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Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii | Duty Station Spotlight

about the series

Each time I make a duty station print, I find myself researching the installation and wondering what it is like to live there.  The Duty Station Spotlight Series provides first hand insight into duty stations around the US (and world) and was born out of my curiosity and inclination to research everything. Each post in the series is a q&a with a military family member who has experienced the community first hand. Our hope is if you PCSing to a location or already settled that the articles provide you with a bit of guidance and some gems around town!

Interested in contributing your own experience for this spotlight series?    Head over to the Duty Station Q&A to submit your experience for consideration in our spotlight series.

Words "PCSing to Joint Pase Pearl Harbor Hickam" over top of a photo from the beaches of Hawaii

Did your family just get orders to head to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii? Doing a bit of anticipatory research on where the military might be sending your family next?

This week we have amazing insight into JBPHH for our Duty Station Spotlight from Air Force Spouse Danii Carpenter. She has been visiting the Hawaiian islands for years and her family has been stationed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam since October 2016.


THE BASICS

INITIAL THOUGHTS

What first ran through your head when you found out you were moving to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam?

Overwhelmingly excited! I had visited the Hawaiian islands so many times growing up & now we had the opportunity to LIVE there! I was beaming just thinking about the sun, waves & sand I’d be surrounded by!

I am so jealous!

CURRENT IMPRESSION

After living there for 3 years do you still have the same impression of Hawaii?

Hawaii is still incredibly beautiful, and so very worth the experience to live here! However, the traffic & the high cost of living can effect some’s outlook on it in general.

PREP

What did you do to prepare for moving to the duty station?

We have two french bulldogs so we had to be VERY vigilant about their quarantine laws and rules to bring them over with us. It was the most stressful situation I’d ever been through in my 10 years of being a military spouse. Thankfully my mother had lived in Hawaii and warned me ahead of time about the process & the great facebook groups (group 1, group 2) I found really helped me learn the ins & outs of the process!

What are your must have items to set up for success at this duty station?

Weatherproof liners for the floorboards of your vehicles (sand is everywhere, as are sand spurs) & cargo area. Lots of beach towels, beach chairs, umbrellas (we always buy these things at costco or sam’s club WAY more affordable). Furniture wise try to have everything big you need already purchased before you leave! They have quite a few furniture stores but they can be super pricey & it’s almost IMPOSSIBLE to find any online store to ship large packages to the island without charging you a fortune. Our amazon prime membership has saved us so many times living out here, while it doesn’t take the couple of business days as normal it can take a few more but avoiding those shipping costs adds up & saves us so much!

HOME

Do you live on base, own a home or rent elsewhere?

We first looked around for houses to rent because we were sure we’d like living on base or in base housing just from rumors we’d heard. So we settled down in Ewa Beach (pronounced ehh-Vaa you’ll stick out like a sour thumb saying E-Wah haha) on the western side of Oahu. We lived there for basically two years just because we enjoyed the neighborhood but my husband started to HATE the morning commute. To compensate he’d get up super early (3-4 am) head over early to avoid the congestion. The traffic going back to the west end after about 3 pm is even worse. So be warned the west end has great prices on houses for sale & beautiful houses to rent…but that commute to JBPHH is atrocious. We decided to look into moving over next to base in the Navy housing directly across from the base/airport because our friends had a house there and they were saving about $1000 more than us living there & the houses were actually great with yards for our two fur babies. We are now saving so much a month not having to pay the $600+ a month we’d sometimes have as a utility bill on the west end! We get to keep our AC cooler & we are saving so much money! So I 100% recommend looking at the base housing options FIRST & FOREMOST! The wait can get long but the price & closeness to base is 100% worth it in our opinion. We have way more time together as a family, and way less stress about the daily commute!

TRAVEL

Is Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam easy to get to?

Very easy to get to, especially living on such a small island. Traffic is incredibly difficult going & coming from the west end of the island. So if you choose to live out on that end be aware of the morning commute to JBPHH. Even other bases on island should be prepared for traffic. Which can get up to a time of an hour or more depending on wrecks, or road closings…just for a small mile wise commute.

WEATHER

Any tips for surviving through what mother nature has to bring to the island?

As cheesy as it sounds, bring flip flops, sunscreen, and an umbrella! That’s all we’ve ever needed here on Oahu! The sun will burn you very quickly, the ‘winters’ consist of rain showers here & there. The coolest it’s ever been while we’ve lived here was 61 degrees on New Year’s night & even then all we needed was a light jacket. It truly is a great place if you love year round mild weather, and warm temperatures! DO NOT FORGOT THE SPF! I wear 30 spf skincare daily because even riding around in the car or out shopping you can get burned! (just ask my husband who swore he’d never get sunburned…about his sun poisoning mishap) 

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR- HICKAM SPOTLIGHT MAP

Each of the locations around Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam described below have been plotted on this google map. You can use the filters below to show only the locations you are interested in or open in google maps to save for later!


THE EATS

COFFEE

What is your favorite spot to grab a coffee at this duty station?

Hawaii has absolutely incredible coffee all over the island! Closer to the base is Lion Coffee they are well known on island and you can purchase their products on base as well! I absolutely LOVE the Island X Hawaii they have great info & samples! The north shore of Oahu is flooded with incredible coffee shops!

BRUNCH

Is brunch a big deal around the duty station’s town? If so, where is your favorite spot and what do you order off the menu?

Depending on if you love a fancier meal with a water view, or a quick diner style fast meal Hawaii has the best of both worlds for sure!

If we are in a hurry we always choose Anna Miller’s in Aiea, or Zippy’s which has locations almost every few miles anywhere you go. If we want a beautiful view we head for Cinnamon’s at the Ilikai  or Restaurant 604 as well as Boots & Kimos

LUNCH

Whats the best spot for having a lunch?

Hawaii has a VAST offering of MANY MANY different culture’s cuisines & experiences! So it really all depends on what you’re in the mood for! We love Liz’s BBQ at the NEX, as well as Makoto Sushi in Aiea (very tiny family run business but INCREDIBLE sushi). As well as Boston’s North End Pizza it is so affordable & the pizza is incredible! The food courts at costco are also great quality for the price if you have a large family, or just want quick yummy food!

SWEETS

What is your go to place to grab dessert?

You HAVE to try the poi mochi doughnuts at Liliha bakery! It’s an absolute experience & one that all of my out of town guest crave after they leave! As well as Leonard’s malasadas! Get a sampler of all the flavors & pick your favorite! They have a stand alone store & multiple food trucks all over the island! SUCH ONO GRINDS! (ono grinds = good food, you’ll hear that a lot here!)

DATE NIGHT EATS

When you managed to align schedules to go out for a date with your husband, where are you headed?

We love Bravo’s Italian Restaurant in Aiea for good quick food. Dinner with a breathtaking view we head over to Haleiwa Joe’s Haiku Gardens the service is incredible & their specials are delicious and always fresh & well worth the price! Get there early when they open because they sell out & fill up very quickly because they are THAT good and fresh.

DRINK

Where is the best spot to grab a drink?

We love Tiki’s bar & grill that is right in the heart of Waikiki. They have GREAT happy hour specials & the views of Waikiki are top notch. Valet validated parking so no stress there either! Their coconut shrimp is normally my first stop for my out of town guest! They also have souvenirs that your guest will love too.


TO DO AROUND TOWN

ACTIVE

Where is your favorite place to work up a sweat?

The base itself has beautiful water fronts to exercise on. As well as Ala Moana park is beautiful to get some cardio in as well! There are SO many hikes, trails, waterfalls, oceanfront places to take advantage of! I recommend downloading the apps ‘Shaka Oahu’ great for getting to know the island & ‘Beach Safety’ to have some ins & outs of ocean info day to day with swells, wave heights & dangerous currents!

NATURE

Are there any nearby outdoor recreation areas you like to visit?

There are so many opportunities here to be active & one with nature out here! With endless hikes, trails, and adventures to go on there is never a dull moment outdoors on this island. There are pillbox hikes to take in 360 views of the island (Lanikai is top notch), mountaintop trails, waterfall loops & trails. There are great apps to download that will help you find them & plan your trips!

FAMILY

If your family had to dream up the perfect outing together in your area, where are you headed?

Definitely heading to the east side for a beautiful sunrise viewing, then breakfast at any given local spot with great eats. Then heading to any one of the great beaches on island. We love Bellows Beach, or Yokohama beach on the west end (try not to go alone all the way down the west end, just be aware of your surroundings and always lock your doors & never leave valuables in sight!) Spending the day on the beach with a cooler full of goodies, then heading home with the windows down and cool breezes after the sun sets.

RAINY DAYS

Where is your go to place if the weather is calling for rain?

There are so many great museums & places indoors to see here! We also have the Pearl Harbor exhibits, and the aviation museum. Lots of shopping! So many places to shop in Waikiki, Waikele, etc. There is no shortage of shopping opportunities here! We also love the Byodo-In Temple it is such a beautiful experience everyone should have while here regardless of religion!
Queen Emma’s summer palace which is quaint & very beautiful. Full of history!

PAMPER

If you manage to sneak away for a few hours to spend time spoiling yourself where are you headed?

We have a LOT of very talented hair stylists in our spouse group here! Check the facebook groups (group 1, group 2) for updated recommendations! The Honolulu Med Spa is also a go to!

If you found this guide useful, please save it to Pinterest!

FINAL WORDS ON JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM

What would you say to a military family who just received orders and is doing the frantic google search to learn all the things!

Don’t be afraid of the locals, so many rumors fly about this island…just go out & explore and enjoy this beautiful place! The BX/NEX etc always have better pricing on touristy items! Go to the Aiea Bowl (Aloha Stadium) Flea Market! It happens every Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday! Cheap prices on suitcases, tourist items, all kinds of things & yummy local eats! Plus a fun way to get in a lot of steps.

Check the ITT on base for discounted military pricing on all tourist attractions & events around the island! ALWAYS check there before you buy! For a few other quintessential Hawaiian experiences look at Paradise Cove, Polynesia, and Kualoa.

It can feel crazy living on an island out so far from everyone, but it is 100% what you make it! Hawaii is beautiful with so many adventures & great food and views to be shared! Soak up your time here, we will miss being here for sure! Never be afraid to ask for suggestions from other people on the best spots, or places to see. Enjoy & spend time with people you meet! There are so many people from so many different walks of life & cultures out here! Spend your time out here really living in the experience & insane nature that is out here! You won’t regret it one bit! WEAR YOUR SUNSCREEN DAILY!


Have you been stationed at Joint Base Pear Harbor- Hickam? We would love to hear about your favorites around town! Let us know your experience stationed here in the comments below!


Danii’s family has been visiting the Hawaiian islands for years & years, her mother decided to uproot her life & live out here for a good bit of time. Then, her family was sent out to JBPHH for a few years to live and it has been a truly once in a lifetime experience! Make sure to connect with her on Instagram.


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