The Pros and Cons of Owning Beachfront Property


orange sunset view over HawaiiIt’s a beautiful place we live in, here in Hawaii. We’re the envy of much of the world with our abundant sunshine, trade winds, green mountains and gorgeous beaches. However, despite the glamour attached to coastal living in magazines and TV shows, actually owning beachfront property isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be, despite beachfront homes being somewhat synonymous with many people’s first mental images about Hawaii real estate. In fact, buying a house on the beach could end up costing you in the long run if you don’t know how to evaluate the decision properly.

The Pros of Owning Beachfront Property

Do we really need to discuss the perks of having a beachside home? Ok, let’s do it:

  • Nature’s beauty and sounds on your doorstep
  • Immediate access to the ocean for surfing, kayaking, sailing, swimming and rubber duckie races
  • Unobstructed sunrise or sunset views, depending on the coast you’re on
  • Envy of other residents (think that’s not a perk? I guarantee you it for many coastal homeowners it is)
  • Generally consistent demand as there are naturally fewer homes on the coast

Sounds pretty good, right? I just got back from kayaking out to the Mokulua Islands off Lanikai (the ‘Mokes’) and I wouldn’t mind having one of those multi-million dollar beachfront mansions!

The Cons of Owning Beachfront Property

But there’s another side to beachfront living. Living on the coast also comes with its nuisances and outright dangers, such as:

  • Consistent sea spray. With sea spray comes…. you guessed it …. salt. Corrosive salt.
  • Strong winds. Strong as in hurricanes, which tend to hit Hawaii from time to time. Batten down the hatches!
  • Coastal erosion. For much of Hawaii’s lengthy coastlines, erosion removes more sand each year than is redeposited. That leads to beach loss — coastal erosion — over time. That being said, each beach is a different physical entity. One beach could grow while the adjacent one could shrink. We see this in Kailua and other areas. Thinking you can just throw up a seawall? Not without oodles of permits and paperwork — the county and entire state of Hawaii are generally against such structures.
  • Sea level rise. Now I know some people may not believe in global warming, but there’s just an overwhelming amount of evidence that our oceans waters are indeed rising. Every time I drive along the windward side of Oahu around Hauula, Punaluu, Kaaawa, Laie, Kualoa, etc., I look at those homes on the side of the highway and wonder when their day is going to come.
photo of the Lanikai coast and Mokulua Islands

Lanikai Coast and the Mokulua Islands

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about before buying a house on the coast. You really need to weigh the perks with the concerns. That being said, remember that each coastal area operates differently depending on the physical behavior of the beach which is governed by unique local conditions — seafloor topography, ocean currents, tidal patterns and more. The main rule — there is no main rule. Be clear about what you want out of your home and decide whether there’s a local beach in Hawaii that allows you to have it.



  1. says

    It’s definitely an extra hurdle — costs of the permits and construction, research on the local geology and wave patterns and knowing that you’re basically permanently altering the shoreline of you and your neighbors. There are pros and cons to both, but from an environmental standpoint, the overall push should be more inland locations.


  1. Taking measures to prevent coastal erosion on your property (like installing a sea wall) take lots of time and lots of permits. Inland properties tend to be clearly defined, more easily maintained lots suitable for a variety

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