Coda Q values were derived for more than 300 microearthquakes that occurred in a 6-yr period before the 16 November 1983 Kaoiki, Hawaii, earthquake (MS = 6.6). The sources were located within a 14 × 16 km rectangular region surrounding the main shock epicenter, and most of them occurred at depths between 5 and 10 km. Digital recordings from three stations at epicentral distances ranging from 0 to 18 km were used. Coda Q was calculated from the amplitude decay rate of the S-wave coda in nine frequency bands from 4.5 to 27 Hz. The average Q of the NW part of the studied area is about 15 per cent higher than that of the SE part. These two subregions also showed differences in seismicity, b value, and microearthquake source mechanisms. In the high-Q volume, the b value was 1.0, and the rate of earthquakes per unit volume was about 50 per cent of the rate in the low-Q volume where b = 1.3. One interpretation of these observations is that more extensive faulting in the SE Kaoiki fault zone leads to lower Q, higher b value, and a higher seismicity rate. During the 5 to 6 yr before the mainshock, the 1-yr average Q values were stable. No significant Q change could be identified as a precursor to the main shock.