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With its stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and vibrant culture, Hawaii is a paradise that draws visitors from around the world. Many dream of owning a piece of this island paradise, but not everyone can do so. If you’re wondering whether non-Hawaiians can own land in Hawaii, read on for a comprehensive answer.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: In general, yes, non-Hawaiians can own land in Hawaii, with some restrictions.

History of Land Ownership in Hawaii

The Great Mahele of 1848

The history of land ownership in Hawaii is a complex and fascinating one. Prior to the arrival of Westerners, the Hawaiian Islands had a system of communal land ownership.

However, in 1848, King Kamehameha III implemented the Great Mahele, a land redistribution system that divided land into three categories: crown lands, government lands, and konohiki lands. This marked a significant shift in land ownership, as it allowed for private ownership of land for the first time.

Under the Great Mahele, non-Hawaiians were able to acquire land, but there were restrictions in place to protect native Hawaiians.

For example, certain lands were set aside for the Hawaiian monarchy and the government, while other lands were designated as konohiki lands, which were managed by trusted Hawaiian chiefs.

These measures were intended to ensure that native Hawaiians maintained control over a significant portion of the land.

Almost 90% of Hawaii Owned by Whites in 1910s

Despite the efforts to preserve native Hawaiian land ownership, the early 20th century saw a significant shift in land ownership demographics.

By the 1910s, almost 90% of the land in Hawaii was owned by non-Hawaiians, primarily white Americans. This was largely due to the rapid growth of the sugar industry and the influence of foreign investors.

The influx of non-Hawaiian landowners had a profound impact on the social, economic, and political landscape of Hawaii. Many native Hawaiians were displaced from their ancestral lands and forced to work as laborers on the plantations owned by non-Hawaiians. This led to a loss of cultural identity and a decline in the native Hawaiian population.

It is important to acknowledge this history of land ownership in Hawaii and its lasting effects on the native Hawaiian community. Efforts have been made in recent years to address these injustices and restore land to native Hawaiians through initiatives such as the Hawaiian Homelands program.

Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920

In response to the growing concerns about land ownership and the displacement of native Hawaiians, the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA) was passed in 1920.

This legislation set aside approximately 200,000 acres of land for the benefit of native Hawaiians, with the goal of providing them with affordable and sustainable housing.

The HHCA established the Hawaiian Homes Commission, which is responsible for administering the Hawaiian Homelands program. This program allows eligible native Hawaiians to lease land for residential, agricultural, or commercial purposes at significantly reduced rates.

The ultimate aim of the program is to empower native Hawaiians and promote self-sufficiency within their community.

While the HHCA was a step in the right direction, there are still challenges and limitations to land ownership for native Hawaiians. The demand for Hawaiian Homelands far exceeds the available supply, leading to long waiting lists and a lack of affordable housing options for native Hawaiians.

It is crucial that we continue to explore ways to address these issues and ensure that native Hawaiians have access to land ownership and affordable housing, while also respecting the rights and interests of non-Hawaiian residents.

Current Laws on Land Ownership

Hawaii farm

When it comes to land ownership in Hawaii, there is no general ban on non-Hawaiians owning land. In fact, both residents and non-residents of Hawaii are allowed to purchase and own property in the state.

This means that anyone, regardless of their ethnicity or nationality, can become a landowner in Hawaii.

No General Ban on Non-Hawaiian Ownership

Hawaii’s land ownership laws are based on the principles of the United States legal system, which prioritize individual property rights. As a result, there are no specific laws that prohibit non-Hawaiians from owning land in the state.

This inclusiveness allows for a diverse range of individuals to invest in Hawaii’s real estate market and contribute to its economy.

Some Protections for Native Hawaiians

While there are no general restrictions on non-Hawaiian land ownership, it is important to note that there are some protections in place for Native Hawaiians. These protections aim to preserve the cultural and historical significance of the land for the indigenous population.

For example, the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 established a trust that provides Native Hawaiians with access to affordable housing and agricultural lots on designated homestead lands.

Additionally, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) plays a crucial role in advocating for the rights and welfare of Native Hawaiians. The OHA manages trust lands and works to protect the interests of the Hawaiian people, including issues related to land ownership.

Restrictions on Agricultural Land

While non-Hawaiians can own land in Hawaii, there are certain restrictions on agricultural land ownership. The state has implemented laws and regulations to protect and preserve agricultural resources, including the Agricultural Land Use Law.

This law aims to ensure that agricultural lands are utilized for farming and ranching purposes, rather than being converted to other non-agricultural uses.

Under this law, there are restrictions on the sale and transfer of agricultural lands. For example, there may be limitations on subdividing agricultural land into smaller parcels or converting it to residential or commercial use.

These restrictions are in place to maintain the integrity of Hawaii’s agricultural industry and protect the state’s natural resources.

Buying Land in Hawaii as a Non-Hawaiian

Are you a non-Hawaiian interested in owning land in the beautiful state of Hawaii? While there are certain restrictions in place, it is indeed possible for non-Hawaiians to purchase land in Hawaii.

In this article, we will guide you through the process of buying land as a non-Hawaiian and provide you with valuable information to help you make an informed decision.

Finding the Right Property

When searching for land in Hawaii, it is important to consider your specific needs and preferences. Are you looking for a beachfront property or something more secluded? Do you want to be close to amenities or prefer a more rural setting?

Take the time to research different areas and explore the unique features and attractions each one has to offer. Websites like Hawaii Life and Zillow can be great resources for finding available properties in Hawaii.

Understanding Zoning Laws

Before purchasing land in Hawaii, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the state’s zoning laws. Zoning regulations determine how the land can be used and what types of structures can be built on it. Hawaii has different zoning designations, such as agricultural, residential, and commercial.

Make sure the land you are interested in aligns with your intended use and meets the necessary zoning requirements. You can visit the official website of the Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands for more information on zoning laws in Hawaii.

Working with a Local Real Estate Agent

When buying land in Hawaii as a non-Hawaiian, it is highly recommended to work with a local real estate agent who has extensive knowledge of the area.

A local agent can provide valuable insights into the local market, help you navigate the intricacies of purchasing land in Hawaii, and ensure that you comply with all legal requirements.

They can also assist you in finding properties that meet your specific needs and negotiate the best deal on your behalf.

Navigating Financing and Taxes

Financing options and tax implications are important considerations when buying land in Hawaii. Non-Hawaiians may face slightly different financing options compared to residents, so it is essential to explore various lenders and loan programs to find the best fit for your situation.

Additionally, it is advisable to consult with a tax professional who is familiar with Hawaii’s tax laws to understand any tax obligations associated with land ownership in the state.

Buying land in Hawaii as a non-Hawaiian is indeed possible with the right knowledge and guidance. By finding the right property, understanding zoning laws, working with a local real estate agent, and navigating financing and taxes, you can make your dream of owning land in Hawaii a reality.

So, start exploring the possibilities and get ready to embrace the beauty and serenity of the Aloha State!

Challenges Non-Hawaiians May Face

High Property Costs

Hawaii land

One of the major challenges that non-Hawaiians may encounter when trying to own land in Hawaii is the high property costs. Hawaii is known for its expensive real estate market, with prices often well above the national average.

This can make it difficult for non-Hawaiians, especially those who are not familiar with the local market, to find affordable options that fit within their budget.

However, it’s important to note that while property costs can be high, there are still opportunities for non-Hawaiians to own land, especially if they are willing to explore different areas or consider alternative options such as buying smaller parcels of land or investing in shared ownership.

Competition from Locals

Another challenge that non-Hawaiians may face when it comes to owning land in Hawaii is the competition from locals.

Hawaiians have a strong connection to their land and culture, and there is often a preference for locals to own and preserve their ancestral lands. This can sometimes create a barrier for non-Hawaiians who are looking to enter the real estate market in Hawaii.

However, it’s important to remember that there are still opportunities for non-Hawaiians to own land, and it’s all about finding the right property and building positive relationships within the community.

By respecting the local culture and traditions, non-Hawaiians can create a harmonious coexistence with the local population and increase their chances of owning land in Hawaii.

Cultural Differences

Cultural differences can also pose a challenge for non-Hawaiians who are interested in owning land in Hawaii. Hawaii has a unique culture and way of life, deeply rooted in its indigenous heritage. Non-Hawaiians may face a learning curve in understanding and respecting the local customs and traditions.

This includes everything from the language¬†and etiquette to the spiritual beliefs and practices. It’s important for non-Hawaiians to engage with the local community, educate themselves about the culture, and approach land ownership in Hawaii with humility and an open mind.

By embracing the Hawaiian culture, non-Hawaiians can not only overcome these challenges but also contribute positively to the preservation and appreciation of the local heritage.

Tips for Non-Hawaiian Land Owners

Be Respectful of Local Culture

As a non-Hawaiian land owner in Hawaii, it is essential to be respectful of the local culture. Hawaii has a rich and vibrant cultural heritage, and it is important to honor and appreciate the traditions and customs of the Hawaiian people.

Take the time to learn about the history of the islands, including the significance of certain landmarks, symbols, and practices. By showing respect and understanding, you can build positive relationships with the local community and create a harmonious living environment.

Build Relationships in the Community

Building relationships in the community is crucial for non-Hawaiian land owners in Hawaii. Getting to know your neighbors, participating in local events, and supporting local businesses can help you integrate into the community and foster a sense of belonging.

By actively engaging with the community, you can gain valuable insights, make new friends, and contribute to the overall well-being of the neighborhood.

Remember, building relationships takes time and effort, so be patient and genuine in your interactions.

Follow All Laws and Regulations

When owning land in Hawaii as a non-Hawaiian, it is important to familiarize yourself with and abide by all laws and regulations. These laws are in place to ensure the preservation and sustainability of the islands’ natural beauty and resources. Familiarize yourself with zoning regulations, building codes, and environmental protection laws to ensure that your actions are compliant.

By following the laws and regulations, you not only avoid legal troubles but also contribute to the preservation of Hawaii’s unique environment for future generations to enjoy.

Read also: How Much Of Hawaii Is Owned By Japanese Investors?


In summary, non-Hawaiians can legally own land in Hawaii, though there are some restrictions in place to protect native Hawaiians. While buying Hawaii real estate as an outsider comes with challenges, respecting local culture and building community relationships can go a long way.

With proper research and preparation, non-Hawaiians can successfully purchase their piece of paradise.

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