will be calculated at fair rental value plus a set amount that will go toward the purchase price. This, like the initial option money, will either be credited toward the down payment or the purchase price or, if the tenant doesn't buy, will be forfeited to you.

◦ Decide on the term of the lease. Lease options typically run anywhere from 6-24 months. Less than six months usually doesn't make sense for the buyer, and more than 2 years (sometimes more than 1 year) may cause tax or legal complications. Shorter lease terms generally result in sales more than longer terms, simply because there are so many variables over the long term, but the length of the lease should be adequate to ensure that the lessee has time to get his or her financial ducks in a row. Keep in mind that if housing prices appreciate quickly, you may be getting a bad deal on a long lease, since you're obligated to sell at the agreed-upon price. If housing prices decline, however, you may be getting a good deal, but if they've declined significantly, the lessee is unlikely to buy the house. You still get to keep the option money, however.

Get the right home insurance coverage. Since you will no longer be the owner-occupant of the house, you may need to update your homeowners insurance policy to a dwelling policy. Check with your insurance agent to determine what policy is necessary and what coverage you need. Your tenant should also be insured to cover his or her liability and, depending on your state, any gaps in your coverage that may result from the lease option.

Collect monthly payments. Now, all you need to do is collect the payments each month. Keep track of the payments received so you'll have a record when the time comes for the lessee to exercise the option (or, in the the worst-case scenario, when you have to go to court to settle a dispute).

Sell the home. At the end of the lease term, the lessee can exercise the option to purchase your home for the price specified on or before the date specified. The total option money paid (including the initial option money plus any credit from the monthly payments) will go toward the down payment. Thus, the buyer already has equity in the home and should find it easier to qualify for a mortgage.

Read Buy Your Perfect Home with Rent-to-Own.

Buy Rent-to-Own Homes: Win-win for Both Buyers and Sellers

rent-to-own home buyers

Rent-to-own, also known as lease option, is an investing strategy that can be used by both home buyers and home sellers.

For home sellers, lease option may be the perfect solution to ensure you get top dollar for your home in a buyer’s market. It may even generates some extra income for the seller before the actual sale of the home. The rent-to-own strategies also increases the number of potential buyers for your home to include those who do not qualify for the conventional mortgage from banks.

In a rent-to-own or lease option, the homeowner rents his/her property to a potential buyer (lessee) with the exclusive right to purchase the home within a certain time period, usually 3 years or longer. The homeowner cannot legally sell the property to anyone else during the period defined by the lease option. The homeowner and lessee would negotiate in the beginning of the lease the term of the lease to include the purchase price, option or earnest money, monthly payment in addition to the rent.

For home buyers, rent-to-own make sense if you don’t qualify for conventional mortgage because you don’t have a down payment, poor credit score, limited employment history, high debt-to-income ratio. This allows home buyers time to save up the required down payment, improve credit scores, establish a longer job history, or whatever they need to do to get a mortgage.

Rent-to-own homes also allow family to move into their dream home and give them time to save enough for a d down payment to buy the home, without worrying that home being sold to someone else.

The rent-to-own or lease option is one strategy with 2 real estate transactions - the leasing portion and the option portion.

The lease portion is very similar to any lease agreement between the landlord and tenant. And, then, the is the option portion, which should be a separate agreement in which owner agrees to give the lessee exclusive right to purchase the property within a specific period of time and for a predetermined price.

Remember, the option agreement only grants the lessee the “option” to buy the home. The lessee is not obligated to buy the home. On the other hand, the homeowner is legally obligated to sell the home to the lessee under terms set forth in the option agreement. Therefore, the option is only binding for the homeowner.

In the rent-to-own or lease option home, there is an option fee, which is an up-front charge, similar to a down payment. The option fee can be whatever amount the homeowner and lessee agreed on, usually dependent upon the value of the home.

If you’re the buyer, it is in your best interest to negotiate the lowest fee possible. The option fee is generally non-refundable, but will be applied toward the lessee’s down payment when the time comes to apply for a mortgage.

If the lessee later decides to not execute the purchase option, the seller can keep the fee.

And if the parties do not renew the rent-to-own lease the buyer continues to live in the property as a month-to-month renter. Or, the homeowner can sell the home to a retail buyer.

Search Zillow’s Homes for Rent.

Why Buying Rental Properties Makes Sense?

Landlords grow rich in their sleep

6 Benefits of buying rental properties that you don't want to miss.

1. Cash flow

The most important reason for buying rental properties. Some people buy rental properties with poor cash flow, and hope that they'll either make even or appreciation will cover their loss. But you, as an educated real estate investor, should evaluate each property carefully to determine your CAP rate, return on investment and cash flow.

My strategy is if the property gives me good cash flow, I'll keep as rental property. If it does not have good cash flow, I just fix and flip it for a profit.

How to find real deals in Honolulu real estate market?

Related article: Invest in Leasehold Property for Cash Flow

2. Tax Deductions

The Federal government provides many tax benefits for rental properties owners. As a small business owner, you can deduct all operating expenses, such as property management fees, utilities, insurance, property tax, etc.

Another benefit that not many people realize. Say, you have a child attending college in Southern California and you purchase a rental property in San Diego. Each year you visit Southern California to check on your rental property, just to be sure your property manager is doing a great job. Each time you visit your rental property, you also visit your child. The whole trip can be written-off as a tax deduction as it is considered a business-related trip.

Ha...that's what I plan to do when my daughter goes to college.

We're not done yet. You also benefit from what is called "paper loss". Your rental property incurs depreciation, which you can write-off on your tax. This depreciation is calculated by dividing your property market value by 27 years. This is a "paper loss" because it is a loss that happens only on paper. Your rental property does not just vanish after 27 years.

This greatly reduces the income tax you pay each year.

Related article: Tax Deductions for Rental Properties.

3. Mortgage Reduction

This one is self-explanatory. As you, or should I say "your tenants", pay down the mortgage, you own less and your equity accumulates.

Related article: Pay Off Mortgage in 7 Years

4. Appreciation

Even though I listed appreciation as one of the benefits of buying rental properties, it should be looked at as the "icing" on the cake. Real estate market ebbs and flows, no one can guarantee that your local market would grow forever. So don't bank all your money on the property appreciation. The most important thing is cash flow. If you have a rental property that is giving you a positive cash flow every month, you're already making a profit.

5. Avoid Risk of the Stock Market

I'll let this South Park "It's all gone!" video explains the point.

6. The IRS Hobby Loss Rule does not apply to rental properties

The IRS Hobby Loss Rule states that business should make a profit in 3 out of 5 years, which means it's okay if you lose money the first two years during your startup, but by the third years, there should be some profits showing.

This is why rental properties make such great business. Rental properties are immune from the IRS Hobby Loss Rule.

With all these benefits, buying rental properties is like wealth building on autopilot. It's a no brainer!

Real Estate Investing

Real estates always beat stock market.

Do you have what it takes to be successful in real estate investing?

Everyone wants to be successful in building wealth. And real estate investing is one of the greatest ways to do so.

The whole real estate investing is about learning how money works, how to find money and "make" money magically. It's this challenge that makes real estate investing fun and exciting.

I started out with using equity in my own primary residence. I don't have any fix-and-flip experience on paper, but I do know how to buy-rehab-rent. I'm currently planning to rent my current home out, and use my owner-occupant status to qualify for a home loan to buy my next property. It's easier to qualify for owner-occupant property loan than an investor's property. Besides, hard money lender won't lend on owner-occupant, and they only lend up to 50-70% of value.

There are 3 basic elements to real estate investing: money, knowledge and deals.

Do you have these 3 elements to succeed?

1. Money

This is the biggest challenge for most people starting out. Most of us don't have a couple millions sitting around waiting to be spent. Besides, as we all know, Honolulu real estate is one of the most expensive, so the initial cash needed is a big challenge.

But still there are ways to find that money you need. And the word we love to use in real estate investing is "leverage". It basically means stretching what you have to accomplish more.

Remember, this money does not need to be your money. It can be and preferably other people's money.

For example, you have $100,000 sitting in your savings account earning 0.05% interest from the bank. Instead of earning 0.05% and being taxed every year on that earning, you decide to use that money to invest in real estate.

You have 2 options to do so.

One, buy a small condo with the $100,000 all cash. Second option, buy 5 small condos by putting 20% down on each, and mortgage the remainder 80%.

It's true, with the first option, you save on mortgage interest and closing cost. But you're missing out on the earnings.

Say, each of these condo gives you $200 a month cash flow. With 5 properties, your cash flow would be $1,000 per month vs $200. And from the article, Why Buy Rental Properties? you'll realized that you not only have 5 times the cash flow, but you also have 5 tenants paying down your mortgage and building your equity each month, you'll have 5 times the tax-deductions, and your real estate portfolio also appreciates 5 times faster.

So, are you ready to find some money for investing? Here's a list to give you some ideas:

Be Your Own Bank

Conventional Mortgages

Home equity loans or line of credit

Rent-to-Own

Self-directed IRA

Seller financing

Friends and family - I prefer to not get them involved. Other investors may have a different opinion.

Related articles: Hidden Down Payment

2. Knowledge

The next thing you need is knowledge. No one is born to know how to invest in real estate. Even seasoned investors spent many years and experienced many failure to become successful.

My motto always is imitate the person who you want to be. If you want to be a successful real estate investors, get a mentor and see what they're doing. Also read up on books and blogs. There are tons of free resources on the internet to start.

Avoid scammers who promise you the Babylon for a big sum of money.

This website is a good place to start. I use this site as my running notebook for real estate investing ideas. I would also be constantly updated the information here as new information appears.

3. Deals

Ok...nothing would happen if there is no deals. This is a tricky one. With Honolulu real estate being notorious for being very expensive, many investors shy away from investing here locally and choose to invest in cheaper mainland location.

I, on the other hand, prefer to invest here. To me, investing out-of-state is risky because you lose all your control. You have to depend on your real estate agent and property manager to manage everything for you. Even those turnkey properties are still not 100% foolproof.

Trust me, you can find good deals here. You just need to know "what" you're looking for. Otherwise, a deal will just fall on your lap, and you wouldn't even notice. I have a bunch of criteria that I'm looking for when I'm hunting for deals. Properties that provide good cash flow, I keep for rentals. Those that provide poor cash flow, they'll be fix and flip.

Finding the good deals goes hand-in-hand with your knowledge. You need to know your local market well. This is one reason why I insist on investing only in Honolulu. I live here and know the market well. I can easily drive over the check on a neighborhood. Pictures are great, but you should not trust everything in the pictures.

Related article: Search Short Sales and Foreclosures

I once went to a showing for a multi-family property. The pictures and everything looks great. I went to the location, and found a bunch of people and children sitting by the parking lot. The adults just sitting around chitchatting, and kids running around and riding their bikes. Obviously, a low-income pocket in the area. Even though the house is brand-new and would potentially generate a pretty good cash flow, I skipped this deal. One of my criteria is that the properties have to be in a decent neighborhood.

In real estate investing, we often say "when you find the deal, you'll find the money to close it."

Hawaii Private Money Lenders

Definition: A private money lender is a non-institutional (non-bank) individual or company that loans money, generally secured by a note and deed of trust, for the purpose of funding a real estate transaction. Private money lenders are generally considered more relationship-based than hard money lenders.

Hard money lending is the process of borrowing money from a professional private lender, with the bulk of the lending decision based on the hard asset being bought.

Private money lending is borrowing money from non-professional lender, where the bulk of lending decision is based on the relationship between the lender and borrower, but enhanced by the hard asset being bought.

Private lenders lend money out not as a living, but usually as an investment. The rate, fees and terms are usually less and much more negotiable than hard money lending.

Why Borrow from Private Money Lenders?

One of the biggest mistakes that new real estate investors make is that they spend an inordinate amount of time learning about finding and typing up deals but a small amount of time on how to raise equity capital from private money lenders. It’s just as important, if not more important, for real estate investors to understand the ins and outs of raising money as finding the deal.

Finding a deal is great but if you do not have earnest money to tie up a deal or funds to purchase it, then all that time and effort is for nothing. (Ankit Investing Life Rules: Work Smarter Not Harder). When you make an offer on a piece of property, it is expected, and usually required, that you place an earnest money deposit down with your offer. If you are currently living paycheck-to-paycheck, coming up with even a few hundred dollars can be a big hurdle in launching your real estate investment business, let alone thousands needed for a purchase. Hence if you work on raising capital from private money lenders while locking up deals then you will have a greater chance for investment success.

The first question that most investors come up is who should I approach to raise the equity capital? Lets try to answer that question

Why Would Someone do Private Lending?

1. Higher return than stock market, index fund;
2. Security – private lender holds first position liens on the property;
3. Passive investment.

How to Find Private Money Lending?

1. RealtyShares is a crowd funding platform for raising capitals for real estate from accredited investors .
2. Local real estate investors, especially older ones, as they don’t want to do much work anymore and just prefer more passive income.
3. Family and friends. This is how most people begin. I don’t advise asking all your families and friends. You need to approach this very carefully.

How to Get Your Private Lenders to say YES?

1. Find a deal
2. Connect with private lender
3. Build your brand
4. Build relationships
5. Ask
6. Do the math
7. Reduce risk
8. Present it right

Related article: Investor's Guide to Private Money Lending.

Hawaii Real Estate Guide

Hawaii Real Estate

Before you get your feet wet in Hawaii real estate market, you should get yourself familiar with some local real estate terms and laws.

Land Tenure

First thing you need to know about Hawaii real estate is that you don’t always own the land when you buy a property.

Sound strange? Yes, it does.

Most people only know of one type of real estate ownership; fee simple, also known as freehold. There are only a handful of states (i.e. Hawaii, New York, Florida) that have another form of ownership known as leasehold.

It is important to know the difference between fee simple and leasehold property. The difference in these two types of land tenure can significantly affect the value of the real property.

Fee simple ownership is probably the most familiar form of ownership to buyers of residential real estate. Depending on where you are from, you may not know of any other way to own real estate.

Fee simple is sometimes called fee simple absolute because it is the most complete form of ownership. The titles of both the property and the land on which the property sits transfer to the new owner at time of closing. The fee simple owner has the right to own, use the land and dispose of the land as he wishes--sell it, give it away, trade it for other things, lease it to others, or pass it to others upon death.

On the other hand, in a leasehold property transaction, only the title of the property is transferred to the new owner at closing. The title of the land on which the property sits is not affected. What you’ll get as the new owner of the leasehold property is the leasehold interest as a “lessee”. This agreement gives you the right to use and enjoy the land as a fee simple owner ONLY for the duration of the lease. At the end of the lease, the land goes back to the land-owner.

Why buy leasehold properties?

Read Buy Leasehold Properties for Cashflow.

Hawaii Property Tax

Honolulu has one of the lowest real property tax rate in the country. As of June 2013, Honolulu home owners pay $3.50 for every $1,000 of the taxable property value. Property taxes are assessed on 100% of the fair market value of the property and are administered by the counties, with each county having different property tax exemptions.

See property tax rate for the state of Hawaii.

Home Exemption

Besides, having the lowest real property tax rate. Hawaii homeowners also enjoy property tax exemption.

Who qualifies for home exemption? You are entitled to the home exemption if:

1. You own and occupy the property as your principal home (“real property owned and occupied as the owner’s principal home”) means occupancy of a home in the county with the intent to reside in the county. Intent to reside in the county may be evidenced by, but not limited to, the following indicia: occupancy of a home in the city for more than 270 calendar days of a calendar year; registering to vote in the county; being stationed in the county under military orders of the United States; and filing of an income tax return as a resident of the State of Hawaii, with a reported address in the county;

2. Your ownership is recorded at the Bureau of Conveyances, State Department of Land and Natural Resources, in Honolulu on or before December 31 preceding the tax years for which you claim the exemption. In the case of a lease, the document must indicate that the lessee has a lease for residential purposes for a term of five years or more and will pay all property taxes;

3. You file a claim for home exemption (Form P-3) with the Real Property Assessment Division on or before December 31 preceding the tax years for which you claim the exemption.

How much is your home exemption?

The standard home exemption on your principal residence in the county of Hawaii (Big Island) is $40,000. If you are age 60 to 69 the exemption is $80,000 and if you are 70 or older, the exemption is $100,000.

The home exemption in the city and county of Honolulu is $80,000. If you are 65 or older, the exemption is $120,000. If you have an existing home exemption on file, you do not need to re-apply. The exemption amount is automatically increased depending on your age. There are progressively higher exemptions if you are 75 or older and your household income is not more than the low-income limits established by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The basic home exemption in Kauai is $48,000. If you are age 60 to 69 you can claim a $96,000 exemption and if you are 70 or older the exemption increases to $120,000. If your adjusted gross income for the preceding year is less than $40,000 you qualify for an additional $55,000 exemption.

In Maui, the homeowner exemption on your principal residence is $300,000.

Disability Exemptions

If your sight or hearing is impaired or you are totally disabled, you qualify for an additional exemption. This exemption also applies if you have Hansen's disease and are hospitalized or under temporary release. The disability exemption is $50,000 in the Counties of Hawaii and Kauai and $25,000 in Honolulu and Maui.

If you are a veteran and are totally disabled due to injuries while on active duty, your principal home is exempt from all property taxes except for special assessments and the annual minimum tax.

Widows or widowers of totally disabled veterans are also eligible for this exemption as long as they remain unmarried. Once you are granted a disability exemption you do not have to re-file each year as long as you meet the disability requirements.

Local terms

Lanai is the sixth largest island in the Hawaiian Island chain. It is located in between Maui and Molokai.

In local language, Lanai also means balcony in Hawaii.

Things to do in West Maui

West Maui is my favorite place to stay when visiting Maui. It’s close to all the great outdoor adventures, prestine scenery, resorts, condos, shopping and great restaurants.

There are plenty of affordable vacation condos for rent in Kahana and Napili, just north of Ka`anapali. You can get anything between a studio and up to 3-bedroom condos, well-equipped with all kitchen and BBQ utensils, washer and dryer for your wet bathing suit.

The best thing about having a kitchen on your vacation is you can enjoy a relaxing breakfast in your own condo. The kitchen is equipped with pots, pans to make eggs in whatever ways you prefer, coffee makers for your first cup of coffee in the morning, tea pots for you tea lovers, refrigerators with ice makers to fill up your cooler with ice. They also have coolers, beach chairs and umbrella for you to take to the beach. How thoughtful are they?

If you like, you can host a BBQ dinner by the poolside. All BBQ grill utensils are provided in the condo.

One of my favorite things to do on West Maui is driving up north along the Honoapi`ilani Highway. We usually stop at the Napili Shopping Center first thing before the start of the trip to grab a cup of coffee for the ride.

My favorite is the dirty chai latte (chai latte with a shot of espresso) at The Coffee Store. That’s my usual latte on steroid for the morning. Eat some breakfast, read some tourist magazine to check out local restaurants to try for the evening.

The first stop of the trip is the Dragon’s Teeth at the Makalua-puna Point in Kapalua. The lava here is light color in shape of giant sharp teeth, the result of years of salt water and wind.

Then we keep driving north of Honoapi`ilani Highway, we check out the Slaughterhouse Beach (what a lovely name), Honolua Bay and then Punalau Beach.

The road after these is meandering and up-and-down hill, like a roller coaster ride.

Here’s the list of Maui attractions along this long winding stretch of drive. These are all natural beauty that's worth the drive. And you need to see and experience these place to believe the beauty of the Maui.

Nakalele Blowhole
Ohai Trail
Kahakuloa Head
Mushroom Rock Shore Hike
Bellstone
Olivine Pools
Kahakuloa Village
Panini Pua Kea Fruit Stand – coconut candy
Julia’s – banana bread
Kahekili’s Leap
Kaukini Gallery
Bruce Turnbull Studio and Sculpture Garden
Lower Makamaka`ole Falls
Wailuku town

I usually turn around before the road gets too narrow somewhere after the Olivine Pools.

Trust me…we rode all the way to Wailuku from Kapalua, and it was not a pleasant drive with many scary encounters with oncoming traffic on a narrow cliff. The scenery is definitely awesome and worth the drive. Just be sure to get a very small rental car. I was lucky we did it once and made it out alive to catch our flight home.

Anyway…when we return to Napili, we stopped at the Shopping Center again. This time is for lunch (or late afternoon snack) at Maui Taco.

I don’t know why…it’s just taco, but it tastes so good.

One time we decided to chill at the Kahana beach. Lucky for us, it’s whale season, and we saw them jumping up and down and flipping through the water.

It's whale season between November and May when humpback whales return to breed in the warm Hawaiian waters.

I’m happy to be able to see whales as I’m scared to death to be on a boat. I can get really seasick, and I have pictures to proof that, but I’m not sharing. So I prefer watching the whales at the shore.

Along the Lower Honoapi'ilani Road, there is a health food store Farmer’s Market at Honokowai Beach Market that smells very aromatic when you walk in. They sell all kinds of organic groceries, yummy healthy lunches and acai bowls.

There are also couple other restaurants that we absolutely love.

Pizza Paradiso Mediterranean Grill. This is a true Mediterranean restaurant. Not only is the food great, but the selection. When was the last time you go to a Mediterranean restaurant that offers cuisines from both Italy and Greece.

You can have authentic Italian pasta dishes, pizza, AND falafel, stuffed grape leaves and hummus all in one meal. And don’t forget the Tiramisu, gelato and baklava at the end for dessert.

Our other favorite is Pi Artisan Pizzeria. I just love math.

You may have guessed it right. It’s a new-age Italian restaurant. Of course, there is pizza pi(e)s. You order your food at the kitchen counter. You can stand there and watch your food being prepared in the kitchen behind a glass.

The food, drinks and service are wonderful. The restaurant is on the Front Street right across the ocean. So you get an awesome Maui sunset view to accompany your lovely dinner.

The restaurant is part of the Outlets of Maui, which means you get 4-hour free parking validation while you walk around the historic downtown Lahaina after dinner to work off all the calories consumed.

Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop in Olowalu towards end of Lahaina. They have the usual café menu items, such as soups and sandwiches. But, of course, we’re here for the pies.

All kinds of pies - savory pies, fruits pies, cream pies, potpies, etc. I’m not a great pie fan. But I’ll eat the pie fillings. It’s great food.

You definitely have to stop by the Farmacy Health Bar after the hike to the Iao Needle Valley. They have great organic kale salad, acai bowl and surprisingly, fresh sugar cane juice. The owner looks like a Raggae band singer. He’s super nice and friendly.

It’s very easy to find. Just come down Main Street from the Iao Needle Valley. And the Farmacy is at the corner of Main Street and South Market Street. Plenty of street parking, at least the day we went.

Don’t forget to check out these West Maui attractions too:

Day-trip to Molokai
Maui Aquarium

Hope you find West Maui as magical as I do...that's my second favorite place (right after Honolulu).

Now you can fly directly from Honolulu to Kapalua, West Maui with Hawaiian Airlines.