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The beautiful islands of Hawaii are known for their sandy beaches, laidback culture, and tropical paradise environments. However, like any place, Hawaii has its share of tougher neighborhoods with higher crime rates commonly referred to as ghettos. If you’re wondering which areas to possibly avoid or just looking to learn more about the rougher side of Hawaii, here’s a deeper look at some of Hawaii’s most notorious ghetto neighborhoods.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Some of the most well-known ghetto areas in Hawaii include Kalihi and Chinatown in Honolulu, Pāhoa on the Big Island, and Wai‘anae on O‘ahu.



Overview and history

Kalihi is a neighborhood located in Honolulu, Hawaii, known for its rich history and diverse community. Originally a farming area, Kalihi has transformed into a bustling urban neighborhood over the years.

Its central location makes it easily accessible to other parts of the island, and it is home to a large number of residents from various cultural backgrounds.

Crime rates

Crime rates in Kalihi have been a concern for both residents and local authorities. While it is important to note that crime can occur in any neighborhood, Kalihi has unfortunately experienced higher crime rates compared to some other areas in Honolulu.

However, it is worth mentioning that efforts are being made to improve safety and reduce crime in the neighborhood.

Poverty levels

Kalihi has also faced challenges in terms of poverty levels. According to recent statistics, the poverty rate in Kalihi is higher than the state average. This has led to socio-economic disparities and limited access to resources for some residents.

However, community organizations and government initiatives are actively working to address these issues and improve the quality of life for everyone in the neighborhood.

Access to resources

Despite the challenges, Kalihi does offer access to various resources for its residents. The neighborhood has schools, healthcare facilities, and community centers that provide essential services and support.

Additionally, there are local businesses and markets that cater to the needs of the community. It is important to acknowledge and support these resources to help uplift the neighborhood and its residents.

For more information about Kalihi and its community initiatives, you can visit the official Kalihi Neighborhood Board website.


Overview and history

Chinatown, located in downtown Honolulu, is a vibrant and culturally rich neighborhood that has a long and storied history. Dating back to the mid-1800s, it was initially established by Chinese immigrants who came to Hawaii to work on sugarcane plantations.

Over the years, Chinatown has evolved into a bustling hub of activity, with its narrow streets filled with markets, shops, and restaurants.

Read more:Is Chinatown Honolulu Safe? Everything You Need To Know

Homelessness issues

Unfortunately, like many urban areas, Chinatown is not immune to the problem of homelessness. The high cost of living in Hawaii, coupled with limited affordable housing options, has contributed to a significant homeless population in the neighborhood.

Local organizations and government agencies have been working diligently to address this issue and provide support to those in need.

Crime rates

While Chinatown has had a reputation for high crime rates in the past, it is important to note that efforts have been made to improve safety and security in the neighborhood.

The Honolulu Police Department has increased patrols and implemented community policing strategies to reduce crime. As a result, crime rates have seen a significant decline in recent years.

Gentrification changes

In recent years, Chinatown has undergone significant gentrification, with new businesses, art galleries, and trendy restaurants popping up alongside traditional establishments.

This revitalization has brought an influx of younger residents and tourists to the area, revitalizing the neighborhood’s economy and cultural scene.

However, it has also raised concerns about the displacement of long-time residents and the preservation of Chinatown’s unique character.


Pāhoa is a small town located on the eastern coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. Despite its picturesque surroundings and natural beauty, Pāhoa has gained a reputation as one of Hawaii’s notorious ghetto neighborhoods.

Let’s take a closer look at the challenges faced by this community.


Pāhoa is known for its high poverty rates and economic hardship. The town has struggled to attract businesses and job opportunities, leading to limited employment options for its residents.

This has resulted in a cycle of poverty, making it difficult for individuals and families to break free from the constraints of financial hardship.

Poverty and economic hardship

The poverty rate in Pāhoa is significantly higher than the state average. According to recent data, approximately 15,4% of Pāhoa’s population lives below the poverty line.

This has a profound impact on the quality of life for residents, affecting access to basic necessities such as food, housing, and healthcare. The lack of economic opportunities and financial resources exacerbates the challenges faced by the community.

Despite these difficulties, Pāhoa residents have shown resilience and determination in finding alternative ways to make a living. Many have embraced entrepreneurship and have started small businesses, such as food trucks, arts and crafts shops, and eco-tourism ventures.

These initiatives not only provide income for individuals but also contribute to the local economy and cultural diversity of the area.

Crime and illegal activity

Like many other ghetto neighborhoods, Pāhoa faces issues with crime and illegal activity. Drug-related offenses, property crimes, and instances of violence have been reported in the area.

However, it is important to note that crime rates can vary within different parts of the town, and not all residents are involved in criminal activities.

Efforts are being made by community organizations, law enforcement agencies, and local government to address these challenges. Programs focused on crime prevention, community outreach, and youth development have been implemented to create a safer environment for Pāhoa residents.

It is crucial to support these initiatives and provide resources to uplift the community and give individuals a chance to thrive.



Wai‘anae, located on the western coast of Oahu, is a neighborhood that has gained notoriety for its unique challenges and reputation.

Despite its picturesque landscapes and beautiful beaches, Wai‘anae faces significant socioeconomic issues that have contributed to its classification as one of Hawaii’s notorious ghetto neighborhoods.

Overview and reputation

Wai‘anae is known for its high poverty rates and limited economic opportunities. The neighborhood has a reputation for being one of the most disadvantaged areas in Hawaii, with a high percentage of households living below the poverty line.

Limited access to quality education, healthcare, and job opportunities has perpetuated the cycle of poverty in Wai‘anae, making it a challenging place to live for many residents.

Poverty and hardship

The poverty rate in Wai‘anae is significantly higher than the state average, with many families struggling to make ends meet. This economic hardship has led to issues such as homelessness and food insecurity, further exacerbating the challenges faced by the community.

Despite these hardships, the residents of Wai‘anae have shown resilience and a strong sense of community, working together to support each other in times of need.

Crime rates

Like many other low-income neighborhoods, Wai‘anae has experienced higher crime rates compared to other areas in Hawaii. Property crimes, drug-related offenses, and instances of violence have been more prevalent in this neighborhood.

However, it is important to note that crime rates do not define the entire community, and there are many law-abiding residents who strive to make Wai‘anae a better place to live.

Initiatives for change

Despite the challenges faced by Wai‘anae, there have been numerous initiatives aimed at bringing about positive change in the neighborhood.

Community organizations, government agencies, and local residents have come together to address issues such as poverty, education, and healthcare.

These initiatives focus on providing resources and support to the residents of Wai‘anae, empowering them to overcome the obstacles they face and improve their quality of life.

One such initiative is the Wai‘anae Community Outreach Program, which offers a range of services including job training, educational support, and access to healthcare.

This program has made a significant impact in empowering individuals and families to break the cycle of poverty and create a brighter future for themselves and their community.

It is important to highlight the efforts being made to bring about positive change in Wai‘anae, as they demonstrate the resilience and determination of the people who call this neighborhood home.

By addressing the root causes of poverty and providing support in areas such as education and employment, these initiatives are helping to create a path towards a better future for Wai‘anae and its residents.


While theHawaiian Islands are renowned for their natural beauty and idyllic settings, pockets of poverty, crime, and urban decay still persist. Neighborhoods like Kalihi, Chinatown, Pāhoa, and Wai‘anae continue to struggle with challenges like high unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness and gang activity.

However, community programs and revitalization efforts seek to enact positive change. With aloha spirit and determination, many hope these communities can transform into safer, more vibrant places where residents can thrive.

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