Obama arrives in Hawaii for vacation


POSTED: Sunday, December 21, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama arrived in Honolulu at about 3:13 p.m. for a 10-day vacation. 

Obama and his family left Chicago's O'Hare Airport at 11:07 a.m. Chicago time this morning.

Obama carried two of his own bags off the plane but waved to local news media and airport workers.

Scores of onlookers waved, snapped pictures, stood outside their cars along the side of the road to greet the motorcade carrying the Obamas. As the motorcade tot off the freeway into Kailua neighborhood where he will be staying, dozens of youth soccer players stood at a

fence to wave to the president elect. The motorcade entered the gates of the Kailua vacation home just before 4 p.m.

Thea $9 million single-story oceanfront home sits on almost an acre of land fronting Kailua Beach,.

The white sand in front of the five-bedroom wood frame house is public land, just like all beaches under state law. The Obama family may see neighbors out for a walk or jog when they gaze outside.

Martha Burke, who has lived several houses down from the property since 1972, said she’s thrilled and honored to have Obama nearby.

“I’m sure he wants a lot of privacy, so I hope we can restrain ourselves from waving at him. But I doubt it,” Burke said, laughing.

Don Dymond, owner of Kalapawai Cafe and Kalapawai Market, said it’s particularly thrilling because the president-elect is local.

“He knows enough about the state and the island that he would know if there’s a better spot,” Dymond said. “The community is lucky that he picked here. And hopefully over the next eight years, he’ll pick here some more.”

Obama’s vacation home should be relatively easy for the Secret Service to secure, as it sits on a dead-end road with only a handful of other homes. The street is also wider than most of the narrow lanes leading to Kailua Beach, so the Secret Service should have plenty of room to drive and park their SUVs.

The home was originally built in 1934 for Harold K.L. Castle, the landowner who developed much of Kailua after World War II. It was renovated in 2005.

Photographs from a 2007 real estate listing show a stone-encircled swimming pool and an open-air sitting room with views of a grassy lawn and the ocean. City tax records show a Houston man bought the property in January for $9 million.

The home is listed on a vacation rental directory,

City spokesman Bill Brennan says the house has not been cited for any violations of Honolulu’s strict prohibitions against renting homes on a short-term basis without a permit. Until a recent crackdown, illegal vacation rentals proliferated in Kailua, angering some residents who complain it’s disruptive when tourists stay in residential areas.

The home is among the most expensive on a block where shoreline lots go for a minimum of $3 million, and non-beachfront properties easily top $1 million.

The figures outstrip the median single-family home price on Oahu, which stood at $594,500 in November.

Despite the pricey real estate, Kailua is a quiet, laid-back, and sociable place.

Residents frequently stop and talk to each another while walking their dogs. They pass sugar over the fence so a friend next door won’t have to run to the store for a forgotten ingredient.

It’s also politically friendly territory for the president-elect: 62.4 percent — or 716 of the 1,145 voters — in the Kainalu Elementary School precinct encompassing the home cast ballots for Obama last month. That’s less than the statewide average of 72 percent but more than the 52 percent national vote.

The home is less than a mile from another beach house where the Obama family stayed during their weeklong vacation in August.

Obama briefly mentions Kailua in his memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” saying he went spearfishing there as a child with his grandfather and one of his grandfather’s friends.

Mary Carter, manager of Island Treasures Art Gallery, said Kailua has more of a hometown atmosphere.

“Everybody is very friendly and welcoming,” Carter said. “You can walk through the town and visit all the quaint shops. You don’t have all the ’big box’ stores.”

She predicted Kailua residents would “for sure” give the Obamas space to try to enjoy their vacation as a normal family.

“They’re here to relax,” Carter said.