The Different Meanings of “Zone” as Used in Hawaii County

There has been some confusion expressed over the difference between the various items labeled as “zones”. In Hawaii there are at least four descriptions of land area that use the word “zone”.
STATE LAND USE ZONES: The state of Hawaii has designated certain areas for certain uses called “Districts”.

URBAN DISTRICT: First there is the “Urban Zone”. The Urban Zone generally includes lands characterized by “city-like” concentrations of people, structures and services. This Zone also includes vacant areas for future development.

RURAL DISTRICT: Next there is the “Rural Zone”. The Rural Zones are composed primarily of small farms intermixed with low-density residential lots with a minimum size of one-half acre. Jurisdiction over Rural Districts is shared by the State Land Use Commission and county governments. Permitted uses include those relating to or compatible with agricultural use and low-density residential lots.

AGRICULTURAL DISTRICT: Then there is Agricultural District includes lands for the cultivation of crops, aquaculture, raising livestock, wind energy facility, timber cultivation, agriculture-support activities (i.e., mills, employee quarters, etc.) and land with significant potential for agriculture uses. Golf courses and golf-related activities may also be included in this district, provided the land is not in the highest productivity categories (A or B) of the Land Study Bureau’s detailed classification system. Uses permitted in the highest productivity agricultural categories are governed by statute. Uses in the lower-productivity categories – C, D, E or U – are established by the Real Estate Commission and include those allowed on A or B lands as well as those stated under Section 205-4.5, Hawaii Revised Statutes. Important Agricultural Land (IAL) designation information

CONSERVATION DISTRICT: Lastly there is the Conservation District. Conservation lands are comprised primarily of lands in existing forest and water reserve zones and include areas necessary for protecting watersheds and water sources, scenic and historic areas, parks, wilderness, open space, recreational areas, habitats of endemic plants, fish and wildlife, and all submerged lands seaward of the shoreline. The conservation District also includes lands subject to flooding and soil erosion. Conservation Districts are administrated by the State Board of Land and Natural Resources and uses are governed by rules promulgated by the State Department of Land and Natural Resources.

ZONING, AS USED TO DESCRIBE “LAND USE”: The County of Hawaii has also incorporated various Land Use Zones as defined in Chapter 25 of the Hawaii County Codes. Go to and scroll down to Chapter 25. Click Adobe icon to read what is allowed in the various land use designations.

On the MLS Data Sheet, under “Zoning”, this is the County of Hawaii land use zone. It looks like this: RS-7.5. The letters stand for the land use designation; RS=residential, A=agricultural. Then there are various commercial designations like CV, commercial-village, etc. But most of us need only concern ourselves with Res and Ag. The numbers are the minimum square footage or minimum acreage of land. RS-7.5 means residential, minimum land area 7,500sq.ft.. RS-10 is residential, minimum land area 10,000sq.ft.. RS-.5 would be residential, minimum land area half an acre. A-20A means agricultural, minimum land area 20 acres. Likewise, A-1A is agricultural, minimum land area one acre. There is one unusual designation: RA, residential agricultural. It combines some of the aspects of both designations. Only half acre and one acre lots are ever given this designation.

HAWAII COUNTY TAXKEY ZONES: Another group of areas that are designated with the word “zone” are the Taxkey zones. The word doesn’t appear on the MLS Data Sheet, but under Taxkey, the second number is the zone. 3-7-4-4-32. The first number (3) is the number for the Island of Hawaii. The number “7” is Zone 7 (North Kona). In a nutshell, the island is divided into 9 zones. Each zone is divided into nine sections (the third number). The first two numbers of every address on the island are the zone & section numbers followed by a dash and the street address (74-5905 Old Palani Road). The nine zones in order are Puna, South Hilo, North Hilo, Hamakua, North Kohala, South Kohala, North Kona, South Kona and Kau. You can read the complete explanation for Taxkey zones (including a map) at this link to my website:

LAVA HAZARD ZONES: The next group of areas designated with the word “zone” are the Lava Hazard Zones; also numbered 1 through 9. Zone one is the most likely to experience lava hazards, Zone 9 the least likely. These do not appear on the MLS data sheet, and the only way to find which zone a particular property is in, is to send me the MLS#, Taxkey or address of the property. I can generate a map that shows which Lava Hazard Zone it’s in and email it to you. You can read the complete explanation of the Lava Hazard Zones (with a map) at this link on my website: