Learn English In Hawaii

Hawaii (and in particular, Honolulu) is teeming with English-language instruction schools. Many (but not all) cater to foreign nationals who want to live in Hawaii on an F-1 student visa, and thus offer programs that meet federal visa requirements. (If you’re seeking a student visa, make sure the school you choose is SEVIS-approved and the program includes at least 18 hours of instruction per week.)

But not all students who enroll in these English-language schools are young, single adults on student visas. In fact, many of these schools offer a wide variety of programs that cater to different types of clientele. Whether you’re a tourist family visiting for a week, a college student enjoying a year abroad, or a senior citizen who has retired to Hawaii from another country, there’s bound to be an English-language program that will suit your needs.


DOE Community Schools For Adults

Hawaii’s Department of Education (DOE) operates 11 adult community schools throughout Oahu, the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai. One of the programs they offer is English as a Second Language (ESL) courses. These beginner- to advanced-level courses are generally 3-4 months long, are offered during the day and evening, and are very inexpensive. They are not SEVIS-approved, however, so they cannot be used to apply for an F-1 student visa.

To register for an ESL course, contact the Community School you’d like to attend:

  • Farrington Community School (Kalihi, Honolulu)
  • Kaimuki Community School (Kaimuki, Honolulu)
  • McKinley Community School (Ala Moana, Honolulu)
  • Moanalua/Aiea Community School (Aiea, Oahu)
  • Wahiawa Community School (Wahiawa, Oahu)
  • Waipahu Community School (Waipahu, Oahu)
  • Windward School For Adults (Kailua, Oahu)
  • Hilo Community School (Hilo, Big Island)
  • Kona Community School (Kailua-Kona, Big Island)
  • Kauai Community School (Lihue, Kauai)
  • Maui Community School (Kahului, Maui)

University of Hawaii

The University of Hawaii (UH), the state’s extensive public college/university system, also offers ESL programs at most of its campuses throughout the islands (see list below). All of the UH campuses are SEVIS-approved schools, so any of the programs below that include at least 18 hours of instruction per week can be used to apply for an F-1 student visa.

Some UH campuses require you to apply and enroll as a regular student at the college/university in order to participate in their ESL programs; others do not, and instead have a separate, simplified registration process. Most of the programs do not give UH college credit for completing their ESL courses, but a few do, including UH Hilo’s ELI program, Kapiolani Community College’s ESOL Credit Program, and Kauai Community College’s ELI program.

  • University of Hawaii at Manoa (Manoa, Honolulu) – SEVIS-approved.
    • Hawaii English Language Program (HELP) – Offers beginner- to advanced-level classes in academic English, conversational English, and TOEFL test prep. You do not need to be a UH student to attend, although you must be at least 17 years old and a high school graduate. Tuition: $1,925 for 8-week Spring/Fall session; $1,150 for 4-week Summer session.
    • New Intensive Courses in English (NICE) – Offers basic- to advanced-level courses in academic English, workplace English, and conversational English, with an emphasis on oral language skills. You do not need to be a UH student to attend. Accredited by the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation. Tuition: $850 for 3-week term (ages 16 and older); $600-2,100 for 10-week term, depending on number of classes taken (ages 18 and older, must be a high school graduate). Individual classes are also offered.
    • English Language Institute – A required program for certain UH Manoa students who speak English as a second language. You must be an enrolled UH Manoa student to attend. Tuition: UH tuition applies.
    • Special English Programs – Offers customized English-language programs for groups of international students. You do not need to be a UH student to attend, but you must be at least 13 years old (students ages 13-17 must be chaperoned). Tuition: Depends on the number of classes to be held, with a maximum of 15 students per class.
  • University of Hawaii at Hilo (Hilo, Big Island) – SEVIS-approved.
    • English Language Institute (ELI) – Offers intermediate- and advanced-level academic English credit courses to prepare students for university study. To attend, you must enroll as a General Studies ELI student at UH Hilo. Tuition: UH tuition applies.
  • University of Hawaii Maui College (Kahului, Maui) – SEVIS-approved.
    • EdVenture – This continuing education branch of Maui College sometimes offers non-credit ESL classes. At the time I checked, it was offering an 8-week Reduce Your Foreign Accent class ($169). You do not need to be a UH student to register.
    • Maui Language Institute
      • Intensive English – Offers 8-week sessions of beginning-, intermediate-, and advanced-level English classes (non-credit). You do not need to be a UH student to attend, but you must be at least 16 years old. Tuition: $1,875 per session; $305 per week; $390 per class. Early-registration discount available.
      • Rainbow Studies – Offers 1-week summer sessions of beginning-, intermediate-, and advanced-level English classes (non-credit) that combine classroom instruction with off-campus excursions. You do not need to be a UH student to attend, but you must be at least 16 years old. Tuition: $500 for 1 week; $1,000 for 2 weeks; $1,400 for 3 weeks. Early-registration discount available.
      • Short-Term Programs – Offers customized English-language programs for groups of students. You do not need to be a UH student, but you must be at least 10 years old (students ages 10-15 must be accompanied by chaperones). Tuition: Varies, depending on the number of students, length of program, and activities involved.
  • Hawaii Community College (Hilo, Big Island) – SEVIS-approved.
    • Intensive English Program – Offers 8-week sessions of beginning- and intermediate-level academic English classes (non-credit). You do not need to be a UH student to attend. International student tuition: $2,010 for 3 classes (20 hours per week); $670 per class for 1-2 classes. U.S. resident tuition: $250 per class.
  • Honolulu Community College (Kapalama, Honolulu) – SEVIS-approved.
    • Introduction to College English – Offers 7-week (14 hours per week) academic/workplace English courses for resident immigrants, taught at 3 different levels. You do not need to be a UH student to attend. Register through Honolulu Community College’s Continuing Education & Training department. Tuition: $500 per course.
    • Honolulu English Language Academy – Offers 16-week terms of non-credit study in intermediate- and advanced-level academic English. You do not need to be a UH student to attend, but you must be at least 18 years old, a high school graduate, and have a minimum TOEFL score of 400 (paper-based), 97 (computer-based), or 32 (Internet-based). Tuition: $4,060 for 1 term; $8,120 for 2 terms.
  • Kapiolani Community College (Diamond Head, Honolulu) – SEVIS-approved.
    • Short-Term Training Programs – Offers customized academic programs for groups of international students. You do not need to be a UH student to attend. Tuition: Varies, depending on the number of students, length of program, and activities involved.
    • Rainbow Initiative – Offers a dual-degree program for international students who want to study abroad at Kapiolani Community College to gain English proficiency, and then transfer to Matsuyama University in Japan to earn a degree.
    • English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Program
      • ESOL Intensive Transition Program – A 1-semester non-credit academic English program (16 weeks in Fall/Spring or 10 weeks in Summer) for international students seeking admission to Kapiolani Community College, and who have a TOEFL score between 400-499. You do not need to be a UH student to attend, but you must be a high school graduate (or equivalent). Tuition: $3,025.
      • ESOL Credit Program – Advanced-level credit courses for ESL students with a TOEFL score of at least 500, or who have completed the ESOL Intensive Transition Program (see above). You must be enrolled as a student at Kapiolani Community College to attend, and you are expected to take additional credit courses toward a certificate or degree program. Tuition: UH tuition applies.
  • Kauai Community College (Lihue, Kauai) – SEVIS-approved.
    • English Language Institute (ELI) – Offers credit English-language courses in a small-class environment (usually 8-10 students). You must enroll as a student at Kauai Community College in order to attend. Admission to Kauai Community College as an international student requires a TOEFL score of at least 450 (paper-based), 133 (computer-based), or 45 (Internet-based), with a few exceptions. Tuition: UH tuition applies.
  • Leeward Community College (Pearl City, Oahu) – SEVIS-approved.
    • English Language Institute – Offers a non-credit Intensive English Program in 8-week sessions (18 hours of instruction per week), with classes taught at beginning, low-intermediate, high-intermediate, and advanced levels. Students must enroll as a student at Leeward Community College to attend, and be at least 18 years old and a high school graduate. A TOEFL score is not required to attend the English Language Institute, although the program is designed for students with a TOEFL score below 500. Tuition: $1,650 per session.

Private English-Language Schools In Hawaii

Although they may cost more than the public DOE and UH schools, private English-language schools tend to offer programs that cater to a wider variety of English proficiency levels, ages of students, lengths of stay in Hawaii, and specific curriculum needs (conversational English vs. workplace English vs. TOEFL test prep, for example). Registration is usually simple, requiring no lengthy application process.

All of the schools listed below are SEVIS-approved, so if you plan to enroll in a program that includes at least 18 hours of instruction per week, you’ll be able to apply for an F-1 student visa. Many of these schools offer instruction + accomodations packages, which can be cost-effective for visiting international students. But for those students who live in Hawaii or have their own accomodations, most of the schools offer instruction-only pricing as well.

  • Academia Language School (Ala Moana, Honolulu) – SEVIS-approved. Offers an Intensive English program, test preparation, work experience, and a concurrent Associate’s Degree/English-language program. Private lessons in English and other languages are also available. Tuition: From $185 for 1 week (15 hours) to $2,290 for 24 weeks (20 hours per week). Accomodations are available for purchase separately. Kama’aina discounts available.
  • Center for Asia-Pacific Exchange (Manoa, Honolulu) – SEVIS-approved. Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education & Training (ACCET).
    • International Program for College Students – Offers a 4-week “American language and culture program” that emphasizes conversational English used in real-life situations. Tuition: $1,796, including accomodations, textbooks, and registration fee.
    • International Program for Middle/High School Students – Offers a 12-day English-language/American-culture program for groups of 20 or more students, upon request. Tuition: $1,072, including accomodations and registration fee.
  • Central Pacific College (Waikiki, Honolulu) – SEVIS-approved. Offers General English, Business English, Testing English, and English Activity programs, including Club 50+ (for retirees over age 50), Family English Activity Program (for kids ages 2-6 and their parents), and Club Keiki (ages 6-17). Private lessons also available. Tuition: From $220 for 1 week (16 hours) to $7,920+ for 48 weeks (20 hours per week). Accomodations are available for purchase separately.
  • EF International School of English (Waikiki, Honolulu) – SEVIS-approved. ACCET-accredited. Offers English-language, test preparation, and internship programs for students ages 16 and older. Tuition: From $1,190 for 2 weeks to $15,160 for 24 weeks, including homestay with most meals provided. Other accomodations also available.
  • ELS Language Center Honolulu (Downtown Honolulu) – SEVIS-approved. ACCET-accredited. Offers programs in English for Academic Purposes, General English, Semi-Intensive English, English for Executives, TEOFL prep, and more. Private lessons and customized programs also available. Tuition per program: From $1,170 for a 4-week program to $2,950 for a 20-week program. Accomodations are available for purchase separately.
  • Global Village Hawaii (Ala Moana, Honolulu) – SEVIS-approved. Offers General English, Business English, Academic Testing, Teen Activity (ages 12-17), and English for Tourism programs. Tuition: From $315 for a 1-week (16-lesson) program to $8,820 for an academic-year program. Accomodations are available for purchase separately.
  • Hawaii Tokai International College (Moili’ili, Honolulu) – SEVIS-approved. Accredited by the Western Association of Schools & Colleges. Offers an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts and a College Prep program for international students with limited-English proficiency. Annual tuition (3 terms: fall, winter, and spring): $10,050. Significant discounts (50-75%) available for U.S. citizens/legal residents with high school/college transfer GPAs of 3.5 or higher who are applying to the Liberal Arts program. On-campus housing and meal plans are available for an additional cost.
  • Institute of Intensive English Hawaii (Waikiki, Honolulu) – SEVIS-approved. Offers General English, Business English, test preparation, University Bridge, Kids & Teens English (ages 4-17), 50+ Cafe (age 50 and older), and other programs. Private lessons also available. Tuition: From $275 for a 1-week program to $7,020 for a 36-week program. Accomodations are available for purchase separately.
  • Intercultural Communications College (Downtown Honolulu) – SEVIS-approved. Offers programs in English for Communications, English for Business, test preparation, teacher training, Teen Summer Program (ages 13-17), and more. Private lessons and customized group study tours are also available. Tuition: From $230-$691 per week, depending on the length of program and course of study. Accomodations are available for purchase separately.
  • International Mid-Pac College (Ala Moana, Honolulu) – SEVIS-approved. Offers an Intensive English Proficiency Program and an Intensive English Conversation Program, as well as private lessons and customized group lessons. Tuition: $1,575 for 12-week Intensive English Proficiency Program. Intensive English Conversation Program ranges from $100 (1 week, 9 hours) to $400 (4 weeks, 18 hours per week).