The Other Puna
Part of the transformation of the Big Island's 'Wild West' district has been driven by an influx of gay residents in recent years
Rural Puna, once known for its outlaw atmosphere, is gentrifying. Many say that a growing community of gay residents is part of the reason.
While 2000 census data indicates that same-sex couples are more likely to live in cities than rural areas, Puna has become one of the most popular gay enclaves in the United States. The phenomenon has become the most-whispered discussion in local real estate circles
Signs of gentrification are everywhere in Puna. There are $1 million plus Southeast Asian and modernist homes emerging in an area once known for hippie buses, beach shacks and tract homes. Even Pahoa town now boasts gourmet restaurants.
Those who cater to Puna's emerging gay real estate market say the region offers many selling points. The district boasts some of the most affordable real estate in Hawaii, and it is one of the few places where paradise hasn't been paved.
All of these factors have made Puna desirable to the gay community, but many who have moved there say it's the district's well-established penchant for tolerance makes them feel at home there.