North Shore economy staying strong and steady

This report on the North Shore economy is the first in a series that will analyze the economic condition of all of Kaua‘i’s districts.

Karen Lovato has seen a lot up in Hanalei over the past 19 years.

Lovato has owned “On The Road To Hanalei”, a retail shop specializing in hand-made merchandise located at the Ching Young Shopping Village Center on the North Shore, in that 19-year span.

In that time, Lovato has been a first-hand witness to the up and down cycle of Kaua‘i’s economy, specifically on the North Shore.

“I would guess that right now, Hanalei’s retail and commercial businesses are the hottest on the island with regards to customer traffic,” Lovato said. “I have seen businesses come and go over the past years. But we (On The Road To Hanalei) have had a steady increase in traffic and sales the last few years.”

With regards to recent trends, Lovato added, “We had an excellent July (2003) but I was shocked that it went down in August. August tends to be my best month. It has always been a standout month. It just seemed quieter this past August.”

Lovato may be echoing the sentiments of many small and large businesses on the North Shore although some retail shops haven’t had a huge down time.

“The summer was good for us,” said Charlie Cowden, owner of the Hanalei Surf Shop. “Most businesses have their up and down times. But, we have been pretty steady. Our busiest time is in the summer, whenever there is a holiday or when school is out.”

While the economic prosperity of west Kaua‘i can be heavily attributed to the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), the North Shore’s financial growth more closely revolves around the retail and hotel/vacation rental and real estate industries.

Recent trends suggest that, despite some of the highest gas and grocery prices on the island, customer traffic in the aforementioned areas has been relatively high.

North Shore real estate, hotel and vacation rental markets

According to Lucy Kawaihalau of Kaua’i Vacation Rentals, “the vacation rentals industry has been very busy across the island. It’s been a long time since 1992 that we have had this kind of activity on the island.”

One of the more thriving areas of business on the North Shore is the real estate development/residential house lot industries.

“The Princeville Corporation is out of inventory (residential house lots),” said Michael Loo, the vice president of Real Estate Development at the Princeville Corporation which owns the Resort and Golf Club.

“We are doing well. The year started slowly but we have had a good summer and hope it continues.”

In a recent MLS sales report outlining statistics from August 2002 and ‘03, residential house and condominiums sales have increased.

On the North Shore, the largest number of condominium sales occurred in Hanalei as the number jumped from 8 to 22 during that time span.

However, residential sales went down 25 percent in Hanalei during August of 2002 and the same time this year.

However, the median residential sales price increased 11.76 percent in Hanalei from August 2002 to ‘03. The average sales price for a residential home in Hanalei during that time jumped from $581,500 to $649,900.

The vacant land median price also increased in Hanalei from $209,500 to $378,750. The number of vacant land sales increased from 6 to 16 (175 percent jump) from August of 2002 to ‘03.

Sales volume statistics in Hanalei showed that there was an increase in condominium sales.

In August of 2002, total sales volume in Hanalei was $4,127,000. That number jumped to $10,719,058 in August of 2003 (159.73 percent jump).

In addition, vacant land sales volume jumped 484.56 percent in that span, going from $1,602,500 to $9,367,500.

“We have a shortage in inventory,” said Kilauea Real Estate Principal Broker Mike Dwyer. “The North Shore has been in high demand. Supply is dwindling and demand remains high. It’s a great market for sellers and a tough one for buyers. Buyers have to be really on their toes.”

Business Editor Barry Graham can be reached at 245-3681 Ext. 251 or


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